Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A (mostly) make-ahead meal

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked beef brisket
  • fresh bread
  • tangy coleslaw
  • grilled apricots
My day today was such that my afternoon and early evening were insanely busy, but my morning was relatively calm. So 90% of the work for this meal was done well before the after-school frenzy, and I was still able to get dinner on the table at a decent time. YAY for mostly make-ahead meals!

The brisket was my usual. I made a dry rub of sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, dried oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I rubbed it all over the brisket on both sides and put the meat fat-side up in a roasting pan. You could put it on a rack but I no longer have one, so I wad up some tin foil into balls and line the bottom of the pan with those, then place the meat on top. Works great! Add a bit of water to the bottom of the pan, then cover tightly with heavy-duty foil.

The cooking time and temperature can vary quite a bit, depending on the size of your hunk o' meat, the amount of time you have to work with, and how you like your meat cooked. We like a very tender, melt-in-your-mouth brisket with crispy fat; my roast was about 2.5 to 3 pounds, and I had all day, really. So I cooked this at 225 degrees F for about five hours, then uncovered it and boosted the heat up to 400 for 15 minutes or so to get the fat nice and crispy. Then I let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it thinly across the grain. You could do this same size roast for maybe two hours at 375, as long as there's water in the pan and it's tightly covered. It won't be quite as tender, but you can make up for that by slicing it nice and thin.

The bread was plain boule from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I am STILL loving that book! The authors have a blog where they share recipes, too!

For the coleslaw, I whisked together 1/4 cup each of sugar and apple cider vinegar until the sugar was mostly dissolved, then whisked in a tablespoon of canola oil and about a teaspoon of celery seed. Pour it over half a head of shredded cabbage, toss to coat, and stick it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. I like this version of coleslaw over the creamy mayonnaise type when I'm serving a fairy rich, fatty meat -- the acidity really helps cut the richness.

The apricots could not have been easier -- just cut a few in half, make sure to oil your grill grate, and grill them cut-side down until they pick up some grill marks and get SLIGHTLY soft. Don't overcook these or they will go mushy. I really like apricots with spiced beef -- something about that flavor combination just works for me!

Okay, so here was the timeline I followed:
  1. Make the bread in the morning (or the day before)(or just buy some damn bread, already!).
  2. Prepare the brisket and stick it in the oven (I did this five and a half hours before I planned to serve it -- see above).
  3. Make the coleslaw and stick it in the fridge (you could do this the night before).
  4. Thirty minutes before serving, uncover the brisket and turn up the heat to crisp the fat.
  5. Wrap the bread in foil and slice the apricots in half, removing pits.
  6. Light the grill for indirect heat (for my grill this means two burners on, one off).
  7. Put the foil-wrapped bread on the unlit burner to warm it as the grill heats.
  8. When the grill is hot, take brisket out of oven, re-cover and let rest.
  9. Put apricots on grill; remove bread from grill.
  10. Slice bread and re-wrap in foil to keep warm.
  11. Take apricots off grill, cover to keep warm.
  12. Slice brisket and put on serving platter.
  13. Remove coleslaw from fridge and give it another toss or two.
  14. Soup's on!

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