Saturday, May 12, 2012

Roasted Beef Brisket: Very Popular!

Hi All!  Most families have "their" Chinese restaurant that they visit regularly.  Now it might be Thai, Vietnamese, or a sushi place, but you know what I mean.  When I was a kid, we used to go to a place called "The Forbidden Palace".  Seems like "forbidden" is not a wise marketing word for a restaurant, but nevertheless, it was delicious!  There was a certain dish on the menu and the comment for it was "very popular!".  I always wanted to order it just for that reason (popular = good, right?!), but my choice was always voted down by the majority.  Our family always shared all the dishes, so a concensus was generally required-- unless my grandpa was with us, and he just got whatever he wanted!  Anyway, now, for some reason, when I'm asked for the recipe a lot for a particular dish, I think about that phrase.  By far, this has been one of the most "popular" dishes I've made and have been asked for the recipe many times.  It's a brisket that is roasted in the oven, not the Texas, slow smoked, BBQ, but I generally serve barbecue sauce on the side.  It's great for parties because it feeds a lot and gives you plenty of time to do other things while it's roasting.  If you try it, I think you'll find that it is "very popular" !

Note:  Be sure to buy a trimmed brisket, not the huge things that come in the vacuum pack.  Those are good for the hours-long slow smoker cooking, but way too fatty and fibrous for the gentler oven roasting.  Also, you need to start the day before you want to eat the brisket.

"Popular" Roasted Beef Brisket*

One, 5lb, trimmed, beef brisket
4 peeled garlic cloves (smash on a cutting board with the side of a broad knife-- the outer layer will fall right off)
2 tsp. Kosher salt (this works best because it's coarse, but regular will do fine!)
1.5 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
3 Tbl.  fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 sliced onion
3 bay leaves, fresh or dried

Mash the salt and garlic cloves together into a paste.  I use the blunt end of a wooden spoon and a bowl, but if you have a mortar and pestle-- even better!  Add the paprika, black pepper, and lemon juice. 
Put the brisket in a glass 13x9 dish.  Spread the above mixture all over both sides of the brisket.  Cover and place in the fridge overnight.  Don't put the brisket in the metal roasting pan for this part.  The lemon juice may react with the pan and cause a weird, metallic taste.  I used to be a chemistry teacher-- trust me :)
Next day:  Preheat the oven to 425F.  Place the brisket, fat side up, in a PAM sprayed, covered roasting pan.  It needs to be large enough for the brisket to lie flat and at least 3 inches deep.  Add 1/2 cup water.  Place the brisket in the oven for 45 minutes.
Reduce the oven to 325F.  Put the bay leaves on the brisket; cover the top with the sliced onions.  Add 1 cup water.  Cover the roaster with aluminum foil and then the lid.  I've found that if I do this, it keeps the meat moist and I don't have to keep checking it.  Check it at least once during roasting though, to make sure there is around 1 inch of liquid in the pan.  Roast the brisket for another 3 to 3.5 hours or until a fork slides in and out of the meat very easily.  There should be a good amount of cooking juices in the pan. 
Let the meat cool a bit in it's own juices.  Lift the meat onto a large cutting board and let it sit awhile.  Pour the pan juices into a large, clear glass measuring cup.  Spoon or pour off the fat that collects on the top.  Slice the meat against the grain and place on a serving platter.  Pour some of the meat juices over to moisten them.  I usually use a lot!
Serve with barbecue sauce if you want!  This makes the best sandwiches the next day if there are leftovers!
*  This recipe is adapted from an Amish cookbook that my daughter begged me to get when she was in elementary school.  She went through a period where she was obsessed with their lifestyle-- I think because she loved horses and she liked the idea of riding everywhere she went.  The "Amish period" passed, but we continue to enjoy this delicious recipe!

     I've also added the recipe for a different sort of potato salad. Potatoes are marinated in a dressing that contains lots of fresh herbs. It's tastes light and "spring-like" and provides a nice contrast to the rich taste of the beef.

Fresh Herb Potato Salad
3 lbs. potatoes (use the boiling type of potato:  red or white thin skinned or Yukon Gold is also good)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth (sounds weird, but it will taste good!)
1/4 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs that you like (I use thyme, flat-leaf parsley, and chives. Be sure to use chives or green onion tops for part of the mix.)
3/4 cup olive oil

Scrub the potatoes and rinse well.  Cook in boiling, salted water just until tender.  Do not overcook.  It takes about 30 minutes for medium sized potatoes.  Drain and allow the potatoes to cool to lukewarm. 
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a jar. Shake well and set aside.
Peel the potatoes (the skin will slip off easily with a paring knife).  Slice them 1/4" thick and place in a non-aluminum bowl.  Shake the dressing again well and pour the dressing over the potatoes.  Toss gently to coat very well.  A silicone spatula is good for this.
Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Stir again well before serving.

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