When I saw the one off event Cook and Eat Meat hosted by Home Mades to raise awareness of iron deficient anemia, and to get more women to eat meat, I thought, why not? I haven’t been anemic since adolescence, but I’m a woman, and I do crave a big hunk of nicely cooked meat once in a while. Although I enjoy a nicely grilled medium-rare wagyu steak, I usually leave Jason to order that and take a few slices from his plate. Don’t get me wrong, I normally like dishes where you can actually taste the food, and nothing epitomize this better than a well executed steak, but somehow when I think of meat, more hearty dishes such as cassoulet, braised pig trotters, oxtail soup and beef briskets come to mind. I could almost never pass them up whenever they’re on the menu, especially beef briskets, be it a steamy bowl of beef brisket noodles or a beef brisket clay pot. I like the gelatinous tendons cooked to soft, melt in your mouth perfection, and the multitude of flavors soaked up in the meat.
While I was in Shanghai recently I stumbled upon a food magazine called Betty’s Kitchen. It is just a normal glossy filled with recipes and cooking tips, but the magazine also runs a website which updates regularly with more recipes and feedbacks from readers. When I finally got around to type in the url, the first page that popped up contained a beef brisket recipe cooked in beer. I’ve always stayed away from Chinese dishes with complex flavors because the recipes never really tell you how much of the ingredients to add, but Betty’s recipe was very detailed and contained none of the cryptic descriptions so common to Chinese recipes. The addition of beer to the cooking stock also piqued my interest, for I really enjoy the taste of alcohol in my food.
Chinese braised meat dishes usually involve hours of slow simmering and watching the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over. I usually circumvent this by using my slow cooker, but now that we’ve moved to Singapore where the voltage is 220V, my Cuisinart 110-volt slow cooker had been put into storage. Not wanting to be tied to the stove for half a day I decided use my Le Creuset dutch oven. I did the prep work before noon, place it everything in the Le Creuset and brought it to a simmer. I then slid everything in the oven set to 80 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the stock is barely bubbling, just below the boiling point, and it’s heated from all the directions, much like a slow cooker. Cooking it this way allowed me to go out for lunch and tea with friends and come home to a kitchen smelling of wonderful braised beef brisket, just in time for dinner.
That night we ate the beef with a bowl of white rice and some roasted baby carrots. The next day, I boiled some eggs, cut a few slits into the surface and cooked them in the meat stock until the eggs turned brown. We then had beef brisket noodle soup with the eggs. The flavors were so robust and multifaceted that it was quite possibly the best beef brisket I’ve ever had.
Here is the recipe with some modifications: (I increased the amount of rock sugar because I like some sweetness in my braised meat)
1.2kg Beef brisket
8 dried red chili pepper
80g ginger, minced
3 carrots, roughly chopped
15 white button mushrooms
10 cloves garlic
3 whole star anise
3 bay leaves
15 whole Sichuan peppercorn
1 tsp anise seed
3 tbsp rock sugar
250ml light soy sauce (Sheng Chou)
18 oz beer
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1. Cut brisket into large pieces
2. Heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add rock sugar and stir fry until golden
3. Add Sichuan peppercorn, chili pepper, ginger and garlic
4. Turn heat on high, add beef brisket and stir fry until most of the liquid is gone
5. Add beer and the same amount of warm water. Bring to a boil and skim top
6. Add light soy sauce, star anise, bay leaves, and anis seed. Bring to a boil
7. Cover and simmer for 2.5 hours, until meat is tender
8. Add carrots and mushrooms. Cover and simmer for another half an hour