Beef Brisket And The Prisoner

Beef brisket. The perfect comfort food to warm your soul on a cold and snowy evening.

Beef brisket and red wine? The best combo of all!

Saturday, before the latest Boston blizzard started in earnest, we all headed over to my son and daughter-in-law, Walt and Lily’s home to spend the day and have dinner. Walt and Lily needed all hands on deck because they spent the day redoing Chip and Dale’s bedroom to convert it from a nursery to a big boys’ room.

While Walt and Lily worked away, the rest of the family entertained Chip and Dale and prepared a delicious beef brisket for dinner. (You’ll find the recipe at the end of this post.)

Chip and Dale playing

Chip and Dale using their kitchen set as a parking garage for their trucks.

Annie and I took baby Andy and ran some errands to pick up what was needed to round out the meal.

Of course, this meant a stop at the liquor store for wine.

(Side note: I am not at all a fan of the Massachusetts law forbidding the sale of liquor in grocery stores. What’s that all about?!?!?!)

Anyway, because we had the baby in tow, we needed to be quick with our shopping. So, in picking out the wine, I went with an old favorite, a wine that absolutely never disappoints – The Prisoner.

The Prisoner

This fabulous wine, 2013 The Prisoner (under $40 per bottle), is a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Syrah, Grenache and, believe it or not, Chardonnay.

Widely available, you can almost certainly find it at your local wine store or supermarket – unless you live in Massachusetts.

The Prisoner Wine Company purchases grapes from some 80 vineyards throughout Napa Valley. The winemaker, Jen Beloz, chooses the very best of the best grapes from their sources and creates this blend that is different every year but always reliably delicious.

Robert Parker of Wine Advocate awarded the 2013 The Prisoner 92 points saying:

“This dense, full-bodied, opulent red reveals gutsy, rich, peppery, meaty, blackberry, black currant and licorice notes. A savory, lust, heady red, it begs for a grilled steak or a big, juicy hamburger.”

Wow! This is why Robert Parker gets paid the big bucks to analyze wine (lucky dog!). Can’t you just taste the juicy goodness of this wine from his description?

In addition to going well with a steak and a hamburger, the 2013 The Prisoner paired beautifully with our beef brisket. Lily’s recipe calls for beef stock, onion soup and lots of ketchup. The blackberry, dark cherry and peppery notes of the wine played well against this flavor combo.

Maybe I should send Lily’s recipe to Mr. Parker.

Lily’s Beef Brisket: (serves approx. 4)

  • 2 lbs beef brisket
  • 1 bottle beer
  • 12oz. Ketchup
  • 1 can (10 oz) French Onion soup (Campbell)
  • 1/2 can beef broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 large onion (sliced thin)
  • 1/2 celery heart (sliced thin)

Night before the meal:

Marinate overnight in beer. It doesn’t really matter what kind of beer as long as it isn’t a dark beer.

Morning of the meal:

Whisk together the ketchup, soup, broth, garlic powder, pepper and onion powder.

Remove the meat from the beer and rinse lightly. Discard the beer.

Marinate in the ketchup mixture for a few hours, until ready to start cooking.

3 hours before the meal:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Put some of your sliced vegetables in the bottom of a roasting pan or baking dish. Place the meat on top and add the rest of your vegetables on and around the meat. Pour all of the marinading liquid on and around the meat.

Cover tightly with foil and roast in the oven for 2 hours.

Remove from the oven and carefully slice the meat against the grain as thinly as possible.

Recover tightly and cook for another 45 minutes.

Remove the cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

Serve with a delicious red wine like The Prisoner.

We ended the evening by celebrating the birthday of my sister-in-law, Kate. Lily baked a decadently delicious chocolate cake.

The Prisoner bottle was empty but that was ok.

Some dishes just beg to be paired with a white.

cake and milk

Got milk?




No one paid me to say this.

Do not drink and drive!

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Choosing Your House Wine


Mo Wine Please

Your Very Own House Wine

Do you have a “house wine”?

This concept was introduced to us a couple of years ago on a winery tour.  (No doubt the winery guide was planting the seed, hoping that we’d choose their wine as our house wine.)

A house wine, just like at a restaurant, would be your “go to” wine of choice.  It’s the wine that you know you enjoy, is at a price point you are comfortable with and one you don’t mind sharing with others.  It’s the wine you can pull out and serve without a second thought.

Among the deciding factors, the price point is a biggie.

Some people choose “2 Buck Chuck” as their house wine.  They are delighted with the cost (although I think it is now more like $4 per bottle) and happily stock up on cases of Charles Shaw wines at Trader Joe’s.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have super oenophiles, lovers of all things fine in the wine department…they would rather pass (literally, like they’d rather die) than drink “cheap” wine.  Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.  Decide what you are comfortable with.

Once you have settled on your budget, it is time for research.  Of course the best way to research wine is to drink it.  So make a trip to your grocery store, liquor store, or warehouse store and start experimenting! Sometimes there will be wine notes accompanying the wines on the shelves.  Use those and recommendations from the staff to help you pick some wines to try. The research process will hopefully lead you to find your “house wine” and some new, special favorites.

Your house wine should definitely be something that you love but should also be kind of mainstream.  You may LOVE a big, juicy cabernet but it may be waaaaaay too much for the every day palate.

Pinot Noir is a great choice for a red house wine. It pairs really well with most foods from meat to fish. There are lots of Pinot Noirs out there at virtually every price point.

Many wineries make a red blend. They take several different types of grapes (Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Malbec, Syrah, etc.) and combine them in one way or another to create something new. The grapes that make up the blend and their relative percentages are usually shown on the bottle. As you can imagine, there are an infinite number of ways the grapes can me combined so every single red blend has different characteristics.

Red blends go by all sorts of names. You might see Proprietary Red, Meritage, some clever signature name chosen by the winery or simply Red Blend.

Choosing a red blend as your house wine might be just the perfect way to please all and to expand your wine repertoire.

If you are going with white wine, you might choose a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.  They are both quite popular. They are wines that people know and understand.

But what about a Viognier as your house wine? As I mentioned here, Vignonier is like the white wine version of Pinot Noir in that it pairs very well with a variety of foods and drinks well on its own. You can enjoy a glass with or without food and it will be perfect.

Many wineries also make a white blend. The same rules apply – an infinite variety of combinations make for an infinite variety in flavors. If you like the idea of a Chardonnay and a Viognier, look for a blend that combines the two.

Of course you could, like a restaurant, have both a house white and a house red. Something to think about…

House Wine


Now it’s time to stock up. Many stores offer a discount when you buy in bulk – even as little as 6 bottles, but don’t go crazy.  Make sure you don’t buy more wine than you have storage space.  A wine refrigerator is ideal but, in a pinch, your wine can be stored, on its side, in a cool, dark place (closet, basement, kitchen cupboard away from the oven).

Variety is the spice of life.  But it’s also wonderful, at the end of the day, to have a wine you know you can always count on.

Your very own “House Wine”.

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