Part of my cultural discovery has delightedly come via food. I love food, it always has been an important part of my life and it is definitely a part of my culture; Cubans love to cook, to eat, and to feed. Everything in our lives, whether it is a cold or a breakup, can be resolved with the right meal.
My cures-it-all food is café con leche (Wiki explains Café con Leche) and unsurprisingly my mom makes it better than I do and offers to do so every time I feel sick, tired, or sad.
My personal recipe for a quick and always delicious café con leche is one cup of milk, one tablespoon of Nescafé Taster’s Choice Original (I buy the travel packets and bring them with me whenever I travel outside of Miami, they definitely came in particularly handy when I went home with my boyfriend and I was able to make café con leche in the midwest) and two packets of Equal.
So it was quite the pleasant surprise when I learned that Judaism came with a very similar passion for food. Every holiday is filled with delicious foods, most of which fell outside my familiar palate. I fell in love with paprika and matzah (matzo? I can never get the plural/singular right) balls, I even developed a taste for gefilte. Most importantly, at this point I cannot live without challah, I look foward to Shabbat every week and it is one of the reasons. Particularly Saturday mornings, when I enjoy the perfect breakfast: challah (local tip, Publix has the best challah), schmeard with yogurt butter and dipped in café con leche.
Two (three if we count the cookbook writer) very important women in my life have only strengthened my passion. For graduation my fabulous future mother in law got me Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook, quickly I perfected my matzah balls and discovered chicken paprikash (whoever you are, go make it right now, it’ll change your life Chicken Paprikash, I subbed rice for chickpeas and it was incredible).
Now, to the point of this post: Brisket. The second woman in my life who only furthered my food fanaticism is my mother. She is an amazing cook, she can create and recreate like nobody’s business. I have been cooking along this amazing woman for at least a decade and I must credit her for my cooking talents. For as long as I can remember I have wanted a slow cooker and for my last birthday my mother got me just that. I have to embarrassingly admit it is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten, it is red, perfectly sized and has allowed me to make some exquisite dishes (the first was an Asian inspired chicken with peanuts and orange that was a major hit in my household). However, my slow cooker has been pivotal in developing my own signature Jewish staple: Brisket! I have been making brisket for Shabbat for at least three weeks now. The first week I went traditional, inspired by Joan and the Shiksa (Shiksa’s Slow Cooker Brisket, check out her blog, it is awesome) and it was really good. I have to admit, however, that my brisket is consistently more Jewban than Jewish) with a texture similar to ropa vieja.
Thankfully, my boyfriend (the only real connoisseur of Jewish cuisine) loves our bicultural brisket.
My second brisket adventure was inspired by the Southwest, simply because I love those flavors.
We usually get a brisket in the $9 to $11 range, I am not really sure what the weight is (maybe 5 pounds?), for the Southwestern we marinaded the brisket overnight in Cuban mojo and honey barbecue sauce, freshly chopped onions, garlic and peppers along with a couple of bay leaves, paprika and cumin. The next morning I set the slow cooker to slow and added the onion and peppers in, then placed the brisket on top adding a little pineapple and black bean salsa and slices of corn on the cob. About eight hours later I removed the brisket, sliced it, and placed it back in the slow cooker for about an hour. It was pretty delicious and just the right amount of spicy (the salsas were mild and the barbecue sauce was just a little warm).
However, my latest brisket creation has been my best, by far. Inspired by my Italian ancestors (they’re way, way, way back there in the bloodline) I wanted to make Italian brisket.
It started with our usual bed of garlic and onions, then I rubbed the brisket with extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and a rosemary garlic blend by Spice Islands, and I let it marinade overnight. The next morning I followed the same routine I had the last two Friday mornings, I placed the onion and garlic underneath the brisket then threw several plump sun-dried tomatoes in along with half a jar of piquillo peppers (if you can’t find these locally I am sure fire roasted red peppers will do the trick). About eight hours later I removed the brisket, sliced it, and placed it back in the slow cooker for about an hour. By far, this has been my favorite brisket. It was moist and flavorful and went very well with my favorite $5 bottle.
Please feel free to ask questions shall you have any and hope we meet again!
images via flickr.com, tumblr.com, sergios.com, askgeorgie.com and versaillescuban.com