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Berbere Brisket Recipe for Passover

Michael Twitty puts an Ethiopian twist on an Ashkenazi standby

Michael Twitty
March 31, 2015
(Hugh Forte)
(Hugh Forte)

Passover is Michael Twitty’s favorite holiday. Twitty is an African American food historian and Jewish educator, and over the past few years he’s been experimenting with dishes that integrate these different parts of his identity. He shared this brisket recipe with Vox Tablet for our Passover special, “We’ll Be Here All Night.”

This year, he plans to grill the brisket, but for the less adventurous among us, here’s the basic recipe.

First, make a berbere mix. This is mine—I am sure I will offend some purists:

1 tablespoon each of the following:

sweet or hot paprika, depending on your taste
garlic powder
onion powder
chili powder
Kosher salt (to taste, but no more than a tablespoon)

1/2 teaspoon of the following:

powdered ginger
ground cinnamon
ground cardamom
crushed red pepper
ground fenugreek

Combine all ingredients, place in something airtight, and store in a cool, dry place.

Making the brisket:

5-pound brisket or 5-7 pounds of flanken
Berbere mix, above
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 large piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 onions, peeled and diced
2 8-oz. cans of diced tomatoes with juice
1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 cups of chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
1 sprig of fresh rosemary or a teaspoon of dried rosemary
2 large red onions, cut into rings.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

1. Combine the berbere spices and salt. Sprinkle onto the brisket or flanken after rubbing in the minced garlic and ginger. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot. Sear the beef all around 7 minutes on each side. Remove from the Dutch oven and set aside.

2. Add the onion to the pan. Saute until the onion is translucent, then add the tomatoes. Place the brisket on top of them.

3. Add the sugar, stock and rosemary to the pot.

4. Cover tightly and bake in the preheated oven for 3.5 hours until the brisket is fork tender.

5. Remove the brisket, cool and refrigerate. Once the brisket is chilled, you can remove excess fat and slice—always against the grain. You can then use the sauce to cover in a pan or pot and heat gently for a half an hour or more until heated through. You can serve hot out of the oven after the second reheat.

Michael Twitty is a culinary historian, food writer, and educator. Follow him on Twitter @KosherSoul.

Michael Twitty is a culinary historian, food writer, and educator. Follow him on Twitter @KosherSoul.