Izzy (and Mama) Eat: The Gourmand Grows up...

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Grass-fed Brisket Experiment

This year, circumstances did not allow for me to prepare an actual Seder. Nevertheless, I was still intent upon serving a festive Passover meal with some yearly favorites. My brother E., his girlfriend S. and the most important guest, my almost 98 year old grandfather would be in attendance.

I was unsure as to when this meal would be taking place and as it turned out I was only given a day's notice. This meant that I needed to shop and cook all in one day, which for me is a feat if I plan I making more than three things..talk about slow cooking. I tried to keep the menu short and simple.

Matzoh Ball Soup
Brisket with Red Wine
Quinoa with Wild Mushrooms
Organic Purple Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette
Chocolate-Covered Caramel Matzoh

When I went to do my shopping, I decided I wanted to see if any grass-fed brisket was available at Union Square. I found a vendor, Elk Trails Ranch who was selling grass-fed Black Angus. This sounded intriguing but I was afraid to attempt it..I have eaten grass-fed chopped meat many times but never brisket. What if it was tough and leathery? Worse yet, what if it just didn't cook in time.. I had only 5 hours to make everything. To top it off, the briskets they were selling were frozen.

The vendor insisted I had plenty of time. He had both first and second cut briskets and I decided to try one of each, even though I usually only get the first-cut. When I asked how I could sear the frozen meat he really threw me for a loop because he said I should not sear the meat at all. He told me to simply cover it with liquid and place it in the oven for 4-5 hours at 180 degrees and then add any additional flavors or vegetables after it was partially cooked.

Upon arriving home, I placed the two briskets to thaw for 1/2 an hour in cold water and then as per instructions, put them in a dutch oven , covered with water and wine. I later added a pile of sauteed onions with paprika, some smashed cloves of garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. I left the whole thing in the oven for about five hours and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was indeed tender when poked with a fork.

When I took the meat out to slice, there was clearly a difference between the two cuts. The first- cut was more compact which to me is more desirable while the second cut was stringier. Both pieces of meat were not fatty at all and had a clean, pure flavor. The problem was, the brisket didn't seem to have absorbed any of the additional flavors. It was not redolent of onion, thyme, or garlic, which somehow marred the experience.

I still have some left which I will freeze and revise in revamp in future recipes. Meanwhile, I have to discover the true secret to preparing grass-fed brisket. I would much prefer to serve it since it is far healthier and doesn't leave you feeling bloated and stuffed.


Rebecca said...

My parents live out in the country in western Maryland and recently bought some grass-fed sirloin steaks. They said they were tough and tasteless and they won't be trying grass-fed beef again soon. They do drink raw milk from grass-fed cows exclusively, though, and are completely sold on the benefits. My father, at age 74, has been able to give up his meds for lactose intolerance and has no problem digesting the raw milk.

Izzy's Mama said...

Rebecca: There are many types of grass-fed beef available. The NYTimes recently did a review of a variety. Your family should not give up on it..They just need to experiment. It really is healthier and I believe it can be tastier.