Tonight, I braised my first ever brisket. I also made an interesting potato side dish to go with it. And you, lucky friends, can read all about it Right Here On This Blog.
Most people, I’ve garnered after reading through
thousands about ten other web pages devoted to the subject, tend to grill or smoke their brisket. Not I.
Why, you ask? Why not grill that baby up? Or put it in the smoker?
And I’ll reply that, lack of smoker aside, there is also the problem of the wind chill (near zero) and the piles of snow on the back deck. As you might remember, this
is not my back yard. This
is my back yard. (Any questions?)
Back to the brisket. Brisket, I have learned, is a not-so-tender cut of meat with a long strip of fat running the length of its top. Like pot roasts and similar cuts, brisket tastes best when cooked slowly for a long period of time (3-4 hours) in liquid, or slow-roasted for half a day on the grill. The fat strip will melt into the meat and keep it moist, which is a plus when you’re grilling. Braising is faster and a bit leaner, as less fat seems to render during the shorter cooking time.
I found a very nice recipe for braised brisket, which is convenient because I’ve had this brisket thawing out in my fridge for about a week and really needed to do something with it. It came from our last quarter beef order. Waste not, want not, my mother always said. And don’t let a fear of the unknown stop you from learning how to cook a thing called “brisket”.
This was actually easier than a traditional pot roast, IMNSHO. When I make pot roasts, I like to dredge them in flour whisked with a bit of salt & pepper, then sear them, and then add the liquid, etc. The braised recipe doesn’t require dredging or searing. It just called for a thin-sliced onion, some cut-up celery stalk, a few spices, some minced garlic, and about a half-cup of water in a pot with a heavy lid. Because my brisket was GINORMOUS (which makes perfect sense, since it came from the Largest Cow To Ever Come Out Of Trumbull County), I stuffed it in my equally ginormous Le Creuset oven (pot) and added more like 3/4 to a cup of water. I did not have the whole allspice, but threw in a quarter-teaspoon of the ground stuff for flavor. I also added a few peeled carrots.
Now, just as an aside, I want to mention how I was thinking about the Smitten Kitchen when I was cooking this dinner. I love reading that blog because she has not only the most amazing recipes to drool over, but her photography is just out of this world, with lots of macro lens stuff. It’s incredible. And since I totally love looking at photos of
porn food porn delicious food, particularly when the photos are action shots such as you might find at the above-referenced Den Of Delectability, I found myself inspired to photograph the progress of the braised brisket and potato side dish en route.
Let me just tell you that it is nigh on impossible to cook well and photograph yourself cooking at the same time, as you shall see. This simply increased my admiration for the Smitten Kitchen person by like 10000000%. But I gave it a shot. (Ha ha. Me with the puns.)
Um, yeah. Well, while the brisket was simmering in its heavy pot, I prepped some potatoes. Mashed just seemed so… well, uninspired, particularly since I had no desire to add bleu cheese or roasted peppers or capers or anything bizarre like that. And with this monster of a brisket smelling up my kitchen with heaven-on-earth aromas, it really seemed like the prime opportunity to try something new in potato-land. Ergo, I came up with Herby Potato Thingies. Because I can’t really call them fries or chips, you get to meet them as Thingies. ( Feel free to suggest a better word, even though I’m certain these will never appear in a cook book any time soon. )
First, you peel some potatoes.
Then you sort of
hack them cut them into wedges and slices, depending on the sizes of your potatoes. Arrange the pieces on a sheet lined with aluminum foil (makes cleanup much easier).
Drizzle some olive oil over the slices,
and, if you like, use a basting brush to even out the coating.
That, by the way, was not an action shot. I totally cheated and held the brush still while taking the picture.
Anyway, sprinkle some coarse salt on the slices.
(also not an action shot. But don’t be sad. The action shots are next.)
Follow that up with some pepper, dried parsley, and dried basil.
It should be noted that, unless you are particularly dexterious and/or have considerable experience photographing yourself sprinkling spices on your food, you will most likely end up with a “hot spot”– a portion of your food that contains an inordinately large percentage of the spice-application.
Ahem. Well, anyway, then the potatoes go into a 350 degree oven for about, I don’t know, 15 minutes. Something like that.
Then, I went back to finishing the brisket. The recipe said to remove the brisket from its braising pot,
and place it in a baking dish.
Then, you sprinkle some salt and pepper on it,
make a glaze out of brown sugar and mustard,
and coat the meat with the glaze.
Pour some of the braising liquid around (but not on) the brisket,
and then pop it in the oven with the potato-thingies.
The brisket should bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the glaze is glazey and bubbley. I turned the potatoes over after about 15 minutes, and then let them bake another 10-15 minutes until they just started to brown.
With all these photos, you would think there’d be one of the finished goods. Well, you’d be wrong. That’s because the family was hungry (the nerve!) and wanted to eat, and were all banging their utensils on the table and threatening to overrun the kitchen if I didn’t feed them And Quick, which meant that this was really not the appropriate moment to whip out the camera and begin photographing the food as it emerged from the oven. No Sirreee. That would not have gone over well.
But suffice it to say that there were hardly any herby potato-thingies left, and the brisket was a success (although hubby mentioned that the glaze sort of reminded him of ham…)
And now I have prepared a brisket, and that, friends and neighbors, is not a thing to scoff at. So don’t even try.