Posts Tagged ‘comfort food’

Brisket ala Yack

December 30, 2012 Comments off

My dad developed an interest in cooking after recovering from cancer. He could no longer work, so his doctor suggested that he take up a hobby. For some reason, he developed an interest in Chinese cooking. Now this was a man who never really seemed to care what was on the table for dinner. All of a sudden he was roasting pieces of marinated pork, and hanging them from paper clips in the oven. The pieces would develop a wonderful flavor and texture on all sides. He would try to perfect his own version of fried rice, and serve it with his own take on Asian glazed pork ribs. Every now and then he would throw in a dish from another heritage. One of them I have been thinking about quite a bit. Brisket. My dad came up with a recipe that I have always referred to as “Brisket ala Yack” (Yack was my maiden name.) It was something that he developed over a period of time. Everyone loved it. So much so, that when an organization my parents volunteered for (Deborah Heart Hospital) had a special dinner once a year to thank their volunteers, they asked my dad make his brisket for them. The recipe can be scaled up or down very easily. It freezes beautifully. In fact I seem to remember thinking that it was even better after it had been frozen. And, as you probably know by now, I love having wonderful dishes in the freezer, so that comfort food is just a short defrost and reheat away..

Here is my dad’s recipe, written down by me while watching him make it, many years ago. Please note the “very precise measurements”. They are essential to the success of the dish.

Brisket ala Yack.

My dad used a large, vintage, blue speckled roasting pan. If you don’t have one, use a dutch oven or a casserole dish that has a lid and can go into the oven.

Slice a few onions and place them in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add slices of carrot and celery. Pierce the brisket with a fork and lay it on top of the vegetables in the pan. Sprinkle the contents of a package of Lipton French Onion Soup Mix over the meat. This was when my dad would add a can of sliced mushrooms. (The thought of that makes me shudder.) At the time, canned mushrooms made it into a number of dishes. (Shudder once more.) Dad would then add a can of beef broth, followed by 5 or 6 squirts of soy sauce, a sprinkling of Worchestershire Sauce, a few glugs of ketchup, some Kitchen Bouquet, and a generous pouring of hearty red wine. He would then place chunks of potatoes around the meat, cover the pan tightly with foil, and then put the top onto the pan. Into a 350° oven it went, for 2 – 2 ½ hours. At that point, Dad would start testing the meat for tenderness. When a fork went in easily, out of the pan came the brisket. After cooling for a just a bit, my dad would slice the brisket, and then put the slices back into the pan, reassembling them stacked against each other. That’s when he would taste the sauce, and adjust the seasonings to his liking, by adding more of any of the ingredients. At times my dad would add some Bovril, a beef extract, to the pan if it needed some richness. Covered once again, it would go back into the oven for another hour, or so. (My dad never fully explained “or so”. It’s one of the things you just know.)

The flavors of this dish were always big and bold. None of the ingredients really stood out on their own. It was the way that they mingled together and combined to make the sauce so much better than just the sum of its parts. The potatoes take on a mahogany hue, and when you cover them with the sauce, veggies, and meat, be sure and smush them with your fork so that the potatoes have that great flavor throughout, not just on the outside.

I did forget one very important part. This needs to be eaten with a spoon. You don’t want any of that goodness to go through the tines of the fork and be lost. A spoon is definitely the way to go.

Through my dad, this dish brought comfort to many people. I realize that I need to continue that tradition. I hope that you may try it and make it your own.



November 5, 2012 Comments off

not just for on top of spaghetti.

I have been intrigued with meatballs for quite some time now. Meatballs. Beef meatballs. Pork meatballs. Veal meatballs. Lamb meatballs. Chicken Meatballs. You get the idea. I particularly like the flavors you get by combining different meats. There are cheeses to add. Veggies. Herbs. The possibilities are endless. I have had this meatball recipe printed out for a long time. I paused, because I was going to mention how long I have had it, but realized that I have no idea how long I have had it. You see, I am a recipe addict. That goes for recipes that are in cookbooks, magazines, and newspapers. Recipes from websites, be they mainstream or obscure blogs. Recipes that pop up in our “Inbox” every day. Recipes that I find through Twitter. Recipes that come in as tester recipes for Leite’s Culinaria. Recipes for food someone else made. Yes, I am an addict, with absolutely no interest in a 12-step plan to try and cure me of my addiction. I could make a new recipe everyday well into the next century, and I would still not get to make everything that I have my eye on. And every day more recipes come to my attention. I have a huge recipe file on the computer. I have huge piles of recipes that I am going to be putting into binders. I should mention that I have had these piles for quite a while now, and this is not the first time that I have said, “I am going to be putting them into binders”. Every time that I go through one of the piles I find recipes that make me pull them out and start a shopping list. This recipe did that for me. I actually found it in a Williams-Sonoma catalogue that came in the mail once upon a time. Roman-Style Meatballs with Gnocchi alla Romana. These meatballs are made with ground beef, ground pork, and prosciutto. They have fresh herbs, garlic, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Fresh bread crumbs that were soaked in milk. The meats. We keep 1 lb. packages of our favorite ground beef in the freezer. I don’t like to buy ground pork. Instead, we buy large pieces of pork butt/shoulder and cut it into portions, vacuum seal them, and have them at the ready. We seal large packages for braised dishes. Think… pulled pork. porcetta. Tinga Poblana. We also seal 1 lb. portions which we grind ourselves whenever we need ground pork. The recipe says to chop the prosciutto, but we put sections of it into the grinder while grinding the pork. Shawn said that he could really taste the prosciutto in the meatballs. I was just wowed by how all of the flavors melded together. The tomato sauce could not be easier to make. Three ingredients if you don’t count the olive oil, salt and pepper. Six if you do. Use really good canned crushed tomatoes. With so few ingredients, the taste of the tomatoes really shines through. The recipe suggests that you serve this with Gnocchi alla Romana, which is a semolina gnocchi. I have had wonderful semolina gnocchi, but I wanted to serve the meatballs and sauce over soft, creamy polenta. It was a good choice. However, as I found out while playing around with the leftovers, my favorite way to eat these is in a bowl, with some of the tomato sauce. All you need is a spoon and a glass of red wine. For us it was a 2005 Core Elevation Sensation, Alta Mesa Vineyard from California’s Central Coast. 60% Mourvedre and 40% Grenache.
The meatball recipe is here. Enjoy!

Old-School Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

November 1, 2012 Comments off

This was one of our test recipes at Leite’s over a year ago. It sounded really good, but somehow I just didn’t get around to making it. I could kick myself for that because we could have been eating it for a longer period of time.This jambalaya is a tad labor and time intensive. For us means that it is a Sunday recipe, which I especially love during football season. You chop, cook, stir, taste, adjust, cook, stir, taste, add a little of this and a bit of that, all while you are watching Jim Harbaugh animatedly encouraging Alex Smith to connect with Mario Manningham, or Eli Manning completing a pass to Victor Cruz. For those who are scratching their heads at this time, I’m talking about the San Francisco 49ers, and the New York football Giants. Not be confused with the San Francisco baseball Giants. And, by the way they are not playing each other in this scenario. Sports, another passion to add to the food, cooking, and wine list.  (I edit this to say, that the SF baseball Giants are now 2012 World Series Champions. Yahooo!!! )

For some reason I tackled this on a Tuesday. I may not do that again, but I will be making this recipe again. And again.  And again. There are so many layers of flavor here. The recipe takes its time to build each layer separately. After one bite of this jambalaya you’ll see why each of the steps is so important. You are showcasing each ingredient and building deep, intense flavors.

I did start with store-bought roasted chicken, which I tore into shreds while it was still warm. I find that the easiest way to shred a chicken. I really liked the method used for making the stock from the chicken carcass. I will never throw out the bones from a roasted chicken again. I had some leeks, which I chopped and added to the pot, and I used red bell peppers because I am not fond of green peppers. (Actually, they are not very fond of me.) I recommend checking on the rice half-way through the stated 40 minutes cooking time. After 20 minutes, our rice was cooked. I might even check on it earlier next time.

Many people, when looking at a recipe, go directly to the ingredient list and start there. I suggest reading the paragraphs introducing the recipe. I learned the difference between a Cajun and a Creole Jambalaya. This recipe is a Cajun version. You should read what that means on the site. It is interesting information.

This dish stood up well to a 2002 Navarro Syrah. A big, in your face, ripe, California Syrah. Yes, we do drink wines other than Navarro’s. I hope to talk about them soon.

Check out the recipe, Old-School Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya,
at Leite’s Culinaria.

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