Annie’s Wine Baked Brisket and the Multi-Cultural Collaboration That Became a St. Patrick’s Day Tradition

Cows are sacred, salt is expensive, cross the sea trading is prohibited and immigrants had to get to New York. In a nut shell, those are the four substantial situations that had to occur in order to bring brisket to your dining tables today. Happy St. Patrick’s Day dear readers!   Today’s post is all about a traditional Irish food that actually is, in reality, a multi-cultural collaboration between three countries.  While it is certain that many a crock-pot will be simmering away today in honor of the holiday, and the famous corned beef and cabbage that has become associated with it, you might be surprised to learn that the propulsion for this traditional heritage food actually has more to do with New York City than Ireland.

The Kerry cow is considered to be the oldest breed of cattle in Ireland.

It all started back in Ireland’s ancient times when cows were considered sacred animals. Valued for their milk and their strength over anything else, Irish cows were essential components to a working farm and were never considered a viable meat source. But England adored beef, particularly roasts, so much so that by the 1600’s, England couldn’t keep up with their own country’s supply and demand.  So they went to Ireland to see about some cows.

A good revenue stream for the Emerald Isle, and a can’t-live-without-it commodity for England, this cow commerce between countries was mutually beneficial for all.  That is until the Cattle Acts of the 1660’s. In an instant, thanks to the Act, the sale of live cows to England was no longer allowed.  The sudden halt in commerce left Ireland scrambling for a solution and left England grumbly with hungry bellies.  This all came about at a time when salt was also an extremely expensive ingredient in England. Ireland, on the other hand, was not only flush with cattle but also abundant with coastal salt pans. The combination of these two  riches formed a clever way for Ireland to package meat for export that skirted around the law. They created a new method of food preservation called corned beef – a salted meat product that could withstand time and travel to England without spoiling.

Coming from the brisket cut of the cow (located between the front knees and the shoulder area) this salt infused food was named corned beef because of the corn kernal-sized salt crystals used in preserving it.  Generally known as a tougher piece of meat since that area of a cow’s body gets quite a lot of exercise, early corned beef was essentially just a slab of meat that was rumored to taste more like salt than beef.

Commercial Cuts of Beef chart from the Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, 1967 edition

Because it was shelf stable, easy to prepare and came in bigger portions, corned beef became a popular staple in the diets of 18th century Englanders as well as sailors away at sea for long stretches of time. It even made its way into the diets of Early American colonists who were struggling to produce food for their new country. The only people who were not enjoying this salty slice of protein were the Irish, who, in a terrible twist of irony, couldn’t afford to buy the very product they were exporting.

Newly arrived immigrants at Ellis Island. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

It would take one more century and a move to America before Irish immigrants were able to afford and enjoy the corned beef that made their home country famous. In the mid-late 1800’s, a majority of the butcher shops within the New York metropolitan area were owned and operated by Jewish immigrants.

The Lustgarten family owned a Jewish butcher shop in NYC in the late 1880’s. Photo courtesy of tenement.org

Living in close knit communities, both Irish and Jewish transplants bonded over feelings of displacement and discrimination experienced in their new world. Financial resources were a challenge for most city dwellers, but especially for these two ethnic groups in-particular, as they faced prejudices in work and social environments. Luckily, food brought them together via thrift and necessity and novelty.

Market shopping along NYC’s Mulberry Street in 1900

Upon arriving in America, Irish immigrants were delighted to discover that corned beef was much less expensive in New York then it was back home in Ireland. Likewise,  Jewish immigrants liked brisket because it was one of the least expensive cuts in the butcher shop and could feed a crowd.  Through experimentation in their New York City kitchens,  Jewish and Irish newcomers developed the low, slow cooking methods that eventually evolved brisket from a salty slab of preserved meat into a rich and flavorful meal.  Cabbage was often paired with it since it was the least expensive vegetable. Both cultures developed their own trademark dishes – slow simmered corned beef and cabbage for the Irish and smoked pastrami and sauerkraut for the Jewish community. Each specialty stemmed from the humble brisket cut.

Beef Chart from the Culinary Arts Encyclopedic Cookbook circa 1948

Today’s recipe focuses on the Jewish side of cooking, with a brisket that quickly browns in butter on the stove top before heading into the oven for a slow simmer in red wine. If you are not a fan of the saltiness of traditional corned beef, or are wary of the seasoning packet that comes in most store-bought brisket kits, this recipe is a great alternative, since you can control your own level of spices. It comes from Annie, an avid cook, and a world traveler who lived in New York for most of her life. A dear friend to my father, she’s proud of her Jewish heritage and is famous for many signature dishes including homemade horseradish (more on that in a future post).

Annie sent this recipe to my dad over email 15 years ago while she  was at sea traveling between Buenos Aires and Santiago.  The trip was rough with wild waves and cold temperatures but Annie was more than happy to take a few moments to share her way of making brisket. In our modern age, email letters aren’t quite as pretty as handwritten ones – but the sentiment is there nonetheless. My dad has hung onto her correspondence for over a decade and a half. I discovered it recently, tucked inside one of his favorite cookbooks.

Although it requires two days to make, it is very simple and involves just a few ingredients. I used grass-fed beef from the farmers market and a red wine blend called Sheep Thrills for the fun pun. Also, Annie cooks like James Beard recommends – with your intuition – so she doesn’t specify in her recipe exactly how much seasoning to use. In the directions, I share my method, but you may want to add more or less depending on your preference.

Annie’s Wine Soaked Beef Brisket

4-5lb beef brisket ( I used a 3.5 lb grass-fed beef brisket)

4 tablespoons butter (only necessary if using grass-fed beef)

6-7 onions

4 stalks celery

2 bay leaves

2 cups red wine

Onion Powder

Garlic Powder

Celery Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the brisket from the packaging and let rest on the counter for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you are using frozen grass-fed beef make sure that it has completely thawed in the fridge before beginning this recipe. Do not trim the fat from the brisket.

Seasonings with dots of butter on top before the flip to brown the other side.

In an ovenproof pan (preferably one that has a lid) over medium high heat, add the butter (but only if using grass-fed beef, otherwise omit the butter). Generously sprinkle each side of the meat with the onion and garlic powders and the celery salt (I did about five passes on each side with each of these seasonings). Brown the brisket, fat-side down, for 5 minutes on each side.

Roughly chop the onions and the celery and add them to the brisket pan.

Pour in the red wine and add the bay leaves. Cover and bake in oven for 2 to 3 hours or until the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees. (Note: Grass-fed beef cooks faster then grain-fed beef, so watch the temperature and time closely.  My 3.5 lb brisket came out exactly at the 2 hour mark.)

Let the brisket cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight it in the same pan that you cooked it in so that all the juices can soak back up into the meat.

The next day, remove the pan from the fridge and scoop off the top layer of fat.

Remove the onions and celery to a blender and mix until well combined. This will form a thin au jus style gravy which is delicious for dipping.

Transfer the au jus to a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. Next, thinly slice the brisket and serve cold or at room temperature alongside the au jus and/or with your favorite condiments like mustard, mayo or horseradish.

This style of brisket is perfect for French Dip style sandwiches served on crusty rolls. It also travels well for spring-time picnics and outdoor family gatherings. In Annie’s house it is a staple for many Jewish holiday celebrations.  Simple fare with a collaborative past, that’s the brisket in all its wonderful ways.

There is something lovely about Annie’s recipe that ties all the historical elements of the holiday into one tidy package. With its Irish and Jewish heritage,  its international transmittance and Annie’s New York roots, it feels like this recipe really embraces the spirit of the holiday. The parallels are endless. The recipe was written on a boat in the 2000’s featuring a food that was once eaten by sailors in the 1700’s. Annie lived in New York during the 20th century. The immigrants who helped perfect this style of cooking lived in New York in the 19th century. Annie is Jewish. The butchers who sold brisket cuts to the Irish in NYC were Jewish. Annie uses brisket to feed her family on Jewish holidays. The Irish-American community uses brisket to celebrate their national Catholic holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t only for the Irish – it’s for everyone in America who hand a hand in building a country where people and food worked together to create new things and new traditions in a new land. Cheers to foods that continue to bring people together in surprising ways. And cheers to Annie for sharing her delicious brisket recipe.  Hope this St. Patrick’s Day is your most festive one yet!

Celebrations Big and Small and Lucky!

Happy Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Welcome to The Vintage Kitchen and the new re-design of the blog! Today is definitely a cause for celebration around here both for the festive holiday and for the bevy of changes occurring around this place.  Nothing says celebration more than a glass of sparkly champagne, so we are kicking off the first official post from The Vintage Kitchen with an old Irish cocktail featuring champagne and Guinness and we are serving up a recipe that stems from this  17th century castle in Ireland…

Adare Manor County Limerick, Ireland

Before we dive into dinner you’ll have noticed that there is a bright new look here on the blog which officially launches The Vintage Kitchen. While Ms. Jeannie is away on her extended travels (read more about that here) everything has been switched over to the Vintage Kitchen including all social media platforms, so if you have followed Ms. Jeannie in the past on pinterest, instagram and twitter you’ll still be connected to the same account – it just has a different user name now. A few more changes will be unfolding here on the blog in the weeks to come including a dedicated spot for correspondence from Ms. Jeannie while she is away. So stay tuned in that department.

The vintage Black Velvet – the spritzer for beer drinkers!

In the meantime, we are popping corks and pouring a rich dark drink that was popular on the British mid-century cocktail scene.  Named the Black Velvet, it is a half and half combination of Guinness beer and extra dry champagne.

guinness_champagnecocktail

The combination of the two flavors tastes like a smooth, creamy, light and airy molasses which is lovely if you fall into the camp of people who think that Guinness is too heavy a beverage on its own.  If you are enjoying this cocktail on the home front and therefore not having it on tap from the pub, you’ll see the fun retro artwork on the Guinness cans. This one features a toucan and is an image snippet from one of their early 20th century advertising campaigns back in the day when everyone thoroughly believed that Guinness was good for you.

This was the whole picture of the original campaign. So cute!

There is no doubt that the interior of Adare Manor has seen it’s fair share of Guinness drinkers. Perhaps visitors have even enjoyed a Black Velvet or two while strolling among the grounds. The country castle that makes up Adare Manor was originally part of the Earls of Dunraven lineage and managed to stay in the family from the 17th century through 1986. When expenses and upkeep got to be too much for family members to shoulder it was sold to a hotelier who turned the former home into a luxurious beacon of upscale tourism.

Like The Vintage Kitchen, Adare Manor is currently undergoing a transformation in the forms of upgrades and remodels, which is why a dinner menu from a former executive chef at this hallowed estate seemed so fitting for the launch of our first official Vintage Kitchen post. From way down in the belly of this beautiful building comes an outside of the box St. Patrick’s Day menu that eliminates the crock-pot and brisket and sets aside the cabbage for a light and lively springtime meal that looks at traditional Irish ingredients in a nontraditional way.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Roulade with Champagne-Chive Dressing

On the menu tonight it is Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Roulade with Spring Greens and a Champagne-Chive Dressing.

Capitalizing on all things seasonal, this recipe is great for this time of year because it features chives, spring lettuce and scallions all which are now in season at the farmers market.  A little note about prep time:  while this recipe is fairly easy to make and contains basic easy-to-find ingredients, the roulade requires seven hours of refrigeration time before cooking so you may want to get this recipe ready in the morning if you want to plan on having it for dinner. That being said, the finished dish is well worth the wait and all that extra fridge time.

We’ll start with the roulade recipe since that takes the most time to prepare…

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Roulade  (serves 6)

2 tablespoons butter

2 large white skinned potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced

4 ounces goat cheese

4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

In a medium saute pan heat one teaspoon butter over medium heat and saute the potatoes (turning regularly with a fork so they don’t burn) until tender but not browned (about 2-3 minutes).  Note: You’ll see as you are cooking the potatoes that they will go from white to translucent. When you can see your fork tines underneath the potato slice that is when you know they are ready to be removed from the heat.  Place cooked potatoes on a sheet of parchment paper to cool.

Cooked potato slices.

Continue working in batches adding more butter by the teaspoonful when needed until you all potatoes are cooked.

When all the potatoes have cooled to room temperature, lay them out on a new sheet of parchment paper in a square shape with slices slightly overlapping.

Cheese on top of potatoes.

Next add the goat cheese on top of the potatoes – spreading it in a layer all over the potatoes. Note: this is much easier if your goat cheese is also at room temperature. A frosting knife works well for this task or your fingers!

On top of the cheese place the layer of smoked salmon slices.

Salmon on top of cheese.

Using the edge of the parchment paper as a guide, carefully roll up the potato cheese salmon mixture to form a log. Twist the edge of the parchment and stick the whole roll in the fridge for 7 hours.

This is what the roulade roll will look like once you unwrap it from its 7 hour rest in the fridge.

While the roulade is in the fridge, make the dressing for the salad, it can sit for as long as you like before serving…

Champagne Chive Dressing

Champagne Chive Dressing

2 tablespoons champagne

3 tablespoons olive oil

Minced fresh chives to taste

1 scallion, sliced

A pinch of sugar (I used organic cane sugar )

Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

6 handfuls of mixed baby greens

In a small bowl whisk all the ingredients together except the baby greens. Set aside the dressing and the greens until just before serving the roulades.

After the seven hour rest in the fridge, remove the roulade roll and unwrap it. It should feel very cold and firm. Cut the roulade into one inch thick slices . Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and add a half teaspoon of butter to coat the pan.

Warm up the roulade!

Quickly saute the slices until crisp and bubbling brown on both sides (about 3-4 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat. Toss the dressing with the spring greens and place a handful of salad on each plate. Top with roulade slices and a dash of salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Roulade with Champagne Chive Dressing

Keep the festive atmosphere going by indulging in a glass of champagne with your dinner and you’ll discover a nice savory sweet pairing of subtle spring flavors here. Both the roulade and the baby greens offer a satisfying crunch but if you’d like to include some fresh crusty bread with your meal that would also be delicious. Next time, you make this you could even experiment with other ingredients like replacing the smoked salmon with thinly shaved corned beef brisket or ham and replacing the goat cheese with blue cheese or baby swiss. The possibility for extra creativity when it comes to this Irish dinner is vast and varied, which makes it endlessly interesting.

Cheers to a most celebratory St. Patrick’s Day night, dear readers! May you laugh as much as you breathe and love as much as you live.

 

Thursday in the Kitchen: Creamy Potato Soup – A Recipe from Ireland

Spring is waking up slowly here in the South. The nights are still cold but the afternoons reach into the early ’60’s on most days now. This afternoon warming makes for delicious stolen moments around the 4:00pm hour when Ms. Jeannie likes to take a cup of coffee  outside with her and dream about all the potential and possibility for her garden plan this coming season.

In anticipation of all this gardening, Ms. Jeannie has been going through some of her favorite recipes so that she can figure out what she needs to grow so that she’ll have the freshest ingredients possible. One of her most favorite things to make is soup, so you’ll be sure there will be a variety of vegetables popping up!

In anticipation of such gardening delights and in anticipation of the upcoming Irish holiday, Ms. Jeannie cooked up one of her most favorite soups…potato!

Creamy Potato Soup
Creamy Potato Soup

This recipe came from her Irish Isles cookbook, which was a birthday gift this past summer from her dad.

Straight from Ireland - music and recipes!
Straight from Ireland – music and recipes! Photo courtesy of irishshop.com

Not only was it a gift of recipes – but it also came with a cd of classical Irish music, which made for a well-rounded cooking experience!

This was a very sentimental gift for Ms. Jeannie. Many years ago, she took a father daughter trip to Ireland and together, they explored the Southern countryside for 10 days. They stayed at 3 different hotels and visited about half a dozen cities and towns. There were sheep (so many!), crazy drivers, the perilous N7 , endless Frank Sinatra on the radio, fabulous museums, trips to the lace-makers, dinners in castles, driving tours of coastal fishing villages, a wet and wild tour of the Cliffs of Moher, lunches in pubs and a million miles of laughter in-between. It was a fantastic trip – one of Ms. Jeannie’s most favorite of all  her travel adventures.

This cookbook is a compilation of recipes from the country hotels and manor houses all over Ireland. There are even some recipes from the places where Ms. Jeannie and her dad stayed!

The Leek and Potato Soup Recipe that Ms. Jeannie just made comes from Newport House in County Mayo.

Newport House, County Mayo. Love all that ivy!
Newport House, County Mayo. Love all that ivy!

Built in the 1700’s, the country estate is now part of the Relais & Chateaux distinguished hotel group. It is a small, luxury country inn known most for its location overlooking the Newport River and its salmon and sea trout fishing, both in the river and in nearby waterways. The current owners, who were originally guests at the hotel, so fell in love with their accommodations  they bought the hotel in the mid-1980’s to ensure that they would always have a fishing retreat to “come home to.” Imagine that! Going on vacation and purchasing your vacation destination because you loved it that much! Ms. Jeannie can totally understand – Ireland is magical like that:)

Here are some interior photos. The owners have decorated the hotel in a variety of antiques including Regency style mirrors. It looks like it has a lot of character!

newport-house-hotel-04

newport-house-hotel-02-300x300

 

newport-house-hotel-03

The waterways surrounding the town of Newport. Photo courtesy of australliantraveller.net
The waterways surrounding the town of Newport. Photo courtesy of australiantraveller.net

It’s no wonder that soup is on the menu at Newport House. After a cool day of fishing on the water, Ms. Jeannie bets that a cup of hot potato soup is just what you’d want to have! She was delighted to see that it is still on the menu in the hotel’s dining room!

Ms. Jeannie's Leek and Potato Soup...
Ms. Jeannie’s Leek and Potato Soup…

Ms. Jeannie modified the recipe just a tad to incorporate items she already had on hand, which included a few bunches of fresh spinach tossed in at the very end.

Here’s the recipe, with Ms. Jeannie’s substitutions in parentheses…

Leek and Potato Soup – Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter (Ms. Jeannie used 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter)

1 1/4 lbs. leeks, cleaned and sliced

1 cup onion, chopped

3/4 cup celery, chopped

4 cups homemade chicken broth

8 to 10 oz. potatoes, peeled and chopped (Ms. Jeannie used 2 large russet baking potatoes)

1 spring fresh thyme, leaves pulled

1 fresh sage leaf, whole

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (Ms. Jeannie used 1/2 cup of 2% milk)

2 large handful bunches of fresh spinach

1. In a large saucepan melt butter (and oil, if using Ms. Jeannie’s version) over medium low heat. Add leeks, onion and celery and saute until onions are translucent but not browned (about 5-7 minutes).

2. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, thyme and sage. Simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.

3. Transfer to a blender and puree. Return soup to original cooking pot,  add cream (or milk) and salt and pepper. Fold in spinach and cook over low heat for 5 more minutes before serving.

Ms. Jeannie served her soup with a multi-grain baguette which was good for dipping! And, despite having only a 1/2 cup of cream (or milk in Ms. Jeannie’s case) this is an incredibly creamy soup once it is pureed. And it is quick to make with few ingredients! Thank you Ireland for making dinner simple and delicious!!!

Over the next couple of weeks, leading up to St. Patrick’s Day (Mr. Jeannie Ology’s heritage day!),  Ms. Jeannie will be trying the recipes in the cookbook from the hotels and country houses she and her dad stayed in on their vacation. These are sneak peeks of three of them…

The Park Hotel in Kenmare, County Kerry
The Park Hotel in Kenmare, County Kerry (Ms. Jeannie’s favorite!)
Dromoland Castle in County Clare
Dromoland Castle in County Clare
The Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephens Green in Dublin
The Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephens Green in Dublin

Until next time…Slainte, dear readers! Which means cheers in Irish:)