Sunday, November 29, 2009

Comfort Foods/Brisket

I can’t get over how orange this blog is right now, browsing through these posts I realized that it seems like I have only been eating root vegetables and squash. Factor in the orange background and I am getting worried that I am victim to some bizarre color hypnosis. Maybe it’s too orange, but I can’t help it, orange foods just taste so good. Also, orange is such a happy color that each time my blog pops up all it just adds a flash of brightness to my day. When I was contemplating all this orange business I realized that recently Stefi told me I looked tan even though I have been a prisoner of the halogen lighting in the library. Suddenly it hit me, is it actually possible that the myth of beta-carotene giving skin an orange glow is actually true? If so, you can expect to be seeing a LOT more orange food around here.

Although I made this brisket with parsnips, carrots and sweet potatoes before the 'orange revelation', if it turns out that orange food is keeping me looking sunny I think I will be making this again sooner than I expected. I was really excited about this brisket because it was my first time making any slow-cooked or braised meat. I definitely liked it after tasting it, but I deemed it a success when Stefi said it reminded her of Friday night dinners at home. That was the best compliment I could have asked for, successfully duplicating someone’s favorite comfort foods is an honor.

I really lacked all the kitchen equipment the recipe called for, but I refused to be deterred and the mishaps along the way just made the whole thing taste better in the end. I used the overflowing braising liquid to cook the farro, which imparted an incredibly meaty and rich depth of flavor to it. A lot of people don’t know about farro, a classic Italian grain, but it’s one of my absolute favorites. It’s nutty and dense and is a great earthy backdrop for something like brisket, but it’s also just as good for cold summer salads. Although the sides were quite delicious (and glow inducing) they were only there to complement the star, the brisket. After hanging out in the oven for a few hours with wine, onions and broth, this brisket was tender and full of flavor. Like most briskets it tasted even better the next day and maybe even better the day after that. The only downside is that it takes quite a few hours to make, but 90% is hands-off time and you will have leftovers for days. Also, as it gets chillier out it’s a perfect excuse to stay cozy inside “Sorry Sally, I can’t come meet you I have a brisket in the oven” (try it, it has worked for me in the past). Basically, this simple piece of meat (and the sides) will make you look tan, feed you for days, and keep you warm. Well, no promises, but I can assure that it tastes good, which is really the only part that matters.

Brisket with Farro and Root Vegetables
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 first cut of beef brisket (5 pounds)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced + 1 chopped onion (keep separate)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
4 1/2 c. homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
2 fresh or dried bay leaves, plus more fresh for garnish if desired
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut in 1/4" rounds
4 carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/4" rounds
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1/4" half moons
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 c. farro
1 c. water

For the Brisket:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season both sides of brisket with salt and pepper. Place a roasting pan across 2 burners on medium-high. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in pan. Add brisket; sear until browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and minced garlic to pan; cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, about 4 minutes. (Add more oil to pan if needed.) Stir in tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in wine, and cook, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan.
3. Add stock and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Add the brisket to the pan, and cover with foil. Transfer to oven, and roast until meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Flip meat over. Cover, and roast for 30 minutes more.
4. Add vegetables to brisket, cover, and roast until meat and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Transfer vegetables to a platter and meat to a cutting board, reserving pan sauce. Tent meat with foil; let rest.
5. Heat the pan sauce in a saucepan until slightly reduced.
6. Thinly slice brisket against the grain. Arrange slices on a platter with the vegetables. Season with pepper, and drizzle with some sauce. Serve immediately with remaining sauce.

For the Farro:
1) While the brisket is in it's last hour of cooking, prepare the farro.
2) Heat up a glug of olive oil a medium sized pot and add the onion, cook until soft. Add in the farro, 2 ladles of cooking liquid from the brisket, and a cup of water.
3) Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium low. Cook covered for 10 minutes, uncover and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the farro is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Use this as a bed for the brisket and vegetables.

I dont have a roasting pan, so I seared the meat in my largest pot and then cooked it in a 9x13" glass dish (hence the overflow). This worked just as well.
• Play around with the vegetables based on your preferences, anything goes.


pdc said...

I wonder with which cut of meat they make brasato in Italy, which is also a slow cooked meat in red wine ?
this one sounds really yummy and imagine that hving lived in NY for 30 years i have never prepared it