There is only one word to describe the cinnamon-chili braised brisket I recently made: "uf."
Though I've used a Jewish word to describe it ("uf" is as Jewish a word as "Jewish"), this one was not cooked with tomato paste, carrots and the other accoutrements that so often accompany this cut of meat when served by members of the tribe. This brisket was a little smoky, a little spicy, a little sweet, and a lot delicious.
It was a Southwestern fantasy brisket, perfect for a day of watching Southwestern fantasy movies. My friends and I holed up for a Sergio Leone movie marathon, and as we've learned before, braised meats are a movie marathon's best friend; just thinking about it makes me want another pork butt pancake.
I like to think that I did for brisket what Leone did to the Western: I took something already very good, ignored genre, added some foreign flavor and weird music. So maybe I didn't add the music, but it did come in later.
Three days before I defrosted a three pound hunk of locally raised, grass fed beef, which by the way cost as much per pound as "natural" supermarket meat (about ten bucks). I believe that we should all be cutting down on our meat intake, but I also believe that there is nothing quite like an enormous piece of raw meat to stir one's blood. Quinoa just doesn't have the same effect on me.
As I prepared the meat my dog wandered in with a dazed look on his face, like he was getting a contact high from the aroma. I made him a little dog agua fresca by pouring the juices from the bag into his bowl.
Neither he nor I could leave the kitchen while the meat was around. I tasted a piece of it raw. I tasted a piece of it seared and unseasoned: pure cow. And then it disappeared for several hours into a dutch oven inside of a non-dutch oven. I could have done it in the crockpot, but this way the radiant heat from the oven would also warm the house, killing two birds (and one cow) with one stone.
For spices I used cinnamon, whole dried chiles and black peppercorns, chipotle powder, an absurd amount of cumin that still wasn't too much -- when have you ever thought "this has too much cumin?" -- some coconut sugar and cider vinegar that was still fermenting, so somewhere between cider and cider vinegar. It simmered with all of the above plus a little water and several seriously browned onions.
After a few hours in the oven-within-the-oven, the meat had become tender and the liquid, onion and spice mixture reduced to fantasy beef candy. I pulled the meat, keeping the strands as long as possible (I love brisket for that -- meat noodles) and put it back into the pot to marinate for another two days with all of the goodies.
During one of the Leone movies we reheated it and then ate it on slices of Iggy's with sprigs of cilantro and a little smoky bean dip I'd made as well.
And then the weird music did come in. It was the squealing of our ecstatic stomachs.