I have been asked by my church to create a Seder meal to be enjoyed by 80 or so congregation members the week before Easter. The good things about being Lutheran at Easter time are A) I don't have to give up anything for Lent and B) I don't have to keep the meal kosher (which provides many more options).
Last year I made braised lamb with couscous for the meal. Braises are great for a group because once you get them started you can just pop the pan in the oven to cook for a few hours while you work on the rest of the meal. Plus, they are really hard to ruin. And couscous is the easiest thing on the planet to cook (pour couscous in pan, add seasonings if desired, add boiling water to just above the couscous, cover for five minutes, fluff).
I obviously can't make the same things two years in a row but I think I've got a plan for a fairly low stress, really tasty meal.
I definitely want to stick with a braise (see above for my reasons) so I decided to do a brisket. I asked some friends if they had any great brisket recipes and this was my first response. It sounded really good so I decided to give it a test. I'd like to give credit to the author of the recipe but my friend said that she got it from her mom who probably got it from a magazine, or a Web site, so the origins of the recipe are unknown.
The original recipe calls for an 8-10 pound brisket. However, since this is just for husband and myself I halved the recipe for testing purposes. I know I will still have tons of leftovers, but I am not mad about that.
Here's the ingredients for the brisket
salt and pepper
1 Tbls oil from sun-dried tomatoes (see below)
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced (oil reserved)
2 bay leaves
8 sprig fresh thyme (the recipe called for dried thyme but I had the fresh in the herb garden so I used it instead)
1 cup beef stock
1 cup dry red wine
Plus my brand-spanking new dutch oven (it was on clearance at the grocery store for $34.99, I had to buy it)
The brisket was pretty big so I cut it in half so that I could brown it in the dutch oven (plus I have a plan to try a method of reheating the brisket in a couple of days and I wanted to be able to split it evenly). I seasoned it really well with salt and pepper and then browned both pieces on both sides one at a time (I didn't want to crowd the pan because that leads to boiling not browning). I took the meat out of the pan then deglazed the pan with a little bit of the beef stock.
I added half the onions, half the sun-dried tomatoes, a couple of sprigs of thyme, the garlic and the tomatoes. Then I added the brisket and topped it with the remaining onions, sun-dried tomatoes and a couple more sprigs of thyme. I poured the rest of the beef stock and the wine over the top and then pushed the bay leaves down into the liquid.
I brought this up to a simmer, covered the pan with foil, added the lid and popped it all in a 350 degree oven for 4 hours.
While this was in the oven I started on the Corn Bread Pudding. I had some leftover corn bread in the fridge and this seemed like a very good use of it.
Here's the ingredients for the Savory Corn Bread Pudding
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
6" x 9" square of cornbread, cut into large cubes
1 cup milk
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
I started by sauteing the onion and red bell pepper. Once they were done I combined them with the cornbread in a large bowl then poured this into a 9" x 9" dish. I whisked together the eggs with the milk and poured this over the cornbread. I then arranged the halved tomatoes over the top then popped this into the fridge for a couple of hours. When there was about an hour left in the cooking time of the brisket I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the dish, seasoned it with salt and pepper, then added the dish of corn bread pudding to the oven.
Smellovision would be good here because the smells coming out of the kitchen were so good. The brisket was falling apart and the onions and sun-dried tomatoes had kind of melted together into a tasty gravy.
The corn bread pudding was a really good accompaniment (and I think it would be really easy to prepare for the group).
The pudding had a nice crispy top which was good texturally with the brisket. My leftover cornbread happened to have corn and chipotle peppers in it. I think I will probably keep the corn but I will get rid of (or at least reduce) the chipotles (a lot of people really don't like spicy food).
The vegetable on the plate is steamed snap peas with a champagne vinegar and lemon buerre blanc sauce.
Tonights dinner was really good. On Wednesday I'm going to experiment with a method of reheating the brisket and a couple of different side dishes (so I can compare and contrast). I can hardly wait.