Now this, I thought to myself as I dined at Rosette with a friend, is what you should eat in the summertime. I wasn’t referring to the glorious mess of shredded brisket and pappardelle that you see above. No, I was thinking about the crunchy, raw asparagus spears that I was dipping into dukkah-dusted walnut tahini.
I made that giant batch of shredded brisket back in February, when the weather was arctic and I continued to hope that I would finally ween myself off Seamless and cook for myself. How little I cook during the academic year has become a common lament on this blog. This past semester, it was really close to zero unless you count putting slices of steak (leftovers from a dinner with my mother at BLT Steak) on top of stale Ritz crackers and eating them over the sink as cooking. From that same steak house dinner, there were also leftover hen-of-the-woods mushrooms that I scrambled with eggs and piled on top of of pasta because I had run out of bread.
Even though the semester has been over for about a month, there still hasn’t been much cooking. It hasn’t felt like much of a vacation either. First, my mother decided that the final exam period would be the perfect time to come to visit (it’s not; it never is). After she left, I was practically comatose for about a week from the visit and the end of the semester. Then, my almost 91-year old grandfather took a tumble in the garden and hit the back of his head (the sun’s fault, he claims). I had to stay with him for a couple of nights per the doctor’s (unnecessary, in Grandpa’s opinion) orders.
My dad: “How is Grandpa doing?”
Me: “Um, a little unstable on his feet.”
Dad: “Maybe be had a mini-stroke. Is he favoring one side more than the other?”
Me: “No. Doesn’t seem like it.”
Dad: “What is he doing now?”
Me: “He is using a pair of kitchen shears to pry open a key ring that he says is too small.”
Fall or no fall, Grandpa’s fine motor skills seem more or less intact. However, that does not mean that he has completely recovered. This summer, he seems frailer and more fragile. His legs get weak — which scares me. He forgets more things more often and is sometimes confused. It is to be expected at his age, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating for him and emotionally draining for us.
Doctors’ appointments and follow-up appointments have been frequent, sometimes unexpected, and long. Thankfully, my friends have been wonderful at keeping me out of my apartment in the evenings so that I get to eat something decent and think about something else. I did desperately want to get away to Europe this summer, but unfortunately failed to get organized early enough to afford airfare. And although Grandpa continues to live on his own and be very independent, his health has put some restraint on any vacation plans. Still, it would be nice to get away somewhere like . . . Gourmandistan ;-)
(Dearest Michelle and Steve, I promise you a visit! The summer isn’t over yet!)
Does this shredded brisket with pappardelle look good? It is damn good, but I would hold off on making a dish like this until the fall unless you have a very powerful air-conditioner and money is no object in terms of electric bills. For those dear readers south of the equator, this is the perfect late fall and wintertime warmer.
This recipe has been heavily adapted from one on Epicurious. You can find the original here.
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ribs of celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 beef brisket (about 1.5 pounds), trimmed of excess fat and silver skin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 cups of veal or beef stock
1 16-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2/3 of a cup of red wine
2 bay leaves
A large Dutch oven or another oven-safe casserole with a lid
How to prepare:
1. Preheat your oven to 325°. You may need to lower or adjust your oven racks so that you can fit your Dutch oven or casserole in it easily.
2. Using a food processor, pulse the carrots, celery, and onion together until they are finely chopped.
3. Pat the brisket dry with paper towels and generously season it on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large Dutch oven or casserole over medium-high heat until it begins to just smoke. Sear the brisket on all sides. If your brisket is too large to sear at once, you may need to cut your brisket in half and sear each half individually.
4. Remove the brisket to a plate. Lower the heat to medium and in the same Dutch oven or casserole, sauté the chopped vegetables and finely minced garlic until they give up their liquid and just begin to brown. Add the stock, the chopped tomatoes, the red wine, and the bay leaves. Stir to combine before adding the seared brisket back to the liquid. Make sure that the brisket is completely covered by the liquid before covering the Dutch oven with its lid and transferring it to the oven. Let the covered brisket cook slowly for about 3 hours. After 3 hours, the brisket should be fork-tender. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully skim off any fat from the top of the sauce.
5. Remove the brisket from the sauce and use two forks to gently shred it. Add the shredded brisket back to the sauce and stir to re-incorporate it. Adjust the seasoning.
6. In a large pot of salted water, cook the pappardelle to package directions. When the pasta is al dente, drain it but reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Add the pappardelle to the shredded brisket sauce along with some of the pasta cooking water if needed. Toss to combine, adjust the seasoning, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.