Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cooking With Wolfgang and Alyson

Originally uploaded by Another Pint Please...

One of my joys of the holiday season is cooking for friends and family. Although I wasn't cooking in my own kitchen this year, I helped my sister-in-law Alyson prepare dinner for 15 in her Harlem apartment. Chopping, dicing and stirring with her in her bright and sunny kitchen with city views of brownstones and pre-war apartment buildings gave me such pleasure. Together we re-created Wolfgang Puck's recipe for beef brisket, which was slow cooked in the oven for 6 hours, sliced thin, and garnished with a sauce flavored with pearl onions and slivers of dried apricots. She cooked it the day before and reheated it, which intensified the flavor. It was simply delicious.

Here's the slightly revised recipe from www.epicurious.com:


* 5 pounds beef brisket
* 2 tablespoons kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 bottle red wine
* All-purpose flour
* 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
* 6 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
* 2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
* 2 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch chunks
* 1 medium leek, white part only, cut into 1-inch chunks
* 1 cup dried apricots
* 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
* 2 sprigs fresh thyme
* 2 bay leaves
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 2 quarts plus 1/4 cup homemade beef stock or good-quality canned beef broth
* 1 cup pearl onions
* Minced parsley, for garnish


1. Season the brisket on both sides with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the wine to a boil and continue boiling until it reduces to half its original volume, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Evenly sprinkle the brisket all over with flour, shaking off excess. Heat a heavy Dutch oven over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When it is almost smoking, turn the heat to medium-high, carefully add the brisket, and sear until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a platter. Pour off the fat from the Dutch oven and add another 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, shallots, carrots, celery, and leek, and sauté until glossy and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add half of the apricots and all the parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste, and continue to cook 1 minute more.

3. Return the browned brisket to the Dutch oven and add the reduced wine and 2 quarts stock or broth. If the brisket is not completely covered with liquid, add enough extra stock, broth, or water to cover. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot and carefully place it in the oven. Cook until the brisket is fork-tender, approximately 5+ hours. Meanwhile, blanch the onions in boiling water for 30 seconds, cool in an ice water bath, trim the ends, and peel the onions, leaving them whole. Cut the remaining apricots into 1/4-inch strips.

4. In a small sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat and sauté the pearl onions until lightly golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the apricot strips and pour in the remaining 1/4 cup stock or broth, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender, about 5 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

5. When the meat is done, carefully transfer it to a heated platter, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm. Boil the liquid in the Dutch oven until it thickens and reduces to about 1 quart, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour it through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary with more salt and pepper.

6. To serve, use a sharp knife to cut the brisket across the grain into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the slices on heated serving plates or on a heated platter, spoon half the sauce over it, and garnish with the pearl onions and apricots. Sprinkle with minced parsley and pass the remaining sauce on the side. For neater slices, let the brisket cool before cutting it across the grain. Reheat the slices in the sauce for about half an hour at 300°F before serving.

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