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Braised Beef Brisket with Grapes and Herbs + Horseradish Gremolata #CooktheBooks

Simona from Briciole is our Cook the Books hostess for this round (October-November 2018); she chose The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty.* You can read Simona's invitation: here

Talk about waiting till the last minute...the posts are due today. Yikes. I have had this book since Febuary, but didn't pick it up till October. And to date, I still haven't finished it.

On the Page
Let me start with this: I thought I would love this book. I mean: food +  history + recipes = my kinda book. Usually. And I have long admired Twitty when I've heard interviews on NPR and read pieces about him. But I had a really tough time getting through this book. 

Actually, I already admitted that I didn't finish it. I tried though. I really, really tried. I carted that book with me to multiple robotics competitions, even leaving other books at home so that it was the only thing on the hotel nightstand. That didn't seem to help.

There are so many avenues that I thought Twitty would take this this book. I thought he would delve into the social aspects and dynamics of food in the African American community. I thought he would look at how food defines a regional identity. He didn't.

I thought that he might explore how slaves salvaged leftovers from their owners and created meals to sustain themselves. That resourcefulness has always intrigued me. But Twitty didn't go that route either.

And I think I could have gotten over my disappointments in what I expected to read had I enjoyed his writing style. But, sadly, I didn't. I found his writing disjointed and the threads of his narrative were inconsistent and abrupt. I wanted to love this book, but it wasn't a winner for me.

On the Plate
Still, I was inspired to create a Jewish-inspired dish as Twitty converted to Judaism in his early 20s. There's not much of a tie to Southern cuisine with this, but I had beef brisket on my to-do list. So, here we go...

Also, I wanted to make something with fresh horseradish. So, I made a gremolata with freshly grated horseradish. Have you ever bought horseradish? It looks like a stick. But, it was fresh, potent, and the perfect flavor foil to my braised brisket.


Brisket with Gravy
  • one 4-pound beef brisket
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 4  cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 C red wine
  • 1-1/2 C organic beef broth
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 C organic, seedless red grapes
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 to 3 stems fresh parsley
  • 1 stem fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 C olive oil or duck fat, if you have it
  • 1/4 C flour

Horseradish Gremolata
  • 1 C fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 t grated fresh horseradish
  • zest from 1 organic lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
  • juice from 1 lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • freshly ground sea salt


Brisket with Gravy
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a pan, cook 2 C of the onions and garlic in hot oil until onions are tender. Spoon the mixture into a roasting pan; I used a deep stoneware dish.

Season brisket with salt and pepper; place brisket on onion mixture. Add wine and broth. Cover and roast for 2 hours.

Remove cover and roast, uncovered, for another hour. Remove brisket from oven; stir in 1 C diced onions. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the dish from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Skim off the fat from pan juices and discard. Transfer juices to saucepan; boil gently, uncovered, about 20 minutes until reduced by half. While brisket is cold, slice off any excess fat. Slice meat against the grain. Return brisket and vegetables to roasting pan. Add grapes, herbs, and reduced juices on top.

Cover and reheat in oven for 45 minutes. Transfer brisket, grapes, and onions to your serving platter. Discard herb sprigs.

To make a gravy, combine oil - or duck fat - and flour; whisk in pan juices. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Serve gravy with brisket and homemade horseradish gremolata. 

Horseradish Gremolata
Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving to make sure the flavors are well-combined.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

I am also linking this up to Foodie Reads.
Here's what everyone else read in November 2018: here.


  1. I have never bought horseradish and had no idea what it looks like until I read your post: thank you for the introduction. Brisket is also on my to-do list: I like the use of grapes in your recipe, which looks great. Our selection was a slow-going book for me as well: I think it is a book that requires time to take. The parts focused on the genetic inheritance were less interesting, though I can see how they might be for others. I am more interested when he follows the threads of specific foods or when he looks more at history. Thank you so much for your contribution to this edition of Cook the Books :)

  2. We actually have a small horseradish plant that survives the winters and always comes back so I am bookmarking this gremolata, Camilla! This meal sounds amazing and is making me hungry. (I had a tough time, too, with the book.) :(

  3. I had the feeling reading that he actually had about four books worth of things to say and did his best to not wind up with a 2000 page book! I hope there are more in the future that can maybe focus in on more specific topic areas. Your brisket and fresh horseradish gremolata looks divine! I love the use of grapes in it!

  4. I love the way you branched out to tie into brisket. So appropriate reading this around the Jewish holidays. I found Twitty better in person than in his book, easier to digest (pardon the pun...)

  5. I agree completely Cam with your feelings on this book. I thought we had until the end of December and am still only halfway through having stopped to read/listen to two other books in the meantime. It is way too busy this time of year to find time to spend with a book you don't love.


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