Usually, I don’t complain on this here lil’ site. I mean, I have the totally excusable Weather Bitching, and the absolutely justified Anti-Grilled Chicken Breast Rants. But those are both totally excusable and absolutely justified, and so don’t really count as complaints. Right?
Don’t answer that. Doesn’t matter. Because I am here today with a big ol’ fat complaint: our refrigerator broke. And I don’t mean it has some kind of cosmetic defect that is annoying or unattractive but it otherwise works. I mean everything was warm. And everything in the freezer was melted. And it stunk. No, like, literally, our whole apartment sort of smelled like spoiling food trash.
So that was the big discovery; the devastating end to the story that slowly declined over time until the big finale. But let’s go back to the beginning of the story — let’s Tarantino that shit.
For the last several weeks, the Boyfriend and I have both been working like crazy, and we’ve been trying to keep up with our very social social lives, and I’ve randomly had a lot of work lunches lately. Which is all just a braggadocio way to say that we just haven’t been eating at home that often. And, more specifically, we haven’t been opening the fridge that often. And then one night, the BF decided to have a glass of chocolate milk before bed. He glugged down half the glass, and said something about it maybe tasting funny. And then he glugged down the second half, and announced that it definitely tasted funny.
Which prompted an investigation … which revealed that everything in the freezer was defrosted, and everything in the fridge was warm. Everything, including the chocolate milk. Why no one realized before the Full Glug that the milk was warm is still an open point of inquiry. Without naming any names, someone who lives in my apartment claims that the chocolate part of the chocolate milk somehow disguised the warm sourness of the milk part. Someone else thinks that’s gross and inexplicable.
It’s important here to note three facts: (1) no one is judging anyone else for a total lapse of judgement vis-a-vie milk and warmth; (2) the chocolate milk we buy is just really freaking good and maybe actually has the ability to mask its own spoilage; and (3) every damn thing in my fridge and freezer was warm and/or melted.
So we embarked on the enormous task of cleaning out the fridge, which we had suddenly realized totally stunk of spoiling food. Out went the carnitas enchiladas, and the kefir I had on hand for maple chia puddings, and — devastatingly — the mini frittatas and the big bag of leftover chicken sausage gumbo from the freezer. Plus the really good cookies and cream ice cream that we drastically over-pay for because (in addition to being as addictive as black tar heroin) it’s apparently made by magic fairies from milk produced by cows that eat only sugar plums and angel dust. Oh, and the drawer full of produce which had all managed to grow mold (?) in the course of what I swear couldn’t have been more than a few days.
So we went a few days fridge-less (and don’t even get me started on the saga of the Replacement Refrigerator That Refused To Cool, because it is a boring and frustrating tale of good versus evil, me versus my super/landlord, in which no one wins and yet somehow I still have a temporary replacement refrigerator that sort of looks like it has bullet holes all over the front?).
And now I’m cooking to restock the fridge, starting with this fantastic spicy slow-cooker pulled brisket. The Boyfriend — who recently lost a lot of tastebud credibility, and yet is still my most frequent customer and biggest fan — said I could “go pro” with this one. Which is the highest praise my cooking has ever received from anyone. And I don’t want to toot my own horn, but *toot, toot* this whole bowl is actually pretty amazing. The meat is tender and spicy, and the fattiness of the brisket is perfectly complemented by a bed of lentils and the crunch of fresh radishes. Throw in pickled onions and salsa yogurt for a little tang, and sliced avocado for a little decadence, and you have a lunch that could make anyone forget about a little (okay, fine, excessive drawn-out) complaining.
One year ago on Leighto-Greato: Frisée Salad
- 3.5 lb beef brisket
- Salt n' peppa
- 2 T. vegetable oil
- 1 onion, halved and sliced
- 1 T. each: cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, and Hungarian hot paprika
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- ¼ c. apple cider vinegar
- 1 c. water
- 1 (14½-ounce) box of diced tomatoes
- 3 whole canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ c. honey (bonus points for Mike's hot honey, infused with spicy chiles)
- 1 T. masa or all-purpose flour
- 12 oz. black lentils
- Sliced avocado
- Chopped radishes
- Pickled onions (see below)
- Salsa Yogurt (see below)
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- Red wine vinegar
- 1 5-oz. container greek yogurt
- 3 T. of your favorite salsa
- 1 t. red wine vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- Season the brisket with a generous pinch of salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, and set aside on the counter (or anywhere room temperature). If you haven't done all your chopping and slicing yet, it's a good idea to take care of that while the meat is seasoning.
- Once the meat is seasoned and your mise is placed, heat the vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is super hot (hint: you can test this by running a little cool water over your finger tips and flicking your wet hands at the oil -- if it sizzles, it's hot enough!), sear the brisket on both sides until well-browned. This should take about 5 minutes per side. Don't move it around while it's browning -- just throw it in the skillet and let it go for 5 minutes, unless it bursts into flames. Then flip it and repeat (and reverse it?). Transfer the browned brisket to the slow cooker.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion slices to the still-hot skillet, which should have a layer of vegetable oil and rendered beef fat on the bottom. Add the spices and give the onions a good stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the onions have wilted and you can smell the spices. Then add the smashed garlic cloves, and cook a minute or two more. Add the apple cider vinegar and cook until it has all boiled out of the skillet. Add the water and give the pan a few good scrapes to get anything that might be caked on the bottom, then add the contents of the skillet to the slow cooker.
- Stir the whole chipotle peppers, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and honey to the slow cooker, and give everything a stir.
- Cook on low for 10 hours.
- Once the brisket is cooked all the way through, pull the meat out of the slow cooker and set aside. Strain the contents of the slow cooker through a mesh sieve into a pot, removing the bay leaves, whole chipotle peppers, and vegetable remnants, so only a deep red, watery sauce remains. Boil the sauce over high heat until it reduces by half -- you want enough sauce to coat the meat, but not so much that your brisket is swimming.
- While the sauce is reducing, shred the brisket with two forks. It should fall apart.
- When the sauce is almost reduced enough, add the masa and whisk until it's incorporated. Continue cooking, and periodically whisking, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. At this point, add the shredded brisket back into the hot sauce and stir well.
- Put the sliced red onions in an air-tight jar, and add enough red wine vinegar to cover ⅔ of the onions. Add a fat pinch of sugar and another fat pinch of kosher salt. Add enough water to cover the onions. Screw on the lid and shake to mix. Set aside for at least 20 minutes, and ideally a day.
- In a small bowl, stir together greek yogurt, red wine vinegar and 3 T. of your favorite salsa. Season with additional salt if necessary and adjust to taste.
- Everyone wants a pretty lunch, amirite? Start with a bowl about half full of cooked lentils. Add sliced avocado and chopped radishes. Scoop in some picked red onions. Then some spicy pulled brisket. Then drizzle a little yogurt sauce over the whole thing. No expertise necessary -- if you have been to chipotle, you are qualified to assemble this lil' lentil bowl.