Smoked my first brisket a couple weeks ago. Never smoked any meat before. I borrowed a never used Brinkman smoker from an old boyfriend. Far from the best on the market, he got it from Marlboro ? a gift for cutting box tops off way too many ciggie packs.
Brisket came from Belcampo, a new butchery/eatery in Palo Alto. Interesting company ? most of the meat is pasture-raised and finished on their 20,000-acre ranch north of Mt. Shasta. All of it is AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) and CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) stamped, the later being one of the most rigorous certifiers, at least it was during my short stint in the chicken business. Belcampo started in 2011 with a vision to improve status quo by managing the entire meat process from ranch ? to slaughter ? to sales.
"We don't want to be huge, says Bronwen Hanna-Korpi, company president. "We only slaughter 40 beef a week compared to large slaughterhouses that can do 400 or more per hour. We are looking for the sweet spot where business can stay small but still make a profit. It's a better product."
Belcampo raises cattle, poultry, pork, goat and lamb, and slaughters all of the meat onsite. Butchers take it from there. "It's a dying art form, one we are trying to bring back," says Hanna-Korpi. "Your butcher should be like your hairdresser or bartender. Get to know Joe (Ada ? head butcher in Palo Alto). Ask him for ideas, especially with lesser- known cuts like Oyster Steak that we hope you try and enjoy. He'll make your life easier."
So I did, and he did - Joe was more than helpful with my brisket newbie smoker questions. So was his apprentice, Patrick Sieman. Doesn't that sound nice, "apprentice?" Just like the old days.
On party day, I got up at 5AM to prepare the meat. Besides brisket, the menu included Grilled Okra and Radish Skewers with Almond Cilantro Chutney, Trio of Pixtos, Thai Shrimp or Yuba Dumplings with Coconut Red Pepper Sauce, and Fireside Whiskey Chai. Prepping the rub the day before made the early morning call a lot easier. It took twelve-pounds of charcoal (a lot more than many smokers) to start, and the air flow was so bad, we had to remove the base every 45 minutes to fan the flame. Despite the fact that the gauge didn't measure real temperatures (just "ideal"), and the temperature never got to the recommended 225 - 230°F (hung around 208°F all day), brisket beauty finished in 1.5 hours less than the suggested 1 ? 1.5 hours per pound. "Great taste." "Nice smoke ring." "Terrific rub," came comments from the crowd.
Later that evening it was time for a late night specialty drink ? Fireside Whiskey Chai. We were about to add the spices to the heated milk when a friend yelled, "Stop Laura! This doesn't smell like chai tea at all!"
Thanks for keeping the brisket spices out of the milk (because with eyes barely cracked that morning, I rubbed the chai spices on the brisket!) We rescued the milk into hot chocolate. As for the brisket, well, it was long gone, but to rave reviews. Hmmmm, do I hear new food trend?
So next time you bring out the ol' smoker, jump away from the expected cumin, oregano and paprika and tickle your taste buds with a novel East Indian approach instead.
Chai Brisket. (This doesn't cross some kind of "cow-is-sacred" blaspheme line, does it?)
Rick Koslowski Brisket Rub (good for 7 ? 9 pounds)
4 tablespoons kosher or coarse salt
4 teaspoons coarse black pepper (use fresh cracked pepper)
4 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (I substituted chili powder)
2 teaspoons oregano leaves (dried)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
Combine everything. Rub on brisket overnight, or at least 2 hours before putting meat on smoker.
Chai Brisket Oops Rub (good for 7 ? 9 pounds)
4 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
40 black peppercorns
32 whole cloves
16 cardamom pods, seeds removed from the pod
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons loose black tea
In a spice grinder, pulse cinnamon ? cardamom. Add in remainder of ingredients. Rub on brisket overnight, or at least 2 hours before putting meat on smoker.
(above) I like the little tags at Belcampo which show you where on the animal the cut of meat comes from.