Monday, November 26, 2012

Finding My Meat

IMAG0655 Brisket that is.

I've smoked it, braised it, roasted it and above all consumed it. But that's the easy part. My challenge is almost always finding it.

Brisket, in case you haven't had the pleasure of ripping into a Texas BBQ plate or a Jewish mother's kitchen, is a cut of meat comes from the lower area of the front chest. It is high on connective tissue which must be rendered down properly to avoid over chewiness. If you're still a little confused see Alton Brown's Brisket episode So my dilemma is not cooking but where can I find a good flat (or first) cut piece of meat that won't break the bank but also is fresh and ready to throw into the oven?

One year when I set out on this adventure, I thought I had nabbed a great cut. It was big enough for everybody coming over for dinner the next night (and then some). It was super affordable and even came wrapped in a special container. However when I looked at it at home I realized I had made a rookie mistake. I picked up a Corned Beef. It's not that I was way off, in fact a corned beef is actually a brisket cut but it's brined in salt and spices and ready to cook down and serve with cabbage and soda bread. However it doesn't go as great with kuguel and tzimis.

Other times I came back with one that was too small or too large or not enough fat or in one case one that had been expired. Yikes.

So enter yesterday's venture out to find the meat of my dreams. Specifically, I'm looking for a 4-5 lb cut that I can split in half. One half is going to be smoked tomorrow in my new smoker (see the previous post on my smoking brisket) and the other half is already in the oven on a slow and deliberate braising. As much as I love the later of these methods, this meal is not for me. The "jewish" brisket as I call it is one destined for Thane and Helen. They are spending a lot of time visiting their newborn son in the NICU and could really use something that isn't fast food.

But I digress from my meat purchasing adventure. Yesterday I weighed through the crowds at my local Costco, weaving around aimlessly wondering wagon pushers, dodging stop and go traffic around the free samples (seriously's just crab dip....act like you've been here before!) all to make it to the meat freezer with all it's exotic cuts and glowing red goodness. When I got there I didn't see any brisket. There were some very large vacuum bags that read brisket on the label but were clearly not the cut I seek. It turns out these were Round Tip Roasts mislabeled. So still no brisket, what to do? Seek out the meat cutter himself. If there is a brisket hiding in the store, he would find it. No dice. Except he said I could get some in the Kosher section. Great...except....well the wonderful world of Kosher makes you closer to G-d and probably a better person overall but in the world of brisket it means paying $12/lb. By comparison, regular brisket goes for about $4/lb. See the difference?

Well now I'm out of luck, except at that very moment, the Meat Department Manager drifted by. My savior! Dan, the manager, told me a new shipment would come in tomorrow morning and I should come by after 10am to have my choice. The next day (today) I strolled back in.  It was less crowded but still full of people who given the opportunity would run over me with their carts and leave my lifeless carcass rotting in the middle of the aisle if a sale on toilet paper was announced over the PA.
I made my way to the back and found my coveted brisket. Not only that they had just the size I was looking for, 4.51 lbs.

So at the time of this post, half is in my oven for our friends and the other half is marinating in my rub of spices and spicy mustard prior to inhaling the smoke of alderwood for 3-4 hours tomorrow. To quote Hilshire Farms, "Go Meat!"

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