Thursday, June 7, 2012

Up North - the sequel


So, let us press on with the tale of my northerly diversion.
I have always been drawn to the land of the white pine and black lake. Around the north-eastern coast of Georgian Bay is an area of wilderness that although regionally part of the well-heeled playground of Muskoka, has a rawness to it that is altogether unique.
There are bears here.   
And there is always a wind blowing; sometimes benign as it grazes the birch leaves, sometimes pernicious, capsizing canoes dangerously in inky waters.
The fickle climate rarely stays constant. It is capricious. There are days when the lake is azure and passive; you’d swear you were in Marseille. Then there are days for which the sky stubbornly remains grey as a weary battleship, the northerlies mutter through the pine boughs and the lake is cold, monochromatic and menacing.

Please excuse my literary excess. I've been working up a way to use the word 'azure' for a long time.
The weekend I spent up north tended toward the latter description: picture October in the North Atlantic. Thankfully we had a merry fire in the wood burning stove, and a cozy (and very large) cabin in which we could watch the weather move in and out whilst enjoying many drinks and good food in relative comfort.
As the sun failed to shine, I attempted to heat things up with a culinary visit to the South West. I opted for a sort of chili using a whole beef brisket, braised slowly in my great cherry-coloured Creuset pot (it was worth lugging it up north). Being my first attempt at this dish, I can see some areas that need improvement. I actually borrowed the idea from a Jamie Oliver recipe of all things; he may not be a Michelin-starred chef, but he is a damn creative cook, so to hell with the naysayers, I have nothing but good to say about Jamie.

Braised Brisket Chili
1 whole beef brisket

For the rub:

10 g/1 tsp each of: smoked paprika, mustard powder, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper and ground coriander
15 g brown sugar
15 g kosher salt


For the sauce:

2 bell peppers, deseeded and chopped roughly
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 onions, sliced
1 tin quality tomatoes
1 355ml bottle of Dos Equis beer
10 ml liquid smoke (optional)
Six corn on the cob
Oil for sautéing

For the garnish:

100 g of spicy Spanish chorizo sausage
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
50 g manchego cheese grated
1 lime
A small tub of sour cream


Put all the ingredients for the rub in a mixing bowl and stir until well incorporated. Then get your brisket and pat dry with a paper towel and score the fat cap right down until you’ve scored a few millimeters into the actual meat – score in both directions so that the top of the brisket looks like a corrugated egg carton. Then get the spice rub and massage it into the meat, especially into the scored part of the meat. Start heating some oil in heavy bottom pot until it is almost smoking, and then drop in your brisket, fat side down. Sear it until it actually starts to go slightly black (the sugar will caramelize). Then flip and brown the other side. Then remove it and put aside. If necessary, get a bit more oil in your pot and drop the heat a bit. Then start sweating down the onions, peppers and jalapenos in the pot for about four or five minutes (until the onions start to go translucent). Then drop in the garlic and season the works with salt and pepper. As soon as you start to smell the garlic, pour in the beer. Burn the beer down for about 2 or 3 minutes, and then pour in the tinned tomatoes. Drop the heat and then nestle the brisket in amongst the vegetables and the liquid. If the liquid does not fully cover the meat, pour in a wee bit of water until it does. Test the braising liquid for seasoning and then put in a low oven (300F) for about four or five hours (or until the meat can be shredded with a couple of spoons). So, go ahead and shred the meat  and incorporate it throughout the sauce. At this point my written account diverts from what I actually did. My finished product was a bit watery and I realize it is because I did not give the sauce a chance to reduce and thicken uncovered (I left the lid on throughout the process). So, at this point with the meat shredded, remove the lid and put on the stove on a low heat so that the liquid has a gentle bubble (do not boil hard as that will toughen the meat strands). Let this simmer until the liquid has thickened to the desired consistency. While the chili was braising, I simply grilled six ears of corn and then shaved off the kernels. Stir the smoky grilled corn kernels into the chili and squeeze in a lime just before serving.

I created a few simple garnishes for the chili. I feel that braised beef, despite having all the other spices and flavourings, just doesn’t have that punch that pork brings to the party. So why not add a bit of pork? I took a spicy chorizo sausage and simply grilled it until the exterior had a nice snap to it and the paprika-stained fat started to render. Then I just chopped it up roughly along with some lime zest and cilantro leaves; almost a porky version of a gremolata. Put it in a bowl at the table. For the rest, bring some sour cream to the table and a small bowl of grated manchego cheese for self-service garnishing. Soft wheat tortillas at the table completed the deal.

Like I said, a bit of an adjustment in the sauce thickness and this would have been perfect. Despite the slight wateriness, it was enjoyed by all the lads.


No comments:

Post a Comment