A Christmas present from my husband who read my mind and knew just what I wanted, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman has been sitting in my stack of new cookbooks until I tried my first recipe from it last weekend. Page 183, where the recipe for Maya’s Sweet and Sour Holiday Brisket starts, now has the first splatter stain of what will probably be many more. (I was actually trying to keep it pristine, but got careless when pouring the sauce into the slow cooker.)
First off, if you’re a home cook and have never heard of Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen blog, you’ll definitely want to check it out. The food photography is all done by Deb herself, for the blog and for the cookbook, so it’s all real food in the pictures – no shaving cream in place of whipped cream or whatever else food photographers do to make you feel inadequate when you compare your end result to the photo in the magazine or cookbook.
I don’t cook meat very much because I usually mess it up, so it’s a sign of my faith in Deb that I didn’t try one of her many vegetarian recipes in this cookbook first. I was looking for a recipe for an easy Sunday dinner for a cold February day and the introduction to the recipe for Maya’s Sweet and Sour Holiday Brisket mentions a cold February evening. Okay, so I was making dinner for two and this recipe yields 10 to 12 servings. I’m not sure what I was thinking there, except that I saw the words “slow-cooker” and “night before” in Deb’s cooking note, and forgot everything else.
Though this brisket can be made “low and slow” in an oven, a slow-cooker–yes, that seventies thing collecting dust in the far reaches of your most inaccessible cabinet–is a dream come true for fork-tender, flawlessly cooked brisket. If you have one, by all means use it; set it up the night before, and wake up with the centerpiece to your dinner party already cooked and ready to rest for a day. Brisket is always best on the second day.
Plus, I had all the ingredients except for the 4–5-pound beef brisket. (Four to five pounds of meat should have been another clue this wasn’t dinner for two. I know, I know.)
Here it is early Sunday morning after the brisket cooked overnight. It’s ready to be covered and put in the fridge and be warmed up in the oven later in the day. Doesn’t it look a lot like the photo in the cookbook? I forgot to take a picture after slicing it.
Here’s a piece, sliced and on the plate with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts.
Conclusion? It was very tender, but not as extremely falling-apart tender as I expected. My husband suspects our ancient CrockPot might be to blame, heating too high even on the low setting. Either that or I sliced it the wrong way. But, since we had so much brisket for just the two of us, I am able to confirm what Deb says in another cooking note: “The leftovers, kept submerged in the sauce, reheat extremely well.”
Notes about The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook:
- Deb is a self-described “obsessive” cook. She writes lots of notes and really does try to tell you everything!
- The introduction to The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and all the homey recipe introductions are fun to read, even if you never make a single recipe.
- Deb has a tiny New York City kitchen, so this cookbook might also make you appreciate the size of your own kitchen.
- Deb was one of the cookbook authors featured in the Kitchen Round Table audio program.
Disclosure: I am grateful to own my very own copy of this cookbook.