I view meat a lot like I view wine. Say what? It all has to do with the French concept of, “Terroir”. The Terroir consists of characteristics, sometimes tangible, sometimes not, of the geography, geology, and climate of a place. Terroir is what makes some wines taste fantastic and other wines taste like Thunderbird! Anything that requires cultivation is going to be influenced by the Terroir: wine, cheese, salami, raising animals, growing crops, etc. Admittedly, I really enjoyed being able to go wine tasting so often while living in Sacramento. It’s about the only thing I miss. We probably weren’t drinking the best wine ever made, but I got to challenge my taste buds and explore new flavors. It’s a little eyrie how good I got at being able to pull flavors and smells from wine. With this knowledge and experience, I learned that all food can be experienced in the same way.
Fruits and vegetables taste different based upon who was growing the crop and where. You wouldn’t figure this out eating grocery store produce as it was designed to all look, smell, and taste the same. Pro tip, avoid going to the grocery store or even farmer’s markets and seek out farms directly. You’ll get a better sense of what farmers’ are growing and how. I love going to the farms, because you get a sense of the land and the Terroir. I already have a scheduled line up of all the farms in Utah Valley I want to visit this summer. I’ll be able to pick my own strawberries, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, and tomatoes. Not to mention the great deals you get when buying direct from the farm!
This is no different when buying meat. I hope you are lucky enough to have experienced eating meat from local farmers and getting a sense of the Terroir through the flavor of the animal. Years ago, my mom bought some beef and lamb from Lau Family Farm. Coming from California, I thought no one could grow a better animal than Marin Sun Farms. I was knocked out of my chair when I first had a steak from Lau Family Farm. It was unbelievable delicious. Ryan and I are so fortunate that we have these farmers making superb quality products. When difficult times fell upon us this year, there was no question that we needed to stock up on meat. I love being able to buy a whole or half lamb / beef. You get a great deal when you do it like this and the meat when packaged properly (re: FoodSaver) will keep in your freezer for up to 6 months to a year. You just can’t go wrong when buying meat this way. The animals are healthy and you can clearly taste that in the meat.
Now the funny thing is that I’m not a huge fan of meat. We don’t eat meat that often and I’d rather just grill up a steak and be done with it. I never learned how to cook the rest of the animal, so this has been a big hurdle for me. All my cookbooks are basically vegetarian, so they’re no help whatsoever. I do have a cookbook from Martha Stewart, but her recipes tend to be incredibly unreliable. I did finally come across a cookbook author that saved me from a freezer full of meat I didn’t know how to cook. I have loved and enjoyed every recipe from Jennifer Mclagan, even her devilled kidneys or calvados tripe recipes. Her cookbook, Odd Bits, is where I got this recipe. Saved again.
Brisket Braised with Caramelized Onions and Chile
- 3 1/2 pounds beef brisket, with a good layer of fat
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 jalapeño peppers, coarsely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large orange
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 yellow onions, halved and sliced
- 2 to 3 cups beef stock
- Hot pepper sauce (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and season generously with salt and pepper.
- Place the brisket fat side up in a Dutch oven or casserole. It should fit snugly.
- Add the chiles, carrot, celery, and bay leaves.
- Remove the zest from the orange using a vegetable peeler and add to the pot; set the orange aside.
- In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter, add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are golden brown. Place the onions on top of the brisket.
- Pour 2 cups of beef stock into the frying pan, deglazing the pan. Scrape up the browned pieces from the bottom. Bring the stock up to a boil.
- Carefully pour the liquid around the brisket. The liquid should almost cover the brisket; add more stock if needed. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook for 2 hours.
- Uncover and cook for another hour, or until the meat is very tender when pierced with a fork.
- Transfer the brisket to a plate and loosely cover it with aluminum foil to keep it warm.
- Strain the cooking liquid into a measuring cup (you should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups), and let it stand for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from the orange into a saucepan.
- Skim the fat off the coking liquid and add it to the saucepan with orange juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil until reduced to about 1 cup.
- Taste, season with salt and pepper, and add a little hot pepper sauce if desired.
- Carve the brisket into thick slices and serve with the sauce.
- Original recipe from Jennifer Mclagan’s, Odd Bits.