With the first intimations of cooler weather on the horizon, I’m ready for some long-cooked stove top or oven-braised dishes and tea is one of the best braising and tenderizing additions to a broth I know. If you brew up a quart of a good Keemun or Yunnan (using 10-15 grams of the leaves for that amount of water, steeped for about 3 minutes and then decanted), there may even be a hint of smokiness, adding a pleasant note to the finished dish.
Start with a 3-4 pound piece of brisket of beef with a nice cap of fat on its top. Seared in a slick of olive oil and browned well on both sides, the meat is then ready for a long bath of brewed tea, a few quartered onions and roughly cut and peeled carrots, a few handfuls of fresh herbs (thyme and oregano are my choice) and lightly salted beef broth if you have any on hand (if not, just use the brewed tea and enough water to barely cover the meat and season the liquid with the aromatics noted above, will do just fine). Cook at a bare simmer for a couple of hours, making sure that the meat is nearly covered with the liquid at all times, adding additional brewed tea as needed. In the last half hour of cooking, stir in a hefty dollop of tomato paste and continue cooking until the meat is easily pierced with the point of a knife. When knife tender, remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool. Remove the meat and solids (discarding the spent and now overcooked vegs) and then defat the liquid. If you have planned to serve the dish on the next day, you can place the liquid into a container and allow the fat to rise to the top and then easily remove it. On the serving day, reduce the defatted braising liquid to intensify its flavor and keep it warm over a simmer while you reheat the meat, covered with foil, in a 350 degree F. oven until hot, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, slice the meat thinly across the grain and then moisten with some of the reduced braising liquid. As desired, serve with roasted carrots or other root vegetables, fennel, and potatoes, or whatever vegetables look good at your local farmers’ market. Serve remaining braising liquid at the table.
Serves 4 generously.