Sunday, 29 March 2015

Beer Braised Beef Brisket with Herb Dumplings

I know...what kind of wife am I? Using the last beer to make dinner! I combined it with a sweet and spicy rub, caramelized shallots and carrots to braise a beef brisket, added some herbed dumplings to finish it all off, and what a tummy warming meal on a nasty rainy night it was! Beyond the original "There was a beer in the fridge?!", I heard no complaints about it being used for something other than drinking.

We were given 3 beef briskets, each around 2 lbs. in exchange for some smoked cheddar (smoked by non other than the man of the house!), and this was the last one. I made this over 2 days, allowing the beef to sit overnight with the spice rub, and then braising it the next day.

To make the sweet and spicy rub, combine 1 1/2 teaspoons of each of the following:

coarse salt
brown sugar
chili powder
ground black pepper

Sprinkle the spice rub all over the brisket, making sure all sides are well coated. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When you unwrap it the next day, the moisture from the meat will have melted the sugar and salt, but the flavour will be sealed in, and the spices on the meat will form a tasty crust when you sear the meat.

Use a large, heavy bottomed pan with a bit of olive oil. Heat the pan so that the oil is almost smoking, and then place the meat in and sear it on all sides.

It is important that the pan is very hot before the meat goes in, so that it sears immediately and seals in the juices.

Reserve the dish that the meat was in overnight.

When all sides of the meat are seared, remove it from the pan while you cook the vegetables.

On a medium high heat, add a bit of olive oil to the same pan that was used to sear the meat.


6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced about 1/8" thick

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots start to caramelize. 


1/4 cup of tomato paste

Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to combine the tomato paste with the vegetables.

Now add the beer. I used 1 bottle.

It will foam up when it hits the hot pan. Stir it into the vegetables and tomato sauce, and allow it to come to a boil.

Add 2 cups of beef stock. Use a bit of the stock to help rinse the remaining rub out of the reserved dish, adding this to the pot.

Place the seared brisket back into the pan, and allow the liquid to come to a boil.

Turn the heat down, cover and allow the meat to simmer until it is tender enough to pull apart with a fork. This took about 2 1/2 hours.

Remove the meat from the liquid and allow it to cool slightly, before using 2 fork (or your fingers) to shred it. Place the shredded meat back into the pan with the liquid. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Allow it to simmer while you prepare the dumplings.

In a bowl, combine:

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter

Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.


1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Turn the beef up to a low boil.

Add about 1/2 cup of milk to the dry mixture, using a fork to gently stir it in.

You want a sticky, wet dough, and may not need all of the milk, so add a bit at a time.

Drop the dough on top of the beef. I usually make about 5 - 6 dumplings.

Cover the pot and allow the beef to continue on a slow boil for 10 minutes before checking the dumplings.

They should be puffed up and dry on the top, with no wet sticky dough remaining. Leave them for a few more minutes if needed.

Remove the pot from the heat and serve the dumplings and braised brisket immediately.

  • These dumplings are quick and easy, and very light and fluffy, soaking up the gravy nicely. The dry ingredients and butter can be incorporated and kept in the refrigerator ahead of time.
  • The dumplings are best served immediately, but as we never have any left over, it's not really a problem. The recipe can also be doubled to make more dumplings.
  • Any stew can be topped with the dumplings...I've used them with chicken, beef and pork stews as well as soup.
  • Add any vegetables you have on hand...onions, zucchini, red peppers, turnips, potatoes (white or sweet). Beans or chickpeas can also be added.
  • I used beef brisket, but any tougher cut of meat can be used, as it is braising for a few hours to tenderize and add flavour. Try bottom round, shank, shoulder and don't limit yourself to beef.
  • I found that the rub had all the seasonings required, and added no extra salt or pepper.
  • If you are not using the rub, add fresh herbs to the broth...rosemary, thyme, sage or oregano or bayleaf.
  • I had beef stock in the freezer; use water or vegetable stock if you have none.
  • Instead of beer try red wine, the last bit of coffee in the pot or extra stock.
  • The cooked beef can be frozen.
  • Leftovers can be used in pasta sauce, to make pulled beef sandwhiches, used in a meat lasagne or served with potatoes and eggs as a hash, for breakfast or lunch.
  • Instead of dumplings, serve the beef with rice, noodles, mashed potatoes or Gnocchi or make the biscuits from the post  Corn and Bacon Chowder with Cheese Biscuits.

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