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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
barbecue dessert drinks Filipino pork reviews sandwiches Southern California

The Oinkster

The OinksterWhen I’m home in SoCal, heading out to Eagle Rock isn’t normally on the agenda, especially for food. But when some friends told me about The Oinkster’s house-cured pastrami sandwiches and ube milk shakes, Eagle Rock started sounding mighty nice.

The Oinkster is the brainchild of Andre Guerrero, a Filipino American chef who’s a veteran of the Southern California restaurant scene. His other restaurant, Max in Sherman Oaks, offers contemporary Pan-Asian fine dining that’s a stark contrast to The Oinkster’s laid-back, order-at-the-counter vibe. (We also took my parents to Max for a Mother’s/Father’s Day dinner, so basically it was an Andre Guerrero weekend.) We ended up going to Oinkster twice in four days and were able to try a good cross section of the menu.

The Oinkster Pastrami sandwich is a thing of beauty—pastrami with Gruyere and a red cabbage slaw. The pastrami is cured for two weeks (the old-fashioned way) according to a recipe Guerrero developed over a period of two years. It’s not a melt-in-your-mouth pastrami like they have at Katz’s in New York, but it’s definitely the some of best pastrami I’ve had on the West Coast.


Oinkster Pastrami

Aside from the sandwiches, the pastrami also tops the Royale burger, and it’s also featured in their excellent chili. If you’re from Southern California, you’ve likely had a chiliburger at one of the many Original Tommy’s hamburger stands that are down here. Tommy’s chili is legendary in L.A., so it may be blasphemous of me to say this, but…The Oink’s chili is so much better. In fact, I don’t know what I really saw in Tommy’s chili other than the novelty of it. I went back to Tommy’s with my wife a few months ago, and on its own, the chili reminded me of dog food. It really needs to be paired with fries or a burger. The Oink’s chili can definitely stand on it’s own, and it has a freshness that you’ll never get from Tommy’s chili.

Categories
reviews Southern California

Canter’s Deli

I love pastrami and I love sauerkraut, but I’ve never really been a fan of Jewish delis because I’ve always thought they were overpriced. I ended up at Canter’s against my will the other night, but approached it as an opportunity to give the place another chance. I’ve been to Canter’s a few times before and was never really impressed by the food, but honestly, I don’t think my palette or my food knowledge was very good back then. Plus, I was usually poor, so any sandwich that cost over $10 was a big problem for me.

My wife and I split the Reuben sandwich. We got it with pastrami and it was really good. Not melt-in-your-mouth pastrami like at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York, but still very good. The sauerkraut was excellent and was easily my favorite part of the meal. For dessert, my wife ordered the blueberry pie a la mode, which she thought was just okay because the filling was more like a blueberry jelly than actual whole blueberries.



If you like pickles, they’re free at Canter’s, and they bring you a plate of them when you’re seated. If you’re in a drinking mood, you can order most mixed drinks at your table and i think they come from the bar next door. If there’s a band playing at the bar, then it can get a little loud, so you may want to sit in the room near the main entrance if you want to have a conversation. Our waitress was cool and very accommodating of our group of 10 and had no problem handling separate checks.

The one thing I really hate about Canter’s is the parking, especially in the evening. There’s a small lot adjacent to the restaurant that’s usually full, so unless you’re going to hunting for street parking, you’ll have to wait till someone leaves before you can park. Luckily this process moves fairly quickly since people are always coming and going, and while you wait, you can admire the mural that’s painted on the side of the building chronicling the Jewish struggle in Los Angeles.

INFORMATION
Canter’s Deli
419 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036 map
323.651.2030
Web site