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Slow Cooking

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 8.31.31 PMI bet you’re wondering what brisket has in common with yoga… The answer is that both involve the slow heating of deep-tissue. Yum! Or maybe I just grossed you out. Sorry.

Yesterday I went to a Hatha yoga class for the first time in a while — unlike the brisk pace of Vinyasa, Hatha moves slowly, forcing you to sustain each pose for several deep breaths.

I’m hoping that the slow and steady vibes carry over to the rest of my life, where I’ve got several projects cooking over a low flame. I’m trying to regain momentum with my freelance writing “business,” drumming up ideas to query and not rushing through the more straightforward Demand Media titles, only to land a rewrite, I’m trying to shed a few pounds I gained over the summer, and I’m trying to keep a clean house, even though I’m much more inclined to make a mess in the kitchen — as a matter of fact, I wear my frequent messes as a badge of soulful home cooking, but somebody’s got to clean up. And I feel bad saddling my husband with flour-dusted countertops, mixing bowls covered in dried goop, and onion skins, chopped nuts, and smears of stuff gathered on the floor. Now you get the picture? I’m laying it all out there.

Someone said that patience is a virtue, and braised brisket is a fine instructor of this oh-so-true truism. We’ve been eating the fruits of my labor all week. Here goes:

Braised Beef Brisket
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, cubed
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped onions
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 chopped tomato
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 cups chicken stock (or beef, or vegetable)

Tools

Dutch oven or large pot
Measuring spoons
Measuring Cups
Mixing bowls
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Plate
Paper towels
Mixing spoon or heat-proof spatula
Tongs

  • Chop and measure the onions — about 2 small to medium sized onions will equal 2 cups — mince and measure the garlic, cube the eggplant, chop the tomato, and measure out 3 tablespoons  of the tomato paste.*
  • Measure out the stock or water and have the butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper on standby.
  • Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add a heaping tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Place the brisket inside the Dutch oven and sear for 5 minutes on each side. As the first side cooks, season the top side with salt and pepper. After you flip the brisket, season the second side. Remove the brisket to a plate. (This step, aka searing the outside of the meat, is optional.)
  • Wipe the pot with a paper towel and add the butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the onions, sautéing them until they’re soft, 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper, and stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato, and garlic.
  • Put the meat back in the pot. Cover it with the cubed eggplant and the 3 cups of stock. Turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning the meat about every 30 minutes. (I forgot to do this and it turned out fine, but hey, it can’t hurt.)
  • If the sauce seems too thin (mine was admittedly a bit watery) Bittman recommends removing the meat and boiling the liquid over high heat, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until it thickens. Taste the liquid, adding salt and pepper if needed. Cut the meat against the grain, into thin slices.

*I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard Mark Bittman knock the practice of mise en scène, aka, preparing and measuring all the ingredients before you start cooking. It may seem fussy for his minimalist style, but I think it’s a small enough step that gives the best cook an added sense of ease and control. In other words, it makes cooking more fun 🙂

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