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Cinnamon-Orange Brisket

Cinnamon-Orange Brisket
April Fulton for NPR /

The cinnamon-spice flavors of Cincinnati chili complement slow-cooked beef perfectly. This recipe adds a touch of orange and molasses to enhance the cinnamon's sweetness without making it too cloying. I suggest serving this dish with rolls, green beans and macaroni and cheese.

Serves 12 to 14

4 pounds first-cut brisket (I prefer the first-cut because it's smaller and leaner than a whole brisket, and it fits neatly into the slow cooker without cutting)

4 tablespoons canola oil

3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

2 oranges, sliced thinly with skin on, plus half an orange

2 sticks cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3, 15-oz. cans Italian plum tomato sauce

1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons molasses

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine cumin, allspice, cloves, salt, and black and cayenne peppers with a fork in a small bowl and set aside.

Trim brisket of some of the fat. Sprinkle brisket on both sides with salt and pepper. In large frying pan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes until it shimmers, and sear brisket on both sides until the outside develops a good brown crust — about 3 minutes per side.

Set brisket aside but leave the oil in the pan.

Turn heat down to medium and fry onions about 6 minutes until they begin to soften and turn brown. Add garlic halves, cook and stir about 3 minutes more until they start to brown. Pour contents of the pan into the bottom of the slow cooker pot and place browned brisket on top.

Return pan to high heat, and deglaze it by adding the cider vinegar and stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon to get up all the browned bits. Reduce about 2 minutes until it just starts to thicken, then pour vinegar mixture over meat in the slow cooker pot. Sprinkle meat with chopped chocolate and molasses.

Pour tomato sauce over the brisket and then 1/2 of the spice mixture. Arrange orange slices over the beef, then sprinkle with the other half of the spice mixture. Shove cinnamon sticks deep into the sauce.

Squeeze juice of the remaining half orange over the contents of the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low about 8 hours or until a fork can easily pull through the meat.

Remove lid and let cool a bit. Discard orange slices, cinnamon sticks, large garlic pieces and any obvious chunks of fat. Place the meat on a cutting board and shred by pulling it with two forks in opposite directions. Put the shredded meat back in the sauce and stir.

If making a day ahead, let brisket cool to room temperature, then cover entire pot with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving the next day, reheat the brisket in a large casserole dish in a 300 degree oven until hot — about 30 minutes.

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