Tuesday, January 03, 2006

6 Months of Blissful Marriage

Today marks our six month anniversary of our wedding. Yippee! I'm making a celebratory dinner of brisket and some roasted vegetables. The brisket will be tender and juicy, but neither of us can wait for the leftovers.

As we both had yesterday off, we took a trip to our local grocery store. I'm not a huge fan of it, mainly because it doesn't carry little hot dogs. That created a bias very early on. Not only did they not carry the frozen variety, but they didn't even have the Oscar Meyer packaged little guys to make our own at home. I'm still baffled.

So at the store, we picked up the basics for the briskets and the leftover sandwiches:

4 lb. flat cut brisket (as opposed to point cut brisket, which has more fat)
1 lb. bag of carrots
1 bunch of celery
Bag of small Spanish onions
1 can of crushed tomatoes
tomato paste
chicken livers
rye bread

Once we returned home and vowed to not leave our apartment again, as the weather was dark and rainy, we took to celebrating our anniversary a day early with an afternoon filled with watching bowl games, lighting a fire, and continuing our Scrabble competition. It was a perfect day....

For dinner, I had made some homemade ravioli with a beurre blanc sauce. The filling for the pasta was a puree of cannellini beans, shrimp, garlic, and rosemary. The beurre blanc was pretty basic. I minced a shallot and added 1/4 of white wine vinegar, along with 1 cup of white wine to a small pot. While that reduced, I diced up two sticks of unsalted butter. Once the acid reduced by 3/4th or so, I ribboned in the butter while constantly whisking. Season with salt and pepper and viola! Next time, I'll probably infuse the sauce with a spring of rosemary to bring the two components of the dish together, but it was a deliciously simple dinner.

This afternoon I'll make the chopped liver for the sandwiches tomorrow. Unfortunately, the grocery store didn't carry schmaltz, another knock against them. Frustrating because the schmaltz is what gives the chopped liver so much of its delicious flavor. I love when my mother makes chopped liver when I come home for the holidays. I never wanted to see what it looked like before it was cooked and I only first tasted her final result a few years ago. Now I'm hooked. My husband is the same way. He doesn't want to know what it really is or where it comes from, but slather that on some rye bread with white onions and leftover brisket and he's in heaven.

So I'll start by sauteeing some onions in a combination of butter and oil. Then I'll add the chicken livers, after I've picked them over and removed the veins if there are any. After I let the livers cook until they're about 80% complete, I'll deglaze the pan with some brandy. I think its add a nice subtle sweetness to the savory dish. Once the mixture cools a bit and some salt and pepper is added, I'll pulse it in my food processor just a bit. I still want it a little chunky to give it some texture, but I like the combination of the smooth and the chunky. Then, I'll sneak in some heavy cream (as if this isn't rich enough). Once that's complete, I'll grate some hard boiled eggs on a box grater and add them to the liver. This will add some richness that it lost from the schmaltz.

The resulting sandwich will be of chopped liver spread on rye with leftover brisket and thinly sliced crisp white onions. My husband first had it at Amir's in Ann Arbor, Michigan (GO BLUE!). He raves about this sandwich and I'd like to do my best to recreate it for him.

Next comes the brisket. First, I get my bright red Le Creuset dutch oven piping hot and add some oil. Once it's almost smoking I'll add the seasoned brisket and sear it for about 5-6 minutes per side. Once a decent crust is formed, I'll remove the brisket and start to add my vegetables and develop some depth to the dish. First goes the mirepoix of onions, celery, and carrots (typically, its twice as many onions as celery and carrots). I'll also throw in some crushed garlic cloves and two bay leaves and some fresh thyme. Because I want to soften the veggies, I'll add some salt and pepper which will help draw out the moisture. After there is some decent color on the mirepoix, I'll add some tomato paste and stir to combine that. Then I'll return the brisket to the pot and add the crushed tomatoes, some red wine and finally some chicken stock. The liquid should reach about 3/4 up to the meat. Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and let the magic happen. The brisket is done when it's truly fork tender. !YUM! Fork tender is different than falling apart; you still want to be able to slice the meat.

The beauty of the winter is that these dishes fill the apartment with the most exotic and enticing aromas. Instead of dreading the heat as we do in the summer, the winter oven heat adds warm in both the temperature and scents.

Happy Anniversary.

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