Red-Wine-Braised Beef Brisket with Pretzel Dumplings


Both Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo had early experiences with sauerbraten, the German braised brisket. Castronovo sampled it on trips to Germany; Falcinelli had it at the German deli where he worked as a teenager. The terrific recipe they ultimately perfected is both very sweet and very sour, made with raisins, apples, red wine vinegar, and red wine. Serve it with handmade pretzel dumplings, a twist on traditional bread dumplings.

Red-Wine-Braised Beef Brisket
Photo: © Simon Watson
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 30 mins

Prime Meats is beloved for its handmade pretzel appetizer served with homemade mustard. Frank Castronovo's dumplings, a twist on traditional bread dumplings, are a clever way to use up leftover pretzels. The dumplings are good right after they're boiled but even better when sautéed in butter, too. 



  • 2 1/2 pounds beef brisket, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch

  • 2 cups dry red wine

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar

  • 4 juniper berries, smashed

  • 2 teaspoons white peppercorns

  • 2 carrots, finely diced

  • 1 celery rib, finely diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 4 large onions, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 2 tart apples, finely chopped, plus 1/2 tart apple, peeled and chopped, for garnish (optional)

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme

  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth

Pretzel Dumplings

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk

  • 3 large soft pretzels (about 2 ounces each), cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

  • 1/2 cup minced onion

  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten


Make the Brisket

  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the beef brisket with the red wine, red wine vinegar, juniper berries, white peppercorns, carrots, celery, garlic, and one of the onions. Close the bag, pressing out any air and refrigerate the brisket overnight or for up to 2 days.

  2. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Strain the marinade, discarding the solids. Pat the brisket dry. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Season the brisket with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat until browned all over, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the brisket to a large plate. Add the remaining 3 onions and the 2 finely chopped apples to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 minutes.

  3. Return the brisket to the casserole and add the raisins, bay leaf, thyme, and the strained marinade. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender; turn the brisket halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, make the Pretzel Dumplings

  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk just until simmering. Remove from the heat and add the pretzels. Cover and let stand until softened, about 30 minutes. Strain the pretzels, pressing to remove as much milk as possible. Transfer the pretzels to a bowl.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Scrape the onion into the bowl with the pretzels and add the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly, then stir in the egg.

  3. Set a 14-inch-long sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface. Spoon the dumpling mixture on top and wrap the plastic around the mixture, shaping it into a 6-by-2-inch log. Tie the ends. Wrap the dumpling again in the plastic and tie the ends again.

  4. Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer. Add the wrapped dough and weight it down with a heavy lid. Cover and simmer over low heat until the dumpling is firm, about 25 minutes. Carefully transfer the dumpling to a work surface and let cool. Unwrap it and cut into six 1-inch-thick slices.

  5. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick skillet. Add the pretzel dumplings and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.


  1. Carefully transfer the brisket to a plate; cover and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid into a heatproof measuring cup, pressing down on the solids. Wipe out the casserole and add the cooking liquid and chicken stock. Boil over moderately high heat until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the brisket across the grain and garnish with the chopped apple. Serve with the sauce and the Pretzel Dumplings.

Make Ahead

The brisket can be refrigerated in the sauce, whole or sliced, for up to 2 days. Rewarm in the oven.

The unsliced cooked dumpling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Suggested Pairing

Sauerbraten, which inspired Falcinelli and Castronovo's recipe, is typically served with beer—a German pilsner, say, like the crisp Einbecker that's on the list at Prime Meats. If pouring wine, though, go for a fruity, low-tannin red, like an Australian Shiraz.

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