So, every year, I throw a Festivus party. (Here is a quick primer if you’re not a Seinfeld fan and I’m sounding mega loco.)
I always do it in January! I know–it’s a holiday that was meant to replace Christmas, etc. etc. But the thing is, December can get overwhelming and frankly, January is practically begging to be cheered up. If I can make my friends’ post-holiday malaise just a tiny bit easier with a ton of great food and a silly made-up holiday, sign me up. Sign me up now.
Airing of the grievances is necessary.
Feats of strength? Festivus isn’t over until the head of household is pinned, after all. Rules are rules. And black belts are black belts. And my friend definitely has one. And now I know that it’s well-deserved.
Most years, the food is a haphazard mix of whatever we feel like eating. This year, I actually put some thought into this and attempted a Seinfeld/deli theme. Hello, pastrami bar! You’re going to require some planning.
Homemade pastrami is a capital-p Project. I’ve been dying to tell you about it for weeks! There’s curing, rinsing, rubbing, smoking, steaming. But the end result is a beauty–tender, flavorful deli meat, free of shady preservatives and coated in a generous mix of spices.
After curing your beef brisket for 2-3 weeks, you’re ready to give it a good rubdown and smoke it. That’s the fun part.
A most glorious, bright red rub, to be exact, with lots and lots of paprika. Major flavor here.
Rub it well. Coat it.
A stovetop smoker is the equipment you’ll need to make this happen. I bought mine a couple years ago (at least), and I love it more every time I use it. It’s the stuff dreams are made of for apartment-dwelling folks (me) who happen to be obsessed with smoked food (me again).
It’s not the first time I’m posting about my love of smoking food at home… I’ve already visited smoked rib nirvana. And then there was this killer tri-tip. This thing just keeps on giving, yet asks so little in return. (And no one is paying me to say this.)
One thing to note: your apartment will smell like barbecue smoke for a couple of days. I’m not even sure that’s a minus.
A stovetop smoker works like this: put wood chips on the bottom. A foil-lined tray goes next, then a rack, then your food. Then you turn on your stovetop burner to medium and nearly slide the lid shut. As soon as you see and smell smoke, you shut it tight, set a timer and let magic take place. Put your jacket and purse in another room (don’t be like me and forget).
Soon, you have a delicious, delicious hunk of meat. It’s not tender yet, though.
Hook up a tamale pot/steamer situation. There are other ways you could go about this too–even the smoker itself can double as a steamer. Or you could fashion a steamroom out of your oven by placing the meat on the upper rack and a water-filled baking dish below. Steam–however you do it–for a solid couple hours or so. Boom. Tender.
You could dig in right away. Or… It slices beautifully and thinly when chilled.
Make a killer sandwich and call it a day! It’s a Festivus Miracle!
Homemade Stovetop Smoker Pastrami
(adapted from about.com)
One 2-3 lb beef brisket (to feed a crowd, I actually did two at once–recipe makes enough brine and rub for both)
4 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
12 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
8 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons brown sugar
8 cloves garlic, minced
Trim the brisket of excess fat, leaving only a nice protective layer (1/4 inch or so) and set aside. To make brine, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and add the salt, stirring to dissolve. Let the mixture cool, and then stir in the garlic, peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and bay leaves. Place the brisket in a large, nonreactive (plastic or stainless steel are good options) container, pour brine over it, and seal airtight. Store in the refrigerator to cure for 2-3 weeks. You’ll need to check on the meat regularly and turn it to prevent spoilage; also be sure that anything that comes into contact with the meat, such as your hands, is extra clean.
After you’re done curing, rinse the brisket with clean, cold water. Soak it in clean, cold water for a day or so, changing the water every few hours. Then, it’s ready to rub and smoke.
Pat brisket dry with a paper towel. To make the rub, coarsely crush peppercorns, coriander seeds and mustard seeds (you can use a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, or just a Ziploc bag and rolling pin–I processed mine in a food processor as best as I could). Mix in the salt, paprika, brown sugar and garlic. Rub mixture all over the surface of the brisket.
Prepare stovetop smoker according to instructions, using 1/2 cup of mild-ish smoking chips, such as oak or apple. Smoke for 50 minutes or so and remove from smoker. You need to make sure the interior of the meat reaches at least 165 degrees; however, since I steam mine afterward, I don’t worry about it at this point, because steaming will certainly raise the internal temperature enough.
To steam the meat, fill the bottom part of a tamale pot or other steaming contraption with water, and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Place the brisket on top of the steamer basket/grate, cover, and steam for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until tender. Check regularly to be sure the water hasn’t evaporated (it shouldn’t if the lid is completely shut). If you don’t have a tamale pot or steamer, the smoker itself can double as one.
Remove from heat, and serve hot or chilled and sliced thin.