Meals

This is the centerpiece of the meal, usually a meat, fish or poultry dish (sometimes noodles). At least for the purpose of this blog it is.

Schnitzel (Boneless Fried Chicken)

img_1736I found schnitzel to be ubiquitous when I visited Israel, and like their hummus, delicious everywhere I had it.  Their schnitzel is so much better than what ours has become, basically a chicken nugget- that I was inspired to try and recreate it.  Of course thanks to the Internet, that’s pretty easy since there are lots of great recipes out there.   The one I started with is from Janna Gurr.  As she notes, and I agree with, it is best served with hummus, pickles and something green, like a salad.

Even though it is fried in oil, a good schnitzel should be light — not heavy, so make sure your oil is the right temperature and get your pieces in and out quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 half pounds of chicken.  (If you buy fillets you won’t have to pound them).
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with:
    • Onion powder
    • Garlic Salt
    • White Pepper
    • Adobo Seasoning
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola and Peanut oil for frying 

Directions

  1. If necessary, pound your chicken to scallopini thickness or whenever your hand gets tired (I find it optimal to not just pound but also cut the breasts in half or smaller.  This allows me to put more pieces in the pan at once, cook them faster and provide each one with more crispy surface.  But that is for you to decide).
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with dijon mustard and 1-2 tablespoons water.
  3. Prepare the flour by sifting it together with the additional spices.
  4. Add your Panko to a bowl and prepare a plate covered with wax paper next to it for finished pieces.
  5. First—Dip chicken in flour mixture.  Then, shaking off the excess, drag through egg mixture, and when done, drop in Panko. Place finished pieces on wax paper while you prepare oil.
  6. Using at least a 12-inch cast iron pan or equivalent, heat your oils to medium high temperature.  I find that the addition of a small amount of peanut oil adds a tremendous amount of flavor where canola oil has almost no flavor at all.  I tried sesame oil but it has too much flavor.
  7. Fry each piece for 2-3 minutes.  They should be golden brown, not dark brown.
  8. Salt them upon taking them out from the oil, and set them on brown paper bags (if your grocery provides these) or paper towels to try.

img_1733

Favorite Oatmeal for Winter Mornings

oatmealIf you cook most of the meals in your house you are likely to either fall into a rut or grasp greatness by experimenting with new things.  I am always trying to simultaneously improve what I’m making and trying to capture some far-off, once-tasted flavor or texture that I experienced in the past. Sometimes I have an innovation so small (like using the toaster for Grilled Cheese) that I don’t feel it’s worthy of writing down. But when I get requests from my family, I know I should.  This my family’s favorite oatmeal for winter mornings recipe.  If you know me and have read this blog, then you’ll know it’s nothing complicated– just a matter of adding some extra stuff to an existing recipe (on the Quaker Oatmeal box. Is that what you call a round container made of cardboard?).

The recipe calls for making two cups of oatmeal as its largest size– but that’s hardly enough for one hungry person, let alone a family. I initially doubled it but didn’t want to choose between milk and water as the liquid- so I used both.  I also felt that the end product prepared as recommended was relatively tasteless (see my previous experience with that here). Since oatmeal contains a significant benefit of fiber, I thought, “how can I make it more appealing to kids?” Of course the answer is sugar, but in what form, how much and what else?  Following the lead of every other instant oatmeal on the shelf*, I added cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg and rather than add lots more sugar, I opted for maple syrup extract, which is has more flavor and less sugar than its fully syrupy parent.

Of course, vanilla and more salt than the recipe calls for, and I have experimented with adding a tablespoon of butter for ‘soul.’     Lastly, I understand that not everyone likes the same inclusions so I prepare those separately.  For the serving pictured above it was toasted pecans and raisins.   It was a hit.

Ingredients

  •  4 cups oatmeal (I used Quaker Oats–different oatmeals may have different cooking times)
  • 1 3/4 cups Milk
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/16 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp maple extract

Optional Inclusions

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • raisins or dried cranberries
  • Toasted pecans or walnuts

 

Directions
Again, nothing special here:

  1. Boil the milk/water combination
  2. Add the oatmeal.
  3. Simmer (stay close by) for 10 minutes.
  4. At about 9 minutes add the other ingredients.
  5. Serve in individual bowls and serve inclusions separately.

 

*Note: whether you utilize the fat/sugar grams or glycemic index to measure your food’s health you can tell that a majority of the available instant oatmeals are loaded and should be avoided at most costs.  Check out the Internet if you want detailed analysis.

Crazily Addictive Banana Pancakes

Every once in a while my daughter, who is the lieutenant chef, has a special request, and of course, within reason, we try to accommodate it.  This morning was Banana Pancakes.   Cliche, right?  We often get them at Harry’s in West Roxbury (where they are to die for) but that does require getting up and getting dressed. We found a great recipe at Kitchen Treaty that we played with. I knew it would be good because it involves buttermilk.  The recipe had a few revolutionary suggestions.  One was to let the batter sit after combining it, so the rising agent (baking powder) can do its job. Brilliant!  Pancakes were definitely the fluffiest banana pancakes we have ever created.  Also, the suggestion of using a scooper was a mind-blowing improvement that I never thought of, and significantly aided the process.    As a postscript you should know that there is never anything in my house but real maple syrup and this is for two reasons.  One, I live in New England, so of course great (and super-expensive) maple syrup is always available.  Two, “Pancake Syrup” is a horrifying fraud that aside is likely to negatively affect your health with its ingredients.

pancakes, banana pancakes, fluffy banana pancakes

Fluffy, hot, delicious and just-slightly crispy banana pancakes are so good you will be sorry you made them.

In any case, this is a good morning activity, but the clean up was extensive (and not yet done as of this writing).

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 bananas (if you only have green ones, you can add 1/4 table banana extract)
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter  (room-temperature soft or melted and cooled)
  • 1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Two shakes of cinnamon
  • 1/16 teaspoon butterscotch extract
  • Powdered sugar or maple syrup (or both) for topping

DIRECTIONS:

  1. First assess your bananas– if they are green-ish, like mine, we found you could submerge them in hot water for about 5 minutes to make them softer and slightly sweeter.   That’s helpful, but not a total solution.   Because greenish bananas are less sweet and have less flavor, we added about 1/4th teaspoon of banana extract.  Also, if you get a hot buttered pan and you can get a ‘crisp’ exterior, it will bring out more of the banana flavor.
  2. Add your bananas to the bowl of a standing mixer. This can ensure a good mashing.  If you have anger issues, you can mash them separately and later.  Add the buttermilk, eggs (one at a time), butter, vanilla, banana extract if using and butterscotch.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift and add the the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Whisk together to combine.
  4. Add dry ingredients to your wet one.  Mix gently.
  5. Let the batter rest for about 5 minutes. You’ll see bubbles.  (Depending on your pan’s size, you can likely make a test pancake, and by the time it’s done and eaten you’ll be ready to make the rest)
  6. Melt butter in a large frying plan. Using an ice cream scoop, I was able to do two at a time.  I feel it’s necessary to wipe-dry the pan between pancakes because it facilitates better pancakes and reduces the chance of burning the butter.  When the pancakes bubble, flip them over, and then after about 35 seconds, take them out.
  7. Serve with sides, topping and maple syrup.  You can make them early and toast them to suit late-risers.

Breakfast of Champions!

Bagel, Salami and Cheese

A breakfast sandwich composed of Soppraseta, Swiss Cheese and a well-toasted bagel

bagel_with_cheese_and_salami

When I first called this “The Breakfast of Champions” I was being facetious. Unlike its eponymous namesake, it has basically all the wrong things going for it. It’s high in fat (thanks to the salami). It’s high in sodium, thanks to the cheese and the salami, and it’s high in sugar due to the massive carb-load of the bagel. Also, it doesn’t even contain eggs (which Hazel Grace would object to). That being said, it tastes really, really good, and is perfect for those about to trek out into the cold, cruel word who need to be fortified for a long time.

I use three ingredients:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Bagel
  • Jarlsberg (Swiss) Cheese
  • Salami

Though it’s a simple makeup,  it’s always about personal preference. If you want to add stuff  to change its texture or flavor, like mustard, banana peppers, cole slaw, or any typical sandwich topper, go ahead.  But bagel sandwiches do get messy, even when prepared correctly.   So, if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right.  (This assumes you don’t have one of those assembly line toasters that have frustrated legions of college students and hotel buffet visitors).  And doing it right means cooking it in three stages:

Directions:

1. Toast the bagel (lightly).

2. Melt the cheese on the bagels.  (I use foil to ensure no over-melting onto toaster parts)

3. Finish by covering the melted-cheese bagel with salami and toasting on high, or broil (if you promise not to walk away from the toaster).

4. When salami is crisp, and cheese bubbly, remove from toaster and let set, two-three minutes.  If you don’t allow it to cool, the cheese will slide off.   Let it set and cut into halves (or make a sandwich).

 

More on this sandwich

My father used to make this for breakfast, where I grew up outside of metro New York City.  There, you can’t fall down without hitting a great bagel.  Now, I live in Massachusetts and look though I might, it seems great bagels are hard to come by.  You can argue with me, but you can’t win.  It’s a matter of taste and birthright; if you were born in the tri-state area, you likely have a higher standard for bagels than the rest of the country.  I don’t why that is, but I know that people who move to Massachusetts from California simply stop eating Mexican food.  Is our Mexican food bad? No, it’s just that they are used to something very different, likely more authentic, and in all reality (with few exceptions), much much better.   And really, Mass is kind of weird that way.  Though I have eaten in Chinese restaurants around the country and on both coasts, only here in Massachusetts did I find Chinese restaurants that serve rolls with dinner.   Bread rolls.  Rolls made of bread. But I digress.

So there are two keys to making this sandwich perfect.  One, start with the best ingredients.  I find the Applegate Naturals soppressata is a reliably tasty item.   Sure, we could argue about the

Salami, Swiss Cheese and an Everything Bagel

Making a great meal, even for the low arts, starts with the best ingredients (when you’ve got ’em).

history of soppressata and cured meats and I don’t doubt there are better, more authentic versions out there.  But Applegate is good and easily available;  and it in comes in a package (horrors!) which makes it easier to keep inventory control.   Jarlsberg, is of course, the most famous brand of Swiss Cheese, and is frequently sold in triangles, guaranteeing it will be nearly impossible to slice.  However, you’ll need to slice it.
The second thing is patience.  You may want to simply toast everything together, but  I find skipping any of these steps results in things being soggy where you want them to be crispy or spongy where you want them to be melty.

 

General Rob’s Sesame Chicken

Sesame Chicken, General Gao's Chicken, Chinese Takeout, Quick Chicken Dish

Sweet, savory chicken that will delight your family. So much better for you than Chinese take-out.

My kids love General Gau’s/Tso’s chicken or Sesame Chicken as a dish from Chinese restaurants.  I always knew it was not a health dish, because it was likely rolled in flour and deep fried before being covered with a sickeningly sweet sauce.   I also know that any time you can make something at home, you have better control over exactly how bad it is for bodies, for teeth, and for wallets.

But the great thing for me about either going out for Chinese food or doing take out is that it’s something you can’t make at home.   But trawling through the Internet, I found a great recipe for sticky sesame chicken here from the website Creme De la Crumb.  The author Tiffany, took the recipe from a blog called Six Sisters Stuff, that called for using prepackaged popcorn chicken.      I of course, have tweaked it further because I can’t leave well enough alone.   I think 4 tablespoons of honey is fine (her recipe called for six) and I always insist on fresh steamed broccoli with it, so at very least I can kid myself it’s a balanced meal.

I made this this year for New Year’s Eve and it was a big hit!  I made it first with breast of chicken, but have since found that it can be made successfully with chicken thighs.  This is so far it is the only way to get my kids to eat chicken thighs and requires that I trim the fat aggressively.   Though it seems fancy, the dish is relatively easy to make and always comes out like the picture (above), which is actually my dish.  All the versions of this recipe produce such equally good-looking chicken dishes is really a testament to its ease. You can do it!

Even though this is dish is made at home, it’s still no diet-helper.  It’s double dipped in flour and corn starch, and the sauce features four kinds of sugar (honey, ketchup, white and brown sugars).  Still, it’s DELICIOUS and quick, and still great the next day.  It’s really all in the timing.  I recommend before you start, you set your rice in your rice cooker (this takes about 45 minutes) and trim and cut your broccoli.   If you are going steam or boil it, prepare the pot and the water.

For the chicken, I find it’s easier to do all your cutting before your dipping and coating.

There were some omissions or points of interest in Tiffany’s recipe that I had to either correct or fill in for myself. Her recipe called for “one tablespoon of oil.”  I tried that but found that I need a lot more oil to get the chicken cooked, and since I had to cook it in batches, I ended up using quite a bit more.  At the end, I had a skillet with oil in it, but clearly that wouldn’t have been the case with one tablespoon, hence my direction to pour off the extra oil (but not the charred bits of chicken-stuff. Keep that, it’s good).

That recipe also supposes I have a pan big enough to cook ALL of the chicken at once (since she never mentions taking it out).  That’s not the case, and so I ended up cooking the chicken in batches, and then placing it on a paper towel to dry while I did the next batch (four chicken thighs took three separate batches).   After all the chicken was done, I cooked the sauce and then returned the cooked and dry-drained chicken to the pan.

Lastly, she did not specify what kind of oil to use.  Usually I use canola oil for frying but in this case I added a little peanut oil  as well.   Did I say “not a health food?”   Though high in fat, sugar and carbs, unlike a take-out chinese meal, there were no other dishes, and no fortune cookies, so at very least that was a calorie saving.  And this week, we actually ordered the dish from our favorite Chinese restaurant and my kids voted mine better.  So to recap: cheaper, faster and more popular.  But still not a health food.

 

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, or 4 chicken thighs, fat trimmed and cut into small pieces.
  • canola and/or peanut oil
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 tablespoons corn starch
  • roasted sesame seeds
  • Scallions, washed green ends only
SAUCE
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon powered ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cold water + 2 tablespoons corn starch
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Whisk all sauce ingredients together, set aside.
  2. Arrange in three bowls, the beaten eggs, corn starch, and flour in sequence.
  3. Cut the chicken; dip pieces in egg, then flour, and lastly in corn starch.
  4. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add chicken and cook, stirring throughout to ensure even cooking, 5-10 minutes until cooked though.  You’ll have to do it in batches.
  5. If you have extra oil, drain off some of it.
  6. Combine corn starch and water until dissolved.
  7. Add sauce to pan and bring to a boil.  Add corn starch mixture.  Stir until sauce thickens.
  8. Add chicken pieces, and stir until completely covered.
  9. Place in a bowl and cover with sesame seeds  and green onions.
  10. Serve with rice and broccoli.
  11. Feel immense pride.
Chicken soup, Jewish Penicillin, Chicken Soup, Best Chick

My Grandmother’s Chicken Soup— The Cure for Everything Wrong in Life

Chicken soup, Jewish Penicillin, Chicken Soup, Best Chick

The soup begins life as a liquid-less amalgam of ingredients in a big pot.

During times of trouble, stress, sickness, sadness and lack of hope, there is little more soothing or healing than one’s grandmother.  And of all the grandmotherly things, chicken soup (often called Jewish Penicillin) is probably near the top.  (Her baking might be at the top, but it depends on the grandmother).    This recipe was handed down to me by my Grandmother Sylvia (and my Aunt Doreen) and I have successfully made it for holidays and sick people for about two decades.  It is alarmingly simple to make, as most of the work is in the shopping and prep.    It makes approximately 4 quarts of soup and feeds about 10 people as a first course.   It freezes perfectly, but you have to remember to add a little hot water when you reconstitute.  For the purposes of healing the sick, it is great to keep some in the freezer, because the last thing you want to do when you’re sick is wash and chop vegetables.

For about 10 years before I asked my family for the recipe, I tried my hardest to make chicken soup from a wide array of cookbooks, including the  New York Times and Silver Palette cookbooks.  They all contained funky ingredients like butter, white wine, garlic, vinegar, ginger, and never ever tasted like the soothing and simp broth I had at my grandmother’s house.  Don’t get me wrong, I think tweaking recipes is great, and there are endless variations on chicken soup which I celebrate.  But “Grandmother’s Chicken Soup” is a specific variation that needs to remain simple—and dairy free—among other qualities.

When I finally made my soup for my Aunt, she gave me two pieces of feedback— one, that cooking the soup too long (which I did) would make the chicken “fall apart”; and that using and removing whole onions keeps the soup clear.  Keeping the soup clear is very important if you intend to add matzoh balls or egg noodles— but as I am on a constant carb-watch, I don’t do those things. As a result of slicing the onions and leaving them in, my soup is kind of ‘atmospheric.”

Additionally, I found that the whole chicken legs are part of the final delicious, savory flavor, and that using only chicken breasts does not impart the same deep level of yummy soup satisfaction.   I can’t explain why that is, but don’t fault me for that–  even the scientists can’t figure out why eating chicken soup seems to help with the common cold (see NY Times article here).

This soup has been of one the stars of my cooking portfolio for years, and something people always ask me to make. At first I was reluctant because I wasn’t sure my grandmother would want that.  After all what’s the grandmotherly soup without the grandmother?  But I am sharing it now, and I hope that by sharing you too, can help heal the sick, feed the hungry, and give hope to the hopeless.   Or at very least, make a great first course at that pot luck dinner.

Ingredients 
  • 2 Whole Chicken Legs
  • 3 Skin on split bone-in Breasts/Chicken
  • 4-7 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
  • 3-6 stalks celery, cut into ribs
  • 2-3 parsnips, peeled
  • 2-3 yellow onions (my grandmother put them in whole and removed them; i slice them thin and leave them in).
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh dill (approx 1/4 cup of both)
  • 1-2 packages of Swanson Chicken Stock (I used to use College Inn but now I’m a convert).
Chicken soup, Grandma's chicken soup, Sylvia's Chicken Soup, Jewish Penicillin

Grandma’s chicken soup becomes savory, delicious, healing and ‘atmospheric.’

Directions

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces; lay without overlapping (as much as possible) in the bottom of a 5-7 qt dutch oven.  Place cut vegetables on top. Wash and chop herbs finely, squeeze out liquid and put on top.  Turn on heat.  When I can smell the chicken sizzling I pour in the chicken stock to about 3/4 full.   I add hot water the rest of the way.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for two hours.
Somewhere around the 90 minute mark I take out the chicken, remove the meat from the bones, and replace it (without shredding) in the soup.  After that, I remove the parsnips and discard. In the final analysis, If the soup is too thick I add hot water and if it’s too bland I add salt.   When done, remove the pot from the heat source.
When the soup cools (about 90 minutes), ladle into storage containers, and refrigerate or freeze.  Keeps in the fridge for about three days and in the freezer until the next person in your house gets sick.   When re-heating don’t overdo it or you might inadvertently dissolve the carrots, etc.   Serve with fresh bread, challah or soup nuts.   And always, always, give a grandmotherly smile of approval when they say they like it.  Sylvia would have wanted it that way.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

For starters, let me say that you are not going to read anything here that’s surprising or new.  That the title of this post claims this is perfect is part marketing, part hyperbole and all the results of user-testing in my household; from visiting guests to permanent residents.  Over and over again it meets with 100% satisfaction as evidenced by the clean plates of all those who it is served to, including the crust.

Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Perfect Grilled Cheese is not magic; it just takes patience and love

Now I have been to a lot of restaurants claiming to serve “upscale comfort foods” and their version of a grilled cheese uses artisanal and often seeded bread, expensive cheese and other non-necessary ingredients like truffle oil.   Please don’t get me wrong.  I will eat these. I love all of these. But over and over again, my kids and the kids that I have had to cook for, don’t like this.   They basically like the ‘cheap diner’ version of a grilled cheese.   And that has three ingredients:

  • White bread
  • American Cheese
  • Butter

Like coffee, something made with so few ingredients must be made with the best version of those ingredients.   You may have in your house better versions then what I use, but I suggest you use what you regularly buy and have in the house. Otherwise, you’re not really satisfying the tenets of “Low Arts.”   Going out buying stuff for special is really more chef than short-order cook.  (The really ambitious and health-concious could make the bread using the great recipe of “Almost No Knead Bread” and make your own cheese and butter.  But I’m not set up for that).

I used Wholesome Valley Organic American Cheese, Whole Foods Enriched White Bread and Kate’s Salted Butter (natch).

This isn’t even really a recipe, which I regard as a solved puzzle detailing ingredients and how to use them.  This is simply a set of directions about how to make the standard grilled-cheese more yummy. Of course the secret is butter and making sure it gets cooked properly, so the end result is a soft and crunch, melty-on-the-inside sandwich.    This is by no means health food.  I am not recommending it for anyone.  I’m just saying if you’re going to make something, you might as well as make it delicious.  And doing that, with the exception of pulling fresh produce from a tree or vine, means adding fat, salt or sugar.   With that disclaimer out of the way, I willl go on:

Directions

  1. Assemble the sandwich separately: take two slices of bread and lay them next to each other.  Cover one slice of bread with American cheese. I find in most cases this requires at least two slices of cheese.   I generally don’t overlap them.  Rip and puzzle-piece them together.  Place the other slice of bread on top.
  2. Place the pan on a medium heat.
  3. Turn your toaster oven on its highest toast setting and push ‘start’, ‘toast’ or whatever button begins the heating process. I know, nothing’s in it.  You’re doing this so you can put the grilled cheese into a warm oven and wait less time for the cheese to melt.
  4. Add butter to the pan, melt, but don’t let it burn.
  5. Place the whole sandwich in the circle of melted butter.  Press down with your hand or spatula.  I like to move it around the pan to get it well-coated.
  6. Carefully lift up the sandwich, add more butter and melt.  Place the sandwich back in the pan, and press down.
  7. When both sides of the sandwich are well-browned, remove the sandwich from the pan and put it in the toaster oven, on the grates, unless you fear a cheese-melt fire.
  8. If the toaster cycle has ended, start it again; I find it takes about two minutes for complete top-browning and side-cheese melting to occur.
  9. Remove from toaster and set on wooden cutting board on cookie cooling rack; putting it on a plate will invite condensation.  Wait five minutes.
  10. Cut and serve.

So I have experimented  and rejected a lot of different ways to do this differently.  A lot of people suggest buttering the bread first; I have found that this is extra work that does not significantly improve the outcome.  There are also people who suggest ways to get the cheese melty in the pan or use the microwave; those don’t work for me.  I personally like adding bacon, ham or any pork product, but it did not test well with kids.

 

“No Secrets” Brisket Recipe

Brisket, best brisket, passover brisket, Jewish holidays dinner, beef brisket, pot roast

Simple, flavorful traditional brisket requires no dried fruit, ketchup or soda

Whether you call it Pot Roast or Brisket it seems everyone has a recipe handed down from their Mom, that has a “secret.”   They are all so proud and mysterious: “I can’t tell you what it is.”   After years of experiments with everything from Manaschevitz wine to Heinz Ketchup, I can now conclude that my very favorite treatment of this piece of meat is the practically the simplest.   No ketchup, no wine, no dried fruit; no soda pop, no bay leaves.  Really, this has practically no extras; no secrets.  The reward:  the most incredible, flavorful, fall-apart-delicious brisket you will ever have.  Besides the obvious inspirations of my grandmother and mother-in-law, I found Arthur Schwartz’s web site very helpful.

Ingredients

  • 1 Flat cut brisket, about 5 lbs
  • 3-4 yellow or vidalia onions
  • 4-5 carrots
  • 4-5 ribs of celery
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper

Start with your cut of brisket.  I like to salt both sides, then score both sides with a serrated knife.   Then, I rub both sides of the brisket with olive oil, garlic and pepper.  And don’t skimp on any of them.

Prepare your dutch oven; I have a 6-quart Le Creuset pan.   I make everything in it; and that is why I can only use a 5-lb brisket.  Anything bigger won’t fit.  The most important ingredients are onions and carrots, onions impart the deep, savory flavor, and carrots the sweetness.  The celery adds a subtle flavor but you could leave it out if you don’t have any.  Some people add potatoes and other root vegetables; I don’t.   Onions, carrots and celery.  That’s it, and in that volume order.  (You can and should salt the vegetables).

Lay your vegetables at the bottom of the pot.  Brown your brisket in a hot fry-pan.  I used to use my perfectly seasoned cast-iron skillet, until one day it mysteriously broke from being overheated.  When you have done both sides, and if you have the patience and coordination, the top and bottom fat edge of the meat; place it in the dutch oven on top of the vegetables.  Double-layer aluminum foil, cover, and place in your oven for four hours at 350 degrees.

When 4 hours is up, take the pot out of the oven. You will see why you don’t need an added liquid— the vegetables and meat create a delicious savory, soupy concoction often called ‘vetch.’  If you feel you need more liquid, I recommend about a cup of chicken stock– it is sufficiently mild as not to change the flavor.  But you don’t need it.

Carefully lift the brisket onto a board or cutting surface, and slice thin (you have to slice against the grain, which is a whole other post), then season to taste (might need more salt at this point), ladle with the drippings and place back in the oven for about an hour, or until your guests start complaining from delicious smells causing hunger.

Serve with rice, pasta, potatoes or on a big slab of bread.

 

Simple Pulled Pork Recipe

good pulled pork is simple

Aside from the pork butt, these are the only ingredients you’ll need

If you are looking for an easy pulled pork recipe, you’ve come to the right place. Now I am not, for a minute, claiming that this is better than the hundreds of other recipes for pulled pork there. There are those who have worked tirelessly on their own rub recipes, experimented with types of wood, smoking times or basting sauces, and generally suffered for their bbq art. I respect those people, and I certainly want to eat with those people.

But that wasn’t for me. I don’t have a smoker, I don’t have patience, and I have two children so I can’t tend to a piece of meat all day, no matter how much I want to. This led me to research “oven pulled pork” and found that most of them had three things in common: 1. Rub the night before 2. Cook for 7-9 hours on a low temperature (250-300 degrees) 3. Use some kind of sugar. With this in mind, I put together my own pulled pork recipe. It could not be simpler.

Ingredients

  • 1 Pork Butt (you can use pork shoulder), about 4-5 lbs
  • 1 bottle, Divine Swine Rub
  • 1 bottle root beer, I use Virgil’s
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce, I use Blue Ribbon BBQ
  • Select vegetables: onions, celery, carrots

The day/night before you’re going to cook it, I used the Divine Swine Rub, that’s available from their web site or Whole Foods. The thing about BBQ seems to be that a dry rub must actually be rubbed into the meet, so be prepared to get your hands porked.

When you’re done, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it away. Forget about it. Don’t think about it.

The next day, I chopped up one vidalia or yellow onion, a few stalks of celery and a carrot. Place them in the bottom of a dutch-oven. I have a 6-quart Le Creuset.  Don’t fret about slicing or chopping or dicing; I have traditionally discarded the cooked vegetables afterwards.

Using a little stand (I am using the little metal prop that came with my wok to uphold the stream tray), place the pulled pork above the cut up vegetables. Then, pour the entire bottle of root beer over the pork. Seal/cover the dutch oven with two sheets of aluminum foil. Place into the oven at 300 degrees for about 8 hours. (You can put it in at 250 for 9 hours if you’re going to be away longer).

When done, remove the cover. The fat can easily be lifted off, and you want to then put the meaty pieces in a separate oven-safe dish. You may note that the meat “pulls” apart very easily. I use at least one fork for this process, and pull any big pieces into smaller strands of meat. When done, ladle or pour the BBQ sauce over it, and mix.

Keep warm, 170-200 until serving. Right before serving, add more sauce to moistness preference and taste. Every time I serve this, it has been a big hit. It keeps well (for sandwiches the next day) and with its low cost per pound, it is a very economical meal. I serve it with cole slaw, slider buns, pickles and maybe a starch like chips or rice. Enjoy!