Tuesday, November 29, 2011

BBQ Book Review: The Brisket Book

Title: The Brisket Book
Author: Stephanie Pierson
Published: 2011, Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pecan Lodge serves some of my favorite smoked brisket. They also serve an oven braised brisket flavored with chiles that is used for their (unsmoked) brisket tacos. I've read reviews complaining that this braised brisket isn't smoky, and it makes me want to remind these folks that brisket is a cut of beef, not just a smoked hunk of meat. If they would just read this new cookbook dedicated to this cantankerous muscle, then they'd know just how versatile brisket is. The Brisket Book has a narrow focus, but it's recipes cast a wide net. It helps that the author has an undeniable love for this undervalued cut. This fact makes it even more odd that the very first recipe in the book is for a vegetarian "brisket" that is a big hunk of flavored seitan. Huh? You just got done telling me how wonderful this beefy muscle is, then you suggest I down a hunk of formed wheat gluten? Curious indeed, but the recipes improve from there, you just won't get to another one until page 90. That's okay, because this book is packed with brisket knowledge.

The book takes on the brisket in three categories - Braised, smoked and corned. A good bit of history is given for the smoking portion of the book while the rest reads like a Jewish history lesson. Texas barbecue in particular gets it fair share of mentions. Robb Walsh is heavily quoted, Perini Ranch offers a recipe while Kreuz Market, Black's BBQ and Opie's BBQ all get mentions. She brings plenty of firepower in the well respected brisket authorities quoted in the book, so it's curious that she quotes message board contributors to Chowhound and the like so frequently.

Even with so much talk of smoked meat, there are only two recipes that don't begin with "Preheat the oven to...", and the book offers little beyond very basic smoking information. A scant twenty-four recipes are included in the 200 page book, and not a single one is included for pastrami or corned beef even though the author quotes a idol of hers in Christopher Kimball as saying that corned beef is "mindlessly easy". Texas BBQ fans may not be happy that the book has a decidedly New York tilt to the recipes offered and stories provided. The only pitmaster interviewed at length is Robbie Richter, former pitmaster at Brooklyn's Fatty 'Cue.

I enjoyed the absolute love the author shows to this sometimes unappreciated muscle. She truly loves brisket, and enjoys cooking it. Although she pays heavy lip service to smoking and brining, it's obvious that her comfort zone is braising a brisket. Those looking for braising tips will find all they need, but barbecue hounds will finish the book wishing for more.

- BBQ Snob

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Richter was also pitmaster at Hill Country


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.