So I’ve had great luck making brisket Uncle Jeff’s way, braised in wine, beer or stock, with lots of onions to make a succulent gravy. The pot is covered to create a moist environment, and within three, maybe four hours, the meat is tender enough to eat with a spoon.
For election night at Casa Appetite, I chose a different brisket route, one with more smoke than liquid, for an American barbecue feel. But here’s the rub (and not the spice rub, which I’ll get to shortly): I’m without a smoker, grill or pit. So Miss Thing over here decides she’s gonna smoke her brisket in the oven.
I had it all planned out: I soaked wood chips in water overnight and placed them in the bottom part of a broiler pan, with a few inches of water. The top part, which is vented, is where the brisket, marinated in and spice rubbed (with help from “The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining by Cheryl & Bill Jamison) would go. Then I’d cover with foil to create even more moisture and put my theory of oven smoke and moisture to the test.
The oven was set to 250 degrees, and I crossed my fingers. If I didn’t burn down the house and ruin the oven, I’m thinking I might be onto something. It was a small brisket too, just three pounds, so how long could it really take?
I put my experiment into the oven at 1:30, and I’m thinking, if all goes well, this baby should be done by 5:30 tops.
Boy, do I feel like a dope.
5:30 comes and goes, and the brisket is far from being succulent and spoon tender. Friends are due any minute, the baked beans are waiting for their turn in the oven and I’ve got blue corn bread asking for attention to boot.
While our small group gathers 'round the CNN fireplace, the meat upstairs is saying, what were you thinking? I crank up the heat from 250 to 295, but I knew deep in my cook’s heart that something was amiss.
Ah yes, liquid.
By seven, the brisket had budged some, but not enough. I cut off an end; the flavor was there, lots and lots of it, but the texture was, well, downright chewy. Out went the wood and in went one beer, the brisket wading happily. I cranked the temp to 325, covered the pan and prayed for a lil’ kitchen karma.
Sure enough, the meat liked the bath, but it was kind of too little, too late. My guests, promised dinner with their election returns, were getting antsy. I had to face the music. My brisket, although more striated and tender than just an hour ago, remained shoe leathery.
So it’s the morning after, and I’m hanging my head, more than a little embarrassed. My guests, gracious and too kind, lapped up the brisket, and as we watched John McCain deliver his concession speech and then Barack Obama address the nation, I was reminded of the all-powerful lesson: Some days we win, some days we lose, and it’s never too late to learn from one’s mistakes.
From "The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining" by Cheryl & Bill Jamison
2 tablespoons smoked salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons smoked or sweet paprika
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder or another kind
1 12-ounce bottle or can beer or 1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 canned chipotle chiles, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can
2 tablespoons pure liquid smoke (I omitted)
One four-pound brisket (I adjusted rub amounts accordingly for a three-pounder)
The night before you plan to cook, stir together the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside all about 2 tablespoons of the rub. Combine marinade ingredients, including 2 tablespoons of the rub, in a blender or food processor, and puree. Place brisket in a large zippered plastic bag and pour marinade over it. Seal and refrigerate brisket overnight.
Before you begin to cook, remove brisket from the refrigerator. Drain and discard marinade. Pat brisket down with remaining rub, coating meat well. Let brisket sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
By Kim ODonnel |
November 5, 2008; 12:00 PM ET
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