Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Easy Smoked Brisket

This is one of Matt Martinez's shortcuts to achieving authentic flavor with less than usual work. I know that when I have used this technique it is universally acclaimed as delicious. It could hardly be any easier. I can't remember which of Martinez's cookbooks this came from at the moment but they are all very good.

Smoked Brisket
8-12 pound short, fat beef brisket
Wood chips soaked for 1 hour

Season untrimmed brisket if desired.

Prepare charcoal grill so that charcoal is ash white. Place wood chips on coals. Grill until dark and crusty on both sides, 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally. Expect flare-ups, but allow meat to char.

Bake in oven on a rack, covered, at 300° or 350° for 30-45 minutes per pound.

Monday, January 18, 2010

$10 Wine Hall of Fame

For those who were intrigued by my review of The Wine Trials 2010 which focuses on inexpensive but delicious wines ... my friend Web has a heads-up to The Wine Curmudgeon's 2010 $10 Hall of Fame. Looks intriguing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nil By Mouth

When Roger Ebert underwent surgery for his thyroid cancer, no one mentioned the possible side effects ... such as not being able to eat, drink, or speak. Most of us are aware that he can't speak but not so many knew about him being able to take no sustenance by mouth. He writes interestingly and also movingly here about not being able to eat or drink.
When it comes to food, I don't have a gourmet's memory. I remember the kinds of foods I was raised to love. Chaz and I stayed once at Les Pres d'Eugenie, the inn of the famous Michel Guerard in Eugénie-les-Bains. We had certainly the best meal I have ever been served. I remember that, the room, the people at the other tables and our view in the photo, but I can no longer remember what I ate. It isn't hard-wired into my memory.

Yet I could if I wanted to right now close my eyes and re-experience an entire meal at Steak 'n Shake, bite by bite in proper sequence, because I always ordered the same items and ate them according to the same ritual. It is there for me.

Why We Serve Champagne Year-Round: Reviewing "The Wine Trials 2010"

Several years ago one of my sisters-in-law introduced me to Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut. It tasted delicious but, amazingly, cost only about $7.00 at that time. I began stocking it regularly since I'm a firm believer that champagne goes with everything and that everyone likes champagne. Plus it is so very festive and makes people feel extra special. This is a win-win. Gradually the price has risen to about $9 (less on sale) but there is no denying that it remains a fantastic deal and a delicious bottle of sparkling wine.

Hence, you can understand my glee and the necessity of reading Tom the first three paragraphs of the latest review book I received, The Wine Trials 2010: The World's Bestselling Guide to Inexpensive Wines, with the 150 Winning Wines Under $15 from the Latest Vintages. (Yes, a long title, but you are never left in doubt as to what the book offers.)
Dom Perignon, a $150 Champagne from France, and Domaine St. Michelle Cuvee Brut, a $12 sparkling wine from Washington State, are both made in the traditional Champagne method. Both wines are widely available at wine stores, liquor stores, and restaurants. Both are dry, with high acidity. The two bottle are more or less the same size and shape. So why are consumers willing to pay more than 12 times more for one than for the other?

The most obvious explanation would be that, to most wine drinkers. the liquid inside the bottle of Dom Perignon tastes better than the liquid inside the bottle of Domaine St. Michelle -- if not 12 times better, then at least somewhat better. However, that doesn't seem to be the case. Between fall 2007 and spring 2008, we conducted an experiment serving these two sparkling wines head-to-head in five different blind tastings, with the bottles hidden inside brown paper bags. And 41 of 62 tasters -- about two thirds -- preferred the Domaine St. Michelle.

In October 2009, we replicated the experiment on a smaller scale with newer releases of the two sparkling wines. This time, we served them to a group of professional chefs, certified sommeliers, and food writers, of which more than 70% preferred the humble $12 bottle to the famous $150 one. this time, we also threw in Veuve Clicquot, a popular $40 Champagne from the same luxury products group -- LVMH -- that makes Dom Perignon. More than 85% of the tasters preferred the Domaine Ste. Michelle to the Veuve.
Of course, I feel even more justified than before. Add in the fact that I feel I am splurging if I spend $15 on a bottle of wine and you can see that The Wine Trials is clearly a book to which I was receptive.

The first few chapters talk about wine critics, marketing, actual cost versus perceived values and such things. I was much more interested in the last part of the book which contains the 150 wines under $15 that beat bottles costing over $50 in brown-bag blind testings. Each has its own page, complete with a photo of the bottle, which discusses:
  • cost
  • type (Old World or New World, white or red, heavy or light)
  • country
  • vintage tasted
  • grapes
  • drink with (what foods it accompanies best)
  • website for the producer
  • commentary: this is sometimes about the type of wine or grapes, sometimes about the winery, and then always segues into the wine itself
  • nose (always in understandable terms)
  • mouth (again always in understandable terms) 
  • design: a critique of the label and/or bottle. This is the iffy part to me, especially when you consider that sometimes a vineyard that has several bottles featured in the book will receive scathing remarks in one review for something which is completely glossed over or even called "cute" in the very next review. I think that a simple comment when the label is goofy is enough and they were pretty picky about labels. That is coming from someone who is pretty picky herself about graphic design ... so lighten up gang.
I definitely got a good feel from reading the reviews as to which wines I was interested in looking for and which would probably not appeal to my taste. This is an excellent resource and I recommend it to anyone who is more interested in good wine value and taste rather than impressing others by conspicuous consumption based solely on how much is spent on a bottle of wine.

Note: as I mentioned this is a review book. I'd recommend it even if I bought it myself.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Oh, Gosh!

While you're snuggled up reading on these very cold winter nights that are overtaking us, you might enjoy sipping this delicious sour which Hannah picked out to try over Christmas vacation. It is a close relation to our other favorite, the Chelsea Sidecar, as it uses the same relationship for the measurements. Think of it as a Rum Margarita. That's the impression we were left with and it was definitely enjoyed by all who tried it.

  • We used Cointreau which is our favorite orange liqueur.
  • We treat the recipe below as a double (which we then split). If you check the Chelsea Sidecar recipe you'll see that those amounts are halved and we find them perfectly adequate for one cocktail.
Oh, Gosh!
1-1/2 ounces light rum
1-1/2 ounces Triple Sec
1 ounce lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.