Food for Soul

A Brisket Secret for Rosh Hashanah

By Diane Rossen Worthington 

August 30, 2021 Updated: August 30, 2021

Brisket and Rosh Hashanah just go together. (Trendy Rowdy/Shutterstock)

Brisket and Rosh Hashanah just go together. (Trendy Rowdy/Shutterstock)RECIPES

I am sharing this recipe with you to honor the wonderful Nach Waxman, who recently passed away. He owned the Kitchen Arts & Letters cookbook store in New York. He was quite a cook himself, and his brisket was legendary. What makes it so special? Slicing the meat midway through cooking.

Cutting the brisket halfway through the cooking process assures that each slice of meat will be evenly flavored with the sauce. It also makes this dish easy to serve, because the slicing of the brisket has already been done. Waxman credited his mother-in-law for teaching him the technique he called “interim slicing.” I love this seriously simple method.

Brisket and Rosh Hashanah just go together. Growing up, my family went to services in the morning and eagerly anticipated our late lunch. The table was laden with challah, apples and honey, whole pomegranates, braised vegetables, kugels, salad, and of course, brisket. My mom’s brisket was pretty simple: brisket, onions, ketchup, and beer. It was so good. Through the years I have tried my hand at different versions: brisket with wine and dried fruit, brisket with tomatoes and brown sugar, and brisket with autumn fruit.

This comforting potted beef recipe braises the meat slowly in an onion compote, with a flavor heightened by the addition of tomato paste and braised garlic cloves. If you want an even deeper tomato flavor, use sun-dried tomato paste. I have added a few of my own touches as well. The keys to tender brisket are the long slow cooking process, which keeps the meat from shrinking, and the sweet onion compote bed, which encourages it to stay moist and tender.

You can make this up to three days ahead, so the flavors can develop. Taste the sauce before you serve it to make sure you can brighten the flavor if needed. I like to serve this with sautéed green beans and noodle kugel or simple noodles.

Nach Waxman's brisket recipe makes use of a secret technique his mother-in-law taught him:
Nach Waxman’s brisket recipe makes use of a secret technique his mother-in-law taught him: “interim slicing.” (Waxman Family Photo Album/TNS)

Nach Waxman’s Brisket of Beef

Serves 10 to 12

  • 1 (6-pound) first-cut beef brisket, trimmed so that a thin layer of fat remains
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil
  • 8 medium onions, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
  • 1 carrot, peeled and trimmed

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly dust the brisket with flour, and then sprinkle with pepper to taste. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot or other heavy pot with a lid just large enough to hold the brisket snugly. Add the brisket to the pot and brown on both sides until crusty brown areas appear on the surface here and there, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

Transfer the brisket to a platter, turn up the heat a bit, then add the onions to the pot and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onions have softened and developed a rich brown color but aren’t yet caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and place the brisket and any accumulated juices on top of the onions.

Spread the tomato paste over the brisket as if you were icing a cake. Sprinkle with salt and more pepper to taste, and then add the garlic and carrot to the pot. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook the brisket for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the pot from the oven. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and, using a very sharp knife, slice the meat across the grain into approximately 1/8-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice. The end result should resemble the original unsliced brisket leaning slightly backward. Check the seasonings and, if necessary, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of water to the pot.

Cover the pot and return to the oven. Lower the heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the brisket until it is fork-tender, about 2 more hours. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure that the liquid is not bubbling away. If it is, add a few more teaspoons of water, but no more. Also, each time you check, spoon some of the liquid on top of the roast so that it drips down between the slices.

Cool, cover, and refrigerate. To reheat, cover and bake in a 325-degree oven for about 1 hour or until it is piping hot. Serve immediately.Diane Rossen Worthington 

Diane Rossen WorthingtonDiane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at

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