Friday was the first full day of Spring. It was overcast and damp; unlike many of my fellow Americans, I got paid. I did the duties of the intellectual sweatshop to the best of my ability, taking occasional breaks to tend to the brisket.
It seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago. As a purist, a perfectionist, and a student of the domestic arts, I ordered a “whole packer brisket” from Pat’s Meat Market in Portland. It weighed in at around 12 pounds and was exquisitely trimmed and tied. My friend Shelley said “it sounds like a baby.”
When I unwrapped it from its beautiful swaddling clothes, it provoked the kind of anxiety only a giant piece of meat can. Oh, I’d been driven to oven door prayers before cooking my first turkey. Or maybe it was that candle roast. There have been so many meat anxieties over the years and yet, here I am. Still standing.
I’d watched a number of videos on full packer briskets and couldn’t figure out why mine was folded over and wrapped in twine. So I unfolded it, cut it into 3 pieces and tucked each one in a separate brining “cradle.” There were two small pieces and one large.
“You’ve got triplets!” said Shelley.
The triplets were submerged in a robust assortment of brining ingredients including but not limited to Kosher salt, juniper berries, and the controversial Prague Powder No. 1. Nothing could go wrong.
“It will be delicious,” they all said.
And it was. Two of the smaller triplets were served a la boiled dinner and I was fascinated and pleased with the online instructions from Cook’s Illustrated that recommended slowly simmering the meat in the oven instead of boiling the life out of it on the stove top.
But Friday’s piece was so large. Too large, even, for the 10 quart cast iron Dutch oven. So I cut it in half again. Does that make it a quadruplet brisket? Three down and one to go.
Yesterday’s brisket will be made into hash and today’s will become Reuben sandwiches. Homemade Russian dressing is brewing in the refrigerator. Shhhhhh….don’t tell anyone I’m colluding with the Russians.
I told a young co-worker about the brisket. Such a nice young man, he says he only eats take-out.
“I want you to cook for me and be my mom,” he said.
It warmed my heart. I could always adopt him for a few family dinners after this strange time of social distance is over.
Brisket babies, Lady MacBeth-like hand washing, and a lack of traffic on Route 196. I really could not have made this up. So onward we go; all is well with the world.