Friday, September 25, 2009

Family Favorite Revisited: Barbecue Brisket

I’ve been digging up recipes out of my archives, which leads to walks down memory lane. Typically the end of summer is not meant for nostalgia, but I just felt the need. I love finding recipes that are tattered, torn, and stained from years and years of use. I can remember where most of them came from, who I shared them with, and little adjustments I have made over the years to simplify or enhance a dish. I think that food—like fashion styles—makes cyclical appearances in our household: to grace the table, please the palate, and allow us to remember fond times built around food.

For last Sunday’s dinner, I queried Mr B and Butcher Son on possible main dishes. Both wanted barbecue. But we have been having some unusual dry thunderstorms, followed by bouts of rain. Not rain so much as spit. Moments of wisps of water showering down fron the clouds above, unexpected and welcome. Enough to make the car dirty, perk up the lawn, perfume the air, and keep the cover on the barbecue. So we settled for an old standard, Rocky Mountain Brisket.

Brisket is an underrated cut of beef. Most often used to make corned beef, it is cut from the breast section of a cow, and is one of the tougher pieces of beef, meaning it requires a long cooking time to make it tender and palatable. It is reasonably low in price, and with a crockpot or slow-cooking oven, you can turn this slab into a tasty marvel. Such is the case with our oven-baked barbecue brisket.

I first came upon this recipe, served with barbecue sauce, in a cookbook given to me by my husband’s family not long after we were married. Called Colorado Cache Cookbook (my husband is from Colorado), it’s one of those spiral-bound Junior League fundraiser cookbooks. Yes, there are some unusual casseroles and a section on game meats, but there are some gems in there, too. And Rocky Mountain Brisket is one of them.

The two things I love about this dish are the ease in making it and how my house smells while it cooks. The brisket, once rubbed down with seasoning, is popped into the oven for 3 hours. You don’t even touch it. Doesn’t get much easier than that, does it? But as it cooks, the aroma fills the air. In fact, Brilliant Daughter came over early for dinner to do some laundry. She wanted to eat right away. Kept checking on the meat to see if it was done, and practically begging me to start dinner NOW. Either she was really, really hungry or the smell really is that good.

This dish is great for Sunday football. You can pop it in the oven when the game starts and eat when it is over, without missing a play. It comes with its own barbecue sauce, which I have modified slightly over the years. In a pinch you could use bottled sauce, but many are too strong or thick to use for this purpose.

I served this dish with a broccoli slaw (recipe courtesy my SoCal brother’s friend, coincidentally called Mrs B) and macaroni salad. The combination felt like a summer barbecue meal, even as we sat and listened to the raindrops fall.

Rocky Mountain Brisket with Barbecue Sauce
4 pound beef brisket
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons crushed bay leaves
2 tablespoons Liquid Smoke

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 14-ounce bottle of catsup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Liquid Smoke
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
3 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons celery seed
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine salt, pepper, chili powder, and bay leaves. Rub meat completely with liquid smoke. Place meat, fat side up, in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle dry seasoning mixture over all. Cover tightly. Bake for 3 hours.

Meanwhile, make barbecue sauce by combining all ingredients in saucepan and bringing to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook on medium for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and scrape seasoning off meat and cut into very thin slices, across grain. Pour half of sauce over the meat and combine. Serve with extra sauce on large rolls.

YIELD: 6-8 servings

Broccoli Slaw
2 bags prepared broccoli slaw
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2/3 cup olive oil

Whisk all ingredients, except oil. Together in a small bowl. Slowly add in the oil, as you whisk. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In large bowl, pour in slaw, almonds and blue cheese. Toss with the dressing and serve.

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