Dark Days: Beer Braised Brisket and Onions

dark days brisket

Despite my Jewish roots, beef brisket is not a cut of meat I grew up with. We had the occasional pot roast, but mostly my mom gravitated towards quicker cooking bits of beef and lots of chicken. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered the miracle that is brisket, thanks to my meat buying club (recently renamed Sweet Stem Farm).

brisket

In preparation for the braising urge that I knew would soon strike, I added a brisket to my January order and this Sunday was the day (it also happened to take up an excessively large amount of room in the freezer). My preferred way to braise brisket is to season it well with salt and pepper, brown it in my big oval Staub pot and then remove it to plate. Then three or four chopped onions get cooked in all the deliciousness that remains in the pot. Once they’ve gone soft and brown, the brisket goes back in the pot and half the onions go on top. Two bottles of beer go in (I used Philadelphia Brewing Company’s Kenzinger this time and it was perfect) and then the whole pot goes into the oven at 300 degrees for four to five hours.

The meat was incredibly tender, flavorful and fragrant. It smelled so good while it was cooking that I could barely take it. We ate it with some roasted carrots (local) and steamed broccoli (not local – the pickings are really slim around here for local green things at the moment). So, so good.

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Fork You Returns + The Geometry of Pasta Giveaway

Years ago, before the canning bug well and truly bit me, my husband Scott and I regularly made an online cooking show called Fork You. In all honesty, the production of the show was essentially our courtship, as it gave us an excuse to spend time together when we were just friends and weren’t yet able to fess up to the fact that we adored one another wildly.

When we did finally started dating (and very soon thereafter, living together) the production of new episodes slowed to a crawl, because we just didn’t need an excuse to hang out. And then, when our “crew” (friends Thad and Angie) had a pair of wickedly cute twin daughters and didn’t have any extra time to do crazy stuff like spend a Saturday afternoon filming cooking videos, well, Fork You went on life support.

However, I’m happy to announce that we’re bringing it back (or at least, trying to). We’re planning on featuring recipes on a monthly basis from some of the cookbooks that publishers occasionally send me, so that they don’t just collect in awkward piles in the living room.

The first book featured in this new season of Fork You is The Geometry of Pasta, written by Jacob Kenedy and Caz Hildebrand and published by Quirk Books. Quirk was kind enough to send us copies of the book, as well as some cash to cover ingredient costs (that was a first for me).

Take a look and let us know what you think. If I sound a bit stuffed up, know that we filmed this during the height of the cold I had at the end of December.

Oh, and if you want a chance at winning the copy of The Geometry of Pasta that we have to give away, leave a comment here and share your favorite pasta shape. Comments will close at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 31. We’ll be in touch with the winner soon after that.

Open Jars: Turkey Taco Salad

pickled jalapenos

I have long been a fan of homemade turkey tacos, particularly ones based on this recipe (thanks Molly!). A couple of nights ago, I cooked up a batch of the taco meat to spill over big bowls of greens (though folding these crumbles up in freshly warmed corn tortillas is my idea of heaven) and managed to get not just one, but two jars of home canned food into the mix.

browned turkey for tacos

The taco-spiced meat calls for a pound of turkey, spiked with minced garlic, cumin, a pinch of cayenne, lime and some jalapenos. I look at this recipe as a perfect way to use up some of those unfancy jalapeno peppers that I canned last fall. Because the pickling process takes some of the sting out of peppers, I simply mince up two or three, seeds and all, and add it to the mix. Frequently, I skip the cayenne and just rely on the heat of the jalapenos to flavor the turkey (we’re something of a heat sensitive household around here).

pickled carrots and daikon

As I assembled the salads, I started longing for something tangy to go along with the turkey, greens and sauteed vegetables. Thinking back over what remains in my pantry, I remembered that a single jar of those pickled carrots and daikon I made last February (good grief, is time flying) remained. They weren’t quite as crunchy as they’d been when first canned, but their flavor was spot on for the salad and they added the perfect amount of zing.

assembled salad

I realize that this isn’t groundbreaking cooking, but I thought you guys would appreciate seeing some of the basic ways that I incorporate what I can into my everyday eating. Oh, and if you determine to eat this as tacos (as is truly intended), I highly recommend making a batch of this Cumin Cabbage Slaw to go with it. They match up really well.

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Ginger Syrup + Sparkling Water = Homemade Ginger Ale

ginger sugar pot

Earlier this week, I got walloped by one of those 36 hour stomach bugs. I spent a day bundling to ward off feverish chills and nursing a very tender belly. I couldn’t handle anything more than a few Saltines and a sip or two of liquid every hour.

half cup minced ginger

During my childhood, ginger ale was my mother’s prescription for any stomach trouble. We weren’t allowed to have it until the worst of the troubles were over (there’s no point in putting something in if you’re not yet capable of holding on to it) but goodness, was that first sip of sweet, bubbly soda divine.

ground ginger

Not wanting to head out into foul weather (and yikes, has our weather been terrible lately. Earlier tonight, we had a crazy confluence of snow and thunder) but needing a dose of that familiar remedy, I simply used what I had. I combined 1 cup of cane sugar, 1 cup of filtered water, 1 cup of chopped ginger and 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger to create a super concentrated ginger syrup.

steeping ginger in simple syrup

After half an hour of gentle simmering and an hour of unheated steeping, I ran the syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a pint jar. Then it was just a manner of spooning a small amount into a glass and topping it off with a pour of sparkling water (I adore my Sodastream for just this sort of thing). After a day of slowly sipping this homemade gingery ale, I felt much better. By the end of yesterday, I was even able to graduate from crackers to poached eggs over brown rice.

If you decide to make your own ginger syrup, don’t feel like you have to replicate my proportions. As you can see, my approach was just to combine equal parts fresh ginger, sugar and water. I added the powdered ginger mostly because I wanted to ensure a super gingery kick, however it’s entirely optional.

I still have half a jar of this gingery balm tucked into the fridge, and I’m continue to combine it with fizzy water or drizzle it into hot tea. There’s just nothing like ginger this time of year.

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Dark Days: Good Old Chicken Soup

dark days soup

This soup was several days in the making. While working from home last Friday, I poured two pounds of chicken feet from Sweet Stem Farms into a pot with a chopped onion, a couple of bay leaves (from a tree I had for a time) and nearly five quarts of filtered water. This simmered most of the day, cooking down into a three concentrated quarts of broth. The thing I love about making broth from chicken feet is that they express a great deal of gelatin into the finished product, making it really rich without adding a lot of fat.

I let the broth chill out in fridge until this afternoon. I cooked up onions (Winter Harvest), carrots (Rineer Family Farms), cabbage (Winter Harvest), garlic (Fair Food Farmstand) and kale (Winter Harvest from a couple of weeks ago – it was a bit sad and wilted). Once it was browned and softened, I added the broth back in. Once it came to a boil, I dropped in some raw chopped chicken that had been in the freezer for a while, originally purchased from Sweet Stem Farms.

I didn’t actually eat the soup tonight, as I was hosting a group of friends from my church for a fondue dinner (a couple committee members and I offered it as an item in our annual auction last spring). Scott had two bowls tonight and pronounced it delicious (the few spoonfuls I snagged were pretty darn tasty). Best of all, there’s a half gallon in the fridge, just waiting to be eaten for dinner tomorrow night.

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Cocoa Hazelnut Granola

cocoa hazelnut granola

I’ve been making granola like crazy lately, as I finalize the recipes for that section of the cookbook. Just when I was sure I was done and could put the oats away, another recipe possibility started growing. You see, I’ve had Nutella on the brain in the last few days (I blame Lara’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies). And when you combine an obsessive devotion to granola with thoughts of Nutella, its an impossible task to try and avoid seeing what their love child would look like.

roasted hazelnuts

In my kitchen, the result of that unlikely union is a chocolate-kissed cereal that has a touch of sweetness and a crunch that is habit-forming. The jar of it is sitting next to me as I type these words and my writing progress is far slower than normal, because I can’t stop my hand from dipping into it every minute or so.

cocoa hazelnut granola

A word of warning. This is not the chocolate cereals of our collective youth. If you eat it with milk, you will not go into glucose shock from drinking the liquid that remains in the bowl. In fact, had someone presented to this to me as a child, I would have taken a bite and then been mightily disappointed by the subtly of the sweetening. However, as an adult, it’s that nuance that I find so appealing (along with the small hints of salt that come through thanks to the 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt).

cocoa hazelnut granola

All that said, if you did want to turn this concoction into something a bit more dessert-like, you could toss the partially cooled cereal with small shards of dark chocolate. That would be good. Oh, another thing. Hazelnuts are one of the more expensive nuts out there. If you can’t swing their price, you could substitute almonds. However, you only need about a 1/3 of a pound for this recipe, so if you have someplace that sells them in bulk, it’s worth spending $3-4 to buy just that amount. They are transcendentally good.

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