Puerto Rican-Jewish Brisket
#Dinner #Entertaining #recipes #Sofrito Rojo

Puerto Rican-Jewish Brisket

Slow-cooked braised meat perfect for Hanukkah celebrations.

Dec 08, 2023

By Crystal Rivera | @cookonyournerve

The sort of vibe I bring to the table is that there is a seat for you here, a voice for you here. The universal “you". A seat for chosen families, non-practicing Jews, non-Jews, my fellow Jews of color - I see you, I love you. I am sharing this recipe just in time for Hanukkah, where there are eight nights of Light, and food is the thread that bonds us. But you can absolutely make this for any celebration, or no celebration at all. Maybe you just need a hug in the form of a slowly braised hunk of meat draped in a rich sauce, served with creamy mashed potatoes or yucca. In today’s climate, I sure as heck do.

Brisket in the dutch oven

There are so many beautiful stories told about briskets in connection to Jewish family traditions. I tend to hear how recipes are proudly passed on to them by their grandmother, mother, aunts. And I love these stories, I do. But my own actually begins with a real stubbornness in making sure that there is a story to be told to begin with, where being Puerto Rican isn’t a sidenote during a day of gathering, it is the lightning bolt behind the dishes you taste.

I am a self-taught, multi-cultural Jew in and out of the kitchen. In order to celebrate that part of my identity that my mother never truly celebrated herself, I felt such a strong desire to create fusion recipes that did not exist in books, the internet, or that were never served at the table of my Russian side of the family. You would never see a Caribbean-inspired matzo ball soup...which sounds pretty sexy, right? So I needed to make that happen. And let’s not forget the brisket simmering long in sofrito, tomato, and spices. These dishes need to exist is all I’m sayin’.

Brisket close-up shot

Usually my recipe calls for Classic Sofrito, which — don’t get me wrong — we always have plenty of, but hear me out (I’m about to get poetically-winded). In addition to classic, I love to add cherry tomatoes when they are in season, spooning them over the exposed, seared-til-golden-brown meat, before closing the lid, allowing the sugars of our beloved fruit to caramelize over time. You know what else I usually add in? Capers or Spanish olives stuffed with pimientos, which leads me to why I have chosen to not go the Classic Sofrito route for this brisket today.

When I saw the ingredients to Loisa’s Sofrito Rojo, my heart sang, and a voice inside my head said, “This is quite literally meant for my badass brisket.” And now I don’t have to rush outdoors to buy NOT in-season tomatoes and a jar of olives that I ran out of two days ago. It’s all in there. THANK YOU, Loisa. Nobody appreciates their life made easier on a High Holiday than a chaotic Latine-Jew in the kitchen.

Vegetables in pot with Sofrito Rojo next to it

Speaking of easy, many Jewish families have a trick or two up their sleeves when it comes to their brisket, but there’s one that I think MOST of us do year after year: make the brisket a day ahead and refrigerate overnight, allowing it to sit in all that flavor, which most definitely deepens its taste. It also makes it much easier to cut “perfect slices” when it’s cold. I’m sorry but I am not trying to make my life difficult right before fam shows up. BUT, of course, feel free to serve as-is on the same day. It’ll still be delicious.

For bigger family gatherings, definitely aim to buy a 5-6 pound brisket, slightly amping up the seasoning amounts. Add another hour or so in the oven. Some recipes tell you to trim off fat — I disagree. Fat = flavor.