I’m cooking for my ladies today.

Ten years ago, two sweet sisters asked me to cater their family Easter and Christmas dinners. It’s about the only time their extended family — 25 strong — gets together.

Over the years, I’ve watched grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow. I’ve watched daughters become brides and daughters become mothers. I’ve watched the joy of graduation milestones and the sorrow of wasted choices. I’ve seen the life of a family play out over a decade.

The ladies used to tell me exactly what they wanted for these big buffet dinners. Now, they pretty much let me decide.

So today, they’ll be dining on honey-roasted pork loin; deviled eggs; roasted vegetables …

… and this brisket.

I’ve tried a lot of brisket recipes over the years. I’ve caramelized onions and made my own barbecue sauce. I’ve butterflied the meat and stuffed it with a spinach/matzo mixture. I’ve slow-roasted brisket with liquid smoke.

But this is the best.

Now, don’t get all chef-y on me. This recipe relies on jars and jars of processed sauces (ketchup, BBQ, duck sauce). But it is, hands down, the best brisket recipe I’ve ever used. Those sauces infuse the meat with a flavor much greater than their individual tastes. The brisket steams slowly in all that liquid yumminess and emerges from a 3 1/2-hour sauna fork-tender and falling apart. Best, it only gets better as it sits, which means it’s a perfect dish to make a day ahead.

I found this recipe years ago in Southern Living. It was the holiday hallmark of some sweet lady down South.

It’s perfect for the sweet ladies I’ll feed today.

Saucy Brisket (Adapted from Southern Living)

  • 1 4- to 5- pound beef brisket
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup duck sauce
  • 1 1-ounce envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Salt and pepper the brisket well, then rub it with the vegetable oil.

Heat a grill pan or griddle until very hot. Brown the brisket on all sides, then place it in a large, greased roasting pan, fat-side up.

Stir together the mushrooms and the next 6 ingredients. Spread the mixture over the brisket:

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Add 1 cup of water and the bay leaves to your roasting pan. Cover again and bake 1 hour 30 minutes.

Uncover and bake 30 more minutes.

Cool slightly, then remove the meat from its sauce and slice it against the grain.

Pour the sauce into a saucepan or saute pan and spoon off the fat.

Bring the sauce to a boil.

Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water. Pour about half into the boiling sauce. Let the sauce thicken. Add the rest of the cornstarch/water mixture if you want the sauce to be thicker.

Pour the sauce over the sliced brisket.

This dish is best made one day ahead, chilled, then reheated (covered) in its sauce.

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