Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pot Roast (Brisket)

For the whole recipe in 10 lines, just read the boldface.

This works for a brisket that will serve 6-8.  I use
       one flat-cut brisket, 3-4 pounds
For a much larger brisket, cut it in half and treat it like two, which you'll have to do anyway because you won't have a large enough baking dish or aluminum foil.

Put the brisket on a huge piece of heavy aluminum foil, about 3 times as long as the brisket.   You are going to seal the brisket in it.  (See below).  Next time I make it, I'll add a photograph in the comment section.

The original recipe calls for 1 package of Lipton's Dry Onion Soup sprinkled on top of the meat. I don't use Lipton's any more.  That's because when  I was in Israel 1997 I couldn't find dried soups.  I substituted chicken-style parve soup mix - it has that good MSG! - and dried onion flakes.  I liked having that extra degree of freedom.  The recipe has no room for individuality otherwise.  I rarely bother with Lipton's because I don't keep it on hand if I don't use it for brisket.

Sprinkle on top and press in with the back of a spoon
          2-3 tsps of chicken-style parve soup (or bouillion)
          3-4 tbls of dried onion flakes 

I pretty much cover the meat with both.  The soup mix particles are tiny so I don't make that dense a covering.  The dried onion doesn't totally cover, but I'm pretty generous with it, probably using more than is in a Lipton's packet.  I mush in both the soup mix and the dried onions with the back of a spoon after sprinkling, a technique used by our nanny, Amy Gronevelt, when I asked her to make the pot roast 20 years ago.

Possible substitution if you are low on onion flakes (or an addition if you like prunes)
          some prunes, cut in half or not, about 4 oz
I did this one day when I didn't have that much dried onion.  It wasn't as good as it is with lots of onions although the prunes themselves were delicious.

Why not use chopped fresh onions? I think it would be too watery.  The meat is wet enough.

Wrap the brisket up so it won't leak. I like to match the edges and then roll them down or fold them together. I learned this trick in the 1980s watching sandwich makers in those little delis that do a big lunch business in midtown Manhattan.  It's a good way to wrap food.  Warning:  It's hard to prevent leaks. Sometimes I double wrap to be safe.

Put the wrapped brisket in a baking dish so if it leaks it's not so messy.  I use pyrex because it cleans so easily.  I have to write up my household hints one of these days, but I'll tell you right now:  for ovenware that gets brown hard grease spots, the answer is BAKING SODA.  (For very big areas of baked-on mess, soak first with hot water and liquid soap.  Baking soda is the perfect scouring powder for everything because it's food, not poison, and it's only a tiny bit abrasive.  Check an unobtrusive area if you have to scour something delicate.)

The reason you want to prevent leaks is that you want the liquid for later reheating and serving. But the meat will not be dry even if there are major leaks.  The almost-totally-sealed cooking keeps it tender.

Bake at 225 F for 9 hours, or 10 or more.  I leave it in overnight, and even if I remember to turn off the oven, or put it on automatic stop, I don't always take the meat out to cool right away.  Brisket (to quote my step-mother-in-law Libby, but she said it about yeast dough) is very forgiving.  You can also bake at 300 F for 3 hours if you are pressed for time but the long slow version is better.

Peg Bracken said 200 F for 10 hours, but I think it's important to go above the boiling point of water.  That's 212 F for those of you who went to school after they stopped teaching such things.

If you make your brisket overnight, your home will smell lovely in the morning.

Cool and refrigerate or serve hot right away.  Refrigerating is nice, though, because it makes it easier to slice the meat, easier to skim the fat, and besides, you made it overnight and aren't eating it until suppertime.

When ready to eat, I recommend slicing ONLY WHAT YOU NEED.   I worry that if you don't eat it all up in the first couple of days, the slices dry out and get refrigerator-y much faster than a big uncut hunk would.

Serve hot or cold.  I usually reheat the slices with some of the liquid.  Microwave is OK.  Oven at ?300? for 20? minutes is OK.  Heating on the stove is OK.  Eating it cold in a sandwich is delicious, too. I like brisket on caraway rye bread with ketchup and lettuce.

(Based on a January 2012 email to my friend Marilyn that I stumbled on today.  This is one recipe I had never typed up.  It's too easy and I've done it often enough over the last 40-odd years that I don't forget.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Orzo Salad

                Roberta's Revised and Annotated
          Phil's Aunt Shayna's Friend Joy's ORZO SALAD

Can be made a day ahead.  Or more than a day.  Vegetarian.  Vegan if you use soy cheese.  Firm tofu might be fine too, but R3A2 Moosewood Tofu Salad, to be posted soon, is my first choice with tofu.

     1 box orzo (16 oz)
          I prefer the rice shape to the teardrops.
          You can use any noodle, but orzo makes it easy to
          serve with a single big spoon.  
     1/2 big red onion, chopped
     1 pint kalamata olives, halved to remove pits. 
          Or sliced into smaller pieces. You can slice pitted 
          ones, but I find they have less flavor.
     3 Tb dill, fresh    )
     3 Tb parsley, fresh ) stems removed and chopped
          Who can accurately measure dill or parsley?
          I use 4 or 5 good-sized sprigs of each.  More is fine,
     12 oz feta (I like Bonfiore brand), crumbled by hand
           In Israel, cubes of white Bulgarian cheese work fine.
     4 Tb lemon juice
     1/3 c olive oil
     Salt to taste (I use very little, < 1/4 tsp, because feta 
            is very salty)
Start boiling the water and then do the chopping while the noodles cook.  When the noodles are al dente, rinse them but not so much that they get cold.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the warm noodles and mix. The warmth of the noodles melts the smaller crumbles of cheese and blends the flavors.  You could serve immediately but I refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature. 

"Serve with tomatoes" wrote Joy but I never do.
Still tastes great a week later, if you have any left.

                           Laptop versions 5/7/01; 1/5/03; 4/29/05; 1/3/11 rjm

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Poached Pears


Serves 2-4.  Can be multiplied.  For New Year's Eve, 6 pears are enough for ~30-40 guests who can choose from multiple desserts. 

Peel and slice vertically into 8 wedges, removing seed part and any hard stem sections:
        2 pears, D'Anjou or other*  (best if they're not totally 

               ripe; ripe ones are slimy when cooked)

In saucepan, bring to boil
        1/4 c red wine
        1/4 c sugar
        1/2 cinnamon stick (or a whole small one)

Add pears, reduce heat, simmer 25 minutes covered, or until pears are soft but not falling apart.

Remove pears with slotted spoon.** Serve or refrigerate overnight Longer is probably OK, too.  Bring to room temperature a few hours before serving time.
      ** For a fancier presentation: 
      Turn heat up on remaining sauce.  Stirring occasionally, 

      bring to boil.  Let boil a few minutes to thicken and 
      reduce for a glaze.  Arrange pears on platter.  Spoon on 

Refrigerate until a few hours before party.  Overnight is OK.  More than a day would probably be fine, too.  Refrigerate leftovers.  They are delicious.

* Note on Varieties of Pears
I've tried all different varieties of pears and in fact
the batch I made when I revised the recipe had 8 pears: 2 D'Anjou (woody but easy to handle), 3 Starkrimson (slimy, and the tops are so narrow that they break off too easily) and 3 overripe Bosc (would have been better if they weren't overripe; maybe the ones that broke were the Bosc???).  Back several years ago when I typed up the recipe the first time, I'd decided that D'Anjou are the best for poaching, but I really have to do a more careful experiment one of these days.

rjm 12/31/06 (printout only); 1/2/11; 1st draft for blog 8/31/12

Texas Caviar


Combination of Nina's A2News recipe and a web recipe on Hints from Heloise
Per Heloise:   Serving Size: 12   Preparation Time : 24:00
     *Divided in 2010 because the original makes way too much
     compared to the other salads for New Year's.  Some
     additional notes were added on the printout of 2004 over
     the years and are incorporated here.

8 oz Pace brand picante sauce, medium hot (half a 16 oz. jar)
1 can (15.5oz) blackeyed peas, drained
half a (15.8 oz) can white hominy, drained (~1 cup?)
1/2 medium green pepper, diced
1/2 medium white onion, diced
2 roma tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
cilantro - about 1/4 cup, finely chopped
     (=~ 1 oz before removing stems)
1/2 medium jalapeno ‑‑ seeded and chopped
2 scallions, chopped, white and green both
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 T sugar (or less)
1/4 tsp salt (or less or none)
1 T black pepper ‑‑ coarsely ground (or more **)
1 T cumin powder (or more**)
1 1/2 T lime juice (or more**)

Mix all ingredients together and marinate in refrigerator for 24
hours or more.  A few hours might be enough if you need Tex Cav in a hurry.

** In 2010, I was following the full recipe and forgot to divide these ingredients in half, so used 2 T each of black pepper and cumin, and 3 T lime juice.  It was fine.

                       rjm 9/2;11/23/02;1/4/03;11/11/04;1/3/11