coffee-braised brisket

IMG_1249

it’s rare that I sleep uninterrupted through the night. perhaps it stems from my childhood – since my bedroom was located over the garage, I would wake up anytime the door was opened. as a doctor, my father worked long, irregular hours, often coming home after midnight. it was never an annoyance to be awakened – rather, I’d be happy to hear the chinese pop music blasted so loud, the sound muscled through his metal car frame, through the cement garage wall, and into my bedroom. I’d sneak out of my room and down the dimly lit staircase. sometimes, we’d sit up late together and he’d make me a sandwich or we would eat leftovers from dinner. sometimes, he’d be so tired, he’d just walk me back upstairs and I’d go back to my room and listen as his snores began down the hall.

later on, as my father’s field went digital, he no longer had to come home so late, but he still had to work night shifts from home. though he had to be awake in case anyone from the hospital needed him, there were nights when things were pretty quiet, giving him a lot of downtime. he began to take on nightly cooking projects: slow-braised cassoulets and oxtails, racks of ribs and marinated hunks of meats that baked all night then filled the house with mouthwatering aromas by morning.

IMG_1231

unfortunately, I did not have the same excellent time management skills as my father. as I got older and schoolwork got more demanding, I was forced to stay awake further into the night. sometimes, I’d go to sleep for a few hours, then wake up again around 3 or 4am to wrap up a paper. though the words always seemed to flow easier, as if in the stillness of early, early morning, with all the distractions of daytime out of the way, I could finally focus, I ultimately realized this was not a healthy way to manage my time. last year, my first time back to school in 4 years, I had to come to terms with the fact I’m no longer a spry college student and all-nighters do really take their toll.

this brisket is one of the better results of my strange sleeping schedule. after coming home late friday, I popped the brisket in the oven, cooked the vegetables while the brisket browned, dropped the oven temperature, and set the cook time for 3 hours. sometime around 3am, I woke up and removed the brisket to cool. this recipe does take some planning, but because I was able to spread out the timeline, it felt almost effortless (except when I had to haul 4 pounds of brisket 20 minutes from the supermarket to my place).

it’s been a while since I’ve wanted to be awake at 3am – these days, I usually feel regret that I didn’t manage my time a little better. but waking up to the rich aroma of this brisket and stealing a few nibbles by the dim light of my oven reminded me of how I used to love those moments, when in the silence of our sleeping household, I’d share what felt like stolen time with my father, sitting beside him in the warm pools of light at our kitchen counter, and feel safe and at peace for at least that hour.

IMG_1236

makes 6-8 servings

2 tbsp finely ground coffee (I used instant coffee granules and it still tasted great)
1 1/2 tbsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tbsp black cardamom pods, ground
1 tbsp + 1 tsp kosher salt
~4lb brisket, flat/first cut
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled, cut into thirds crosswise, then sliced lengthwise
10 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dried apricots
2 cups coffee (again, I used instant coffee and it worked fine)
6 large eggs in their shells

michael solomonov and steven cook. zahav: a world of israeli cooking. new york: houghton mifflin harcourt, 2015.

1 mix ground coffee, cardamom, black cardamom, and salt in small bowl and rub onto brisket. cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2 preheat oven to 475ºF. set rack inside roasting pan. place brisket on rack and roast until exterior has browned, ~20 minutes. lower oven temperature to 300ºF.
3 while brisket is browning, warm oil in large skillet over medium heat and add onions, carrots, and garlic. cook,stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened but not browned, ~8 minutes. add tomato paste and cooks until it reduces slightly, ~2 minutes.
4 after lowering oven temperature, remove rack from pan, add vegetables, dried apricots, brewed coffee, and eggs in their shells to roasting pan with brisket.
5 cover pan tightly with two layers of foil, return to oven, and braise for 1 hour. after 1 hour, gently tap eggs with a spoon to make a network of small cracks. re-cover with foil and continue cooking until brisket shreds easily with fork, ~3 hours. let brisket cool in braising liquid, then refrigerate overnight.
6 to serve, preheat oven to 350ºF. slice cold brisket, return to braising liquid, and bake until warmed through, ~30 minutes. spoon broth over meat. serve with peeled eggs.
Advertisements

matcha cheesecake

IMG_1483

the other day, my sister asked me for a matcha cheesecake recipe. after a busy june, I jumped at the chance to tie on my apron and pull out the kitchenaid for some recipe testing. I had also encountered some recent inspiration while dining at susanna foo’s newest venture, suga, when I had the chance to meet susanna foo herself and gain some insight into her mentality as a chef.

two decades ago, susanna foo’s eponymous restaurant in philly redefined chinese food in america, educating americans who were lucky enough to dine at her restaurant about the true pinnacles of chinese cuisine (with some french flair) during a time when most americans thought chinese cuisine consisted of moo shu pork and general tso’s chicken. to this day, one of my favorite dishes remains her take on squirrel fish (松鼠桂鱼), and my father owns and heavily uses her cookbooks.

IMG_1488

one night, while sitting at the table next to ours, susanna foo asked the kitchen to send out a plate of potstickers. she tasted the potstickers, which she ate with no sauces or garnishes. she then critiqued the humble dish in the way only a serious, trained chef can – she noted they lacked salt and that they were not as juicy as she would like. until she mentioned it, I had thought the dumplings were honestly quite good, but when she pointed it out, I too began to note the nuances. after leaving the restaurant that night, I continued to reflect on the restless nature of good chefs as they constantly search for that perfect flavor and texture profile. even at the age that most people begin to think about retirement, susanna was still tasting, taking notes, and thinking of ways to improve.

while I will never pretend to have the training or the palate of a professional – as demonstrated by the ever-present cracks on my cheesecakes – I am constantly in awe of their commitment to improvement. it’s a mentality that makes our lives a little tastier, and when translated outside of the kitchen, drives us to better ourselves and make our lives a little brighter.

Untitled-1

makes one 9-inch cheesecake

cookie crust
1 1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used ~20-24 oreos, cream scraped off*)
1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
cheesecake
680g cream cheese, room temperature
113.5g crème fraîche, divided
2 tbsp culinary-grade matcha powder
350g granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
swirl
28g crème fraîche
1 tsp matcha powder
1 tbsp powdered sugar

adrianna adarme. matcha swirl cheesecake. a cozy kitchen. 10 june 2015. accessed 7 july 2017.

cookie crust|1 preheat oven to 350ºF. in a small bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs, sugar, salt, and melted butter.
2 add the crust mixture into a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan until packed tightly.
3 bake for 8-10 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool completely. wrap the bottom of the spring form pan in foil to waterproof it.
cheesecake|1 in a small bowl, whisk together the matcha with 28g of crème fraîche until all the matcha lumps are gone.
2 in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add cream cheese and beat until smooth and fluffy (~2 minutes). add the matcha mixture, the remaining crème fraîche (~85 g), and the sugar, and beat until combined.
3 with the mixer on medium, add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next one. add the vanilla extract and salt.
swirl|1 in a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche until smooth.
matcha, and powdered sugar
assembly|1 pour the matcha cream cheese filling into the springform pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. make sure it reaches the edges of the pan (I like to give the pan a few hard raps on the countertop).
2 make little dollops of the swirl mixture on the surface of the cheesecake. take a skewer or knife and marble the dollops.
3 place in a roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven, then fill the roasting pan with 2 inches of hot water. bake for 45-50 minutes, rotating once halfway through the baking time, until the cheesecake is set at the edges but still jiggly in the center. (if your cheesecake is browning too fast, tent it with foil.)
4 place on a cooling rack to cool for 30 minutes, then in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours. slice and serve.

 
*I don’t provide weights for the cookie crust because I got different weights depending on brand of cookie used; for oreos, the weight is ~125g.