Black Coffee Brisket

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brisket diagram

Lately we have been on a BBQ quest.  We are trying as many BBQ joints as we can, in search of the perfect meat.  Bill is looking for ribs and  I am in search of brisket.  Usually he is happy and I am disappointed.   But last night it switched, and I had terrific brisket.

I am always surprised that brisket is not better, because it’s not that hard.  I think, perhaps, on a BBQ menu, brisket is an afterthought.  Most people seem to go BBQing for the boney pork products (BTW, a great name for a band.  You’re welcome.)  But I prefer beefy chest to piggy ribs.  Maybe it’s the lady in me, preferring to eat with utensils.  (Nah—who am I kidding– if I have the choice to eat at the table or over the sink, I choose sink.)

The key to a good brisket is braising, and the key to a good braise is a cheap piece of meat with lots of fat and connective tissue paired with a long, low, slow cooking time. Don’t rush it, or you’ll be disappointed

This recipe is quite good, although it sounds weird.  It works because  it cuts the richness of the typical brisket.  The bitterness of the dark coffee paired with acidic tomatoes and vinegar tone down all that fat and nicely compliment the beefiness.

Enjoy responsibly.


2 or 3 lbs. beef brisket
8 cloves garlic
4 slices bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery
1 (16-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 cups strong black coffee
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F.
  2. Rinse beef and pat dry. On all sides of roast, make about 8 incisions with a boning knife, and insert 1 clove garlic into each one.
  3. In a large roasting pan cook bacon over high heat until brown and fat is rendered. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add roast, and brown on all sides. Add celery, tomatoes, vinegar, coffee, water, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Bring liquid to a boil. At the boil, cover tightly with a lid or foil, and transfer to oven.
  4. Roast for 6 to 8 hours or until fork tender.  That means when you poke it with a fork, the meat falls apart.  If it doesn’t do this, you cooked it too high and too fast.  No remedy to save it now,  other than slicing it super thin so the toughness is less noticeable.  But next time, try the oven even lower.
  5. Slice meat thinly and serve with boiled potatoes and carrots, over buttered noodles, or with coleslaw and cornbread. You can add BBQ sauce if you like.  I’m a purist, preferring only a sprinkle of salt.


Osso Bucco

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osso bucco
This classic Italian dish is a great lesson in braising, and a perfect technique to use for cooking tougher cuts of meat. Osso bucco is made from veal shank, which is the upper portion of the hind and forelegs. These sections of muscle naturally get a lot of movement, which makes them tough. (Compare it to the “tender” loin which runs along the spine and gets hardly any movement.)

The slow, moist heat softens the connective tissues in tough muscles, and they melt away. Hot, dry cooking methods, like grilling, will only tighten the ligaments and tendons and toughen the entire muscle.

If you have a soft spot in your heart for the baby cow, you can make this recipe with beef shanks. I also like to use this technique with lamb shanks, although I usually use red wine instead of white.


4-6 (8-12 oz.) veal shanks
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 TB. flour
2 cups white wine
2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
4 cups beef stock
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

4 cloves garlic
3 anchovy filets
Zest of 1 lemon
[1/4] cup flat leaf parsley
[1/4] tsp. kosher salt


  1. In a large sauté pan cook the shanks in olive oil over high heat until browned on all sides. Transfer to roasting pan.
  2. In the same sauté pan brown the onions, carrots celery and garlic. Add the flour and stir until all the fat is absorbed. Slowly whisk in the wine, tomatoes and stock. Pour over the shanks, and top with rosemary and bay. Cover and bake at 325˚F for about 2 hours, until meat falls off the bone. Remove rosemary and bay, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce sauce if necessary.
  3. Combine gremolata ingredients on a cutting board and mince them together until very fine. Serve 2-3 pieces of veal shank in a shallow bowl. Cover with sauce, sprinkle with gremolata and serve with crusty bread over creamy polenta, orzo pasta, risotto, or regular rice.