Shiraz Brisket

I love this local market called Freshfields Farm, which I have mentioned before. It's like paradise walking in there. Coming from the Florida heat, you walk into this nice, cool oasis of fresh fruits and vegetables. You grab a cart and wander the aisles, finding different goodies on each trip. The air smells fresh, and I find myself calmed by the experience. This time, I decided to grab a boniato and see what I could do with it. It was an ugly little vegetable, but I knew this could work out. Checkout is orderly (seriously, this process can ruin a shopping trip if done poorly).

Though small, that market is mighty. But wait, there's more. After coming out of veggie heaven, you walk a few steps over into a man's paradise, meat central. All the steak, brisket, ribs, chicken thighs, and salmon you can dream of.

This is a place I feel safe buying meat at. Their suppliers are mainly local, and I am mistrusting of large meat plants for the most part. While I know quality and welfare standards are nothing like they formerly were, I still prefer to go local when I can, especially if costs are comparable. And theirs are a great value.

The brisket is hard to pass up. I walk by these gorgeous cuts of meat and suddenly my creative juices are flowing and before you know it I am feeling bound and determined to make something new. That is my thing, right?

I've made oven roasted and crock pot beef brisket. No smoker, yet, tragically. But though amazing, I am a firm believer in using various cooking techniques. So how about something new in the oven? After all, I'd only used that method once, and you can't use your first time as your only benchmark. Time to up the ante.

On a side note, I would like to say that I think chopped brisket (or in the case of slow cooking like this, shredded) is the way to go. I am just not into eating it sliced on a sandwich. Chopped. Always. Just another reason to take it slow in the heat.

For this oven roasted variety, I picked up a 1 and a half pound brisket, and started with a dry rub of salt, white pepper, chili powder, paprika, and ground mustard. I also added some chopped onion and portobellini mushrooms to the pan.


I roasted the brisket for 1 hour at 350 degrees F, with the goal being to get a nice crust on the outside. That was certainly accomplished. The reason I put the onions and mushrooms in for this part was to give them a chance to cook down before adding the liquids.


To keep the meat from drying out during the rest of the cooking process, you have to add some liquid. In my last oven-roasted brisket recipe post, I used beef broth. This time I went in a whole other direction and poured in shiraz and soy sauce. Soy sauce can be a good substitute for beef broth in a pinch, so I knew it would bring that meaty flavor to the liquid. I also added some fresh garlic and diced jalapeno. Time to get real, brisket.


At that point I covered the pan with tin foil, lowered the oven to 300 degrees, and let it go for a little over 2 hours, until that meat was just falling apart when poked with a pork. I was going as nuts as my cats were smelling this business cook. Two hours felt like forever. LOOK AT THOSE MUSHROOMS. Cooked down into perfection. And that sauce I had left? Yeah.


It shredded with just the touch of a fork. *drool*


To make matters even better, I made that crazy boniato I found the same fresh market. It's also known as a "white sweet potato", and has the health factors a sweet tater is known for but is less sweet. I cubed it, boiled it, mashed it, and mixed in butter and sour cream just as I would have a regular potato and yeah, that sucker was GOOD with some of that sauce and mushrooms on top.


We all know red wine has a potent, rich flavor (which is likely why it took a few years of drinking white wine for me to finally convert over to the dark side, which for the record is much better), and braising brisket in there just allowed some of that flavor to transfer into the meat. The result was an incredibly moist, deeply flavored brisket. What I mean by deep is that the flavor is complex, like a marsala that has had plenty of time to simmer. The mushrooms cooked in the wine each had their own richness, as portobellos are a meatier type of mushroom and these are similar in taste, though milder (and significantly smaller in size). The jalapenos added a hint of spice, but as I've learned in other recipes, when you cook a jalapeno down it winds up much sweeter. Long story short: this brisket was phenomenal.

Red wine is known to make stews better, and using it here was definitely the right move. This was a fairly lean cut of meat, so I didn't have a lot of fat in the remaining sauce. This made it perfect to add on the shredded meat and the potatoes, as cooking on that low heat caused it to thicken. It was heavenly.

Special shout out to my adorable Bridesmaid glass which was a participation award after one of my closest friends got married last year. Perfect glass for both the photo and my tasty beverage.

Shiraz Brisket Recipe

Ingredients:

1.5 pound beef brisket
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
2-3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (I used portobellini)
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 1/2 cups shiraz
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray pan with avocado oil to prevent sticking. Combine salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, and ground mustard together in a small bowl and rub into both sides of brisket. Place in pan along with onion and mushrooms and add cook for 1 hour. Add green onion, shiraz, soy sauce, garlic, and jalapeno to pan and cover with foil. Lower heat to 300 degrees and replace in oven. Cook for an additional 2-3 hours, until meat shreds with a fork. Serve with remaining wine as sauce.

Crock Pot Chicken Parmesan


The crock that started it all. That should be the sign I put up in my imaginary museum of my life, hanging right in front of my first Crock Pot. If not for experimenting in that 4 quart slow cooker of wonder, I am unsure where the confidence to continue on my cooking expedition would have come from. Way back before the days of actually picking up a few tips about photographing food, I documented my first several meals with an old cell phone.

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Potlucks are great. They are best when everyone participates, of course. You can't show up empty handed and get to eat on the first go around. And no one likes the guy who signs up to bring plates. No one.

It's significantly more fun when people bring recipes dear to them. At this particular one, a colleague brought in a very unique Russian salad that was unlike any salad I'd ever tried. Another made hot chicken and pasta which was just mind blowing (seriously, spicy fried chicken = *drool*).

Apple Hand Pies

At this point it must be pretty clear that I love to bake. I'm not sure what gave it away, but somewhere along the line I let the secret slip out. What this means for me is that I am frequently sent recipes by colleagues, friends, and fam in the hopes that I will break down and make it. Well, often they are right. Of course, lots of work means less time in the kitchen than I used to have, so finding a balance is something I'm working on. The kitchen is my happy place, and this gets me in there.

As fate would have it, it happened to be a colleague's birthday week when she sent this one over (*hint, hint*). As she is working hard on maintaining a lean diet, we didn't want to blast her with the usual chocolate on chocolate on chocolate (yes I am serious) cake that we typically get, so I suggested this as an alternative. Yes, apple pie is still a dessert. But I am going to make an educated guess and say that apple pie is likely a smidge healthier due to the fruit content. And there's no way these have as much sugar as that cake! Listen, no need to correct me if I am wrong. I want to remain blissfully ignorant here.

At any rate, the decision was made: Apple Hand Pies were on the agenda.

Blueberry Bread

Have you ever heard anyone talk about "happy accidents"? You trip and break the heel off your shoe, wander over to the store to track down a replacement, then randomly find your favorite style on sale for half off (a girl can dream, right?). Sometimes, an accident leads to a better outcome.

That is exactly what happened with Blueberry Bread - less the shoes, of course. A colleague of mine celebrated her birthday recently, and a close friend of hers happens to have a birthday the following day. She had requested my Bananas Foster Cupcakes, as last year that was her birthday baking gift from me and obviously they went over well (always my favorite news!). She said that her friend requested some banana bread, and that got me in the zone. Banana bread was one of my grandmother's best recipes. The woman could cook anything, and I mean anything, and do it spectacularly. Banana and zucchini bread were two of her famous baked goods, yet somehow I had skipped over banana bread. Oops.

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I've had my share of pain in life. I am referring to physical, here! For a few years, I suffered so badly that every day was a struggle. I went to countless doctors and  tried medicines, procedures, and diet changes. The good news is that I was able to get it under control, and after living in fear for some time that a normal life would not be possible for me, I now live just that. But there are occasions when I have bad days, when I hurt so bad it is distracting from work and every day life. For me, medications are not the answer. Some people are faced with a reality that is daily pills, but I don't feel that is required for me. I have alternative choices, including taking care of myself. For that reason, I am always looking for natural remedies when I can. If we can remedy an issue via diet, why take capsules filled with chemicals?

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It's not every day you get to recreate a Disney film in your kitchen. I've said before that I get the cooking itch, and one evening I was baking some holiday pies when I realized I needed to use up some veggies in my fridge. Zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms...wait a minute, I hadn't seen a certain cartoon about a rat chef in a while...it was ratatouille time.

I've always enjoyed eggplant and squash, even making a noodle free lasagna with layers of vegetables in place of pasta (if you haven't done this, you are missing out). Despite this, the Disney film had me convinced that ratatouille was a bland dish, as many characters seem unimpressed when ratatouille is discussed. In hindsight, that is likely because this is more of a traditional side item, just one that I am unfamiliar with. I don't honestly think I had even heard of it before watching the film several years ago.

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Squash, though in season during the fall, has become a year round treat. Roasted butternut and spaghetti squashes have become immensely popular, and of course the smaller yellow and zucchini squashes are a handy partner in many a good dish.

Spaghetti squash has become a particular favorite of mine, with my top choice being Spaghetti Squash Pizza Crust. Turning unhealthy foods into good options is fun. But when I make it, I tend to throw out the seeds. Why not come up with a better use?

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