It’s my birthday today. Besides another year, this birthday would bring my husband to the kitchen, joining me where I spend much time, with him cooking a brisket of beef for my birthday and me supervising the situation.
He’s a big fan of beef, that hubby of mine. When network TV was all that we had, he got hooked watching the hosts of Cook’s Country bake an Atlanta Brisket. The recipe had the appeal of simplicity, departing from the usual six hours of stovetop steeping tough beef to tenderness in boiling water. We would oven-cook the meat early and have birthday beef for dinner.
Coca Cola, ketchup, and onion soup mix constituted the three simple ingredients for the sauce. Not only did we have none of them, we would buy each of six spices to make our own onion-soup-mix blend. No pre-packaged ingredients would do for our birthday brisket. We conceded to use the ketchup and cola straight from the bottle.
After extraordinary expense for seldom-used spices came extraordinary expense Number Two for the beef. Ordinarily, brisket is a cheap cut, but when buying from butchers it’s anything but. Birthday brisket busted the grocery budget.
Then came the equipment we didn’t have for the cooking. In the absence of teaspoon and tablespoon measures, we used ordinary teaspoons and tablespoons to measure the spices. What followed was a scientific analysis of the departure from perfection our brisket would suffer by using the t-spoon and T-spoon proxies for real measuring-spoon accuracy.
“This is neither a lab nor rocket science,” I reminded my science-trained husband. “We will gain no beefy returns on investments not made,” he reminded his thrifty wife back. We put measuring spoons on our grocery list for next time.
Thankfully, the 9-by-13-inch Pyrex baking dish was on hand in our kitchen. So was the 12-inch Teflon-coated frying pan for pre-cooking a pound of onions in an extra step that heretofor remained unmentioned. After the onions cooked, the beef needed braising, which required the weight of a pressure cooker to flatten the beef for even browning on each side.
In the absence of said pressure cooker, we fashioned a heavy weight for the beef while it braised. In a nested arrangement of every heavy pot in the house, we set the stack atop the braising beef to keep it from curling while cooking. Victory was achieved in the perfectly brown braise. Now, to repeat the perfection on the other side. How does one flip a three-and-a-half-pound patty of hefty hot beef?
Here’s where we ran out of counter space to accommodate the accumulated pots and pans. Did I mention that hubby’s laptop computer co-mingled with pots on the counter? He seemed to require constant consultation with the online recipe video while we cooked. I reminded my scientist that it was important not to co-mingle cooking ingredients with computer hardware. The two do not mix.
The brisket made it to the oven where it baked like blazes for the rest of the day. The happiest birthday gift was hubby washing the mountain of pots piled to altitude in the sink. His laptop survived the organic counter-top hazards. The cupboard acquired special spices enough to last through my next decade of birthdays. Cook’s Country gained a loyal viewer. Hubby got the brisket bill, and I got perfectly prepared brisket for my birthday.
No sense in beefing about it.