My Best Brisket Ever

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Last night, 5/23/2014, I cooked a brisket that was my personal best and in the ballpark of the best I’ve ever tasted.  Borrowing many nuances from Aaron Franklin, through access to his generous videos, this is what I did in full detail.

Brisket:  USDA Prime, 15.22 pounds, fresh and flexible to bend.  Never frozen.  The color was pink, not dark.  Source was Costco.

Preparation:  Non-fat side up, first.  Heavy layer of coarse Kosher salt, then coarse black pepper.  Gently press the salt and pepper into the meat, so it won’t fall off.  The brisket should look pepper-black; very little of the meat was visible.  Cover the edges around the brisket, as well.  Then, flip it fat-side up.  I used a sharp knife to cut through the fat every 1.5″ (see pic) and pushed freshly-chopped garlic into the cuts, a total of 3 whole garlic pods.  Less would have been…

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Easy brisket

I love beef.  There, that is out of the way, I can now move on.

I enjoy barbecue and the process of barbecuing, whether it is pork, beef, or even hotdogs.  Grilling and smoking are hobbies that I pursue as time permits, which seems to be less and less the older I get.  Due to time/weather constraints I’ve found myself doing more and more “outside cooking” in a crockpot and the oven.  This post is about one of my top two favorite eats, a brisket, and is one that I’ve done a few times in an oven and have been satisfied with every time.  It is modified from a couple of others who I will link to below.  The method is not about cooking a perfectly smoked brisket, this is about cooking great tasting food.

Brisket

Above is a brisket flat that I cooked a month or two ago.  It is a less-than-full sized brisket (not to mention cheaper size) with minimal preparation and little attention which is what makes it a solid weekday choice; this 3 1/2 to 4 lb slab is something that can be enjoyed without getting tired of it.

A little background to begin.  The first brisket I cooked was around 10 years ago, and it would have rated as inedible to anyone other than us at the time.  We were two days into a Talladega extended weekend which involved very little sleep and lots of drinking and eating.  Breakfast usually involved a beer, after which more beer was consumed to get rid of the headache and dehydration.  The night that we threw the brisket on the grill I was tapped to cook the thing, possibly because I was perhaps the soberest.  Or perhaps they were sober and didn’t want to have to watch it.

Anyway, I rubbed it down with whatever we had with us, probably some garlic sat, pepper, maybe some worchestershire, I don’t remember.  I do remember throwing it on the hot grill and wandering off to laugh at some LSU fans who had suffered a loss that afternoon.  Came back a couple of hours later to a cooler grill and I got it stoked back hot again.  I mean hot as in cooking hotdogs or marshmallows hot.  A power nap followed.  All told this poor thing sat on a hot grill for six or seven hours.  When we finally ate around midnight the bottom was completely burned.  We would pick up slices and hold it by the rind, eating it similar to eating a slice of watermelon.  Fine eating that night, but it sucked for breakfast the next morning.  You couldn’t make it moist by pouring beer on it it was so dry.

I’ve cooked a fair amount of beef (including brisket) on and off a grill since then, and I have learned a good bit.  I don’t have a committed, to-the-letter rub for brisket, I usually use whatever I feel like at the time.  The last time I did this I took a few notes which are listed below.  This is something that nobody should be intimidated by, just stick with the guidelines and a good cut of meat and it will be hard to screw up.

  • 1 Brisket flat (3.5 to 4 lb)
  • 2 T Coarse salt
  • 1 T Coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 T Smoked paprika
  • 2 or 3 Garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup of beef stock

First, preheat the oven to 350°.  Trim the brisket if it needs it (don’t take all of the fat off, just try to make the fat an even layer.)  Combine the salt, pepper and paprika together.  Rub into the meat.  Place the brisket into a baking/roasting pan (I prefer fat side up, but whatever you please) and place the cloves of garlic on top.

Place the brisket in the 350° oven and cook uncovered for about an hour.  Pull it out, add the beef stock to the pan, and cover with aluminum foil.  Drop the temp down to 300°, put it back in the oven and cook for three more hours.

At this point you can either pull it out of the oven and let it rest on the counter, or you can leave it in the oven for a little while longer.  The juices from the brisket and the beef stock will help keep it from drying out if it sits in the oven for a short period of time, up to an hour (maybe more, but that’s as long as I’ve let it sit.)

Cut across the grain and serve.

That’s it, nothing too complicated.  The inspiration for this came from a couple of sources, the first of which can be found here (thanks Vic), and another version method here.  I like adding the beef stock to avoid drying out because I can run home at lunch, get the initial uncovered portion done, and then leave the stove on timer while I head back to work.  The brisket will then set in the cooling stove until I return home.

Good luck, hope you enjoy.

More smarter

Decisions 1

I have long been fascinated and interested in how people arrive at different decisions given the same sets of information.  Global warming is one issue where people often develop strong opinions on the state of the earth and nature around us.  Religion is another; so, too, politics.  I could keep flogging the horse, but you get the idea.

I’ve recently had a line of thought sparked by a conversation of which I overheard a snippet.  One statement that stood out was in the vein of “You need to learn about global warming instead of just parroting others.”  The first thing that came to my mind after hearing that was, we can’t all be specialists on the cutting edge of science, all we have to go on is the information that is put out there and our minds ability to process it.  What causes us to accept some things as truth and others as blatant lies and propaganda?  Of course our environment is one factor:  childhood influences, the people we associate with every day, our strengths and weaknesses, peer pressure.  Our mood at all stages of the decision making process is another.  The wording of the news by the author (who has his/her own agenda) is an additional influence.

Global warming models

When two people of similar backgrounds see the same information, one may accept it as truth; another views it as a lie or spin.  Global warming is one obvious arena of strong passions using science that few understand.  “The weather is getting warmer and polar caps are melting.”  Some see this as truth, which leads to another question:  “Are humans responsible, and if so, to what extent?”  Others see the initial question as a falsehood, viewing the news reports of imminent ocean rise as spin or hand selected data points that correlate a particular point of view.

How are we able to formulate such strong opinions on subjects that we have zero credibility in?  Why do people become so out of control on subjects that they have not the slightest amount of control over?  Is it a desire to be better than another, “more smarter” than the “fool” who espouses a differing ideology?  Everyday we come to conclusions on topics that we know nothing about, sometimes due to a one minute segment on a news channel or a synopsis news article authored by someone who either spoke with a professional or read another article on the subject.  Most of the data comes from people who have vested interests in the debates.

I am not above the thought formulations that I question, I have my own opinions on the various topics of debate.  Some I justify based on my moral beliefs, some by personal experiences, and some by empathy for others.  It doesn’t make me more or less correct than you, and that is one reason why I try hard to not get caught up in heated debates of hot topics in social media.  There is no true need for another jerk trying to shout someone else down in the virtual world.  Nothing good can come of being heatedly reactionary to subjects when we have less than full facts.  Case in point, read the comments sections of any news article on cnn.com.   Posts consistently draw trolls aplenty, both agreeing and disparaging.

The next time you decide that someone else is an idiot on some hot button issue like global warming, religion, or any of the multitude of things that are beyond your power to control or fully understand, take a breath and cool down.  Are you reacting to someone who has less information than you do, or are you reacting to justify your own faith in your position, which was influenced by others who know as little as you do?

I’m not saying that people should not debate points and issues, what I am saying is that we should not assume that we know it all and others don’t.  If we come to the conclusion that the other person is an idiot who knows nothing, what good can come of trying to argue with a fool?  Can someone standing outside the debate tell who is the true imbecile?

Don’t be the jerk who thinks he is more smarter.

Remembering a friend

I attended the funeral of a friend today.  His name was Jason Collins.  He was a classmate, we graduated together in 1995.  He worked at our hometown Walmart, and that was where I saw him most often.  It’s a small town that we shared, around 4,000 people in the city limits, 11,000 in the county total, so I saw him on a frequent basis.

Jason was a good person.  I don’t mean as in he was an okay or a nice person, I mean in the sense that he was a damn fine individual who was always genuinely glad to see friends and was helpful to anyone who needed anything.

He was also a little different.

Some people thought Jason was slow.  A few called him an idiot savant.  He was neither.  He primarily focused on the things that interested him, and he studied and learned as much as he could about those interests, ranging from cars to firearms, and a lot in between.  When I was 16 years old I was planning on building an engine taken from a wrecked car to put in another car that I had my eyes on.  I mentioned this to him and he told me how much horsepower the stock engine made, the transmission that I would need, as well as other details about it.  And he was right.  The boy knew what he talked about.  He didn’t bs you.

I once said that he only asked something of me one time, and that was for a ride home after he had enjoyed some bourbon.  I was glad to give that ride, and I was very glad that he asked.

I have attended many funerals for friends and family, but this one has struck me the most.  I have stated before that he was a good person and friend.  What I should have said was he was the best type of person, and he was the best type of friend.  I regret not doing more with him, and I will miss him.

The following statement was made in the eulogy by his brother-in-law:

I expect to pass through this world but once.
Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now.
Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.

 – Stephen Grellet

I hope everyone has the opportunity to know someone like Jason Collins.  It is also my desire that I can be at least half the person that he was.

Taco Salad

 

 

 

All the hoopla about the Taco Bell Doritos tacos recently has made me hunger for a taco salad recipe that my mom made when I was growing up.  I hadn’t made it in quite awhile, so last night I was in and out of the house several times with a couple different places I had to be and I decided this was the optimum time for something easy.

 

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My last post was on healthy, something that this can’t really claim to be, but it is still much better than a Quarter Pounder or Flamethrower combo.  The worst of the nutrition comes from the sodium in the taco seasoning and sauce, but I wouldn’t classify it as very high by Western standards.

(At least it has turkey instead of red meat.  Turkey is easy to disguise with taco seasoning if you aren’t a big fan of it, or if you aren’t used to it.)

Ingredients

1 lb Ground Turkey (or beef, chicken, pork, etc.)

1/2 Yellow onion, grated

1 Pack taco seasoning

1 Head of lettuce (about a pound, or buy a bag if you don’t feel like picking and shredding)

1 Can kidney beans, drained

Sliced black olives

Sliced jalepenos (or nacho slices)

1 tomato, diced

4-6 oz of Oil & vinegar dressing (I used some lite Italian this time, it works as well.)

8 oz Taco sauce

1 cup shredded Cheddar

Bag of Doritos

First, brown the ground meat of your choice.  After it browns add the grated onion and cook the onion down a little.  Drain the grease and add the taco seasoning, and prepare as described on the package.  Set it aside and let the meat cool (so that it doesn’t immediately wilt the lettuce.)

Next, put the lettuce in a big bowl.  Put the kidney beans, ground meat, diced tomato, oil & vinegar dressing, taco sauce, and cheese on top.  Toss well.

Put a couple handfuls of Doritos in a ziplock baggie and crunch them up.

Use the black olives, jalepenos and crushed Doritos as a garnish on the side (so that the chips don’t get soggy) and serve it up.

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If you want shorter cut than this, buy some pre-cooked chicken strips and heat them in a pan with the taco seasoning.  

I’ve made this with ground beef, ground pork, and ground turkey, has turned out well with each.  I recommend the Ortega sauce, mild if your kids like to yell “Hot!”, medium otherwise.

Hope you like it.

Sautéed Green Beans

I do all of the cooking for my family, and as a working father married to a working wife I play the role of a single father a few days every week.  As such, I try to find the balance between quick, tasty and healthy.  The first two are easy to achieve, the last is what I struggle with.

I have been using the following method for cooking green vegetables for the last few years.  Green beans with the most frequency, but brussel sprouts, asparagus and broccoli work well with this also.  While it is by no means a ground breaking or new recipe, it is something that I started doing one evening while holding my daughter and trying to round out a meal.

Sautéed green beans

The process is easy and straight-forward.  Sauté the vegetables in oil, preferably olive or canola for saturated fat content.  Here’s what you need for green beans (treat other vegetables the same, just adjust the time):

The basics

  • Green beans (frest, frozen or canned, if canned drain well ahead of time)
  • 1 tbsp – Oil (I use olive or canola oil)
  • 1 or 2 cloves – Minced Garlic
  • Mrs. Dash
  • Seasoning (I recommend Cavender’s Greek Seasoning)
  • Optional – Cooked and crumbled bacon

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté until lightly brown and fragrant.  Add grean beans, Mrs. Dash and seasoning to taste.  Toss well and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Optional – add bacon around halfway through.)

The vegetables will begin to brown and wilt a little.  At this point taste test to determine how well done the dish is.  I like vegetables slightly raw and crisp, you may prefer soft or mushy, just check the dish every few minutes.

That’s it, not much special about it, just a recommendation for a side dish with lower sodium that boiling with bullion cubes.

One last thought, I highly suggest trying brussel sprouts this way.  Just quarter the sprouts and cook as above.  My kids love them this way.