One day this week I was home from work relatively early. I stopped by the grocery on my way home to pick up stuff for dinner, and I saw a really nice looking 2-3 lb. brisket. As you know, brisket is a tasty, sometimes fatty, very slow-cooking piece of beef. However, as I was home a little bit early and feeling a bit ambitious, I decided to give it a shot on a week night. My ambition was rewarded as I think I came up with a very tasty and very easy recipe.
When I watch food programs on television and see shows about making meals in 30 or 15 minutes I always think that train of thought is a bit misleading. While a meal in 30 minutes is not a bad idea at all, I think instead of solely thinking of cooking in terms of the total cooking time, we should think of cooking time as active cooking or inactive cooking.
For instance, take risotto. This is a dish that illustrates the principle of active cooking time. While risotto is relatively easy to make and takes about 20-30 minutes, it requires constant attention (in the form of adding hot broth and the constant stirring to help release those starches to make it creamy). By contrast, roasting a small chicken (2-3 lbs) takes about 45 minutes but takes virtually no active participation during the balance of the cooking.
If you are a busy person spending 20-30 minutes in front of a pot of risotto is a pain in the ass. However, taking 5 minutes to season and truss (or butterfly) a chicken and putting it into a 425 degree oven and then leaving it in the oven for 45 minutes allows you to live your life and get stuff done in your life.
I am digressing here, so back to the challenge that is the Brisket! While, I don’t mind waiting an hour for good food, spending 3 hours actively working to prepare good food, like brisket, while fun is not ideal for a busy work week. As such, I’m always striving to find dishes to prepare during the week that are good and don’t take a lot of active cooking time. Last night I improvised one of my best attempts at this, my Quick Brisket.
1 2-3 lbs brisket (should have a little fat on it)
1 8 oz. can of tomato paste
6 oz. of red wine
1-2 cups beef stock
1 leek, chopped
1 package of frozen pearl onions
1 16 oz. package of sliced mushrooms
3-4 carrots roughly chopped
3-4 parsnips roughly chopped
2 tbs dried oregano
2 tbs assorted dried herbs (I used thyme and savory leaves)
1 tbs smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste (didn’t feel like chopping up fresh garlic last night)
1 packet of sazon with saffron (optional)
*Usually I would sear the brisket, saute the vegetables, add the aromatics and wine and braise, but this is an EASY recipe and I totally didn’t do any of that.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8 quart sauce pan (or dutch oven) just big enough to hold your brisket add wine, beef stock and entire can of tomato paste (makes for a very rich sauce), and heat until boiling and stir until smooth. Add brisket, half of pearl onions, leek, mushrooms, herbs and spices and bring to temperature. Taste to adjust seasoning. Cover and place sauce pan in oven for two hours and fifteen minutes. After 2:15 add the parsnips, carrots and remaining pearl onions, continue cooking for forty-five minutes.
Remove brisket from pot and add to plate, and allow to rest 10 minutes. While the meat is resting, you can defat the cooking liquid if it’s too fatty. My brisket was fairly lean so this step ended up being unnecessary. Slice brisket across the grain and serve with the vegetables that you fish out of the broth. Spoon the broth over the meat as a gravy.
While it took 3 hours of passive cooking time, the dish took an honest 20 minutes of active cooking time. During this time I watched NCAA tournament games and worried about my job. All in all a productive evening.