We’re now three months into the Charcutepalooza challenge. What a whirlwind! I’ve made duck proscuitto (and got some props for it!) in January, and fresh bacon in February by using dry salt curing (and pancetta but I haven’t blogged about that yet). For the March challenge, we were to brine, and for the more charcuterie minded, make either corned beef or pastrami. I, of course, did two things! I brined a whole chicken and fried it Momofuku style. And I made corned beef…whilst on vacation for my birthday! My (completely voluntary and overly ambitious) work is never done.
First, some backstory. Double S and I have birthdays about one week apart. Mine is today! Thank you, thank you, I’m old. So we recently had back to back weekends of birthday celebratory partying, eating and drinking. I took Double S here and we ate here, which was awesome. Double S took me here and we ate here, which was even better. I usually make a big meal for Double S’s birthday. This year, she requested Momofuku fried chicken. Perfect for me, cuz I could shower Double S with birthday revelry AND fulfill my, again completely voluntary and overly ambitious, blogging assignments. Sweet.
I’m sure you all have heard of Momofuku, David Chang’s restaurants in NYC and the cookbook. I’ve only been to the Milk Bar and had the crack pie and the compost cookie, but the cookbook is pretty awesome, especially if you love incredibly ambitious and voluntary cooking projects. I made the chicken once before and it was a hit, and Double S requested it, so it was done.
Here’s how to do it. And really, if you don’t already brine all your chicken that you cook with, you’re missing out on a world of moistness. First, break the chicken down into two breasts halves with wings attached and two drumsticks. Use the rest of the bird to make stock. Next, I brined the chicken in a 2 parts salt/2 parts sugar/4 parts water solution for 6 hours. Then I steamed it for 40 minutes on a medium boil, then I let it rest in the fridge for a few hours. Take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to fry it. Then I fried it in a wok in a mixture of peanut and canola and grapeseed oil heated up to 375°. Open up some damn windows, cuz our house stunk so bad afterwards that I had to wash my coat! And I wasn’t even wearing my coat! It was in the other room! And people on the bus moved away from me when I wore it the next morning before I realized I had to wash it! Inconvenient! Embarrassing!
But the chicken is delicious! After frying, you immediately toss it with what David Chang calls octo vinaigrette, which is a lot of birdseye chilis, garlic, ginger, rice wine vinegar, light soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Fried chicken tossed with this vinaigrette is a great flavor combo, and the brining made the chicken moist and extra flavorful. Make it!
OMG I loved Remote Control. So the combo of 1988 MTV spring break footage AND remote control…uh, awesome! When I was 12, I knew I woulda rocked Remote Control. Anyway, remember when MTV spring break coverage was risque? little did we know now that children would be listening to music about stripper poles. Sigh.
I also made corned beef. Ever since I was a young whippersnapper, my birthday always is associated to me with St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA tournament. Yep, green food and brackets, peeps. Growing up, we usually had corned beef and cabbage right around my birthday (Yum! Cabbage! On my birthday! Is what I used to say! Just like Charlie!), and green popcorn at my birthday party. Good times!
The hardest part of this month’s challenge was actually finding a beef brisket. I checked at many local butcher shops, and was always turned away because their asses were doing the brining! What the eff! Let me brine, yo!
Finally, I checked at my local farmer’s market and ended up getting two smaller briskets, because I never could find one 5 pound brisket. I started them both in brine late one Sunday night. A good brine for corned beef needs to have water, kosher salt, sugar, pink salt, lotsa garlic and pickling spice. Check out Mark Ruhlman’s book for proportions. Put the brisket in a non-reactive bowl, cover with brine, and then the cover the brisket with something that will keep it submerged. I used a large glass jar filled with water then covered the whole shebang with saran wrap. Growing up, my mom always cooked her corn beef (which she bought pre-brined, that saucy minx!) in water with pickling spice that my family gets in St. Louis that works just as awesomely well in shrimp. Thus, I decided to skip Ruhlman’s pickling spice recipe and use some of the stash of pickling spice my mom gives me in my stocking every xmas. We get weird gifts in the ohbriggsy household, mmkay? Off the briskets went to their (newly obtained!) garage refrigerator.
Now, things got complicated. Timing didn’t work well due to birthdays, so I decided to take one of my briskets with me to Whidbey Island to be cooked on Saturday night.
I put half the brine and the brisket into another one of those world’s largest Ziploc bags and hoped for the best, as this sucker would end up brining one extra day. I also decided to leave my other small brisket home, and cook my corned beef another way when I returned during my vacation birthday (today!), and that would be a whole 9 days of brining. Would it be too salty? Would it be extra awesome from extra brining like my family’s sauerbraten was this past holiday season when they let it brine extra days. I hoped!
So on Saturday afternoon, whilst Double S and I relaxed in our awesome waterfront cottage, I took my 3.25 lb brisket from it’s brine, rinsed it, put it in my dutch oven, covered it with water, added some onions and carrots and 3 TBSP of pickling spice and let it cook for 3 hours.
Meanwhile, I took out some of the rye bread dough I made from here that I also transferred across international waters and let it rise. I also thought about the homemade kraut and Russian dressing I also toted in our Coleman cooler for the reubens we would enjoy that evening, and felt morally superior to tourists across the land with their hot dogs and take out. In your face, imaginary people!
The sandwich turned out good, even though we realized that we didn’t really like Russian dressing and Swiss cheese as much as I thought. Also, if you corn your own beef be sure to let it rest for awhile after it’s done cooking. Right out of the pot the meat was a bit rubbery. Later that day and in subsequent days, the texture has much improved. Plus, I had a birthday sandwich with toasted rye, good grainy mustard and pickles I fermented myself and it was delicious. I’m hoping to get some good ideas for cheeses and sauces for future reubens from my fellow charcuteplaoozers this month.
So that was the March challenge. It’s almost St. Patrick’s day, so get yourself some corned beef. Go to your fave Irish bar or deli, or buy a pre-corned piece of brisket from your favorite local butcher shop. Or if you don’t mind waiting till the weekend, put some brisket in a salt brine today and wait 5 days for the magic to happen. Next month, we’ll be hot smoking! Great, cuz my hot smoking fiend of a dad is coming to visit this month!