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Brisket Braised in Pomegranate Juice with Onion Confit and Pomegranate Seeds
8 generous servings
For the Brisket
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
A first-cut beef brisket, about 5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat, patted dry
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
2 leeks, washed well and coarsely chopped (include both white and pale green parts)
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 large carrots, scraped and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
3 fresh thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried leaves
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 Turkish bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Confit:
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions (about 2 1/2 pounds), very thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Prepare the brisket:
Preheat the oven to 325F. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed roasting pan, using two burners, if necessary, or in a wide 6-quart Dutch oven or flameproof casserole. Add the brisket, and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the brisket to a platter and set aside.
Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat remaining in the pan, and add the onions and leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and continue cooking until the onions are golden, 7 to 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan to prevent scorching or sticking.
Add 1 cup of the pomegranate juice and bring the mixture to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the remaining 1 cup juice, chicken broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves and bring the mixture to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Lightly salt and pepper the brisket on both sides, and add it to the pan, fat side up, spooning the vegetables all over the meat. Cover the pan tightly (use heavy-duty foil if you don't have a lid for the pan), and braise the brisket in the oven, basting every half hour, until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Turn the oven down to 300F if the braising liquid begins to bubble rapidly.
About an hour or so before you are ready to serve the brisket, make the confit: In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet, warm the oil. Add the onions, season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss to coat with the oil. Cook, tightly covered, over the lowest heat, stirring occasionally so the mixture does not burn, for 1 hour, or until the onions are very soft and pale gold in color. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, the broth, and wine. Raise the heat and boil the mixture, uncovered, stirring, until all the liquid is evaporated and the onions turn golden. Taste and adjust the seasoning (it may take quite a bit of salt), and turn off the heat. Cover the mixture and keep it warm. Stir in the pomegranate seeds just before serving.
The brisket tastes best if it is allowed to rest, reabsorbing the juices lost during braising, and it's easiest to defat the gravy if you prepare the meat ahead and refrigerate it until the fat solidifies. That is the method I use, given here, but the gravy can be prepared by skimming the fat in the traditional way, if you prefer. If you go that route, though, do let the meat rest in the pan sauce for at least an hour.
Cool the brisket in the pan sauce, cover well with foil, and refrigerate until the fat congeals. Scrape off all solid fat. Remove the brisket from the pan and slice thinly across the grain.
Prepare the gravy:
Bring the braising mixture to room temperature, then strain it, reserving the vegetables. Skim and discard as much fat as possible from the liquid. Puree the reserved vegetables and 1 cup of the defatted braising liquid in a food processor or a blender. Transfer the pureed mixture and the remaining braising liquid to a skillet and reduce the gravy over high heat to the desired consistency. Taste for seasoning. Re-warm the brisket in the gravy until heated through.
Spread the onion confit over a serving platter and arrange the sliced brisket on top. Ladle the hot gravy over the meat and serve immediately.