Archive for April, 2011

Like most Alaskans I enjoy cooking and eating salmon and other seafood, but I have a confession — I crave red meat. Beef, pork, and lamb often win when I’m faced with the choice between a protein that had hooves versus one that had fins. Yes, I know some readers may deem this stance to be politically incorrect, but I am a meatetarian. It is part of my genetic makeup.

It would be easy to limit my red meat coverage to recipes that focus on high-end gourmet cuts. Who doesn’t enjoy a juicy rib steak or flavorful pork chops? (Vegetarians, you might as well stop reading now. You are unlikely to find much of interest in this essay or the recipe that follows – other than how to make a roux – but I’ll write something specifically for you in a future column. I promise.)

Yes, New York steaks and rack of lamb are delicious and a cinch to prepare, but easy preparation isn’t as interesting as perfecting the techniques needed to properly cook inexpensive or less-tender cuts of meat. Truth? The inexpensive cuts are often far more flavorful than the pricey ones, as long as they are handled with care.

Enjoy slow-braised beef brisket on a crusty kaiser roll, topped with caramelized onions, sautéed red peppers, and greens -- create a wonderful lunch from leftovers.

Despite being inexpensive, brisket rarely made an appearance on our table when I was growing up in the Midwest, probably because low, slow cooking methods weren’t my mother’s forte. When it did appear, it was in the sad form of thin, dry slices of beef leather. I remained convinced that I didn’t like brisket until I was well into my 20s and living in Texas. That was when I discovered how flavorful and delicious brisket can become in the hands of a knowledgeable cook.

For me, brisket was the first in a series of culinary epiphanies. The recollection of luscious, tender brisket and beef ribs lovingly slow-smoked by Goode Company Barbeque on Kirby Drive in Houston can still make me swoon, and are some of my favorite memories from my years in Texas. Ribs! Brisket! With such rich, deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas flavor, no sauce was ever needed — the meat could stand alone. Ah, but I digress.

At the risk of riling up my Texas friends and starting yet another Texas versus Alaska feud, I’m going out on a limb with this next proclamation. Great brisket can be prepared without – yes, I said without – using a smoker or barbecue grill. Yes, I hear the howls of dissent. But before you discount other methods for cooking brisket, keep in mind that I live in a place where winter can last for 7 months and temperatures can easily reach 20 below zero. Indoor cooking is easier in Alaska. Cooking is also one of the ways I keep my sanity during the long, dark months of winter.

Beef brisket, in my opinion, is one of the more misunderstood cuts of beef. To the uninitiated it appears similar to steak, a deception that tricks far too many cooks



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Regardless of one’s religion, spring is seen as a time of rebirth and renewal, and nothing shouts “spring” to me like beautiful decorated eggs.

When I was a child growing up in the Midwest, my mother would hard boil vast cauldrons of eggs in the week leading up to Easter. Once the eggs cooled we’d drizzle vinegar into coffee cups filled with boiling water, add a few precious drops of food coloring, and then carefully dip in the eggs using teaspoons. For variety, sometimes we’d use crayons to write or draw on the eggs before coloring them. Trust me, we’re talking basic, home-spun creations, not decorator eggs. Eggs should never be too pretty to hide — hiding is eggs’ raison d’être.

The home-spun look belies the flavor of these Angelic Deviled Eggs

I still remember the thrill of being a small child filled with serious determination, hunting for the egg creations after my mom hid them. It was extremely important to find all of the eggs, especially when inclement weather forced the hunt indoors. Why? Mom usually forgot where she hid the eggs. If we didn’t find all of them, there would be serious repercussions a few weeks later when nature inevitably took her biodegradable course.

Egg hunts back in Nebraska were nothing like those here in Alaska. Real spring comes far later than in other parts of the country, but people here see themselves as tougher and hardier than folks Outside. Halloween costumes are designed to fit over snowsuits and boots. Easter egg hunts take place outdoors. Don’t even think about moving an egg hunt indoors – no matter the weather – it simply isn’t done. That means Easter egg hunts in Alaska are fraught with a different set of risks than you’ll find in any other part of the country.

A few years back the snow at a local park was so deep that children were stuck waist-deep hunting for eggs. Several kids were reported missing and police were dispatched to try to round them up. That was before a 1,500 pound bull moose (more…)

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