Weekend Cooking: Maya’s Sweet and Sour Holiday Brisket from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Weekend Cooking image

Weekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Click here to check out Weekend Cooking posts from other bloggers.

Cover image of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook A Christmas present from my husband who read my mind and knew just what I wanted, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman has been sitting in my stack of new cookbooks until I tried my first recipe from it last weekend. Page 183, where the recipe for Maya’s Sweet and Sour Holiday Brisket starts, now has the first splatter stain of what will probably be many more. (I was actually trying to keep it pristine, but got careless when pouring the sauce into the slow cooker.)

First off, if you’re a home cook and have never heard of Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen blog, you’ll definitely want to check it out. The food photography is all done by Deb herself, for the blog and for the cookbook, so it’s all real food in the pictures – no shaving cream in place of whipped cream or whatever else food photographers do to make you feel inadequate when you compare your end result to the photo in the magazine or cookbook.

I don’t cook meat very much because I usually mess it up, so it’s a sign of my faith in Deb that I didn’t try one of her many vegetarian recipes in this cookbook first. I was looking for a recipe for an easy Sunday dinner for a cold February day and the introduction to the recipe for Maya’s Sweet and Sour Holiday Brisket mentions a cold February evening. Okay, so I was making dinner for two and this recipe yields 10 to 12 servings. I’m not sure what I was thinking there, except that I saw the words “slow-cooker” and “night before” in Deb’s cooking note, and forgot everything else.

Though this brisket can be made “low and slow” in an oven, a slow-cooker–yes, that seventies thing collecting dust in the far reaches of your most inaccessible cabinet–is a dream come true for fork-tender, flawlessly cooked brisket. If you have one, by all means use it; set it up the night before, and wake up with the centerpiece to your dinner party already cooked and ready to rest for a day. Brisket is always best on the second day.

Plus, I had all the ingredients except for the 4–5-pound beef brisket. (Four to five pounds of meat should have been another clue this wasn’t dinner for two. I know, I know.)

Here it is early Sunday morning after the brisket cooked overnight. It’s ready to be covered and put in the fridge and be warmed up in the oven later in the day. Doesn’t it look a lot like the photo in the cookbook? I forgot to take a picture after slicing it.Cookbook and cooked brisket

Here’s a piece, sliced and on the plate with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts.

photo of food on plate

Conclusion? It was very tender, but not as extremely falling-apart tender as I expected. My husband suspects our ancient CrockPot might be to blame, heating too high even on the low setting. Either that or I sliced it the wrong way. But, since we had so much brisket for just the two of us, I am able to confirm what Deb says in another cooking note: “The leftovers, kept submerged in the sauce, reheat extremely well.”

Notes about The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook:

  • Deb is a self-described “obsessive” cook. She writes lots of notes and really does try to tell you everything!
  • The introduction to The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and all the homey recipe introductions are fun to read, even if you never make a single recipe.
  • Deb has a tiny New York City kitchen, so this cookbook might also make you appreciate the size of your own kitchen.
  • Deb was one of the cookbook authors featured in the Kitchen Round Table audio program.

Other opinions about The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (all good):
May Squared
Reading for Sanity

Writing and Ruminating

Disclosure: I am grateful to own my very own copy of this cookbook.


23 thoughts on “Weekend Cooking: Maya’s Sweet and Sour Holiday Brisket from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

  1. We generally slice our briskets into smaller slices across the grain, which makes a big difference. But the meat itself can be an issue. I never make brisket in the crockpot or the pressure cooker because cooking time seems to vary so much. Some are tender in an hour or two and some take all day. I always refrigerate my brisket, slice it cold, and then reheat it.

    1. See, that’s what I mean about cooking with meat! How the heck do you know where or even what the grain is? 😉 I have plans to buy a new slow cooker, but may try the oven next time. I’ll definitely make this recipe again.

        1. (Somehow your comment went into the spam queue and I missed it yesterday. Sorry!) I did see the strings, but only after I finished slicing! It does go to show how even the most detailed recipe can’t always allow for an inexperienced cook.

  2. I love the Smitten Kitchen website and this book has been on my wish list since it came out. Will you be featuring more recipes from it?
    I’ve never cooked brisket so I don’t have any words of advice for you. 🙂

    1. I’m sure I’ll be cooking more from the cookbook, but my Weekend Cooking posts are pretty sporadic! I don’t like to include the actual recipe without asking permission if it’s not already online, so I hope you weren’t too disappointed not to get the recipe here. This is definitely a cookbook to own if you like the blog, because she includes mostly recipes that aren’t on the blog!

  3. It looks very nice! I think the only food we’ve cooked over night is Christmas items, need to get into cooking more. I like the sound of the photos, the reality.

  4. I have heard so many great things about the cookbook, and I did really well with a granola bar recipe I found on her blog. I had no idea there was a brisket recipe – I adore brisket. I’m glad it came out well!

Would love to have you comment!