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My grown son is now in his own condo and this collection of recipes I called, Dearest Michael were written when he was younger as you will see by my references, as a gift to him for this very moment.
Whether you read them for the story or the recipe, know that they were written as a tribute to the many people who have influenced my kitchen, my cooking and my notion of family.
Jewish Holidays always equated to Grandma Belle’s Brisket recipe. I never felt like I made it as great as she did, but it was a wonderful memory as soon as the first smell of it baking in the oven seeped into our kitchen. I am sure it will be this way for you, too.
Grandma Belle, your great grandmother who you were so fortunate to know, was famous for making her food ahead of time and freezing it to save time. There is some wisdom to this as she was the head chef in her kitchen for over seventy five years. Being married to Grandpa was different then your life experience; Grandpa Herbie’s culinary skills were limited to getting his morning bowl of cereal and pouring the milk.
This was never the scenario when Dad and I were married. Dad was, and still is, a vigorous cook; my dinners often couldn't compete with his robust attempts at recipes that seldom crossed my kitchen threshold. I can see the draw for a young hormonal teenager now on his way to full blow twenties with recipes like bacon and hamburger macaroni and cheese, for example. My coconut oil roasted salmon and lightly dressed arugula salad was no match, but I was ok with this. I love that you have shared a cooking bond with both of us together -and apart- and your love of kitchen and your confidence in the kitchen is one of our many proud outcomes of your life.
PATIENCE IS YOUR FRIEND IN THE KITCHEN
Brisket can be finicky. I have bought the most expensive ones at high end meat counters and have been disappointed by their lack of tenderness at the end of its long journey in the oven. I have bought cheaper cuts because I didn’t have the time to drive to a Kosher meat market and been wildly surprised.
The thing about brisket is patience. Like gardening, the less you are consumed about outcome, the better your plants will be. Basil and dahlias this year have taught me this. Stop fretting, cut happily and let the sun and the water do what they do and abundance prevails.
Life is kind of like this too. As you get ready to enter your twentieth year on this beautiful planet, life twists and turns in ways that you may be unprepared for. On the surface, it seems you let things roll off of you at a rate that is admirable. I am not sure how this works internally for you; if it does the way you seem, I am in awe of this ability of yours. It is a maturity and blessing to be free of fret.
Fretting is something that Grandma Belle did more and more as she got older, but she also had a -matter of fact- pragmatism to her life that was like yours too. I see Grandma and Grandpa’s pragmatism outlook on life in you too and I love that.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED
After being diagnosed with cancer almost seven years ago, I learned the power of the present moment. There has been so much information about genetics in the last twenty years and my first diagnosis gave the family information about this. The potency of this genetic mutation in our family lineup is astounding. The farthest back I can go is to Grandma Belle’s father, Murray, your Great Great Grandfather and down the line it traveled. From Grandpa Dave to me and from me to you and here we are with the knowledge of not really knowing what to do with it except for the five things that my glorious Dr. Wiggins bestowed upon me when we discussed this.
1. Don’t smoke
2. Don’t drink excessively (mmmm, rugby player, sophomore in college… not sure how to translate the word, excessively).
3. Keep fit and eat healthy.
4. Keep calm, stress is a major trigger.
5. Pay attention to your body, feel a lump, don’t ignore.
This is a great list as a start to life anyway. We are not an alarmist type of family, at least Dad and me anyway, We like knowledge and information and do not wallow in the what ifs and might be's. I love that about our family. We march forth.
Grandma Belle's Brisket
The ingredients for this are simple and old fashioned. They represent the times in a kitchen of busy "housewives" looking for shortcuts. I sometimes try to change the ingredients so they don't have packaged type ingredients but it never tastes as good.
Beef Brisket, the main ingredient, (taken out of fridge at least ½ hour before putting in oven). Whatever size you want, the cooked tender slices of this can be frozen so buy more than you will eat -I have often made the trip to a kosher meat market because there is nothing like a tried and true kosher brisket. Plus the wild experience of an old school kosher market like the one I occasionally go to in Brookline, Massachusetts, a few days before any major Jewish Holiday, is something that should not be missed- at least once in your life.
- 1 bottle of chili sauce
- 1 can of jellied cranberry sauce (The cranberry sauce ingredient was given to me by the owner of a kosher meat market that no longer exists in Framingham, Mass. It was his mother's main ingredient for her brisket. I often went to this market instead of Brookline because I could visit your Aunts and your Great Grandmother, Kitsie at the same time.)
- 1 package of Lipton Onion Soup mix
- Salt, pepper, garlic powder (I never have garlic powder, so I use fresh, but the purist in me must give you your Grandma Belle's recipe as is.)
- 1/2 cup of water or kosher sweet wine (I saw a recipe for a can of beer instead and I am guessing this would be super tenderizing, I am also guessing you probably have a can of beer in your fridge so give it a try and let me know.)
- About 6-8 fresh carrots cut in half
- 6-8 small potatoes cut in half
HOW TO MAKE
Cover tightly with foil and place in oven preheated to 350 for 30 minutes, then turn oven down to 300 and cook for another 3 hours. Add the potatoes after the first hour and make sure you spoon the sauce over. You can also make some extra sauce and make the potatoes separate.
(I have learned that having cookware and serving pieces that give me joy are all part of the experience.The way they feel in your hand, the vibe they give you when you pull them out of a drawer or the pretty holder on your counter that houses your favorites. I have a lot of my family's beautiful pieces that I covet. I recently have needed a few new large spoons in my kitchen for spooning gravies and stirring. I found this spoon for doing the trick. )
After 3 hours, take foil off and cook for another 45 minutes. Take the brisket out and let cool slightly (important step, remember that good, tender brisket can't be rushed.)
Slice against the grain. It will be like butter- trust me. Put back in the pan in the juice and leave out on the stove covered; it can be reheated at 275 for 30 minutes before serving.