I enjoy taking a tough piece of meat and turning it into something soft and rewarding, and my favourite method of preparing brisket involves a pressure cooker.
The basic premise of a pressure cooker is that it raises the boiling point of the liquid held within so that it cooks items at a faster rate than boiling in an open pot - sometimes up to 70 per cent faster. It is a more healthful method of cooking, as there is less nutrient loss due to evaporation. I find that flavours are more intense for the same reason. When shopping for a pressure cooker, look for one made of stainless steel that goes to 15 pounds per square inch.
4-5 pounds beef brisket
1 medium onion, 1-inch dice
4 sprigs thyme
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 piece cinnamon bark
1 dried pasilla chili
2 litres chicken stock
2 litres veal stock
100 millilitres white wine
1 whole celery root, cut into 2-inch wedges
2 medium-sized carrots, peeled
6 small, white turnips
Before starting this recipe, be sure to read the pressure-cooker manufacturer's instructions carefully; methods may vary slightly depending on the model. (You should have a six-quart, stainless-steel pressure cooker.)
Split the brisket into four equal-sized pieces. Season the meat with sel de Guerande and freshly ground black pepper, and rub surface with vegetable oil.
In a cast-iron skillet, sear the meat over medium-high heat until you get an even colour (caramelizing the meat at this point will lend more flavour to the dish).
In the pressure cooker, sweat the onions, thyme, garlic, cloves, cinnamon and chili for two minutes. Deglaze the pot with white wine.
Add the chicken and veal stock and bring to boil. Adjust seasoning as needed (it should be intensely seasoned). Place the meat in the pressure cooker (the liquid should just cover the meat), lock the lid in place and turn the heat to high.
Once the pressure cooker starts to whistle, reduce the heat to low. Cook for one hour, release the pressure, remove the lid and check for doneness. The brisket is ready when the meat can be pulled off in strips with a fork. If the brisket is not done, lock the lid back in place and cook for another half hour, checking every 30 minutes.
Once the brisket is approaching doneness, add the vegetables and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the meat and vegetables from the broth; cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Serve in a warmed bowl with some of the broth, vegetables and brisket.
David Lee is co-owner of Nota Bene in Toronto.