The nice thing about cooking a monster brisket for Hanukkah — aside, of course, from the fact that the meat can be mouth meltingly delicious — is that it is a dish you can mostly ignore as it cooks.
Season a massive hunk of brisket, toss it in a Dutch oven with some liquid, then pop it in a 275 F oven for the better part of a day. Done. And delicious.
And that's what I planned to do for this recipe. Until I realized that while that approach does leave the cook free to do other things, it also monopolizes the oven. And it does so at such a low temperature that it becomes difficult to share the space with other dishes you might want to prepare.
So instead, I turned to that most terrifying — and misunderstood — of kitchen tools, the pressure cooker. Modern pressure cookers are quite safe. Basically, they lock in moisture and — thanks to the pressure seal — are able to cook at a higher temperature. The result is fast, even cooking that won't dry out your food.
Which means my sweet-and-tangy barbecue brisket sliders cook in about 1 1/2 hours instead of all day. And the hands-on time is the same.
SWEET-AND-TANGY BARBECUE BRISKET SLIDERS
Start to finish: 1 hour 45 minutes (15 minutes active)
4-pound brisket, trimmed of fat, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 cups water
15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Season the brisket on all sides with salt and pepper.
In a large pressure cooker over medium-high, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, add the brisket and sear for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until well browned.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the water, tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, apricot preserves, vinegar, cumin, mustard powder, paprika and garlic powder. Once the brisket has been seared, add the tomato sauce mixture to the pressure cooker. Move the brisket pieces around to ensure the liquid is both under and over it.
Attach the cover of the pressure cooker and seal according to manufacturer directions. Bring up to pressure, then adjust the burner temperature to maintain medium-high pressure. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and place in the sink under cool running water. Once the pressure cooker has cooled enough to open, remove the lid. Test the meat; it should be fork tender. Carefully transfer the meat to a platter and use 2 forks to pull it apart into bite-size chunks.
Meanwhile, return the cooker to the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Return the shredded brisket to the cooker and toss well. Serve with slider buns.
Nutrition information per serving: 470 calories; 110 calories from fat (23 per cent of total calories); 12 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 90 mg cholesterol; 46 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 24 g sugar; 44 g protein; 790 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.