Brisket sandwich. I looked at those words and drew a blank. I don’t eat a lot of sandwiches, and this one isn’t in my repertoire. So I began to construct it, or perhaps deconstruct it is more accurate.
What I saw in my mind’s eye was the bottom of a hamburger bun and a thin slice of brown meat crying out for gravy. Clearly, this isn’t what was inspiring you to ask. So I thought about the components separately.
Meat first. The last time I wrote about brisket here was corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day. Corned beef – no, that’s not what you asked about. Pastrami? Similar, but again, no. Brisket is a cut that requires lengthy, moist cooking. What similar sandwich meat exists? Of course, pulled pork! But you’re asking about beef. This led me to barbecue and/or some sort of spicy sauce.
My usual cooking bibles, including ones specific to beef and sandwich – even ones on American cookery – failed me in searches for the term “beef brisket sandwich,” or any variant thereof. One on Texas cuisine, however, listed Barbecued Brisket Sandwich with Jícama Coleslaw. That set me off in the direction of barbecue.
A look at the menu of the nearest rib shack lists three brisket sandwiches. The Texas brisket sandwich comes with BBQ sauce and the option of peppers and onions and cheese. A French Dip beef brisket and cheese sub comes with horseradish sauce and au jus for dipping. The open-faced beef brisket sandwich is toasted and smothered in gravy with mashed potatoes.
Further research yielded a Canadian (Quebecois, to be exact) specialty called viande fumée, similar to pastrami in that it’s smoked, but not quite the same. Un sandwich à la viande fumée comes on rye bread with mustard – pretty straightforward.
The very simplest sandwich I found described was white bread with sliced brisket and a chunk of cheddar cheese on the side. I guess if the brisket is well prepared, this would be OK; but the bread would get soggy quickly, which is unappealing to me.
The Texas Beef Council, which certainly ought to know, has a recipe for a Brisket Torta which calls for left-over brisket, sautéed onions and peppers, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and avocado on a baguette. (I assume a baguette is easier to find than a bolillo, the traditional Mexican roll for a sandwich. They are similar in texture.)
The fanciest brisket sandwich I found uses a brisket seared and braised Irish whiskey, veal stock, a French flavor base of onion, celery and carrot, and lots of herbs. It’s served on toasted butter- and egg-rich brioche with English mustard, smoked baby swiss cheese, arugula, and shaved Granny Smith apples tossed with salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil. I also found one with sour cream & herb sauce, and one grilled as a panini with alfalfa sprouts!
So… the flavor of the brisket can vary, although whether sweet, spicy, or smoky, it’s commonly a bold one. The meat must be cooked slow and low, with moist heat. The bread is your choice, though I recommend a sturdy bread or roll, not sandwich bread or a hamburger bun. Condiments can be mayonnaise, mustard, and/or more sauce from the meat preparation. Toppings can be lettuce, tomato, sprouts, grilled peppers and onions, cheese, or coleslaw. A traditional side is something pickled, like a dill spear or a half-sour, no doubt for aid in digestion.
This is anything but specific, but I hope some of these ideas inspire you. There are tons of choices, so have fun experimenting.