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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.

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