My Dad's Brisket Comes to New Orleans
My Dad was the classic home cook. His work work days began before I woke up and ended after my dinner. Off the New York City each weekday, On the weekends, though, it was Stanley's time to cook. He didn't have a huge repertoire of dishes, but enough to keep him (and us) satisfied: spaghetti sauce (more like Brooklyn gravy), pork spareribs and sauerkraut, roast beef, and few others that always made my mouth water and stomach growl.
One dish that always fascinated me was his brisket --tender brisket always served with mashed potatoes and peas. I wondered how he got the brisket so tender when, I know, he didn't pay much attention to the process. It always seemed to just appear as if it were manna from heaven. When I began to cook for myself, I finally asked him. He chuckled and told me his "secret" technique. "Get a big piece of tin foil, put the brisket on it, cover it with onion soup mix and as much thinly sliced onion as you can get and splash with some red wine. Seal the foil and bake for 1 hour per pound at 350 degrees." That was it? I wondered.
I eventually tried the recipe and it worked like a dream. Over the years I have modified it slightly (add a little garlic, maybe some hot sauce, etc.). But what ever I did, it was always Stanley's pot roast with all the memories that evoked.
Now I live in New Orleans, where one of the iconic dishes is the roast beef poor boy. (This is a far cry from the rare roast beef sandwiches from the kosher deli with which I grew up). Beef slathered in brown gravy on french bread, sliced, shredded, however -- sloppy as all get out and delicious. As I stared at the small brisket I had just cooked, my culinary imagination saw it transformed into a home made New Orleans style roast beef sandwich. Lo and behold, I had some leftover mushroom gravy. Added the roux-based gravy to the now thinly sliced brisket with its onion "au jus," stuck it in the oven until it was warmed through, sliced open a french bread and threw the now gravy laden thinly sliced beef on top. Voila! With my first bite I knew that my Dad's brisket had found a new home in New Orleans. Just like me.