Monday, May 5, 2008

Brisket bliss

This past weekend brought a Sunday lunch bunch to the house -- mostly to deal with a boatload of brisket I picked up at the local meat market.

Brisket is the barbecue meat of choice in Texas, so our day was inspired by the Lone Star state. Because it's generally a tough, stringy meat, I brined about 20 pounds of brisket for two days in the 'fridge. It was a mix of 3/4 cup salt, 1 cup red wine vinegar, two (spice) capfuls each of whole coriander and mustard seeds, a capful of paprika, several shakes of cayenne pepper, four bay leaves, a tablespoon of onion and garlic powder and about 4 gallons of water. My intent in the brine was to keep them from drying out, as well as to pack in some flavor.

The briskets were soaked in the brine up until an hour before cooking time, when I took them out. I wanted to rub them with some more seasoning. I used my standard barbecue rub: garlic and onion powder, paprika, a little chili powder, some dried oregano, black pepper, etc. While the meat was coming to room temperature, I soaked a few pounds of hickory chips in the brine.

Because I don't have a big smoker, I rigged my cheap ol' grill. I took the big broiler pan from my oven and put a layer of the soaked chips on it. The grill was turned to as low as it would go and maintained about 250-275 degrees, when only one burner was turned on. I packed the meat on the opposite end of the grill, fat side up, and let it go. I opened only to add more chips as the ones in the broiler pan smoldered away to nothingness.

It was an all-day smoking operation, but worth it. Another pan caught the drippings off the brisket and formed the base of my barbecue sauce. I had about a cup of drippings, a cup of canned beef broth, a small can of tomato paste, dry mustard, a splash of vinegar and some more onion and garlic powder. Bring to a boil; chill overnight, then adjust any seasonings the next day. It wasn't as smoky as I'd liked, so I added a splash of Liquid Smoke.

The brisket came off the smoker, was wrapped and put in the fridge, since I figured it would be easier to slice and re-heat if it was cold. It was served with cole slaw, potato salad, pinto beans and a blackberry cobbler.