Monday, January 6, 2014

Guinness Beer Braised Beef Brisket (it's a mouthful!)

Happy Monday. According to British researchers the first Monday of the year is statistically the MOST depressing day of the year. But not for me. For me, it's a day of triumph. Over mind, matter and meat.

You know those days when you are quietly keeping to yourself in your miserable post-wine-induced-couch-coma, just watching a little food porn, while waiting for delivery pizza? Don't lie. We both know that you do. Anyways. Food porn. You know what it is. I know what it is. And, a few days ago, while I was minding my own business in the lovely aforementioned scenario, I got really, really food horny. Which, according to Rich, looks very similar to the "real thing" and is very confusing for him. And yup, I went there. 

We were watching some wonderfully over-produced show where a semi-overweight man was stuffing his face with tender, fatty BBQ (it is much "food-sexier" than it sounds...) when I got the overwhelming desire to cook the biggest piece of meat that my butcher could cut for me. I'd pick it up early in the morning and spend the next 36 hours with it. You know, one of those day dates that turns into dinner and "stuff."  So, our butcher got a visit from his favorite ginger and I headed home with a nice, big piece of meat. (Note: Rich said this is the one of the only times he's okay with me "talking about spending so much time with another piece of meat." He's dirty. So are you. Get your mind out of the gutter)

I think that brisket might be the most underrated cut of meat... EVER. It is pretty much perfect in every way if you can give it the kind of love and attention it demands. You have to warm it up nice and temperature! Jeez, now I'm being dirty. Oh well, this recipe deserves my unrequited lust. Brisket needs to be cooked low and slow and pretty much wooed into the juicy, tender perfection it's capable of. And since it's winter and the smoker is off for now, I decided the best woman to guide me through the process was one of my personal favorites, Suzanne Goin. So, I broke out my Sunday Suppers at Luque's cookbook and found a superb recipe that I followed pretty much to the 'T.' I paired the brisket with beluga lentils and sautéed broccolini with garlic and shallots and everything turned out absolutely perfectly. Plus, the best part of my day today was eating last night's leftovers for lunch. Absolutely DELICIOUS!

*Note that you need to marinate the brisket with the dry rub at least 24 hours before cooking. You can also cook the brisket 24 hours in advance for a dinner party. It can be served hot or chilled. Ok, that's all of the notes... now to the good stuff...

1 beef brisket, about 5-6 pounds with a 1/2 inch fat cap. Do not have your butcher remove the fat cap, it is essential for moist and flavorful cooking. 
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves, crumbled
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
3 chilies de arbol, crumbled with your hands (do NOT touch your face after... ouchie...)
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
2 stalks of celery, cut into thirds
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cups Guinness Beer
4 cups beef stock

Combine the thyme leaves, garlic, bay leaves, chilies de arbol, and cracked pepper and rub the spice mixture onto all sides of the brisket. Place the brisket in a shallow baking dish, cover, and refrigerate over night. 

Take the brisket out of the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking it to bring it to room temperature. 30 minutes before, season the meat with salt. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 

Heat the olive oil over high heat in the largest sauté pan you have. Scrape the garlic and chiles off the brisket and reserve them. When the oil is shimmering, add the brisket and sear well on both sides—you may have to do one end of the brisket at a time, depending upon the diameter of your pan. It will take about 8 minutes per side, a bit more if you’re searing only a portion of the meat at one time. Once the meat is well browned, transfer to a large roasting pan or dutch oven, big enough to accommodate the entire piece of meat.

Add the vegetables to the sauté pan over medium high heat and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until they’re nicely caramelized. Stir often with a spoon to scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan. 

Add the reserved garlic and chiles and cook another minute or two more. Turn down the heat and add the vinegar and the beer to the pan. Bring to a strong simmer and reduce the liquid by one-quarter. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan again to loosen any crusty bits on the bottom. 

Add the vegetables to the pan with the brisket, tucking them around the meat, and then carefully pour the hot stock mixture over the meat. Cover the pan tightly with foil—use two layers if it doesn’t have a lid, or one layer if your pan has a lid. 

Braise in the oven for 5 to 6 hours. The meat will be done when a fork slides into it easily.

When the meat is done, remove from the oven.  Let it cool in its juices for 30 minutes, then remove the whole brisket from the sauce to a baking sheet. Allow it to cool completely, and cover and refrigerate if you’re not serving right away.

Strain the braising juices into a saucepan, pressing down on the vegetables to extract all their liquid. Chill the liquid, and when cold, remove the top layer of fat.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Slice the cold brisket against the grain, and put back into a large roasting pan. Heat the braising sauce (you may want to allow it to reduce a bit to thicken—that’s up to you) and pour a bit over the meat enough to just cover the bottom of the pan and moisten the meat thoroughly. Put the roasting pan in the oven and cook about 20 minutes until the meat begins to get crispy on top. Serve with horseradish creme fraiche (recipe below.)

Horseradish Creme Fraiche
1 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream, but creme fraiche is preferred)
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Mix ingredients together. Serve over brisket. Even if you are not a fan of horseradish, this is quite possibly the most delicious sauce ever. 

Serve. Enjoy. Brag. Eat leftovers. 

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