2-3 lbs. brisket or boneless chuck roast (you are looking for a flat slab, not a rounded roast)
freshly ground black pepper
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 C. red wine (a cheap French table wine works well)
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 C. beef broth (found canned or boxed in the soup aisle or, if necessary, use 1 C. boiling water + 1 cube beef bouillon)
3/4 C. ketchup
1/3 C. brown sugar
Find a large (~10″) omelet pan and a large (~5-quart) oven-proof casserole dish or pan with a lid.
Put the omelet pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high.
Put the brisket or boneless chuck roast on a large dinner plate and carefully dispose of the packaging. (Wash your hands.) Sprinkle salt on the meat. Grind pepper over the meat. Use a sturdy fork to turn the slab of meat over on the plate. Salt and pepper the other side.
Add the meat to the hot pan. After 3-4 minutes, use a sturdy fork to turn the meat over to brown the other side. After another 3-4 minutes, both sides should be nicely browned. Use a sturdy fork to transfer the meat to a (clean) large dinner plate and turn the heat down to medium.
Add the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the chopped onion. Stir occasionally with a silicone scraper. When the onion begins to brown, add the red wine and the garlic powder. Stir, scraping up any bits of onion or beef stuck to the bottom of the pan. (The technical cooking term for this is “deglazing the pan,” just so you know if you see that term somewhere :-).) Cook for ~5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Add the beef broth. Stir. Cook for another 4-5 minutes and turn off the burner.
[A note about choosing a red wine for cooking: Go to the part of the store with the French wine. Find the reds. Look for the cheapest bottle. Buy it.]
Preheat the oven to 325◦.
Use a ladle to transfer some of the onion-wine-broth mixture to the covered casserole dish or pan you will be using. Place the meat on top. Pour in the rest of the onion-wine-broth mixture. The liquid should come up along the sides of the meat but not submerge it. (If it does submerge it, use a baster to take some of the liquid back out.)
Spread the ketchup on the top of the meat to cover. (It will seem like a lot, but you’ll have to trust me on this.) Use the back of a spoon to even out the ketchup as necessary. Sprinkle on the brown sugar to cover evenly.
Cover tightly. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 3 hours. (Set a timer.)
After 3 hours, the meat should be very tender. Ideally, you’ll be able to transfer the meat to a large dinner plate to serve, but you’ll need to be very careful about removing it from the pan so that it doesn’t fall apart in pieces and wreck the sweet-tangy crust. (It’ll taste good even if it does, though.)
[Based on a recipe that appeared in The Washington Post]
*If you have a very large slow cooker, one that can accommodate your piece of meat without bunching it up, this recipe works well in a slow cooker too. (Or choose a smaller piece of meat that does fit your slow cooker and adjust the other ingredients, particularly the liquids, as necessary.) Prepare as above but instead of arranging the meat and topping in a casserole dish and baking for 3 hours, arrange the meat and topping in your slow cooker and set on low for ~6 hours.