Do you, as I do, sometimes root through the about-to-expire stack in the grocery's meat section to see if there's anything really good going for a great price because it's getting close to the pull date? I've formed this habit lately -- mainly because the nearby Kroger's hypermarket is a good enough store that even the "dead meat" is good -- and it led me last night to a beautiful little chunk of Kentucky-grown brisket for an amazing $1.99 a pound.
I decided against the usual boiled beef and went with a Northern Italian braise with lots of flavor instead:
Dice about 1 ounce of pancetta, slice a couple of big cloves of garlic, and brown them together in just a skosh of good olive oil. When they're well browned, throw in the brisket (this was a little feller, just about 1 1/4 pound) and brown it well on both sides. Add about 1/4 cup water, black pepper to taste, and a shot (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) of freshly grated nutmeg. Reduce heat to a fast simmer, cover, and leave it alone for about an hour, turning occasionally. (Start this process about 90 minutes before serving time.)
Mince about 6 or 8 anchovies, drained and wiped of most of their oil, and mash the result with 1/2 teaspoon dried basil and black pepper to taste. Smear this concoction all over the top of the brisket, re-cover, and let it cook for another 20 minutes or so.
About 10 minutes before dinner, remove the lid from the pot, turn the brisket over a couple of times (some of the anchovy mix will wash off into the sauce, the rest will stick to the meat), and raise the heat to medium high so as to reduce the liquid in the pot to a thick, syrupy sauce. (Add back a little water at the end, or deglaze with a little red wine, if you go TOO far.)
Put the meat on a serving board, top with the sauce, and slice thin across the grain. Great stuff, demands a robust red wine like the outstanding 1993 Cupa Numismae Pic Saint Loup from the Languedoc.