November 30, 2012
This recipe for brisket is near and dear to me.
When I prepared it last week it was my third time cooking the all-day marathon dish, but I still hope to spend a hundred more Saturdays in my lifetime making it.
Why? Because this is the recipe that gave me my confidence. Prior to this one, my repertoire never extended beyond grilled cheese sandwiches or scrambled eggs.
About a year ago, when my wife Joy was working some long hours, she asked me one Saturday morning if I would plan on making dinner that evening. I said, "Great, no problem," conjuring images of toasting buttery bread in a skillet with cheddar cheese.
But she handed me a couple pieces of paper stapled together, with about 100 different steps and two dozen ingredients: "Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze." I had a tiny heart attack.
"You can do it," she said.
Shaking my head, I went to the store, picked out the ingredients, dug in my heels and gave it my all.
And you know what? It turned out great. It's since become a traditional dish in the Reddy household.
It's basically meat, potatoes, veggies and a delicious, reduced broth that you'll want to mop up with a thick slice of bread. It's a picture-perfect, steaming hot meal on a cold, winter evening.
To start out with, you rub a 4-pound brisket with salt, pepper, paprika and just a little bit of cinnamon. You'll want that to sit in the fridge overnight, or for two hours at a minimum.
Once the meat has had some time to absorb some of those spices, you want to fry it up in a skillet.
Fat-side down first in the skillet for about five or six minutes on medium heat, then flip it and let it go for another three or four minutes.
Take the meat out of the skillet, put it on a big plate or platter and let it sit while you get your broth ready. Go ahead and preheat the oven to 325.
The brisket is going to cook basically all day long in a thick mixture of onion, garlic, beef broth, beer, bourbon, light brown sugar, soy sauce, thyme, celery, carrots and vinegar.
Follow the detailed directions here for simmering the broth, then mixing all these ingredients together.
If you're anything like me, it's sort of slow-going at first. Like any large undertaking there's that mental trepidation when beginning a big project, but once you get into that no-hesitation flow, you're all set. You're chopping, simmering, mixing and mitigating the mess you make.
Which brings me to the next point: you've got to clean as you go on this one. While it's a good habit with virtually any food prep in the kitchen, it's downright essential with this one. Because you will make a big mess.
I recommend cleaning dishes in the sink as it fills up, instead of waiting until it's overflowing. It's a bit of a balancing act. You have to find those moments when you're waiting on something to boil or simmer. Make good use of your time.
For instance, once you put your brisket and broth in the oven, you're going to have all kinds of time. About four and a half hours, to be precise. Make sure you cover it well. I made the stupid mistake of not wrapping enough aluminum foil around the brisket once, and it came out on the dry and chewy side (but somehow still delicious).
When you take it out of the oven four and a half hours later, you'll strain the braising liquid into a big bowl, set aside a 1/4 cup for your glaze, put the rest into a pot and cook until reduced to about 2 cups. This takes about 15 minutes. Set aside the tender veggies that don't go into the reduction. It's a perfect, complementary side dish for your brisket.
Put your brisket and the reduction back together again, then apply the homemade glaze (bourbon, peach jam, salt, pepper and a 1/4 cup of your braising liquid). Preheat broiler, and broil the brisket for about four or five minutes. Be careful not to burn it though. You just want it browned and glazed.
The hard part is over. Might I suggest a celebratory beverage? Guinness pairs nicely with my brisket, because it's the same type of beer I use in the broth. Set your brisket on a cutting board. Carve it against the grain and put it on a plate.
Again, be sure and use this recipe on bon appetit's website for best results. Don't get discouraged if you feel defeated after your first attempt at this one. As with most challenges, a hard-fought victory is a sweet one.
And once you cook it, you'll find ways to improve upon it, adding your own touches to make it a personal masterpiece. You'll trust your inner chef more and more overtime, and you will become confident in the kitchen, honing the culinary craft as you conquer each difficult dish.