If Passover brisket preparation were an Olympic event, this year I may have medaled. By the end of the two-day marathon, every ounce of me smelled like brisket. My skin all but oozed the marinade. The entire house emitted an odor.
My brisket recipe, like most things worthwhile in my life, was unearthed from my very own Old Testament, The New York Times. It cooks in port wine and plums, as well as my own twist—a generous handful of fennel. It is a labor of love I knew I’d perfected last year when my scrupulous 94-year-old father-in-law, whose palate can detect three missing grains of Kosher salt, indulged in leftovers for weeks.
This year’s particular brisket—all 20 pounds of it—was not for my family; it was for a friend’s huge family Passover (indeed we are attending the seder, I’m not that charitable, or gullible). This particular friend is one of those rare midlife finds—a good seder plate egg, indeed. Of course, I met her at my son’s school, Baltimore’s Krieger Schechter Day School, which is another story since we are atheist non-believing secular Jews. My son, Sam, 9 years old and in the third grade, is our family’s spiritual leader. He knows a good brisket when he hears the smoke detector blare through the house.
Not only is the constant turning of 20 pounds of beef a workout while searing, I decided this year to elude the smoke detector with non-stop oven-mitt-laden hand waving. It is a lateral hand motion worthy of rotator cuff surgery. Twenty pounds of searing means two days of four five-pound segments, each segment of which has two sides (by definition) and thus rendering, at seven minutes of grease-spewing sear per side (if you are keeping count, that’s eight), a total of 56 minutes of lateral mitt waving.
This year the smoke won the battle. The alarm was triggered such that while I seared, I had to file an interlocutory appeal with my alarm company to get them to untangle the code to my 20-year-old alarm system.
Did I mention that I have a life beyond brisket? I am a lawyer, thus, while post-searing required five hours of basting every 30 minutes, work demanded I not stay at home all day (someone had to pay for the 20 gorgeous pounds of meat). I left when my husband, a badass litigator as my children call him, arrived home from court. I imparted crisp, clear basting and turning instructions and left just in time for him to receive a call from a judge kindly requesting his presence in a different courthouse.
Shockingly, there was not on hand in our wonderful village of a neighborhood, a brisket baster or turner, and thus said brisket had to marinate in the dwindling warmth of an oven turned to “off” until I arrived home hours later to perform CPR on the meat and do a quick genuflect (or the Jewish equivalent) to ward off botulism.
Midnight of batch two, I needed two Tylenol and a heating pad because who knew there was a muscle nestled behind one’s rotator cuff and inside the shoulder blade which seizes from too much lateral oven-mitt waving? At the end of this comical cooking experience, my husband, always quick with a phrase, dubbed me My Brisket Bitch.