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Tata’s Brisket

All week long I’ve listened to a lot of memorials and remembrances of people speaking of those they loved who were lost ten year ago today. They bring back memories of my own, except not ones that happened on 9/11, but those who were important to me who were lost in the last ten years, especially my grandfather, George Weaver.

I’ve already gone into detail about my quest to remember my grandmother through food, but when I think of an actual food memory, I jump immediately to Tata. After Maria’s death, I remember my parents were worried because George had lost his appetite amid his grief. He loved strong flavors, especially garlic, but in the last few years of Maria’s life, her allergies and body really couldn’t tolerate those flavors.

Tata, after 9/11

I’m not sure how it started, maybe because I borrowed his car every day for school, but at some point in the following months, I would come home from school and eat small meals with my grandfather. The meal I remember most was when I walked in and just smelled an overpowering odor of garlic. Garlic bread, Garlic Salad—just about everything was covered in cloves.

We didn’t eat a lot, but kept each others company, and over time, both of our spirits lifted. My family continued our Sunday night traditions of eating over at his house. I started picking up menudo, his favorite tripe soup, at drive-thru Mexican restaurants. He went on to live until 2007, eating exactly what he wanted right until the end.

My grandfather didn’t cook a lot, but his signature dish he made for the family was the following brisket recipe. The sauce, a fantastically delicious mixture of horseradish and cream, is legendary—originally gaining fame as a favorite dish of Stanley Marcus, of Neiman-Marcus. Everything my grandfather loved about flavor can be told through this recipe. Definitely for horseradish lovers, the sauce also has a subtleness that comes from the apples and cream so it won’t scare away those with a more modest love of the root.

The Original Recipe, taken from an ancient newspaper

Boiled Brisket with Horseradish Sauce
Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company
5-6 lb. beef brisket, with fat
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk, with leaves
2 carrots
2-3 Sprigs Parsley
6 Peppercorns
1 bottle Beer (Darker is better)
1 t. salt (added after 1 hour of cooking)

Horseradish Sauce
1 cup cream
1 cup reserved juice from meat (fat removed)
1/4 c. grated horseradish or horseradish sauce
1/2 t. dry mustard
1 t. chopped chives (very thin)
1/4 c. diced apple (very thin)

  1. Place beef with fat in dutch oven with the rest of the brisket ingredients. Bring to a boil, add salt, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 3-4 hours, until meat is tender.
  2. After 2 hours, remove 1 cup of the liquid from the pot and cool, skimming off the fat. When the brisket has around 30 minutes left, make the sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients and heat on low. Note: Be careful not to bring the sauce to a boil, or else the cream will curdle.
  3. When brisket is tender, remove from pot. Cut away all excess fat, and then slice the meat in long, skinny pieces. Serve with sauce and white rice.
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