Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dinner tonight... Braised Brisket with Cranberries and Roasted-Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Tonight, Mr. Fritz and I took a meal over to the Rev. and Mrs. Glade, my final meal-after-a-new-baby-delivery for this baby season. I'm not expecting to cook for another new mom until February or so when Mr. and Mrs. Robertson have their little girl. This particular delivery was extra fun because we ended up getting to share the meal with the Glades, and during the ensuing hour we had quite a few good laughs, especially when Mrs. Glade recounted her days in her high school marching band and one particularly unfortunate showing during a band performance in Toronto. There are few things as priceless in this life as dear friends. (Especially funny ones!)

In any case, I wanted to make something really special, so I decided on Braised Brisket with Cranberries as the main dish and Roasted-Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the side dish. The brisket takes four hours to roast in the oven at 350, so it's a meal to make when you know you'll be around for the afternoon. It requires very little babysitting.

You begin by searing the brisket for 8-10 minutes in a heavy pot, then set it aside and make a bath for it to braise in -- saute a little flour, then add red wine, chicken broth, water, blackstrap molasses, a bay leaf and half a bag of cranberries to the pot. Once that's mixed together, you place the brisket back in the pot and set it in a 350 degree oven with the rack placed at the lowest possible point. Then you leave it alone for three hours. At the three hour mark, you add a o
ne-pound bag of frozen pearl onions, and then at the 3:30 mark you add the rest of the cranberries. At the four hour mark, the brisket is done. But along the way, your kitchen will fill with the wonderful scent of the cranberries cooking and the beef roasting; perfect for a cold fall day! Even better: the end result was excellent. The brisket was incredibly tender and the cranberries and onions were lovely accompaniments. The liquids turned into a great gravy-like sauce and the whole dish together was fragrant and well-balanced. Definitely a keeper.

For the mashed potatoes, you also need to plan ahead just a bit because it takes an hour to roast the garlic (recipe below). I really need to pick up a potato masher; I ended up once again using my pastry cutter to mash them, which is not optimal. My mom uses her stand mixer to mash potatoes, but it's too much of a hassle for me to pull mine out for this. (My mother's potatoes, I should add, are legendary in how amazing they are.) Anyway, the roasted garlic definitely added a nice edge to the standard potatoes I typically make. (Roasting the garlic also made me recall the time I went to a restaurant in San Francisco called The Stinking Rose - an entire restaurant dedicated to garlic!). In any case, the potatoes turned out very nicely and I'm glad I went to the trouble of roasting the garlic.

Everyday Food Magazine, November 2008
Serves 8. Prep time: 15 minutes. Total time: 1+1/4 hour

2 heads garlic
1 tsp olive oil
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch cubes
Coarse ground salt and pepper
1 cup half and half
4 Tbs butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off and discard top quarter of garlic heads. Drizzle garlic with oil; wrap in foil. Bake until tender, 1 hour. Squeeze out garlic cloves; discard skins.

Place potatoes in a large sauce pan and cover with cold water by 1 inch; season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and return to pan. Heat over medium, stirring, until a thin starchy film covers bottom of pan. Remove from heat; add half and half, butter and garlic. Mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

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