I’m fortunate to live in Brooklyn, with easy access to some of the best pastrami (and Montreal smoked meat) around. But I got an unexpected brisket the other day and wanted to try my hand at it. Now I’m not fortunate enough to have outdoor space for a smoker, but I did have our Smoked Salt N.8, some patience, and a bit of ingenuity. It’s easy to make and serve, cooks overnight, and is absolutely delicious. A version of this recipe has been featured in the New York Times.
Makes about 3 1/2 pounds
One 5-pound piece of brisket (the flat cut makes neater slices and is leaner, the point cut is more tender and flavorful)
1 pint of boiling water
2 quarts of ice water
3 Tbsp of Smoked Salt N.8
2/3 cup Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or 120 grams of any other salt)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tsp prague powder #1 (curing salt)
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp crushed coriander seeds
3 whole cloves
2 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tsp crushed allspice
6 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed
4 tsp Smoked Salt N.8
3 Tbsp coriander seed, whole
2 Tbsp mustard seed, whole
1/4-3/8 cup black pepper, coarsely ground
Smoked Salt N.8 to taste
Good rye bread
Gallon ziplock freezer bag
Baking sheet with wire rack
Aluminum foil (the 18" wide heavy duty style is easiest)
Pot with steamer insert
Place the brisket in a 2 gallon freezer bag and set aside. Add all of the cure ingredients to the boiling water, take off the heat, and steep/stir occasionally for 15 minutes. Combine with the ice water and add to the freezer bag. Remove any excess air, place the bag in a bowl or tupperware, and keep in the fridge for at least 48, ideally 72 hours.
Preheat your oven to 200°F.
Toast the coriander and mustard seeds until fragrant, allow to cool, then grind coarsely along with the smoked salt. Combine with the ground pepper and mix thoroughly.
Get a piece of foil large enough to fully wrap the brisket and a sheet tray with a wire rack. Remove the brisket from the cure and pat dry, removing any large spices stuck to the meat. Coat the brisket thoroughly with the spice mixture, pressing well to make sure it sticks. Place the brisket on the foil with the fatty side up. Seal the foil tightly, flip it over and poke a bunch of holes for drainage, then place it with the holes facing down on the rack in the oven and cook for 10-12 hours (overnight works great).
Turn off the oven and let the brisket cool before refrigerating.
Heat a few cups of water in a covered pot with a steamer insert. Once the water boils reduce the heat to medium low.
Slice off a piece that's the size you'd like to serve and gently steam it until warmed through (usually about 25-35 minutes depending on the size). Carefully transfer the steamed meat to a cutting board, allow to rest for about 5 minutes, then slice it across the grain.
Serve with rye and mustard, and a bit more smoked salt, if desired.
The remaining meat will keep in the fridge for at least a week, just heat however much you'd like, when you'd like.
• You can start this from an already cured piece of corned beef (like what you would buy at the grocery store). Just skip to the cook section. Depending on the salinity of the meat you may want to sub pimentón or liquid smoke for the smoked salt. If using liquid smoke, just add it to the corned beef and allow to infuse for a couple hours in the fridge, then proceed to the cooking step.
• I've also had great results rubbing the corned beef with mustard before applying the spice crust. It adds another layer of flavor, and helps the spices adhere. The acidity of the mustard can occasionally degrade the foil when cooking so I like to add a sheet of parchment between the meat and the aluminum foil.
• For a more complex flavor try substituting a portion of the ground black pepper with Pierre Poivre N7.
Variations & Ideas:
• Open faced Reubens. Coat rye bread with butter and mustard and pan fry on both sides, melt a few slices of Swiss cheese on the bread (if some hangs over it'll just get nice and crispy so go ahead), top with warmed sauerkraut, sliced meat, and a healthy drizzle of Russian dressing.
• Pastromelette. Beat eggs with a large pinch of salt until well mixed, set aside for 10 minutes while you heat up some cubes of meat over low heat in a skillet. Set the meat aside in a bowl with some shredded Swiss cheese. Add a large pat of butter and heat until the butter is lightly browned. Cook the eggs, stirring minimally, until almost set. Add the cheese and meat to one half, fold to close, then remove the skillet from heat and cover for one minute to help the cheese melt.
• Courtesy of my brother Patrick: Save the drippings from baking to make a gravy for pastrami rouladen. Use thin slices of pastrami instead of bacon, and make sure to use good dill pickles and German mustard.
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