One of the my favorite winter activities is braising tough cuts of meat slowly, using a low temperature. The dried fruit in this recipe creates a delicious sweet sauce for the brisket. When purchasing brisket, you are more likely to find the “first cut”, a leaner piece of meat, but if possible ask the butcher for the “second cut”. Although both cuts of meat work, the second cut of meat is marbled with fat and perfect for braising. The aromatics, the herbs and vegetables that you sauté to start the dish, add tremendous flavor, so don’t skip this step. This dish is perfect to make for a crowd and to make ahead. If you’re not serving the brisket right away, store it in its braising liquid. When ready to serve, bring the pot to a simmer and re-heat the meat adding more liquid, if needed.
Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Season the brisket with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or sturdy casserole dish. Add the brisket and cook over medium-high heat until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the meat to a dish. Add the onion to the pot, stirring occasionally and scraping up the brown bits as you go. When the onions are softened, add the garlic, tomato paste, paprika, cinnamon and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the thyme sprigs, prunes and apricots. Return the brisket and the accumulated juices to the pot. Cover the pot and place in the oven, cook for 3-4 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
Once the brisket is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes before slicing. Cut the brisket across the grain. Serve with the sauce from the pot. The brisket can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Re-heat in the oven or on the stove-top before serving.