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Beef Brisket – Gastronomy and Magic Collide

4 Oct

If you’re really lazy and don’t want to take the time to read the fantastic detail below, here’s the Executive Summary:  The ultimate brisket is prepared with two crucial elements: smoke then steam.

Overall, in life, I believe I have lofty goals.  My goal this week was to learn how to make an authentic Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich.  The key to a good smoked meat sandwich is, of course, the Beef Brisket – and ensuring that the brisket is succulent, smokey, juicy, tender, melt in your mouth delicious.

Remember, the goal of beef brisket, is taking a cheep, rather difficult-to-deal-with cut, and turning it into a delicacy (kind of on par with turning water into wine).  This is not a task to be taken lightly.  I’ve heard endless horror stories about overcooked, tough, dry results – turning your Friday night Shabbas dinner into a silent gathering.

The following steps, after exhaustive research and time in the Marina Del Rey test kitchen, are deemed the optimal way to turn out a great brisket.

1.) Purchase a 10 – 12 pound brisket with fat cap on.  The counter guy I questioned at Schawrtz said “get a soft breast piece”.  I went to Smart and Final and paid $1.99 per pound and selected a nice twelve pounder that was fatty on top and soft when pressed.

2.) About a day or two before cooking take the brisket out of the package, do not wash the blood off, coat thoroughly with garlic, crushed peppercorns, rock salt, chili peppers, cumin (its your basic steak spice, nothing revolutionary).  Don’t pinch the spice on, dole it out by the fistful. Cover, and place back in the refrigerator (duh).

3.) The cooking process is two pronged (smoke, then steam).  First step, it’s all about the smoker.  I used hickory wood chips, on my electric Brinkman smoker.  I don’t use any liquid in the drip pan (other than one measly Tecate beer); fear not hydration is step two.  Place the meat on the top rack FAT SIDE UP – no need to turn the meat throughout the entire process (key point).  I left the brisket on the top rack for about 4 hours.

4.) After four hours (try not to lift the lid on the smoker too much), your brisket should now be dark red-ish, a tiny bit of char, and firm, and fairly cooked…but were you to cut and eat at this stage, it would not be a good result.

5.) Amp-up your indoor oven to 225 degrees (f), and put the brisket in a pan with three cups boiling water.  The pan should have a steel rack on it for the meat to sit on thus not be immersed in the drink.  Cover tightly with tinfoil and into the oven for about three hours.

6.) Take her out of the oven, and let rest for 10 minutes uncovered to let juices distribute.

7.)  We’re not out of the woods yet folks, because the last step is crucial:  CARVING.  Make sure you cut against the grain!  There are guys that make a career out of cutting brisket properly, seriously – see Schwartz’ in Montreal or Katz in NYC.

8.) Ok, this is the fun part.  Pile the nice thin slices of brisket on rye bread, two inches high, a dash of deli mustard (yeah, the light yellow stuff), and a Bubbies pickle on the side.

Alex, Matt and I (along with a couple pass-er-by neighbors), almost put the entire brisket to bed.  It was out of this world tasty, and did indeed, melt in your mouth.

The smoked meat goal for this week is in the books. Let me know how yours turns out.

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My First Smoke

11 Sep

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I finally bought a smoker yesterday…so first thing this morning even before I had the US Open semi-final flicked on, I had the smoker plugged in.

I had a boneless pork shoulder dry rubbed (stubbs variety) and in the fridge overnight.  I placed ‘er on the top rack of the smoker.

The drip pan (which provides the moisture) in the smoker was treated with a couple Tecate beers and apple juice reduction (and a bunch of water).

Cedar wood provided the smoke.

…and speaking of smoke – I put some applewood smoked bacon on the lower rack (Mattie dropped off a 5 pound hunk of the most fantastic, and potent applewood smoked bacon ever).

Seven hours later, Nadal won in straight sets, Federer was upset by Djokovic, and a 6 lb pork shoulder was sitting on my counter, resting.

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The Best F-ing Chili Recipe on Earth!

20 Apr

On Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 8:15 PM, Farlan Dowell <> wrote:

Dear Chili Bros. –

First of all, I’d like to thank you for your contribution to yesterday’s pre-chili-cook-off.  I couldn’t have done it without you!

It was actually an integral team play – had Gary not dragged me from my hazed, hungover, half conscious, sleep – I would have likely lay there for another three solid hours knowing that I have no way of retrieving the beast that is the G37 at the ViceRoy.  Alas, with car in hand, coconut juice in belly, and fuck-all-to-do, I hit the grocery store (which is really the only place I feel like jumping up and clicking my heels – as crazy as it may sound).  As for Duncan’s contribution – well, mate, you threw one ‘up-and-on-the-inside’ (baseball expression, lymey), when it came to putting whole pieces of meat in the chili – the result was the ground up chuck beef you tasted last evening.  Good call.

I would like to quickly recap what went into the Chili yesterday for posterity, as well to identify improvements and divide up duties and logistics for the showdown, May 01.

– 1.5 lbs Pork Shoulder (dry rubbed with select spices) (no bone, seared/burnt on the grill for 10 – 15 minutes)
– 1.5 lbs Beef Chuck Roast (ground up only once)
– Onion
– Garlic
– Stewed Tomatoes
– Crushed Tomatoes
– Kidney Beans
– Can of Green Giant Corn
– One Green Pepper (may want to put two)
– Sugar
– Salt
– Cilantro
– Six fresh tomatoes (stewed with cilantro)
– Cumin
– Worcestershire sauce (thick)
– Chili Pepper
– Can of Chipotle Peppers
– Brown Box Chili Mix
– One Red Habanero Pepper
– Can of beef broth
– Half to a full beer (halfway through cooking )

Active prep time approx one hour.

Simmer approximately six hours.

The major lesson learned is to cut the seeds out of the chipotle peppers so you get the smokey flavor, without the burn upfront.  I’ll opt for Cayenne Pepper which should give it a subtle smooth after-burn.  Duncan, I’m also in favor of you putting together some type of sweet onion / herb mixture as a topping / garnish.

Now, it’s onto the competition!  Let’s meet at my place, then go over to Baja with the equipment and ingredients.  I’m calling a 7am start time Saturday morning (I’ll be at the BBQ pre-searing the Pork), as the competition begins at 9am.


P.S. Duncan, please bring some sugar for the coffee.

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