Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Cooking Post (ish)

A long time ago my friend Maribel made a Feast for our grad school friend group. Believe me, this Feast more than deserves proper noun status. She made watermelon juice to drink for goodness sake! And she made a brisket in the crock pot. And served it with warm tortillas, sour cream, and cilantro. So simple, yet one of my top three meals of all time.

I asked her for the recipe and she said "Oh, you just put the brisket in the crock pot and cook it!" It cannot be that simple, I thought, so I will not even try.

But last night I went to the memorial service of the mother of a dear friend of our family's. She was born in Poland before the war and, after a very interesting but tragic series of events related to World War II, ended up in Buffalo, New York with her two little girls. It was a happy and informal service, filled with wine and touching stories about how Maria touched each one of us.

Much was said about the Old World European habits she retained even after decades in the US. Her daughter, our friend, has invited us to her traditional Christmas Eve feast with borcht, perogies, fish, and homemade lemon vodka every year going back to when I was in high school and I've always enjoyed it. Last night, the memorial made me think anew about tradition and heritage and how it provides a comforting structure to the year, especially for children. I grew up with a typical array of middle class American family traditions-- hunting Easter Eggs, Santa, summer vacations in New England, donuts on Saturdays-- but I've always been interested in the traditions of families with stronger ties to their ethnic roots.

So, tonight, I decided to make the brisket in honor of Maria's life in Upstate New York, and as a means of starting some new traditions in our family. Since we live in Texas, though, I will be serving it like Maribel did, with fresh, warm tortillas, sour cream, and cilantro. As Labmama said, "Texas IS an ethnicity!"

I felt a little silly saying to the butcher "I need a brisket." Like I should be wearing a dress--belted at the waist--knee highs, and sensible shoes and carrying a large purse on my forearm. And like I should be dickering over the price with him (the large ones were $1.88/pound, but since I didn't need fourteen pounds of meat, and needed it to fit in my crock pot, I had to get one of the smaller ones, which were $3.44/pound. What the H?).

The recipe was as simple as Maribel said. Put the meat in the crock pot and turn it on. Awesome. Although I am sure ladies of generations past didn't use forks to carefully maneuver the meat from the package to the crock pot. They probably used their hands. And they probably didn't get totally grossed out by the sight of such an enormous piece of raw meat, either. Clearly I have a lot to learn if I am going to be as cool as my grandmothers.

I left it cooking and the boys and I went out for an hour's walk around the neighborhood with Labmama. When we returned, the house smelled AMAZING. So my last tip is this: If you cook brisket in the crock pot, remove all junk food from the house. Because the delicious smell will give you a SERIOUS case of the munchies. Just ask the pan of brownies I made last night for the memorial but couldn't take because they were too stuck in the pan.

I think I will roast some potatoes later on to go with the tacos. Then sit up straight and cross my legs at the ankles.


sarah said...

oh there is NOTHING so good in this world as a brisket. My grandmother used to make one for Rosh Hashanah and we'd come home from the synagogue to that smell. Heaven. So very comforting. Enjoy!!!

Rima said...

I made brisket in the crockpot for the first time a few weeks ago, and I couldn't believe how good it was, either! I think I just put some garlic, salt, and pepper in it. And maybe a little but of ketchup (don't tell). I have also been making pulled pork shoulder in the crockpot for a long time. It's always a hit with people and they cannot believe how EASY it is.

AJU5's Mom said...

It is interesting how food can show our heritage and also where we live. I am mostly of German descent, and my husband is almost 100% British. I grew up in the Southwest on Tex-Mex food, and he grew up on mostly bland "English" type food. So now I try to find a middle ground - some Tex-Mex, some basis British-style things. The German is hard though since my husband hates sauerkraut...

Brisket sounds good though!