Irma’s California Brisket

10 Feb

Brisket, Irma's recipeI used to have a good way to make brisket. I would slice a large onion thin, put a layer under and over the brisket in a roasting pan, add lots of garlic and a little wine, cover and cook for several hours. Then I would cool the brisket before slicing, add sliced mushrooms, and reheat in the gravy.

This is still a good way to make brisket — but I have a new favorite that comes from Irma Zigas, the woman my uncle Art married a few years after my Aunt Connie died at the too-young age of 36.

Here’s a link to a wonderful video my cousin made about cooking brisket with Grandma Irma.  (Part of a wonderful YouTube series called Cooking With Grandma.) It’s not quite as easy as the other method, but it’s easy enough and it’s absolutely yummy. I always get rave reviews when I serve it.


Beef brisket (about 3 lb.)
Salt, pepper, garlic or other seasoning to taste
1 Tbs. oil or non-stick cooking spray
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce
1 package dry onion soup mix
½ cup water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a heavy skillet with non-stick spray or put 1 Tbs. oil in the skillet and heat on a medium-high flame.

Season the brisket with salt (not needed if using kosher meat), pepper, garlic powder and other spices to your taste, or a blend like Mrs. Dash.

Brown the brisket quickly on both sides, and remove to a large piece of aluminum foil (enough to seal the meat after all the ingredients are added)

Cook the onion until soft and just starting to brown, and scrape them over the top of the meat.

Add the tomato paste, cranberry sauce, onion soup mix and water. Bring up the edges of the foil and seal, then repeat with a second piece of foil.

Put the foil package in a roasting pan and bake on the center rack of the oven for at least two hours – more for a larger piece of meat.

As with the “classic” brisket recipe, the brisket will be even better if made ahead of time, sliced when cool, and reheated. By cooling it first you can also remove much of the fat, which will solidify on the top so you can pick it off.

The number of servings depends on the size of the brisket: figure about 3 people per pound of meat.


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