Back in the saddle, again

We are getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day. This is going to be our most ambitious undertaking of recent experience as this year we are making or pickling our own corned beef. In addition, we are doing it absolutely without chemicals. The experience we have gained using celery juice to aid in the pickling process that we gained making our own bacon is allowing us to branch out into making our own corned beef.

Cari Ann and I are planning to set out for Chicago at seven AM Monday morning. We are beginning to shoot video about the corned beef process. We shot some video of Mauricio’s first experimental brisket, but that first one took almost fifteen days to get to the point where the pink color extended all the way through the meat. Then in addition, Mauricio had to be away when it was ready to cook, so I had to count on Reyna and Chuy to cook the brisket and they had not had experience with cooking corned beef before. This was always Jose’s department and now that he is gone we must work things out again.

The finished product was excellent, some of the best I have ever tasted albeit a little dry, a sign of being cooked at a slightly too high temperature (acceptable but not perfect). Corned beef if you are poaching it, has to be held at a very low temperature, in the 145 to 150 range throughout the entire cooking process or the internal water is expelled. If the temperature is too high, it can render it tough and inedible.

I was anxious for Mauricio to return so that we could make another one and with his greater attention to detail we could get the process perfect. He did return and right away he put another one down to pickle. Currently we are awaiting our second experimental cure. Cari Ann and I are laying down some video track so that we can tell the whole story. We are going to shoot the entire day in Chicago and then do an interview with John at International Meat to use in the on-line materials we are gathering.

Cari Ann shows up early, surprising because she worked till one AM bartending. I fix her up with a little blanket so that she can sleep in the van on our way to Chicago. In addition to shooting some video, we are bringing with us samples of John Gustafson’s naturally raised whole wheat flour and the whole-wheat grain itself. Tom Cornille is going to take it to Grant Achatz at Alinea on Tuesday morning. John and I had worked on this on an earlier trip to Chicago but it seems to be coming to reality. I am very hopeful that John’s wheat is going to be picked up by what many consider to be the top restaurant in the United States. There should be some very excellent video on this subject and it should accompany this blog should you care to watch it.
Cari Ann really looks cute with her new hair color and the boys at Fox Deluxe do not fail to notice, then it’s over to Maloney where she meets the whole crew. Cari Ann has never been to Maloney before. Then it’s on to International to shoot with John concerning the size and quality of briskets we are going to use in making our corned beef.

We arrive at international and must wait because John is with the federal meat inspector. I say that I understand and that we will be patient and if it is not possible for John to work with us today it will be ok. I understand how it is to try to think about anything else when you are being inspected. Finally, John comes out and we can shoot the sequence concerning size and quality of the brisket that he is going to select for us to use.

Then it’s back to Rockford where I enlist the entire staff’s help in unloading and then make my way upstairs to take a nap. I am awakened by Abigail telling me that she has just dropped the credit card machine and that pieces flew off, and it doesn’t work anymore. She is pretty upset but I console her and tell her that things happen.

I am sitting at the little bar trying to reassemble the drive mechanism that pushes the paper role through the credit card printer. The girls, all of them and there are about four working, are looking for parts under the place where the machine fell. It seems we have found most of them but unfortunately not all. The folks from the credit card company (on the phone) are being completely unhelpful. The lady keeps telling me that she is in Indiana. I keep telling her that I don’t care where she is, just get me another machine.

Then I have a Eureka moment. I notice that what I thought was one gear in the corner of the drive area is two. I take the printer apart and shake out the second little gear. This is the missing part and I can reassemble the printer and get it working again. Whew!

Mauricio sends me out some of the corned beef, the second brisket, that he has prepared. I do not realize it is corned beef at first because it looks like bacon. I think it is bacon and pick up a piece too try. The taste is overwhelmingly delicious and takes me back to the first time I ever had corned beef with my adopted father, Robert Leifheit, at a little corned beef shack under the L tracks in downtown Chicago right by the Fulton Market.

But that presents a bit of a problem because that was Jewish Corned beef which is baked and what we are going to do for St. Patrick’s is East Coast United States, Boston or New York Irish corned beef. The fat here is caramelized and dark the way it should be if you are doing this kind of corned beef. The kind of corned beef we do at the Rose is the simmered kind where the fat stays white and disappears when you reheat it. In the roasted style the fat is Umami, in the Irish style it is creamy.

And so, I am upset, but then I have time to think about it and I realize that Mauricio was just trying to show me the way he thought was best and that the real story is that we made some really kick-ass corned beef. We can make another test piece to work out the cooking procedures as we still have time, since we now have the curing process down to ten days. In addition, should we ever decide to do Jewish corned beef, we now know exactly how to do it. I hope you enjoy watching the accompanying video of Cari Ann and I in Chicago and I hope you will come to try some of our home made corned beef the week of St. Pat’s.