Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Flavors Of Fall: Spiced Cran-Apple Brisket

Good afternoon everyone! For today's blog - we're doing something we've never done before. I made supper ahead of time, and Maggie and I will not be sharing it together. Not exactly good firsts, but firsts non the less. The reason for this change is simple. Although today was my day off, I have to go into work at 6:00 tonight for a institution wide meeting. What a way to ruin a day off, eh?

This schedule change provided an tricky evening for us as well. How was I going to have supper done early enough for me, yet have it still be warm and edible by the time Maggie arrived home? After perusing through a few recipe ideas, I settled on one kitchen device that was meant for exactly this problem. The crock pot. Now, I'm not too fond of using only the crock pot - especially on blog recipes - mainly because I like to cook - and the crock pot reduces the amount of cooking by 70%. However, for tonight's purpose, the crock pot was exactly what we needed. It would allow me to cook the meal ahead of time and still have it warm by the time Maggie arrived home. That's what we call a 'win win'.

So, without further ado, let's get cooking!

The Recipe: Spiced Cran-Apple Brisket
Original Recipe Found In: Taste Of Home Magazine, August & September 2010 Issue

What You'll Need:

Fresh Beef Brisket (2-4 Pounds)
1/2 Cup Apple Butter
1/4 Cup Ruby Port Wine
2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Medium Tart Apple (Cored, Peeled and Cubed)
1 Celery Rib (Chopped)
1 Small Red Onion (Chopped)
1/3 Cup Dried Apples
1/3 Cup Dried Cranberries
2 Garlic Cloves (Minced)
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
3 Tablespoons Cold Water

Begin by slicing your brisket in half and placing it in the crock pot.

In a large bowl, combine the cider vinegar (commonly known as apple cider vinegar) apple butter, ruby wine as well as the salt and pepper.

Baby poo soup 

As an aside, apple butter sort of looks like a hybrid between chocolate pudding and baby poo. Who was the brave soul that took a look at that sticky concoction and decided - yes, that looks delicious? It sort of makes you wonder who the brave souls were that tried all sorts of foods for the first time.

Grog: Hey, ogg - this fell out of the chicken's hindquarters - I dare you to eat it!
Ogg: *Crunches*
Grog: Wow you didn't die!
Ogg: And it tastes good too!

I'm pretty sure that's exactly how the consumption of the first chicken egg went.

Anyway, my point is - apple butter looks kinda of nasty, but tastes good.

Mix the wine, vinegar and baby poo apple butter until it becomes a thick, soupy mixture. Next, add in the dried apples, dried cranberries, onion, garlic, celery and cubed apple. The recipe calls for a tart apple, which really can be any green apple. There are some varieties of red/green apple hybrids that are perfectly suited for this job, such as gravenstein and winesap, but they seem to be regional and seasonal (unlike the more common granny smith, braeburn, fuji, etc.) In that case, any green apple is a suitable substitute.

I always like the look of a cored apple.  It sort of has a face! 

Once everything is mixed well. Simply spread the entire concoction over the top of the brisket (making sure the sides are covered as well). Cover the crock pot and set the heat to low. Allow the brisket to cook all day, 8 to 10 hours.



The long cooking time works in a lot of ways. We've established in previous recipes that the key to really tender roasts is to cook the meat 'low and slow'. Low heat for 8 hours is about as 'low and slow' as it gets. Secondly, the low heat keeps the enzymes in the brisket at their optimum 'open' stage for longer. That means that not only are they breaking down the muscle cells of the meat (allowing for more moisture to be stored in the meat) but they are also opening the cells of the brisket more, meaning more juices can flow in. In short, it's like you are marinading and cooking the meat at the same time.

Once you are ready to serve up the brisket, simply remove the meat from the crock pot and set aside. Skim the juices and apples/onions etc. from the pot and pour through a strainer into a saucepan. Be sure to squish out all of the liquids from the pulp with a spoon. Turn the juices heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, mix with the water and cornstarch on medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. This will create a great, flavorful gravy that you can pour on top of the meat just before serving.

After 8 hours - you cook the color right out of the apples! 

I accompanied tonight's brisket with a mashed potato recipe that I made up on the fly. I simply combined a half dozen russet potatoes with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, half and half (to make desired consistency) and 3 roasted garlic cloves (15 minutes in a 350 degree oven, skins on, drizzled with olive oil and cooked until lightly browned) and served. Add the garlic, half and half and the cheese as you are mashing the cooked potatoes. You don't have to roast the garlic. You can also mince the garlic and put those pieces into the hot potatoes with the cheese. Either way works, I chose to try something new and roast the little buggers.

Roast with the skin on, when finished, the skin should pop right off

I wanted a nice side dish to accompany the brisket, but I didn't want to go out and buy anything special. I came up with this little recipe simply by searching through our cupboards. It's fun to get a little creative from time to time - you never know what you'll come up with!

Serve the potatoes up with this delicious dish and enjoy! 

The Results:

Sometimes, I even surprise myself. We've already established that any time you roast meat, it's pretty much one of the best meals around. However, I wasn't expecting just how amazingly delicious the end result turned out to be.

The brisket was amazingly juicy and absolutely tender. Any time you lift the brisket out of the crock pot and it falls apart, with no 'egging on' you know that the meat is going to be tender. You could have eaten this brisket with a spoon!

The real surprise, for me, was in the incredible fruity flavor that accompanied the dish. The gravy simply burst with the flavors of apples and cranberries, giving the dish a very distinctive fall flavor. The brisket itself absorbed all of those flavors and held a light hint of apple and red wine with every bite.

The potatoes turned out fantastically as well. (Especially since it was a recipe I made up with kitchen leftovers!) The garlic added a nice subtle flavor to the thick, creamy (and slightly cheesy) potatoes. Topped with the apple gravy, the potatoes were down right heavenly!

That's all we have for you this evening. Here's hoping you'll give the brisket and mashed potato a recipe a try for yourself. Maggie takes back the kitchen tomorrow night with a whole new recipe, so be sure to stop by tomorrow evening to see what she's got cooking. Until then,


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