Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who wants brisket?

In case the steer horns mounted on the front of my Toyota Prius weren’t clue enough, I’ll just admit right now that I’m a washashore. From Texas, no less. But I’ve mastered the wrestling moves required to successfully consume a lobster and no longer consider whale watching in the same class as swordfishing. (Or is it called swordfish fishing? Seems a bit redundant…)

Anyway, Mary and I were planning a neighborhood get-together for about fifteen neighbors and we had to make the tough decision about what to serve: Texas chili or barbecued brisket. Mary jumped on the Internet to order a case of Claude’s Brisket Sauce; never seen it in any stores in these parts.

The day before the party, we went to the supermarket to buy twelve pounds of brisket. You’d think that we’d asked for twelve pounds of Himalayan yak livers, except that the butcher had probably extracted yak livers before. The word “brisket” meant no more to this guy than “zigglecoot.”

“It’s a cut of meat. You know, for a barbeque. Like, you know, barbecued brisket?”

“No, it’s not really a roast. It’s more like corned beef without the corn and not so salty.”

“Yes, I’m pretty sure it comes from a cow. At least I think so. Wait. You’re confusing me. Yes, definitely from a cow.”

Just then another butcher jumped into the conversation who had not only heard of the word “brisket,” but actually ate some one time when he was in the service at Ft. Hood, Texas.

“Perfect. We need twelve pounds of it.”

“What do you mean you don’t have any? What do you do with the part of the cow that makes brisket?”

“No kidding. Beef jerky? Huh.”

It turns out that corned beef starts out its life as a brisket, too. So New Englanders, especially those from South Boston, do know what it is. The trick is turning this tough piece of meat into tender, flakes-off-with-the-touch-of-a-fork Texas barbecue and not beef jerky or stringy corned beef. The way you do this is to cook it for at least ten hours while keeping it moist with the big slab of fat that comes with it. If you ask them to trim the fat, you might as well plan on eating Slim Jims.

Speaking of beef jerky, the most frequently asked question on the Texas Beef Council website (http://www.txbeef.org/) is: How can I make beef jerky at home? I’ve often considered making my own beef jerky in order to save that daily trip to Tedeschi’s.

So here’s the recipe for homemade beef jerky: Take five pounds of USDA Grade D or better beef, slice it, spice it, and put it in the oven at 140 degrees for approximately one week; two if you’re planning to be away on vacation. Not only is it a delicious treat, but it stays fresh for years. It can also double as a sole replacement for your old wingtips.

Oh, I almost forgot. We did locate two 6-pound briskets at another store and our neighbors still rave about how wonderful Mary’s brisket was to this day.


  1. Ever tried biltong? It's delicious.. DavidL

  2. Nothing like a pocket full of biltong stokkies to keep your energy up during a long hike along the coast of Cape Point.

  3. Funny.

    We took a family trip to California this August. Friends planning a party during our visit emailed in advance to ask if we like "tri-tip." I am not a vegetarian by any means, but had no idea what the heck our hosts were talking about.

    Hooray for wikipedia -- once I read that tri-tip is mostly a California thing, I didn't feel like such a rube.


I monitor all comments. As long as there are no personally defamatory statements and/or foul language, I'll post your comment. For this reason, your comment will not appear instantaneously. To comment without registering, choose Name/URL and type a screen name (or your real name if you like) into the Name field. Leave the URL field blank.