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Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Can Brine With A Little Help From My Friends

I owe a lot to eGullet. The food-centric web site taught me much of what I know about food today, and introduced me to a number of like-minded food lovers with whom I still share friendships (and the occaisional glass of wine).  One of the first threads that caught my attention on eG was The Great Pastrami & Smoked Meat Experiement. I encourage you to read it. Chef Fowke really gets into the whole process. Even if you never plan on making Pastrami, or Montreal Smoked Meat, the discussions are quite interesting.

Last year (just before the Cookie Exchange) I found myself with a spare brisket, a couple bags of charcoal, and the need for an extra item to serve at the party. Not that I needed an excuse to do some smoking, my own Pastrami Experiment was born. I was able to consult with Chef Fowke during the process as well, so the results were pretty good. This year, with some better planning involved, I undertook Pastrami Part II.

The hard part about making pastrami is the brining. Not that brining in and of itself is all that difficult, it's finding a way to keep the briskets cold for the required week of brining that's a challenge. Enter Chef Wyles of the Hamilton Street Grill. The brine was made in his Yaletown kitchen and brisket were kept in his walk-in cooler. Of course, a couple visits over the lunch hour were required to check on their progress.

The pastramis left "The Hammy" on Friday morning, the wonderful aroma of pickling spice eminating from inside two "I Love Yaletown" shopping bags. I'm surprised the neighbourhood dogs didn't follow me home!

Smoking pastrami's only takes about 6 or 7 hours (for 2 x 10lb briskets) so I decided to stay up and smoke the night before the party. Before placing the meat in the smoker with French oak and apple wood, each brisket is rubbed with a mixture of 1/3 cracked black pepper and 2/3 crushed coriander ... another amazing smell!

This is a finished piece is from the flat part of the brisket ... I had to do a taste test after all! The other fatter end was much more succulent and juicy. The smoke ring (the bit of red around the outside edge) is about 1/4" deep. Deeper would be better, but I think the brining might inhibit it a bit. I let the meat sit overnight to "rest", allowing the juices to be reabsorbed into the meat.
I think my favorite part of making pastrami is slicing it. Watching the thin strips of meat pile up onto the plate reminds me of the deli, and provides ample opportunity to taste test. This slicer is also a connection to my past, as it belonged to my mother. Although a vegitarian towards the end of her life, she would be happy to know the appliance was being put to good use.
A plate full of meaty goodness. The final results were much better than last year's. VERY moist and tender. Serve it cold or warm (use a steamer, not the microwave) with rye bread, grainy mustard and horseradish. The extras freeze brilliantly ... if there are any.

3 comments:

  1. That looks simply delicious, Arne. There would be no extras at my house, that's for sure. Just the idea of this with horseradish is like a dream to me. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  2. Oh man Arne, Pastrami makes me go weak in the knees.

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  3. And that was from 3 years ago Paul ... I'm much better at it now :-)

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