Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A load of tripe! And brisket.

Heeeeeere's the beef!
Recently, the Forward asked me to contribute a knish recipe using brisket leftovers. Not having any on hand myself -- it's not Passover, and my significant other sadly does not eat meat -- I had to go and do a beefy brisket. (As this is Knishery NYC and not Brisketery NYC, recipe is in the addenda below.)

I went through my hugely massive knish library of 4 or 5 old Jewish cookbooks and poked around for meat knish recipes online. What struck me the most? The recipes I found were not that different from stuffed cabbage, derma, or perogie stuffing. Cooked meat is ground up; a secondary meat is ground up for texture; a starch or grain is added for filler; a binder is needed; and a seasoning, typically salt and pepper, is dashed in. Lung was mentioned a few times as the secondary meat, which unlike some organ meats (I'm looking at you, liver!!), is mild in flavor. Not readily available at my local markets, I picked up some tripe.

I do, I DO have a stomach for brisket knishes!
Tripe is cheap, and tripe is weird. It's cow stomach, and doesn't really taste like anything. But in my experience eating it at dim sum, it's kinda rubbery, like stomach. And it looks weird. And like tofu, it takes on the flavor of what it's prepared with. I simply boiled it for 2 hours, in water, and when it came out, looked....exactly the same -- no shrinkage, no color change, no nothing.

So first a rough chop...

The Chop House
And then off to the grinder...
The Grind House
And out comes this hash...
The Hash House
Grinding cooked meat is similar to chopping it very rough, and very fine, except instead of just chopping (which is straight and clean and neat), the grinding process also tears, loosening the fibers that were tightened by all the cooking.

In the morning, I prepped:
  • A cup of kasha (which yields 3 cups once cooked); its whole granulation makes a nice match for the size of the grind of the meat.
  • Caramelized onions (a few pounds of onions with shortening and salt in the oven for a few hours, overlapping the meat cooking).
  • The potatoes -- boiled and mashed to make a batch of dough.
The filling came together and looked about right. Even though a solid half of the mix was kasha and onion, the color and texture of the meat really made it look more like 75-80% meat.

Brisket Knishes, nikkit and raw!
I took this opportunity to make my first full-sized knishes via the rolling method. On first go round, I cut the dough into the same shape as I did for the minis. But when I tried to roll the dough, it wouldn't close. So I improvised, reattaching a sheet to double the dough.

I've never seen such a large circumknishen...

I immediately noticed how crumbly the filling was -- next time gotta up the eggs for more binding power.

From top left: Tiny, Charlie, Bruiser, Chuck, Sloppy, Jerome, Biggie Smalls, Sloppy 2, Precious, Egghead, Dumdum and Horace
Even raw, the knishes were spilling out a little -- one was the binding issue, the other was that I used two too-short sheets to roll them. Also, perhaps, my hand-skills of shaping them once cut and rolled needs improvement, something that'll happen when I make a few 100 more in this style....

Outta the oven, cut open and...

Crazy Sexy Crumby
Tasted good and honest -- meaty but not overwhelming like meatloaf. The kasha and onion really balanced the brisket and the tripe was very subtle, making the whole affair a little looser and softer.


Cooking Brisket: Made up a brisket recipe on the fly, as I was well familiar with the cooking method from my culinary training -- drop the meat in a heavy pot with lid, cover with liquid and aromatics, bake low (250 to 300ish) for 3 or more hours, let rest before slicing thin.

Into the cast iron pot went:
  • a quart of beef stock
  • a full head of crushed garlic
  • a table spoon of brown sugar
  • a teaspoon of salt
  • a teaspoon of coriander
  • a dash of smoked paprika
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce
Before - Limp Brizket
After - A brisket only a bubbe could love.
(If I had red wine on hand, I would have thrown that in just to make it a lil' Frenchy.) The brisket cut comes from the lower front of the cow, right above the front legs. It is tough & thoroughly worked, so it has a lot of connective tissue that, when baked slow and low, becomes tender and moist. By braising it in liquid, it further prevents it from getting dry & tough.

Bubbe: My grandmother (and probably yours, too) had a big, cast iron meat grinder that attached to her counter top to do things just like this, in the days before the modern supermarket where you could just go pick up chopped meat. I admit that
  1. it made me miss my Ema and 
  2. it made me regret I never did any cooking with her. 
I do remember her matzoh ball soup, particularly because she'd boil a chicken for hours to make the soup base, but then she'd tear it apart and include the overcooked chicken bits in the soup. Oof -- if only she'd known that you can cut off the meat raw, boil the carcass, then cook the meat separately and then include it in the soup. No wonder my mom was such a horrible cook. Amazing, great person, but horrible cook.

Tripe: The editor at the Forward was concerned about the tripe factor -- the readers might be put off by its inclusion in the recipe. So I suggested other filler/softeners, like portobello duxelle and TVP, for those squeamish around offal. I guess that's just how we roll at Knishery NYC -- no half-steppin' in the exploration of knishitude. I don't know if tripe and lung is the future of the knish, but you can't go into the future if you don't know the past. I gotta start working on the lung/tripe/gefilte tripleplay knish...

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