Why Hello There! Welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes, where we’re, just, you know, the worst. You follow me? Like, the worst goddamn people. I’m your host and “Chief Asshole of the Group” Jon O’Guin.
It should come as no surprise, if you’ve read really any of our posts, that I am not a man bound by most conventions. This is so fundamental an aspect of my personality that I was accused of tampering with a career assessment test by a teacher in 7th grade, because I received a relatively high “conventional” score. Luckily, my high literary knowledge was able to point out “I think they meant in terms of, like, grammatical conventions. Which is a dumb way to label a category, but hey, I’m not the genius programmers who made this.” (I may have been…uninterested in the idea of being assessed by a computer quiz. And 13. So, you know, FULL of can-do attitude.) That quiz actually suggested I should become a jeweler or a bartender, two careers so different I can only conclude that even computers built to understand people looked at me and said “Shit, man, I don’t know.”
TO be fair to the computer, this does look pretty cool to me. I actually took a couple jewelry classes, and it's pretty fun.
As such, I wanted to bring you an unconventional recipe. See, we all know St Patrick’s Day is coming up-Quick interruption: I think it says something about the American zeitgeist that I, a man fully willing to drop “zeitgeist” like it’s a the kind of thing you hear every Sunday, feel disturbingly formal enunciating all the syllables of St Patrick’s Day, so engrained is the shortened “St Paddy’s Day” in my brain. I don’t know EXACTLY what is says (I mean, I can think of three or four arguable points, but none of them feel exactly right) but I feel it definitely says something.
In any case, the Paddy wagon’s coming around, and that means a lot of you are going to be looking for Corned Beef recipes. And I decided: “If that’s what the people want, then fuck ‘em.” NO! We shall NOT be discussing Corned Beef today, but instead, taking that pimpest of Primal Cuts, the Brisket, and doing something completely different with it! HAHAHAHAHAAAA! Eat THAT, people appropriating Irish culture in order to get drunk!
Especially that asshole on the right! He's the worst!
The Heart of the Matter
Actually, I have nothing against St Patrick’s Day revels, as the picture evidence above proclaims. Nor against corned beef. Hell, I actually really love Corned Beef. The real reason we’re not doing it this year is two-fold: firstly, looking at all the recipes I’ve cooked but haven’t written up yet, 4 out of 4 of them are meat focused, and I feel like that’s a little excessive even for me. Also, because my family totally made Brisket for the Patriots-Atlanta game this past February, and I didn’t want to double up on the same meat that quickly. So rest assured, we’ll certainly get corny eventually, we’re just not doing that today.
So, let’s talk about Beef Brisket, the cut of choice for Corned Beef, the signature meat of Texas barbecue, a common protein in Pho, and the roles of the Primal Cuts:
Firstly, what is a Primal Cut? Basically, It’s the pieces you chop the carcass into. In less immediately confrontational words: they’re the first step of meat processing. In America, we recognize 8 primal cuts of beef, the 8 “regions” of the cow, that we separate from the others, to further process into sub-primal cuts, and then portion cuts. Of course, primal regions aren’t set in stone. The USDA recognizes 8, but their own graphs divide short loin and sirloin. Britain’s charts have 14 regions. France has around 29.
To be fair to France, this is the USDA breakdown chart, where they have 13 drawn regions for their 8 cuts, so counting is hard, I guess.
If that sounds confusing, let’s take an easy example: One of the primal cuts is the Loin. It’s where the “best” meat comes from, because it’s the most tender. So: You have the primal cut of Loin. This has over 8 sub-primal cuts. And you already know most of their names. Because they’re “Filet mignon”, “Tenderloin”, “T-Bone Steak”, “Porterhouse”, and, again, all the fanciest, most expensive steaks. And a PORTION CUT…is literally just the amount they cut to put on your plate. Like, a butcher will cut a loin into steaks and tenderloin, and then cut the tenderloin into smaller servings.
So, with that explanation out of the way, what’s a brisket? Well, it’s the cow’s pecs. Seriously, it’s the meat between the two front legs, including the pectorals. And, since cows basically spend all day in push-up position from a human point of view, they work the CRAP out of their pecs, supporting roughly 60% of the weight of the cow when it is standing. Because of all that work, there’s a lot of connective tissue in the meat. And that leads to the universal truth of brisket: no one cooks it quick.
Brisket needs time to soften up, and therefore it’s popular in slow braises, smokes, barbecues, and soups. Corned Beef is actually one of the fastest ways to cook it, at a mere THREE HOURS. The Texas style smoked brisket basically never cooks for less than 10 hours, and numbers like 18-24 hours aren’t unheard of. And corned beef cheated by brining the meat beforehand for 3 days to 4 weeks.
God only knows how long this beef has been like this.
So, we’re going with a different tactic: Braising. We’ve talked about it before, but a quick recap: braising is the cooking of foods in an oven in moderate amounts of liquid. It’s the core of Coq au vin, pot roast, and a bunch of other meals. The long, slow, wet heat will help gelatinize the collagen in the brisket, making it tender.
Darker than Black, Salty as the Sea
Our recipe comes from Ree Drummmond, because my mom likes her show. It’s a VERY easy recipe: Put the meat in a marinade, then cover the meat and the marinade, and cook for a hella long time. Done.
Yeah, this is like, a 2-step recipe. And that’s one of the great things about brisket: cooked right, it has great texture and flavor, so you don’t NEED to do much to it. Many Texan barbecue pitmasters swear that the only ingredients a good brisket needs are salt, pepper, meat and smoke.
Now, of course, it wouldn’t be a Kitchen Catastrophe if we didn’t carefully listen to the instructions and then immediately ignore at least one of them. See if you can guess what we didn’t use from this list of marinade ingredients:
· Soy Sauce
· Beef Consomme
· Chopped Garlic
· Lemon Juice
· Liquid Smoke
If you answered “What the hell is Consomme?” Congratulations, you’ve won Kitchen Catastrophe Jeopardy. Your prize is “Jack” and an all-expense paid trip to “Shit”.
But, yeah, Consomme is a refined broth, having been strained of excess particulates, making it clearer and more delicate to a standard broth. To which my family said “I don’t see why I’d want to LOWER beef flavor” and just used beef broth.
A decision I demonstrated by photographing unlabeled brown liquid. Truly, a master of the language of film.
And like I said, it’s all pretty simple. You mix all the liquids together, place the brisket in a oven-safe dish, (We used a 9x13 pan), pour the marinade on top, and let it soak for…a while. My mother and I did it for around 10 hours, Ree says you can let it go for as long as 48 hours. After its extended spa treatment, you just throw some tin foil on the sucker, and toss it in the oven for 40 minutes per lb. Our brisket was 7 pounds, so it cooked for a little over 4 hours. At the end, you take it out, and cut it into slices.
"Do the people need a visual depiction of the concept of slicing? Eh, why not?"
The default recipe then just serves it with the marinade spooned over the slices. We made two batches, one served like that, and one where we mixed a Texan vinegar sauce into the juice, and served with that. Both were perfectly fine. And we had enough brisket to last us a week or two of lunches afterward. Served up with mac and cheese and a roll, it was a quintessentially American meal, for Superbowl Sunday, or really Any Given Sunday.
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NEXT TIME: JON REVIEWS AN ENTIRE TV COOKING SHOW, FROM THE FIRST EPISODE TO THE LAST. THAT WON’T TAKE FOR-FUCKING-EVER. (It's only 4 episodes, so it actually probably won't.)
Braised Beef Brisket
1 quart beef consommé or broth
1 ½ cup soy sauce
½ cup Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 beef brisket, 5-10 pounds.
1. Mix all ingredients but brisket together. Place brisket in a 9 by 13 casserole pan, trimming if you feel it’s necessary (personally, I trim after cooking, so I know how much fat is left, rather than risk an under-moistened brisket.)
2. Pour marinade over brisket, cover pan with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 10-48 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, remove plastic wrap, and cover pan with aluminum foil.
4. Cook for 40 minutes per pound of brisket.
5. Remove from juices, and slice against the grain. Place slices back in juices, and serve.