Savory and Sweet Beef Brisket with Merlot and Prunes
1 4 to 4 1/3 lb. beef brisket ($7.99/lb.), trimmed of most fat
2 tbs. olive oil
1 28-oz. can Sclafani crushed tomatoes in juice ($3.99), diced
2 cups Merlot (Domaine d’Astros Rouge at $9.99)
2 lbs. onions, sliced
4 medium carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
16 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups pitted large prunes
1 tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme
2 cups prune juice
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325°F. Pat brisket dry; sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy extra-large skillet over high heat. Add brisket and cook until deep brown, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer brisket, fat side up, to large roasting pan. Add tomatoes with juice and wine to skillet. Remove from heat, scrape up any browned bits, and pour mixture over brisket. Distribute onions, carrots, and garlic around brisket. Add prunes and thyme; drizzle with 1 cup prune juice and 3 tablespoons vinegar. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cover pan with heavy-duty foil; place in oven.
Braise brisket until tender, about 3 hours 15 minutes. Uncover and cool 1 hour at room temperature. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with foil and chill. Bring just to simmer over 2 burners before continuing.
Remove brisket from roasting pan, scraping off juices. Place on work surface;cut across grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Spoon off fat from top of pan juices. Place 1 cup vegetables (no prunes) and 1 cup braising liquid from pan into processor and puree. Return puree to pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon prune juice and 1 teaspoon vinegar to pan. Heat sauce; season with salt and pepper.
Overlap brisket slices in 13x9x2- inch glass baking dish. Pour sauce over brisket, separating slices to allow some sauce to flow between. DO AHEAD:Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.
Rewarm brisket, covered, in 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle brisket with parsley; serve.
Yield: 8 servings