Dark Chocolate Balsamic Braised Brisket

Dark chocolate balsamic braised brisket

Dark chocolate balsamic braised brisket

It wasn’t too long ago that the spring holidays were upon us. For my family, that meant a family gathering for Passover, though the dish I’m going to describe would work equally well for other gatherings.  Holidays generally bring with them the anticipation of – or, depending on your perspective, the baggage of – traditional foods.  One of the very traditional foods in this case is brisket.

Now I should stop here and say that what’s generally anticipated at the dinner table in this case is a pretty specific preparation of brisket.  Braised in sweet wine and stock.  For hours and hours.  Just like grandma used to make.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, in some ways these traditional preparations are an important link to the past – to memories of special times with family members who may not be around anymore.  And the flavors in these dishes frequently trigger a comfort and an emotional connection to the past that can’t be explained by the mix of ingredients.

That said, I’m a big fan of taking new angles on traditional dishes.  In this case, I wanted to do a braised brisket that wasn’t a complete departure from tradition, but I wanted to introduce some new and unexpected flavors.  The inspiration for this one came from a recent visit to my mother-in-law.

My MIL Jane lives in an amazing community in Florida called The Villages.  It’s about 75 minutes northwest of Orlando, and has been a quickly growing active adult community.  And by “active adult,” I mean their activity catalog is about five inches thick.  Sports (especially but not limited to golf), hobbies, social gatherings, dancing in the town squares.  Oh, and liquor.  I think of The Villages as a permanent sleep-away camp for adults, where it’s always happy hour.

In any case, it had recently been my birthday, and as a special present Jane had promised to take me shopping in a new local store called The Ancient Olive.   The Ancient Olive sells a variety of specialty and infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. They run the shop as a tasting room, and so we sampled a pretty wide selection. It was fun tasting all kinds of interesting flavor combinations, and the shopkeeper was super-helpful making recommendartions. Ultimately my generous birthday gift was a bottle of chipotle infused olive oil and a bottle of dark chocolate infused balsamic vinegar.

Ancient Olive oils

Infused olive oils from The Ancient Olive

So, although I had already used some of these tasty gifts in other recipes, I still had some around. After looking at a variety of recipes online, I formed my idea…this balsamic (plus some stock) would form the basis for my braise. Add some traditional ingredients like onions, carrots and celery, plus some slightly less common ones like whole shallots and crimini mushrooms. A quick sear to brown the brisket, and then all of the ingredients into a sealed roasting pan to braise away.

When the meat came out, it was fork tender and super moist. I sliced (always against the grain!) and served it right in the roasting pan with all of the veggies and braising sauce. And let me tell you, it was a huge hit. Everyone seemed to love it, and seconds were served to most – usually the best review a guest can give! The chocolate flavor was subtle, but added a delicious difference to the dish. The carrots, onions, and shallots added a wonderful sweetness.

Overall, this was a fun way to freshen up a very classic dish. Pretty easy to make if you plan ahead and give it the time it deserves – and sometimes, time is the kindest secret ingredient you can add to a dish.

Dark Chocolate Balsamic Braised Brisket
Serves 8
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
5 hr
  1. 1 (5 pound) Second Cut Brisket, some fat left on (see Notes)
  2. Kosher Salt
  3. Fresh ground black pepper
  4. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1 large Spanish onion, sliced and separated into rings
  6. 8 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 12 whole shallots, peeled and ends removed
  8. 1 pound cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  9. 3 celery ribs (including leaves), cut into 3-4 inch pieces
  10. 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3-4 inch pieces
  11. 4 bay leaves
  12. 3 teaspoons dried thyme
  13. 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  14. 1 (14 oz.) can stewed tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  15. 1 cup dark chocolate infused balsamic vinegar (see Notes)
  16. 1 cup beef broth
  17. 3 celery ribs (including leaves), cut into 3-4 inch pieces
  18. 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3-4 inch pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Season the brisket with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, but don't let the oil begin to smoke. Sear the brisket until browned on all sides. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large roasting pan, spread onion rings around bottom to form a roasting rack of sorts. Add all remaining ingredients from the garlic through the rosemary. Rest the brisket over these ingredients. Pour tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and broth over the brisket (see Notes). Seal tightly with aluminum foil.
  4. Place in preheated oven for three hours. After the first three hours, gently remove the foil, add the carrots and celery, and carefully flip the brisket over. Reseal with aluminum foil and place back in the oven for an additional 1-2 hours, until the meat is tender.
  5. Allow to cool before slicing - See Notes.
  1. - Use a second cut brisket, and don't trim all of that luscious fat cap away. Yes, this is a fattier cut, but it will keep the meat much moister and much of the fat will render out during cooking anyway.
  2. - Dark chocolate infused balsamic vinegar may be hard to find. You may be able to get it online from the Ancient Olive or elsewhere. Alternatively, you could try experimenting with regular balsamic vinegar and good cocoa. Or finally, this recipe would still work well with good quality regular balsamic vinegar.
  3. - You may need to add more balsamic vinegar and/or broth. The meat does not need to be submerged, but half to two-thirds of the way should be fine.
  4. - I strongly recommend making the brisket a day in advance, and letting it sit unsliced in your refrigerator overnight. Then, before serving, slice the meat against the grain while still cold, place back in the roasting pan with all other ingredients, reseal with aluminum foil, and reheat in the oven at 300 for about an hour or so.
The Exec's Chef http://execschef.com/

1 Comment

  1. Everyone needs to try the brisket–it is spectaular.

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