I’m fortunate to live in Brooklyn, with easy access to some of the best pastrami (and Montreal smoked meat) around. But I got an unexpected brisket the other day and wanted to try my hand at it. Now I’m not fortunate enough to have outdoor space for a smoker, but I did have our Smoked Salt N.8, some patience, and a bit of ingenuity. It’s easy to make and serve, cooks overnight, and is absolutely delicious.
Makes 3 1/2 pounds
For the cure
One 5 pound piece of brisket (the flat cut is neater to slice and leaner, the point cut is fattier and more flavorful)
1 pint of boiling water
2 quarts of ice water
3 Tablespoons of Smoked Salt N.8
2/3 cup Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or 120 grams of any other salt)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons prague powder #1 (curing salt)
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon crushed coriander seeds
3 whole cloves
2 teaspoons crushed black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed allspice
6 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed
For the spice crust
4 teaspoons Smoked Salt N.8
3 Tablespoons coriander seed, whole
2 Tablespoons mustard seed, whole
3/8 cup black pepper, coarsely ground
Smoked Salt N.8 to taste
Good rye bread
Gallon ziplock freezer bag
Baking sheet with wire rack
Aluminum foil (the 18″ wide heavy duty style is easiest)
Pot with steamer insert
• Place the brisket in a 2 gallon freezer bag and set aside. Add all of the cure ingredients to the boiling water, take off the heat, and steep/stir occasionally for 15 minutes. Combine with the ice water and add to the freezer bag. Remove any excess air, place the bag in a bowl or tupperware, and keep in the fridge for at least 48, ideally 72 hours.
• Preheat your oven to 200°F.
• Toast the coriander and mustard seeds until fragrant, allow to cool, then grind coarsely along with the smoked salt. Combine with the ground pepper and mix thoroughly.
• Place a sheet of foil (large enough to fully wrap the brisket) down on your wire rack and poke a few dozen holes for drainage. Remove the brisket from the cure, rinse and pat dry. Coat the brisket thoroughly with the spice crust, pressing well to make sure it sticks. Seal the foil tightly and place the brisket in the oven for 12 hours (overnight works great).
• Turn off the oven and let the brisket cool before refrigerating.
Heat a few cups of water in a covered pot with a steamer insert. Once the water boils reduce the heat to medium low.
Slice off a piece that’s the size you’d like to serve and gently steam it until warmed through (about 30-40 minutes depending on the size). Carefully transfer the steamed meat to a cutting board, allow to rest for about 10 minutes, then slice it across the grain.
Serve with rye and mustard and a bit more smoked salt, if desired.
The remaining meat will keep in the fridge for at least a week, just heat however much you’d like, when you’d like.
Fun to try
• Open faced Reubens! Coat rye bread with butter and mustard and pan fry on both sides, melt a few slices of swiss cheese on the bread (if some hangs over it’ll just get nice and crispy so go ahead), top with warmed sauerkraut, sliced meat, and a healthy drizzle of Russian dressing.
• Pastromelette! Beat eggs with a large pinch of salt until well mixed, set aside for 10 minutes while you heat up some cubes of meat over low heat in a skillet. Set the meat aside in a bowl with some cubes of swiss cheese. Add a large pat of butter and heat until the butter is lightly browned. Cook the eggs, stirring minimally, until almost set. Add the cheese and meat to one half, fold to close, then remove the skillet from heat and cover for one minute.
• Courtesy of my brother Patrick: Save the drippings from cooking to make a gravy for pastrami rouladen. Use thin slices of pastrami instead of bacon, and make sure to use good dill pickles and German mustard.
Food image and recipe © Christian Leue. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org