Pomegranate-Braised Brisket with Sweet-and-Spicy Zhug

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Try this rich pomegranate-braised brisket for Rosh Hashanah to honor a sweet and prosperous New Year. Pomegranate is a prevalent ingredient in Israel, where my family is from, and here the juice and seeds bring flavor and color to this version of the holiday classic. I’ve also added fresh apples and dried cherries to bring more sweetness to the autumn celebration. It's topped with a drizzle of zhug, a spicy Yemenite condiment made from chiles and herbs that here gets a sweet hit of pomegranate syrup.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 4 hr 10 min (includes resting time)
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 10 to 12 servings
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Ingredients

Brisket:

Sweet-and-Spicy Zhug:

Directions

  1. For the brisket: Season the brisket generously on both sides with salt and pepper and let it come to room temperature, 25 to 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  
  3. Heat the olive oil in an 11-by-15-inch flame-proof roasting pan over medium-high heat until shimmering, swirling to coat the pan. Add the brisket, fat-side down, and sear until browned and some fat is rendered, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and sear on the other side for about 4 minutes longer. Remove the brisket from the pan, add the apples and onions and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the apples are slightly browned and the onions just begin to soften, about 4 minutes.  
  4. Turn off the heat. Add the garlic and bay leaf to the pan and toss to combine. Clear a spot in the center and return the brisket fat-side up to the pan. Add the pomegranate juice; it will reach about three-quarters up the sides of the brisket. Cover the pan with a layer of parchment and then cover tightly with aluminum foil (see Cook's Note). Bake for 90 minutes.  
  5. Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully peel back the foil and parchment at the far end of the pan (not the side closest to you) to avoid being scalded by steam escaping from the pan. Flip the brisket over, fat-side down, and sprinkle the dried cherries evenly around the brisket. Cover tightly again and braise until the brisket is very tender but holds together when sliced, about 90 minutes more. 
  6. Carefully remove the brisket and let it rest on a cutting board. Transfer as much of the fruits and vegetables from the pan to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Strain the braising liquid into a large saucepan and bring to a rapid boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by one-third, about 10 minutes. You should have about 3 cups. Pour it into a large glass measuring cup and let sit until the fat rises to the surface. 
  7. Meanwhile, for the sweet-and-spicy zhug: Place the chile peppers in a food processor followed by the cilantro, parsley, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, cumin, coriander, garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Pulse until combined, 4 to 5 times, then scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and process until smooth and fully combined, about 2 minutes. The sauce should be the consistency of pesto. Taste and add more salt if needed. Makes about 1 and 1/2 cups. 
  8. Slice the brisket across the grain and shingle it onto a serving platter, tucking the apples, onions and dried cherries around the meat. Skim off and discard the fat from the braising liquid and pour about 1 1/2 cups over the brisket. Sprinkle all over with the pomegranate seeds. Serve the zhug and remaining braising liquid alongside. 

Cook’s Note

There are two parts to a brisket, the flat and the point. The flat is a little leaner and best for braising. Layering parchment with foil helps keep the acidity in the pomegranate juice from reacting with the foil.