Brisket with Figs and Butternut Squash
Brisket with Figs and Butternut Squash

I came up with this Brisket with Figs and Butternut Squash recipe one cool autumn day as I scoped out the local farmer's market and eyed plump, fresh figs and beautiful orange-fleshed squashes.

I like to make brisket of beef two different ways. In the summer months I put it on my barbecue and slowly cook it until it is lightly smoked and falling-apart tender. When the weather turns cool and the Jewish holidays are upon us, I am all about oven-braising brisket. Select a first-cut of brisket because it is less fatty and slices easily.

I always start with plenty of sliced onions and carrots and then see what I feel like adding as the strong flavor component. I came up with this one cool autumn day as I scoped out the local farmer's market and eyed plump, fresh figs and beautiful orange-fleshed squashes. Winter squash and figs make a great autumn pairing. They add a fruity-sweet layer of flavor to the meaty brisket -- my symbol of hope for a sweet New Year. Sometimes, if I am in a hurry, I will buy pre-cut squash. If the season for fresh figs is short, use dried figs.

Make the brisket at least one day ahead because the meat is easier to cut into very thin slices after it is has chilled. The brisket and sauce are simple to prepare in advance. Just be sure to taste the sauce before serving and brighten the flavor with a bit more Balsamic Glaze, if necessary.

I like to serve the brisket with green beans and baby roasted potatoes. If you are lucky enough to have any leftover brisket, use the meat to make a flavorful tomato-meat sauce for pasta or polenta. Alternately you could make brisket sandwiches.

To drink? A simple wine and food pairing guideline is to serve the same type of wine that is used in the recipe. A rich and full-bodied Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon will do the trick. Great kosher examples are available from Hagafen and Herzog.

Brisket with Figs and Butternut Squash Recipe

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook time: 4 Hours

    Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Brisket with Figs and Butternut Squash Recipe Ingredients

    One (4- to 5-pound) first-cut brisket, patted dry

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    3 tablespoons olive oil

    4 onions, thinly sliced

    4 carrots, peeled and sliced

    1 (1-pound) bag peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash, or one 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch cubes

    8 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise

    1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

    1 1/2 cups dry red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot

    12 fresh figs, stemmed and halved, or 8 dried Mission figs, stemmed and finely chopped

    2 tablespoons Balsamic Glaze (see below), or store-bought

    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Brisket with Figs and Butternut Squash Recipe Ingredients

    1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Season the brisket liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Choose a large, heavy roasting pan that will accommodate the brisket and vegetables. Place over medium-high heat and heat the oil. Brown the brisket for about 4 minutes per side, or until nicely browned. This will help give the sauce a deep brown color and rich flavor.

    2. Sprinkle the onions, carrots, squash, garlic, and thyme into the pan. Add the wine and figs and stir to combine with the vegetables. Cover and bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender. Let cool. Place the meat and sauce in separate containers or lock-top plastic bags, cover if necessary, and refrigerate overnight.

    3. The next day, place the meat on a carving platter and cut against the grain into thin slices. Overlap the slices in an ovenproof high-sided serving dish.

    4. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove any accumulated fat from the sauce. Place the sauce in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add the Balsamic Glaze. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Pour over the meat.

    5. Place in the oven and reheat for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.

Advance Preparation: Make up to 3 days ahead through step 4, cover, and refrigerate. Remove any accumulated fat. Reheat in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes. Garnish just before serving.

Balsamic Glaze

Makes about 3/4 cup

2 cups inexpensive balsamic vinegar

1. Place in a small heavy saucepan on high heat. Reduce the vinegar for about 12-14 minutes or until it becomes syrupy. Bubbles will begin to form. (Be careful not to reduce it too much or it will become burnt and stringy.) Cool and, using a funnel, pout into a storage container. Keep refrigerated until use.

Advance Preparation: This may be made up to 1 month ahead, covered and refrigerated.

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Brisket of Beef with Figs & Butternut Squash Recipe

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