A Roast for All Seasons

My grandmother’s name was Ruth, but she was known as “Bubbie” for as long as I can remember. My father tells me that at Hanukkah she would make an extremely tender beef roast with prunes or dried fruit in the sauce. He smiles when he tells me that the roast was brought to the baker’s oven (in the old country) on Friday evening, and it was his job to retrieve it on Saturday for the Sabbath. We’re pretty sure the roast was a kosher brisket and had sweet potatoes instead of the usual white potatoes. Is this holiday pot roast something I can duplicate?
—Miriam G., San Francisco, CA

Happy Hanukkah, Miriam. I’m sure we can closely duplicate your Bubbie’s recipe, unless grandmother had some secret ingredient that no one knew about (which is entirely possible).

It’s my understanding that back in the day (and even today in some parts of the world) when home ovens were either nonexistent or just simple open hearths, bakers’ ovens could be used to prepare large roasts like turkeys and sides of beef. This was probably the case in your father’s story, and maybe he can recall.

I think you’ll be pleased with the recipe I found for slow cooked holiday brisket. It’s from a compilation of heirloom recipes from Cook’s Illustrated, so we know it’s kitchen-tested…and much too good to forget.

Don’t just save this for Hanukkah or Passover. Try this delicious roast any time of the year!

Classic Hanukkah Slow Cooked Brisket with Sweet Potatoes

Serves 10

4½–5½ lbs. brisket, flat cut, trimmed
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1½–2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch slices
2 yellow onions, chopped coarsely
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
6 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth or stock
2 cups dried apricots and prunes (optional)
2 bay leaves
Special equipment: large Dutch oven with lid


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Dry brisket with paper towels. Rub with salt and pepper until meat is thoroughly coated. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven on the stovetop.
  3. Add seasoned brisket and brown on all sides, about 12–15 minutes, then transfer to a platter.
  4. Heat remaining olive oil in pan. Add carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes, stirring and scraping the brown bits until the vegetables soften, about 7 minutes.
  5. Stir in broth, apricots, prunes, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Nestle the browned brisket and any juices back into the Dutch oven. If necessary, add more broth to cover the brisket and vegetables.
  7. Bake, covered, for about 4 hours, or until the meat is very tender and slides off a large fork.
  8. Remove brisket from Dutch oven. Let it rest on a large platter while you remove the vegetables and set aside. Remove the bay leaves and discard them.
  9. Heat braising liquid in a medium saucepan until liquid is reduced by half. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Slice the meat and shingle it in a 13×9-inch baking dish or deep serving platter. Arrange the vegetables around the meat, and pour the reduced sauce over all.

This Hanukah brisket is a delight to serve and can be prepared a day or two in advance if the cook is “holiday busy.”

Chef’s tip: Slicing the meat is easier if you first allow it to cool in the refrigerator  overnight.

Image from iStock/bhofack2

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at phyllisquinn2@gmail.com. Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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