Book Reviews

The Brisket Chronicles

I wouldn’t have thought it possible to produce an entertaining, interesting and useful cookery book of nearly 300 pages on a single subject– but Steven Raichlen has done just that, his subject – Brisket.

His skill and passion for brisket is summed up in the book’s sub title ‘How to barbeque, braise, smoke and cure the world’s most epic cut of meat’.

The world of Brisket

After a brief personal introduction Steven takes the reader into the world of brisket: its history (yes, its history – it was evidently first written about in the 1400s; the first published recipe some 300 years later; where on the animal the cut of meat comes from; brisket’s arrival in North America; and an overview of its preparation for cooking. Further, for barbeque fanatics, the best type of barbeque equipment for the job.

Barbeques and more

Then follows a selection of barbecue and grill recipes including Asian, Jamaican Jerk, Korean and American along with complimentary rubs, sauces and butters. He doesn’t neglect other delicious cuts like pastrami and corned beef either.

The book was, quite genuinely, proving a fascinating read but I was getting worried – I was desperate to start cooking, and was all too well aware that I will never be able to barbecue something for some eight hours, or spend 12 days brining it.

And not forgetting braising

Luckily chapter 4 came to my rescue – Brisket Braised. Memories of Gran’s soft, flavourful and melting casseroled brisket and vegetables came flooding back. And as we children got older her delicious brisket cooked in beer, or the wine version – her take on boeuf bourguignon.

Steven has come up with several classic braised brisket recipes but also introduces the reader to more international variations such as Chinese, Vietnamese and Spanish Caribbean.

Brisket any time of day

He also suggests we forget bacon and egg for breakfast – suggesting instead scrambled eggs with shredded brisket, breakfast tacos and hash. They look great. And he recommends using small pieces of left-over brisket as an addition for savoury scones.

Interspersed through the recipes are occasional ‘Brisket Whisperer’ pages – where Steven introduces us to some of the people who have played such a major role in the American brisket scene.

Inspirational ideas

The Brisket Chronicles is full of inspirational ideas and I particularly liked the many recipes for accompanying sauces. I’m not quite convinced about Brisket Chocolate Chip Cookies, but Steven is very persuasive.

At the end of the book is a page of useful conversion tables from US measurements to Imperial and Metric. Great original photography by the way from Matthew Benson.

We go shopping

A recent foray into our nearest supermarket (Waitrose) revealed a good supply of brisket, which is just as well because there are several recipes I am determined to try out. I may not be able to follow his ‘low and slow’ barbeque style cooking – but low and slow braising sounds great to me.

The Brisket Chronicle. Steven Raichlen. ISBN: 978-1-5235-0548-7. £14.99.
Workman Publishing.