Blueberry Biscuits

Blueberry Biscuits

Blueberry biscuits are my new breakfast crush. Warm from the oven, made from ingredients I always have on hand, and fifteen minutes prep time — yes, please!

The recipe is based on this Smitten Kitchen recipe.  The first time I tried it, I used frozen strawberries.  They were delicious – frozen strawberries, thawed and patted dry, became super jammy in the biscuits.  Oh, my.

Blueberry Biscuits

But, I wanted easier.  And I wanted blueberries. I started to make a batch weekly, freezing most of the biscuits and baking them off as I wanted them for breakfast.  Over a couple of weeks, the recipe evolved.  And, voila.

Blueberry Biscuits

280g all purpose flour

1 TBS aluminum free baking powder

50g granulated sugar

1/2 tsp (heaping) coarse kosher salt (or, 1/2 tsp table salt)

1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 tsp cinnamon

85g cold unsalted butter (frozen, preferably)

1 c frozen blueberries

1 c plus 2 TBS heavy cream

 

Preheat oven to 425F.

Whisk to combine the first six ingredients in a large, wide mixing bowl.  Using a hand grater, grate butter across the surface of the dry ingredients as evenly as possible.  Add blueberries the same way – spreading them out on top of the butter.  Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to quickly and gently fold the butter and berries into the dry ingredients.  Add cream and fold though.  Bring any crumbly bits into the dough by hand.  You don’t want to over handle it, but you’ll need to put in some errant dry bits.  When you have a mostly cohesive pile, turn it on to a lightly floured cutting board and pat it into a rectangle like so.

Blueberry Biscuits

Then, because it’s easier, cut your rectangle like so — avoiding the hassle of re-patting the remaining cuttings of round biscuits.

Blueberry Biscuits

Okay, so these are clearly strawberry biscuits. But you get the idea.

Transfer the biscuits you’ll eat right away to a prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden at the edges.

The remainder of the biscuits can be frozen (I put them on a silpat in the freezer, well separated, for a couple of hours) and then individually wrapped in parchment and dropped in a freezer bag for future use.  These will require a few extra minutes in a the oven at 425, but they can be baked directly from the freezer.

Slow Cooker Guinness Beef and Bean Chili

Guinness Beef and Bean Chili

This slow-cooked, shredded beef and bean chili is a result of some crazy iron-rich food cravings I’ve been having.  I wanted something a little different than my go-to chili – I’m trying not to get too set in my ways, and I’m trying not to bore my husband to death.  I made this in my slow cooker overnight; we’ll eat some for dinner tonight and freeze the rest (2 whole additional quarts).

Guinness Beef and Bean Chili

Ingredients:

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil

2 3/4 lbs beef chuck, well trimmed and cubed to 1″ pieces

1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt (plus additional to taste)

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 huge or 2 small onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

1/2 c good quality chili powder (see note)

2 tsp ground cumin

1 Tbs unsweetened cocoa

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp cider vinegar

1 14 oz diced tomatoes with juices

1/3 c Guinness or another stout (try a chocolate stout, and reduce the cocoa powder)

25 – 30 oz of pinto beans (one giant or two normal sized cans)

Chili powder note: I used a mixture of chili powders – roughly equal parts Penzey’s medium hot chili powder, Penzey’s hot chili powder, and ancho chile powder.  Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s fresh, and that it’s a salt-free blend.

Slow cooker directions:

Note: If your slow cooker insert is not flame proof, start this in a 5 quart or larger heavy pot.  You’ll transfer the chili to your crock pot or slow cooker after the Guinness has been added and the chili brought back to a simmer. 

Over medium heat, brown beef in olive oil.  When beef is browned on all sides, add onion and garlic and cook until translucent.  This could take 8 – 12 minutes, but don’t rush it.  Add the chili powder(s) and cook 3 – 4 minutes until very fragrant and juices are visibly thickened.  Add remaining ingredients, with the exception of the beans, which are added toward the end of coking so they don’t break down.  When the mixture has returned to a simmer, transfer to your slow cooker and cook on low for 10-12 hours, depending on your slow cooker.  When it’s ready, it will break apart as you stir – leave it as shredded or chunky as you like, though the chunks will melt in your mouth.  I’ve learned that they vary wildly, but you’re looking for beef that is so tender that it has broken apart.  (Note: I think if I did it again, I might do an hour on high, and then 10 on low – but again, know thine own crock pot.) Add the beans and heat through.  At this point, taste for salt – salt is personal.  Keep in mind that if you are planning to freeze it, freezing foods makes things need more salt, so you’ll end up adding salt when you reheat it.  Better to under salt and salt at the reheating.

We like to serve chili on rice around these parts, with a bit of cheese, Greek yogurt, and chunks of avocado.

Stove top and oven directions:

Follow directions above – minus anything relating to a slow cooker.  However, you’re going to need a heavy pot with a well fitting lid.  Once you’ve added your stout and brought it to a simmer, move it to the oven. Try 275 – 300 F, you’ll want barely a simmer, and the heat will again depend on your pot and oven.  Keep that lid on and check it – you’ll likely have good results in 5-6 hours, but I haven’t done this chili in the over before.

Let me know if you try it, and how it goes!

Easter Coffee Cake and Blood Orange Mimosas

 

Wicked Delicious Coffee Cake

We had a quiet Easter morning — a few friends, this coffee cake, and mimosas with either blood orange juice or ruby red grapefruit juice, both of which I squeezed last night.  I finally picked up the citrus juicer attachment for my kitchen aid – possibly the cheapest existing attachment – and it’s life changing.

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Look out citrus: I decimated nine pounds of fruit in 20 minutes.  There will be much fresh juice in our future, yes, because it’s healthy blah blah, but also because margaritas are heavenly, and even more so with freshly squeezed juices.

This coffee cake is Ree Drummond’s “Best Coffee Cake. Ever” and that’s no lie.  I only made a few tweaks – nothing worth rewriting the recipe for – but I’d do the same again.  I used good, dark Muscovado sugar for 2/3 of the brown sugar.  I also had to bake it a bit longer, and the pecans in the dark brown sugar topping caramelized in a gorgeous way.

We have our eye on this bad boy for Christmas morning.  Possibly Fourth of July.  And random Sundays.  It was my very first coffee cake and it shall be my last – freaking delicious and the house smelled like heaven – win win!

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder and Hypertensive

It’s been one month and thirteen days that we’ve been without a functioning kitchen.  I’ve had four home-cooked meals, thanks to good and loving friends concerned about our sodium levels.  I am beginning to feel like a salt lick with legs – is it possible to get hypertension from six weeks of take out and restaurant meals?

I can’t stop thinking about meals I made in the months before the demolition.  Even the ones that were kind of meh are now crave-worthy, simply because I knew what was in them, really.

There was this pork loin braised in milk from Dinner a Love Story.  The cookbook was a wedding gift and a joyous surprise.  I picked it up to read this fall and was hooked; this was the first recipe I tried and it delivered.  My only suggestion is to get the largest-diameter pork loin roast you can, so you don’t have to add a ton of extra milk.  Make it, though, it’s awesome.  And make it for friends who appreciate ugly, delicious food.

Braised Pork

Milk Braised Pork

I long to make slow-cooked stocks.  A friend recently launched a lovely new blog and posted her stock recipe, which I’ve been dying to try — 40 hours of slow cooking, loaded with good healthy things.  No salt lick.  I keep thinking about how much fun I had cooking for Thanksgiving – crazy flip charts and all – and how proud I was of my homemade stock for my first homemade gravy.  It was groovy, groovy gravy.

Making Homemade Turkey Stock

I don’t have a picture of the gravy.  We ate it.  Right down to the picture.

And then there were the rum runner hand pies.  When I can bake again, I’ll bake these again, and try to mail down the recipe.  Oh the burden.

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We are so, so close to eating all of the vegetables I can dream of.  The floor is in, mostly.  The cabinets are in, mostly.  By midweek we should have our appliances back in their new places and a temporary counter.  We’ll be cooking with gas, even if it’s prepared on temporary plywood counter tops. Which will be replaced with lovely new ones a week after that.  Give or take a few minor setbacks, I’m sure.

In the meantime, enjoy your kitchen – even if it has crazy, crappy, cracked fifties tile and windows painted shut and cupboard doors that don’t close and house legions of silverfish.  If you didn’t have it for long enough, you’d miss it (a little).

Kitchen Renovation is Not for Sissies

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After more than four years of talking about it, we started the renovation of our 1954 kitchen in January.  It’s been a bit more than a month so far (this is an older picture, or I’d be considerably more frazzled than I am anyway) and we have 2-3 weeks before it’s usable again.  A couple of weeks after that, it will be the heavenly new kitchen that I know is at the end of this insane process.

I really did have the most optimistic intentions.  I got an induction burner (review: unpredictable) and set up a mini kitchen in the corner of my already mini living room.  I was vaguely reasonable in my expectations of what might be possible: slow cooker stuff, soups, omelets.  What I totally underestimated was the challenge of washing dishes in our mini bathroom sink.  And now matter how many times a day I clean my bathroom sink, I still feel a little grossed out by having dishes in there at all.  I know, first world problem.

What I did make, two days in a row after three days in a row of Thai food, was tortellini and kale soup.  With lots of onions and some chili flakes.  It’s a great go-to weeknight soup: flexible, fast, reliant on very few fresh ingredients.  Add white beans, potato, frozen butternut squash, frozen cauliflower, some farro – whatever soothes your soul.  Throw some good parm on top and dinner is served.

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But, washing parm out of the bottom of a bowl can be challenging in a tiny bathroom sink.  So, back to take out we went.

In a few weeks, we’ll be back in business around here.  In the meantime, I leave you with the following words of wisdom: don’t hire a plumber with no wheels.

How to Avoid a Thanksgiving Freakout and Susan Feniger’s Street Food

This is my first Thanksgiving as hostess. It’s something I have been waiting for, day dreaming about, and collecting recipes for since before there was a Google.  I’m so excited that I need to give someone, anyone, a present – one copy of Susan Feniger’s Street Food, to be exact.  But give me a minute to get there.

I’ve hosted enough dinner parties at this point to have learned some good lessons about large, multi-dish meals that I feel generally prepared.  I’m sharing the cooking responsibilities rather than trying to do it all myself; we’re not attempting to make seven different  dishes that require baking at four different temperatures; and, we’re doing a lot of prep, including one entire dish, in advance. Also, we’re having a cocktail hour before dinner – that way, if things are a little late or a little overdone, everyone will be in full festivity and just plain won’t care.

For the turkey, which is the one part that makes me a bit angsty, I’m going with this recipe.  It’s Bitten Word-endorsed, so it’s tested and approved by the best, and it’s spatchcocked, so it will cook faster and take less room in my oven.  I’ve said this before, but if you’re still planning your meal, go read their full Thanksgiving extravaganza for this year and past years and you’ll end up with more great ideas than you can imagine.  I’m making my grandma’s sausage stuffing and sauteed shaved Brussels sprouts and leeks with bacon and breadcrumbs, both of which you’ll find posted here in the coming weeks.  I’m on the fence about making a variation of Ina’s potato and fennel gratin (the original here).  It’s one of my absolute favorite foods and I can only justify consuming that much heavy cream and Gruyere at a major holiday; however, we have a small group and I don’t want to be completely ridiculous.  Our friend Rach will make the mashed potatoes and this haricots verts and white bean dish with a shallot vinaigrette — also Bitten Word.  It’s totally make-ahead and really fresh and bright, so it will balance the richness of…everything else.  Rach is also making these Gingerbread cupcakes, also Ina’s.

If I had to make Thanksgiving dinner on a desert island and had only two recipe sources, The Bitten Word and Ina Garten would be all I’d need.  Plus, I’d invite Zach and Clay and Ina, because they seem like they’d be a blast at a desert island dinner party.

My lists are finished – menu and food to-do’s and set up to-do’s and grocery lists.  My cocktail hour playlist is in the works and my dinner playlist is in my head.  Tomorrow, I’ll set out linens, glassware and place settings and make sure I have the right serving dishes for the meal.  I’ll make sure the fridge is cleaned out so I have plenty of room this week, chill the white wines and sparkling wines, and make sure I have the red I need for the meal.  Monday night I’ll brine the turkey and Wednesday night I’ll pull it from the brine and stick it in the fridge overnight.  I’ll also prep the sprouts and chop the veggies for the stuffing.  We’re not eating until 2:30 or 3 and my turkey takes less than two hours, so if I decide to add the gratin, I have time on Thursday morning.

In about an hour, we’re going to do some cocktail recipe testing – we now have five different kinds of bitters.  I received this book on bitters last year and didn’t expect I’d pick it up too often, but I’m completely taken with it.

So, to summarize, this is my recipe for not freaking out:

1 part sharing the fun

1 part liquoring up my victims in advance

1 part list making and advance prep

3 parts keeping in mind that this is about being thankful to have such bounty and such friends to share it with

(And if all else fails, I’ll close my eyes and think of Lake Garda, Italy and that infinity pool at the top of the page.)

 

So tell me, how do you keep calm, cool and collected?  And enter to win a copy of Susan Feniger’s Street Food right here and give a  shout out to your favorite side dish!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Earl Grey and Chocolate Budino — #TBWC2C

Chocolate Budino

Also known as wicked fancy chocolate pudding.  Which reminds me that I should tell you about The Great Pudding Fight of 2008.

It was fall of 2008 and Felix and I had been dating for less than a year.  I was inspired to make pudding from scratch (I’d just started reading food blogs, starting with Orangette).  I mixed and whisked and blended and chilled and served my pudding to my English then-boyfriend.  We hadn’t even been dating for a year when it happened.

I handed the pudding to him – dish, spoon, napkin, expectations, hopes.  He took a bite and then two.  And then another.

“Good.” He’s a man of many words.  “What is it?”

“Pudding.”

“I mean, what IS it,” he said.

“It’s pudding, “I said more loudly, but still kindly, as if I were speaking to an elderly Bloodhound.

“But what KIND of pudding?” He seemed a little annoyed, for a man with a belly full of homemade pudding.

“It’s CHOCOLATE pudding!” I was expecting oohs, ahhs, thank yous, proposals, kisses, worship – all kinds of things, but not grumpy bastards who questioned my pudding.

“But WHAT KIND OF CHOOCLATE PUDDING?” It had become an all-caps conversation.  The caps lock was ON, baby.

“SERIOUSLY.  It’s CHOCOLATE PUDDING.  Like, Bill Cosby, ugly sweater, J-E-L-L-O, but FROM SCRATCH.”

“Oh, custard.  Got it.  It’s good.”

And that was our first fight.

Had I only known about this recipe, I could have made it, and it would have been like pudding to me, the American, but I would have said it was Chocolate Budino, avoiding all conflict.  Thank goodness we made it through.

Long story slightly shorter, I made this Milk Chocolate and Early Grey Budino as part of The Bitten Word (Super Awesome) Cover to Cover Challenge.  The first time I made the recipe, I made it exactly as directed.  It was a perfect assignment – I had a tin of very fancy Earl Grey from Fortnum & Mason in London and this was a perfect use.  (What, I’m supposed to drink it?)

We found the result to be really flavorful – the Earl Grey gave it a complexity that we loved.  It was was unique, fragrant, but not too floral.  Pretty amazing.  But the texture wasn’t quite as pleasing as I’d hoped – it was indeed smooth, but it was a bit plasticky rather than silky.  The version below is adjusted to fix that.  The Early Grey whipped cream on top was lovely, but I was inspired by the tea to try a different flavor pairing in the whipped cream – honey.

(Conflict-free) Chocolate and Early Grey Budino

Adapted from Milk Chocolate & Earl Grey Budino, Food & Wine October 2012

3 oz. Sharffen Berger semi-sweet chocolate chunks

1 TBS butter

2 TBS cornstarch

1 TBS unsweetened cocoa

1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp Earl Grey tea leaves

2 cups (16 ounces) whole milk

 

3/4 cup whipping cream

1 tsp powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

1 TBS honey

flaked sea salt, for sprinkling

 

Instructions

Add chocolate chunks and butter to a heatproof bowl.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk sifted cornstarch and sifted cocoa powder with granulated sugar and tea leaves.  Add milk and bring to a low boil, whisking constantly until quite thick.

Chocolate Budino

This took me a solid 3 minutes of bubbling to achieve.

 

Pour the thickened mixture through a fine sieve over the butter and chocolate and let sit for 30-60 seconds.

Whisk to combine.  Divide chocolate budino among four 6 oz ramekins and chill for at least an hour.

To make whipping cream, whip cream until soft peaks form and then add the powdered sugar and another 20 seconds.    Drizzle honey over the cream and gently turn it through to combine.  When you’re ready to serve, put a dollop of cream on each pudding (budino, whatever) and sprinle with flaked sea salt.

No raising of voices necessary, unless you want to shout, Awwwwww, yeaaaahhhhh.

Also, if you’re not reading The Bitten Word, you should be – they really do rule.  Some of my favorite Bitten hits are this spatchcocked turkey — and if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, reading all of their Thanksgiving posts would serve you well — this adult beverage, this cake, and this sophisticated twist on tuna casserole.

Notes:  This recipe is a great base for variations.  I look forward to subbing a teaspoon or two of instant espresso for the tea, or perhaps simmering the custard mixture with a strip of orange zest – even just a dash of vanilla instead of Earl Grey would make for a nice variation.  Go wild.

Wicked Delicious Smoked Chicken Wings

Smoked Chicken Wings

Since our Big Green Egg, a wedding gift from my father-in-law, arrived, I’ve been scouring the internet for the perfect recipe for her maiden voyage.  A while back, I’d bookmarked this recipe for Spicy Smoked Chicken Wings at Ezra Pound Cake, a blog which should win all the prizes in the land for having the best name ever.  This seemed to me to be a great newbie recipe – a cheap cut of meat, a relatively short cooking time, and a temperature low enough for a new BGE, which apparently needs some low-temp runs under its belt before you can crank it up (pizza here we come!).

That recipe, though, calls for some oven time, which I’d failed to notice.  I was going to have dinner in the oven, so I wanted an all-BGE recipe.  I went back to the internet for help, learning once again what we all already know: the internet is your hysterical, paranoid aunt who, when she hears hoof beats, thinks neither horses OR zebras, but thyphoid-carrying zombie unicorns.  In ten minutes of looking at chicken wing recipes, I had learned that my skin would get rubbery, or stay raw, that the meat might be mealy if it’s over cooked, or undercooked, that the texture will probably be awful – possibly mushy, maybe stiff, potentially foam core board-like. That chicken is the hardest thing to smoke on the planet.  And that we’re all going to die.

I was very thankful that my test run was for an appetizer, not the main meal.  I did learn a few tips, though, reflected in the recipe below, and I decided to go forward and conquer, because I had four pounds of chicken wings in the fridge. (Spoiler alert: the wings were freaking awesome and no one has died.)

I did employ a certain approach that I highly recommend when trying new recipes or cooking methods for dinner guests: invite only your easiest friends and ply them with strong margaritas, just in case.  Drunk people will generally eat anything and be thankful for it.  In the method of Ina, I prepared a pitcher of this easy-cheater margs in the afternoon and popped it in the fridge to chill.

 

Tinkerbell Margaritas

2 cups good tequila (use good stuff, because you’re using it generously with not much else….)

2 cups Santa Cruz Organic Limeade

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (this took me 2 oranges, because they were a bit old)

Combine, stir, chill, and serve straight up in tiny glasses.  Be careful: I call them Tinkerbell margaritas because they are small and fresh and pretty, but if you don’t pay attention, they’ll knock you on your rear like an angry Tinkerbell.

 

Smoked Chicken Wings

Ingredients

3/4 c medium-hot chili powder (I use Penzey’s)

1 tsp crushed red chile pepper flakes

1 TBS smoked paprika

1 TBS dried oregano

4 lbs chicken wings with tips

1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

4 TBS cornstarch

1 1/2 TBS butter or olive oil

 

Directions

Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet and set aside.  Combine chili powder, chile flakes, paprika and oregano in a small bowl.

Remove wing tips and pat chicken wings dry.  Coat with salt and pepper first and then your dry spice mix – you want a good, dense coating.  Dust the wings with cornstarch (I used a small sieve) on both sides – it should look like confectionary sugar on a cake, but don’t eat it.

Spread your wings on your prepared baking sheet; the cooling rack will allow air to circulate around the wings in the fridge.  These should chill at least 4 hours – overnight should be fine.

These guys above don’t have their cornstarch yet – as soon as I took this photo, I realized I had forgotten something important.  No need to panic.

Prepare your smoker and get her up to about 325F (I used BGE lump charcoal and a mild wood chip blend).  As a newbie, I struggled with maintaining a steady temp (and yet no zombie unicorns attacked!), but I imagine you know what you’re doing so that won’t be a problem.  I let mine go about 35 minutes and then flipped them, upped the heat to about 350/375F and let them go another 30 minutes.

With about ten minutes to go, a few of the wings looked a bit dry-skinned, so I brushed them with a touch of butter.  Worked like magic.

These wings could be eaten with any manner of dipping sauces, like this one, any of these ones, or this one.  We ate them standing up around the kitchen island like animals with no sauce at all and they were awesome.  These could clearly be done on a regular old grill at 350 for an hour, flipped regularly.  You’ll miss some smokey flavor, but I don’t think you’d miss that much, so if you don’t have a fancy Big Green Egg, don’t fret.  Go for it.

A Very Jet-lagged – and Gentile – Rosh Hashanah

I was driving us home Friday evening after we arrived home in LA after 20 hours of travel when I heard something on KCRW about Rosh Hashanah. “Oh shit!” I said, “It’s Rosh Hashanah tomorrow!”

“What’s that?” Felix could have been referring to Rosh Hashanah or to the car in front of us. We were tired.

“It’s the Jewish New Year!”

He was relieved or unconcerned, or both.

I managed to sleep a solid 11 hours Friday night and woke up at 6:30 in the morning. I was at Whole Foods by 7am getting milk for coffee and a couple of urgent basic staples to fill an empty fridge. Due to jet lag and general Whole Foods seduction, that included a bottle of dry Vermouth and a “new” ancient alcoholic beverage made from some sort of root and cloves, and three packages of gartisnal oat cheese and some hand-pulled mozzarella. I also bought my Rosh Hashanah brisket, well sign-posted in the meat section for the holiday.

About 4:30 or 5 that day, crumbling like a toddler who’d missed her nap, I asked Felix f we should really eat the brisket that had been cooking for 7+ hours or if we shouldn’t maybe go out for Mexican. I had just learned that Rosh Hashanah was not in fact that day but would start the following day. I was distraught. Felix was again unconcerned.

“We could have the brisket,” I said, “but it needs more time. I need more time. There’s stuff I need to figure out.”

“We’ve been eating out for two weeks.” It’s been more than that, really – I don’t think I’ve cooked since wedding week, a month ago.

“But Rosh Hashanah isn’t until tomorrow.” I was seriously distraught.

“We aren’t Jewish.”

Point taken. While I’d shared many a Rosh Hashanah with friends over the years, leaving me with many good memories and a fondness for the holiday, Felix – meh, not so much.

But I still wasn’t up to finishing the brisket in any meaningful way and I realllly wanted to eat it on Rosh Hashanah, because it would have just been weird otherwise. So, I defrosted a quart bag of this chili from the freezer, which was truly delicious and ready in ten minutes.

Sunday I was able to finish the brisket with the attention it deserved. I was still pretty disastrous – I’d been up since 3 that morning, when my body declared it was done sleeping. That being said, it was quite tasty and if I could do it in the state I was in this weekend, you can do it – make this tangy, tender brisket, maybe next Rosh Hashanah – but double check the date.

Please note that this brisket is inspired by my friend Nicole’s mom’s brisket, but I’ve made a bunch of tweaks and additions. As such, and given that we are not actually Jewish, I have no idea if it’s still fit for the holiday table, for if you’re just paying homage to the Jewish New Year, it’ll do nicely.

 

Wicked Delicious Brisket

Ingredients

4 large onions, sliced

6 cloves garlic, whole

20 sprigs of thyme

10 sprigs of marjoram

3 lb brisket, fat layer trimmed (but not obsessively so)

3 tsp salt, divided

2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

6 oz tomato paste

4 oz dry vermouth

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp (heaping) Dijon mustard

2 tsp cider vinegar

½ tsp Worcester sauce

 

Directions

Layer 2/3 of onions, all garlic, and ¾ herbs (give or take) in the bottom of a 7 or 5 quart slow cooker. (See oven instructions below*)

Using half of salt and all of the pepper, season the brisket and lay it on top of your pile of onions and herbs.

Combine remaining six ingredients and remaining salt in a small bowl – I used my 4-cup measuring cup. The tomato paste won’t want to combine with the vermouth, but with a little whisking, it will do what it is told. Pour the sauce on top of the brisket, making sure to cover the meat.

Top with remaining onions and herbs.

Set your slow cooker for 2 ½ hours on high followed by 5 hours on low.

Ideally, you’ll have two days to do this – the flavor and tenderness really will be the better for it. At this point, you’ll transfer the whole mess to a baking dish, let it cool a bit, and move it to the fridge overnight.

Remove the chilled brisket and onion goo from the fridge about 2 hours before you’re ready to eat, so that you can make the sauce and have it re-heated in time for dinner, including buffer time for getting your sauce tasting just right.

Separate the meat from the goo. Slice the meat in ¼ inch slices, wrap it in foil and return it to the fridge while you work on your sauce.

Pull out all of the herb stems and then run all of the tomato/onion mixture and juices through either a food mill or a food processor. If you use a food mill, which I did, you’ll lose some solids and may want to return the sauce to a small saucepan and reduce it a bit more, to thicken the sauce and concentrate the favors. If you use a food processor, your sauce will have a bit more body because you’ll have retained all of the solids. Either way, put your blended sauce in a pot and heat it up so that you can tweak the salt and pepper and make any other modifications you feel it needs (too sweet? Add a little more vinegar and/or mustard. Too tangy? Add a touch more cinnamon, etc.)

When you’re ready to reheat your brisket, you’ll pop the sliced meat in a baking dish and pour the sauce all over it, making sure to work it in between the slices. If your sauce is already warm or hot, it won’t take that long to get this heated through and bubbling.

Preheat your oven to 325 F and bake, covered with foil, 25 – 35 minutes, until bubbling and well-heated though.

Alternate Oven Directions

The first time I made a similar recipe (using chuck instead of brisket, but otherwise the same) I did it in the oven. It was before I had the world’s most amazing slow cooker – but it worked absolutely fine, if it was maybe slightly more demanding of my attention.

Preheat oven to 350.

Make sauce as directed and pour 1/3 in to the bottom of a 7 or 5 quart heavy pot with a tight fitting lid. Layer onion, garlic and herbs with meat as directed, topping the beef with the remaining sauce, instead of the full recipe of sauce.

Bake at 350 F for one hour. Give the onions a stir, topping the beef again with some onions and juices. Reduce heat to 275 F and bake for 3- 3/12 more hours. Brisket should be easily pierce-able with a fork – if not, continue baking at 275 and check every 30 minutes until it is. When it’s fork-tender, proceed with chilling, sauce-making and finishing as directed above.

NOTES

I see no reason why you couldn’t do the first stage of the process two days in advance, making this a great make-ahead dinner party main dish.

I served this with a fingerling potato, grilled artichoke heart, and arugula salad with Dijon mustard vinaigrette, which made a great pairing for an everyday meal.

I Now Pronounce You

So that’s what I’ve been up to.

I’m sorry to have abandoned Wicked Delicious for so long, but it’s been busy around here.  We lost our wedding venue back in the late Spring and planned a wedding in 48 days – I said to a friend at one point that I felt like I was starring in a reality show that was the hell spawn of The Amazing Race and Say Yes to the Dress. 

It could have been an absolute disaster, but we were exceptionally lucky: a snazzy little hotel called Hotel Erwin in our neighborhood was available on our non-negotiable wedding date, August 18.  It has a rooftop bar overlooking the Pacific, a brand new chef who, like me, believes that cake pops are an abomination, and an event coordinator who felt like our fairy godmother.  Michal, our savior-coordinator, and Chef Larry Monaco dove in like champs – more than that, they dove in like good friends.  They were committed heart and soul to our happiness and our success.   Through Michal, we found our wedding planners – again, savior-planners – who, without judgment or visible fear, pulled off our wedding in roughly seven weeks.  Katie and Dee at No Worries Event Planning allowed us to focus on the good stuff, spending time with our family and friends, and managed all of the tedious details.

We ended up with exactly what we wanted: a union of not just the two of us but of our family and friends as well. And not just a wedding day but a wedding month, really.  We had picnics and beach trips and family meals and community dinners with people we love from around the world.   Our friend Brad officiated, our friend Kristian DJ’d, apprenticed by our friend and ring-bearer Billy, and our friend Trip managed crowd control and toasts and transitions.   We were stood up for by my sister and Felix’s brother and our friends, Arlo and Pee.

I’m sure I’ll share more details as time goes on, particularly since so many of our wedding presents are kitchen-oriented (a Big Green Egg from my father-in-law!).  For now, we’re honeymooning in Italy and celebrating the wedding of good friends from Los Angeles here in Tuscany. Photos, of food and ancient Italian things and happy celebrants, to follow in the weeks to come.

Ciao – I’m off to an all-wild boar dinner in the Umbrian countryside!