Monday, February 28, 2011

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Pot au feline.  Just kidding. 
From Sunday's Facebook:
"We went to BJ's for some much-needed stuff. I looked at the price of food and became very grumpy. Now, I not only need to park my car in the driveway and stay home, but I'm going to have to stop eating. Worse than that, I'm going to have to stop cooking. I have never seen prices like this ever."

I thought I was going to get inspiration.  Instead, I got aggravation.

We are pretty good warehouse shoppers.  Gone are the days when we became starry-eyed over 5 pound bags of tortilla chips and a gallon jug of salsa.  I don't even like salsa.  Today, we go in and buy what we need, usually cleaning supplies, cat and dog food, paper goods.  We might stray occasionally and pick up a DVD or a new cookbook, but we're still pretty cautious about what we decide to buy.

When it comes to the food department, I like to walk in with an open mind.  I have ideas floating around in my head, and a nicely priced ingredient will help bring an idea to fruition.  Other things we pick up are standards, like butter, cream cheese, and kielbasa.  Prices are excellent and we know from experience they will be well used.

Since I had done an enormous amount of cooking the previous weekend - paella, pork loin and vegetables, peanut chicken stir fry - I knew this was going to be a light weekend in the kitchen.  (Those teriyaki chicken wings are already gone, by the way.  Now I'm really sorry I just made a small test batch.)  So I knew that this coming weekend, first weekend in March, I was going to need a few good dishes.  I already had one in mind, a Louisiana corn and crab bisque recipe that I had found by happy accident while researching whole fried okra.  I thought the timing was fortuitous, because the recipe calls for a pound of lump crabmeat, and BJ's carries the pound-size containers at a better price than I've seen anywhere else.  Everything else I could get at Publix, including the crab claws.  Dave the Fish Guy carries Jonah crab claws at a fairly decent price.

I sailed by the salmon, the tilapia and the catfish and headed straight to the crabmeat.  They had claw crabmeat at an okay price.  Same for the "special" crabmeat.  But the price for a pound of jumbo lump crabment, in BJ's was - are you sitting down? - almost $23.00 a pound.  And this was one dish where I could not get away by substituting with the "special."  I needed the lumps, damn it. 

Reality bites.  And the truth is, jumbo lump crabmeat is a luxury item that has now slipped out of my grasp.  I can still afford chicken, pork, and some fin fish, which is a lot better than many families during this financial depression (or should that be depression with a big "D"?)  So no corn and crab bisque ... maybe I can think of a way to adapt the recipe to replicate the wonderful clam bisque I used to order at Lundy's in Brooklyn.  Canned clams are still reasonable.

"You bought the brisket?  Smoke 'em if you got 'em."

Sadly, the price of beef is not reasonable, and has not been for a number of months.  I don't know which is worse, sticker shock at the meat counter or at the pump.  I did finally settle on a rather handsome piece of fresh brisket - over $4.00 a pound, even in BJ's! - and a Freirich corned beef brisket.  St. Patrick's Day is coming up, after all.  The fresh brisket is bound for the smoker, and that is really some good eats.  Sliced very thin, served over Texas garlic toast with some barbecue sauce from Sonny's.  Brisket is a quintessential Jewish cut of meat, and I know a lot of ways to cook it.  I always buy the flat cut (some people swear by the point) unless I can get a whole piece which includes both flat and point.  The flat cut has less fat, less waste, less shrinkage.  It also cuts a lot neater than the point.

Brisket is what we call pot roast ... my mother never used any other cut of meat for her pot roast, and when I started reading cookbooks and saw recipes for pot roast that involved rumps and bottom rounds, I was puzzled.  Brisket is pot roast and pot roast is brisket.  Bottom round, on the other hand, makes a fine beef stew. If you can find a well-priced piece of bottom round, or shoulder, cut them into cubes yourself and try them in this recipe

I am going to try to smoke that fresh brisket this coming weekend, and I'll take pictures if I do.  So good, you'll want to lick the monitor screen.  Really.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

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