I have a confession to make. Until I was about 10 years old, I believed that Thanksgiving was a two-day holiday.
Thursday night’s meal is usually at Grandma Joyce’s house, where two dozen of us gather at a single, long table to enjoy roast turkey, homemade stuffing, cranberries and decadent desserts, such as my mom’s German chocolate bundt cake.
Jockeying for position at this dinner table is critical because if you sit too far away from the counter-clockwise serving pattern – or too near to Uncle Randy “The Eater” Sunshine – you can starve waiting for supper.
After everyone has a pile of food on his or her plate, Grandma Joyce asks each of us to say what we are thankful for. Usually, I praise my parents and siblings – but I do it very quickly in order to return the fork to food.
“Day Two” of Thanksgiving was created by my maternal grandmother. Since Friday nights are always the start of Shabbos – the Jewish day of rest – we would always go to Grandma Shirley’s house and enjoy turkey leftovers and a roast.
The spread would also include three different cranberry dishes (I have no idea why there were so many cranberries – some things in my family, you don’t ask about), mashed potatoes, stuffing, challah and generally four desserts to satisfy a variety of sweet teeth.
The point here is this: I thought everyone celebrated two nights of Thanksgiving. I don’t remember exactly when I learned the truth but it may have involved me asking someone at school what she would be doing for the second night of Thanksgiving and getting a superbly weird look in return.
After Grandma Shirley passed away, my mom began making the Friday night supper. Some years we got exotic and ordered Chinese takeout. Others, we would create Italian dishes.
But my favorite “Day Two” Thanksgiving meals have always been when Mom makes Grandma Joyce’s famous brisket. (Grandma Joyce didn’t make brisket at Thanksgiving time but it was her specialty for so many other events)
This year, Mom will make what is considered in my family to be the “brisket of all briskets.” The fail-safe recipe starts with a good cut of the beef breast (if you special-order this cut, make sure to check it for a good layer of fat but not so much that there isn’t enough meat).
Place the brisket (mine was about 7 pounds) into an oven-safe dish and cover with a layer of dry onion soup. On top of that, pour enough A-1 Steak Sauce to cover the brisket, and then put about an inch of water into the bottom of the pan.
After you have tightly covered the brisket with tin foil, place it into a 300-degree oven for about four hours. Your home will fill with a mouth-watering smell and the meat should be tender. Always let meat rest for about 30 minutes before carving up against the grain.
At Mom’s next week, she will also make Grandma Joyce’s potatoes, which involves baking a concoction of sliced potatoes, mini carrots, onion soup mix, more steak sauce and butter. The potatoes should be crispy and the carrots, juicy and savory.
So, as you prepare for Thanksgiving – and a much-needed break from school – consider adding a second night of celebrating, maybe with a brisket. You won’t get any weird looks from me.
L’Chaim and B’Tay Avon (To life and eat well).
Joyce’s Brisket and Potatoes
1 brisket (3-4 pounds)
2 dry onion soup mix envelopes
1 bottle A-1 steak sauce
Potatoes, cut in small pieces
1 stick of butter
Put brisket fat side up in large roasting pan. Pour A-1 over brisket, sprinkle 1 envelope of dry soup mix over A-1 sauce. Add about 1 inch of water to pan – cover with foil tightly. Bake in 300-degree oven for 4 hours.
Put carrots and potatoes in a large roasting pan. Fill with water to cover. Sprinkle with A-1 sauce and one envelope of dry onion soup mix. Bake at 325 degrees until tender. Drain off liquid and top with one stick butter. Stir so melted butter covers the pieces. Raise temperature to 350 degrees for the last 30 minutes to brown.
Columnist Liz Sunshine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the individual author and not necessarily those of the Collegian.