Brisket vs. Ice Cream

We watched Anthony Bourdain do brisket a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to get it out of our heads.  I’ve never made brisket but after seeing those pit masters produce succulent pieces of meat with a perfect smoke ring covering the outer edges, I  wanted to give it a try.  Kind of like visiting the Louvre and deciding to take up watercolors.

It was a Thursday night and we had stuff to do so I cooked it in the oven using a method from a 1982 Bon Appétit on   There was some confusion about what the original recipe said about cooking times, 3 hours at 325° or 8 hours at 250°.  The hieroglyphics were hard to decipher.   I think either way it would work because I cooked it for  3 hours at 350° and then 1 hour 250° and then 1 more hour at 150° because we had soccer practice and I wanted to keep it warm.  It was not the crusty on the outside, juicy on the inside with a smoke ring brisket.  This was shredded, beefy BBQ brisket perfect in a tortilla or sandwich.

This recipe also calls for a vinegar based bbq  sauce.  I didn’t use their recipe but I did make a sauce using the juice left over in the bottom of the foil.  I didn’t measure my ingredients so be warned.  Taste and adjust as needed.

I could tell you how delicious it was or I could tell you that after a bowl of ice cream the boys took a vote about which was better, the brisket or the ice cream and the brisket won.  I don’t know if Anthony Bourdain would give it a nicotine stained thumbs up but it beat out ice cream.  I’m just saying.  -Andra

Oven Brisket adapted from Lazy Texas Brisket, Bon Appétit, August 1982

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 4- to 5-pound beef brisket

2 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 325°F. Rub garlic into both sides of brisket. Combine all remaining ingredients in small bowl and mix well. Rub into brisket. Set brisket fat side up on large piece of foil and wrap tightly. Transfer to shallow roasting pan. Bake until tender, about 3 hours. (Or, 250° for 8 hours)

BBQ Sauce 

1/2 cup ketchup

2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons molasses

1-2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon celery seed

Strain the leftover juices from the brisket through a fat separator and heat over medium heat in a small sauce pan.  Add the remaining ingredients and heat until thickened.

Top Secret Thai

I would love to tell you about what we had for dinner last night, but I’ve been forbidden by Andra who was forbidden by the woman who gave her the recipe  because the Thai woman who gave her the recipe swore her to recipe secrecy.

What I can tell you is this:  it requires very specific items available at most Asian grocery stores, without the sauce it tastes like something angels eat in Heaven to detox and with the sauce it tastes like something you’d eat in Hell.

The sauce is so spicy but so delicious that you find yourself eating faster and faster, like running on hot pavement with bare feet.

We call this the “Chicken Cucumber Thing”.  I wish I knew the real name so you could Google it, but I’ve already said too much.  Forget everything you’ve seen here.

– Catherine

Almond Chicken Soup with Sweet Potato, Kale and Ginger

I have to confess that as I made this soup, I was wrinkling up my nose.  The consistency looked too soupy; the chicken just bobbed around in this watery brown broth and every once in a while a cube of sweet potato would pop up and sit on the surface.  It looked like something I don’t want to see sitting on my stove top.  I was quite positive that my family was going to revolt which hadn’t happened since the “mustard green event of 2011”.  Imagine my shock when everyone said it was their new favorite soup.   I was glad I powered through and didn’t send the whole pot down the garbage disposal as I waited for the pizza guy.  Keep this one in mind when you’re looking for a pre-trick-or-treating meal.

This recipe reminded me of a stew we had while in Africa.  OK, not the real Africa, but the Animal Kingdom Africa, in Orlando.  The ginger, garlic and nutty almond flavors combined with some of our favorite vegetables were a winning combination.  The ingredients looked delicious and even better, I had them all on hand.  The lime is essential, make sure you have a good-sized wedge to squeeze over each bowl.   -Andra

Almond Chicken Soup with Sweet Potato, Kale, and Ginger adapted from Whole Living, January/February 2011

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 minced garlic clove

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (2 cups)

8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup smooth almond butter

1 cup kale leaves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lime, cut into wedges

Combine the stock, onion, garlic, and sweet potato in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the almond butter and 1/2 cup of the soup mixture into a thick paste. Add the kale leaves and ginger to the soup and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the almond butter paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls, and squeeze with lime wedge.  For a little heat, add a squirt of Siracha or crushed red pepper at the table.

Pork Ragu Two Ways

On Saturday night I made this pork ragu, a weekend favorite, with a few tweaks and served it over pappardelle.  It’s always so great, but I used an unusually large pork loin, so we had LOTS of leftovers.  (My tweaks are:  crushed red pepper instead of hot sauce, about 50% more wine, a few ounces of tomato paste and more thyme than called for.

Last night we used the leftover pork for tacos.  This pork is so versatile, I honestly don’t know if it tasted better over pasta or in tacos.  The flavors are perfect for both.

For the tacos, I used these new tortillas that you cook as you need them in a cast iron skillet:

They puff up and get a little crispy on the outside and make a standard taco or fajita dinner taste so much better.  Those pockets of air release steam, so definitely don’t be a dummy and try to flip them without tongs like I did.

I also made Rick Bayless’s “Classic Mexican “Pot” Beans” from his book, Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen, which were so great.  No pre-soaking required, they cook for two hours and they come out with the perfect texture and seasoning.  I love Rick Bayless; how could you not love someone so enthusiastic about Mexican food?

These beans are so simple:  one pound of black beans, 3 Tbsp of fat (either vegetable oil or bacon fat) and a diced onion, brought to a boil and simmered for two hours.  While we ate last night, I told my husband that I plan to make a pot of these beans every weekend and then use them throughout the week.

I served the beans in bowls with cilantro and Greek yogurt (a perfect stand in for sour cream) alongside our pork tacos.  The tacos had cilantro, avocado, jalapeños, and more yogurt.

I also made a batch of Bon Appétit’s Agave Margaritas, of which there are NO leftovers.

I’m trying to talk my daughter into taking pork and beans for snack time at preschool today.  I bet that’s what Rick Bayless would send in with his four-year old.

– Catherine

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Last night I made one of our favorite salads with roasted sweet potatoes, goat cheese, walnuts and leftover bacon.  I made a white balsamic vinaigrette and used spinach and arugula for the bed of the salad.

To make the potatoes, I cut three sweet potatoes (for four people) into cubes and tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted them in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes.

We’ve been eating this for years because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand and it comes together quickly.  So imagine my surprise last night when my husband said it was delicious, but he may be allergic to walnuts.  It’s like I’m living with a stranger.

Next time, I’ll use pine nuts.  In the meantime, I guess I should get to know my husband a little bit better.

– Catherine

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