Categories
beef recipes sandwiches

The Pastrami Project

Short Rib PastramiPastrami made with a short rib slab. (second attempt)

Pastrami is one of my favorite things to eat in the whole world, but it never occurred to me that I could actually make it myself until I read Asian Jewish Deli’s Pastrami Reuben post. What caught my attention was that AJD used a slab of short ribs instead of the more traditional brisket or beef plate that is used to make pastrami, and short ribs are my favorite part of the cow.

Pastrami (brisket)Pastrami made with brisket.

A couple months later, I was reading through Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and in the chapter on brines, I saw a recipe for corned beef with an additional pastrami variation. I decided I would give that version a shot, especially since the dutch oven bread I made previously from Ratio turned out to really well. Ruhlman recently posted his version of short rib pastrami using regular boneless short ribs, but I kinda took the wind out of his sails a bit when I mentioned AJD’s version to him on Twitter a couple days before it went online.

Pastrami (short rib)
Short rib pastrami made with a standard cut of boneless short ribs. (first attempt)

The pastrami-making process is broken down into three steps: curing, smoking, and steaming. Curing is basically how you make corned beef. When you smoke and steam corned beef, you get pastrami. In fact, if you bought a prepackaged corned beef at the market, you could easily make this into pastrami, but I’d bet that doing it yourself will yield a better result.

Curing takes four days and is usually done with a wet cure, i.e. brine. Ruhlman prefers brining, especially for larger cuts of meat like a brisket. I also saw some examples on other Web sites where a dry cure didn’t penetrate all the way to the middle of the meat, so I decided to stick with a brine. After brining, the meat is rinsed, dried and then coated on all sides with a ground pepper/coriander rub before it is smoked and steamed.

Pastrami (brisket) sandwichBrisket pastrami sandwich (first attempt).

The first pastrami I made used a brisket point, and it was good, but not as salty as I expected it to be. I also had a couple pieces of boneless short ribs that I threw on the brine, and those smaller pieces of meat were closer to the flavor I was looking for. Upon reviewing the recipe in Ratio, I found a typo in the recipe that affected the ratio of water to salt. I guess I could have figured out the math since tere is a specific ratio for brines, but math was never my strong suit. ;-) I mentioned the discrepancy and verified the correct ratio with Ruhlman via Twitter and proceeded to make a second pastrami a couple weeks later.

Since my goal at the outset was to make short rib pastrami, I set out to find some a slab of short ribs for the second attempt. I found one at Baron’s Meats in Alameda, but if you can’t get your hands on one, you can simply use boneless short ribs since these are easy to find at your market or butcher. Also, since boneless short ribs are smaller, they’re much easier to handle than a short rib slab or an unwieldy brisket.

PASTRAMI RECIPE
adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio
This version of the recipe corrects the typo in the first edition of Ratio and converts the corned beef recipe into dedicated pastrami variation.

INGREDIENTS
1 4-5 pound brisket, short rib slab, or boneless short ribs.

Brine
2 liters water (half gallon)
25 grams of pink curing salt* (1 ounce or 5 teaspoons)
50 grams sugar (1¼ ounces or scant ¼ cup)
100 grams kosher salt
10 cloves garlic, flattened with the flat side of a knife
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon whole allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick, crushed or broken into pieces
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger

* The key to preserving pastrami’s familiar red color is using pink curing salt (i.e. sodium nitrite). You can order it online at butcher-packer.com. You can omit it, but the pastrami will be brownish gray instead of red.

Dry Rub
Equal parts ground pepper and ground coriander, preferably freshly ground (enough to cover the meat)

DIRECTIONS
In a pot large enough to hold the entire piece of meat, combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot. Simmer and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before refrigerating. When the brine is completely chilled, place the meat in the pot. Use a plate to keep the meat submerged, if necessary. Refrigerate for four days.

Remove the meat from the brine and rinse well. Dry the meat and then cover completely it in the pepper/coriander rub. Smoke the meat until the internal temperature of the meat is 165F. This will take a couple hours or so. After smoking, steam the meat for a couple more hours until tender.

If you’re eating the pastrami right away, you can remove it from the steamer and start slicing it up. If you’re not serving the pastrami right away, you can let it cool and then wrap it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Cooling the pastrami also makes it easier to slice thinly if that’s how you like it. Whether you keep it whole or slice it up, steam the pastrami for 5-10 minutes to warm the meat and give it a bit more moisture before serving.

I normally prefer a traditional New York-style sandwich of pastrami on rye bread with brown deli mustard or a pastrami reuben with melted and sauerkraut (as pictured above).

Beef Pastrami on Foodista

Categories
bread recipes

Ruhlman’s Basic Bread (Dutch Oven Method)

I’ve avoided working with dough because I’ve had bad luck with it the past, but I think that’s going to change after my success making this basic bread recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s new book “Ratio.”

Cross section

Ruhlman’s Basic Bread Dough recipe is a lean dough, which means there’s no fat it in it, and has a ratio of 5 parts flour to 3 parts water. It can be shaped into almost any type of bread, from a basic boule to a baguette to ciabatta. Once you get the hang of making the basic bread, you can use it as a foundation for tons of other recipes, which Ruhlman also discusses in the book.

Since I’m a bread baking noob, I stuck with the basics, but one variation I wanted to try was Ruhlman’s Dutch oven method. Professional deck ovens use a system that injects steam into the oven to help develop a bread’s crispy crust. A covered Dutch oven replicates this effect by trapping the water vapor that’s released as the bread bakes. After mixing together the dough and letting it rise, I kneaded again to expel gas, shaped it into a boule and let it proof directly in a Dutch oven for an hour. Ruhlman prefers proofing directly in the Dutch oven because “you don’t disturb the structure you’ve created in the final rise and it results in bread with a light, airy crumb.”

Just before scoring and baking

Ruhlman recommends a 5.5-7.5 quart enamel cast iron Dutch oven in the book, but our trusty non-enameled Lodge Dutch oven worked great. Per the book, I left the lid on for the first 30 minutes and then removed it for the final 10 minutes it took to get to temperature (I pulled it when the internal temp was 204F).

Fresh out of the oven...

I probably should have let the bread sit for a while before cutting into it, but I just couldn’t wait. The crust was really crispy and the bread was steaming hot…and it was so good. Here’s a closeup of the crumb:

The Crumb

The next morning, I cut a few more pieces of bread and toasted them for breakfast. I topped them with Chez Pim’s Royal Mandarin and Ceylon Cinnamon marmalade…a great way to start the day.

Toasted with Pim's Royal Mandarin Ceylon Cinnamon marmalade

I must admit that I really didn’t know how to shape a proper boule until after I made this, but I will next time. All things considered, I’m still ecstatic about how my bread turned out and am eager to make more.

Categories
entertainment OMG Thomas Keller

Student Challenges Master in Achatz/Keller Showdown

From The New York Times:

Columbus Circle will be the center of the culinary universe for a few hours tonight as two of the country’s most acclaimed chefs—those without my Timesian fear of hyperbole might just go ahead and say “the country’s two most acclaimed chefs”—collaborate on a 20-course, $1500 dinner at Per Se.

Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz are the chefs in question, and tonight’s meal is the first of three they will be cooking side by side. The next will take place on Dec. 2 at Mr. Achatz’s home kitchen, Alinea in Chicago; Mr. Keller gets home-kitchen advantage for the final meal on Dec. 9 at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.

Keller v. Achatz(Photos: Nicholas Roberts/Reuters, Peter Thompson/The New York Times)

Michael Ruhlman gives a great analysis of what this matchup means for both chefs:

“Grant estimated that if you got to the source of 90 percent of what he did, its source would be the French Laundry,” said Michael Ruhlman, who wrote “The French Laundry Cookbook” and the introduction to “Alinea.” Mr. Ruhlman met Grant in his first year working at the French Laundry; following both chefs over the year, he’s watched their relationship from a front row seat. “And I’ve always believed that the rigorous technique embraced while at the FL is the main reason he’s been able succeed at the relentlessly innovative cuisine he’s set out to do every night. He knows it, Thomas knows it, and they’re both grateful.”

Is there more to it than that? Is there, lurking beneath the mutual support and praise, a competitive streak? How often do the two chefs check to see who is winning this Amazon Meter?

“It’s probably more complicated from Grant’s perspective,” said Mr. Ruhlman. “Talk about the anxiety of influence, the need to slay the father. Keller looms so tall in this industry, I’m sure he does all he can to stay out of its shadow without alienating the friend and mentor to whom he owes so much.”

Of course, the anxiety can work both ways. “How did Thomas feel when Gourmet named Alinea best restaurant in the country?” Mr. Ruhlman asks. “How could Keller not feel competitive about this? All chefs are alpha dogs.”

My first reaction when I read this was a Keanu/Neo-like “Whoa,” especially for a dinner costing $1500. I honestly hope some of that money goes to a charity of some kind, but this match up is like the Super Bowl of cooking, and we all know how much Super Bowl tickets cost.

At least at this event, the food won’t suck, and it’s guaranteed to be a good game.

Categories
musings

Who needs Oscar® when you can win a Golden Clog?

The Golden Clogs, a series of reverent and sometimes snarky food-related awards devised by writer Michael Ruhlman and renegade chef Anthony Bourdain, announced their nominees yesterday on Eater. The awards will be announced on Friday, Feb. 22 at the 2008 South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach, Florida.

The nominees for the awards were determined Ruhlman and Bourdain by an “advisory board” that included chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon, and food writers Russ Parsons, Ed Levine, Jennifer Leuzzi and Dara Moskowitz. The winners will be decided solely by both Ruhlman and Bourdain, but they also have the option of consulting with the advisory board for help if needed.

Check out some of the nominees with my picks in bold after the jump. See the full list of nominees at Eater.