If you follow the news, at least here in New York, you have probably seen the story regarding the recent announcement from the Carnegie Deli. The deli is something of an institution here in New York and has been open for nearly 80 years but recently announced that they will be closing at the end of 2016. The Carnegie Deli is very famous for the different sandwiches that it offers, especially the pastrami. Pastrami can sometimes be something of an acquired taste and not everyone is a big fan of it. For me personally, pastrami is basically the only type of cold cut meat that I really eat. While you can still get pastrami in any supermarket and from of variety of different sources, there is something about the Carnegie Deli that people are particularly fond of. Personally, I have never been to the Carnegie Deli but they do offer their pastrami for sale in different supermarkets and I have tried it before. It is pretty good but I had always wondered if it could be better. Pastrami was not something I had never really considered making myself, particularly because I do not have a smoker to use, but Shawn had shown an interest recently in trying pastrami and it just so happens, that at this time of year with the Jewish holidays, that brisket is at a pretty good price. I decided I would get adventurous and started looking around for a recipe that would allow me to make it at home but make it in the oven instead of the smoker. I came across this recipe from Food52 that seemed to fit the bill. It is a bit of a process, but it seemed like it was worth a try.
3 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 bay leaf, crushed
1/4 cinnamon stick, crushed
1 1/4 cup kosher salt
2 2/3 tablespoons pink salt (sodium nitrite)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
5 garlic cloves, minced
One 5-pound brisket from the fatty end (point), untrimmed
1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1/2 cup shiro dashi
In a small skillet, lightly toast 1/2 teaspoon of the black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon of the coriander seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard seeds over medium heat until the spices are fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the spices from the heat and allow them to cool slightly before grinding them in the spice mill.
Put the ground spices in a large pot and add the red pepper flakes, allspice berries, cloves, mace, ginger, crushed bay leaf, crushed cinnamon stick, kosher salt, pink salt, granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, minced garlic and 4 quarts of water. Bring the brine to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove the brine from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Transfer the brine to a vessel large enough to hold it and the meat – which will be added later – and refrigerate the brine until it is chilled.
Put the brisket in the brine and weigh it down (with a plate or several tomato cans, for example) to keep it completely submerged. Cover the brisket and refrigerate it for 5 days. Remove the brisket from the brine, rinse it thoroughly, dry it, and place it on a large platter. Discard the brine. In a spice mill, process the remaining black peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and the fennel seeds. Transfer the spices to a small bowl and mix them well. Coat the brisket with the spice mixture and sprinkle the shiro dashi over it. Cover the platter and refrigerate the brisket for about 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 250°. Put the brisket on a rack in a large roasting pan. Add a cup of water to the pan and tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil. Cook the brisket until it reaches 165° on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat, about 3 to 4 hours. If you do not have a meat thermometer, the brisket is ready when the meat is very tender. Let the meat rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or cover it and refrigerate it overnight. To serve, transfer the pastrami to a cutting board and cut it against the grain into thin slices. The pastrami will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Okay, this is quite a project to undertake and you not only need to have the time to put into it, and the space in your refrigerator, but you also, if you are like me, are going to need to go out and buy a number of spices. I do not typically have things like allspice berries or ground mace on hand and I certainly do not normally have the pink salt required for preserving meat. Sodium nitrite is used to help prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria and is something of a necessity if you are going to do this recipe. I was able to get some online through Amazon and probably have more than enough now to last me for a lifetime. I also had some difficulty in tracking down the shiro dashi, which they use in this recipe to help add some of the smoky flavor that you would normally get if you cook the pastrami in a smoker. Shiro dashi is a Japanese stock base that does have a bit of a smoky smell to it. I was finally able to track some down at one of the specialty food stores not too far from here. After that, I had to make space in the refrigerator for a container large enough to submerged the brisket to do the brining.
Even after all of that, you still have to wait for five days, the twelve hours of resting with the spices and then the four hours in the oven before the recipe is complete. That being said, I think it was certainly worth the effort put into it. The final product was very tasty. It tasted just as good or better than anything that you might be able to buy at the supermarket. The mix of spices was perfect and the pastrami was cooked perfectly and made for some great sandwiches. Of course, I served the pastrami hot on homemade rye bread with some homemade pickles, a little bit of tomato salad and some homemade ranch coleslaw and with plenty of mustard. It made for an excellent meal and there were plenty of leftovers so that Sean and I have been enjoying it for lunches ever since then and we gave some to my brother and his wife to bring home for them to enjoy. Is it something that I will make often? Not likely since the process is lengthy and brisket is often pretty expensive around here, but it is certainly a recipe that I will keep in mind to have once in a while when I get a craving for some good pastrami.
That is all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!