Monday, April 20, 2009

Perfect Passover (Or Anytime) Brisket

I never thought I would eat meat again. Almost seven years ago I became macrobiotic for health reasons (like a vegan who eats fish, or as a disgruntled vegan once labeled me, "a non-dairy pescatarian") and was perfectly fine to have a bit of fish and beans as my primary protein source. My body liked it too. I had lots of energy and never felt deprived. To be honest, I also felt a little self righteous. I was the girl who did not eat meat. That's right, no meat on this plate thank you very much. I was one less person killing innocent animals and breaking away from the American dependence on meat and factory farming!

And then about 8 months ago, things changed. I'd been toying with the idea of eating meat for over a year but had not quite mustered the strength to go through with it. There was still a little voice saying "meat is bad, it will kill you!!!" Now I know this to be an irrational fear as there are millions of people who eat meat and don't die instantaneously. Other questions arose such as, "What if my body can't digest the meat and I become constipated forever??" Again, not very likely but in my mind a legitimate concern. Finally I decided to let go of my meat hang ups and just try it.

There were some stipulations however:

1) The meat had to be locally raised (not tough living in the bay area)

2) It had to be organic, hormone/antibiotic free and humanely slaughtered

3) It had to come from a farm that not only considered the animals but also its own environmental impact

Finally the day came that I was ready to take the big bite. My dear friends Jacqueline (a recovered vegan herself) and Greg (a life long conscientious carnivore) brought over some beautiful goat meat and we grilled it up to perfection. I only had a few bites (again to make sure it wouldn't kill me) and I really enjoyed it. Amazingly enough, so did my body. The next day I ran 5 miles and felt awesome!

Since that time I've joined a meat CSA through Marin Sun Farms and enjoy some sort of meat (goat, lamb, beef, chicken) about once a week. Most of my other meals are vegan which I find to be the perfect balance for my body. It has definitely been a long and interesting return to meat eating but I have to say, it is good to be back.

Perfect Passover (Or Anytime) Brisket

This is a dish I made a few weeks ago for Passover. Being my first brisket I was nervous but it turned out delicious. So delicious in fact I was informed by my mother in-law that I am permanently on Passover brisket duty. Sounds good to me! Also, if anyone knows why brisket is a traditional Passover dish please comment. I would love the answer.

2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 5-pound hormone, antibiotic and corn-fed free brisket of beef
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions, peeled and diced
2 cups red wine (we used a Coppola Cabernet)
3 stalks celery with the leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to broil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the brisket and rub with the garlic. Broil each side of the brisket, about 4 minutes each or until the meat is golden brown and a little crisp.

Place the brisket, fat side up, on top of the onions in a large casserole dish. **(We used a large baking dish and made a make shift cover with aluminum. I don’t recommend this as too much liquid escaped. Next time I will use my Le Cruset Dutch oven.) Cover with the red wine, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary.

Cover and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about 3 hours, basting often with pan juices. To test for doneness, stick a fork in the flat (thinner or leaner) end of the brisket. When there is a light pull on the fork as it is removed from the meat, it is "fork tender".

This dish is best prepared in advance and refrigerated so that the fat can be easily skimmed off the top. Trim all the visible fat off the cold brisket. Place the brisket, on what was the fat side, down on a cutting board. Look for the grain- namely the muscle lines of the brisket- and with a sharp knife, cut across it making beautiful thin slices of meat.

When ready to serve, reheat the gravy. Put the sliced brisket into a roasting pan, cover with hot gravy and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Some people strain the gravy but we kept the onions and celery in. So good!

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

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