Bogota, Colombia, (8/8/10) — I never thought the road trip for good brisket would be so long, or so hard.
Of course, this was Colombia in the 1950’s. Mostly, the road was meandering sand and gravel that made “S” curves up and down the mountains. The road was so narrow in places that 2 cars had difficulty going in different directions.
Today a straighter, fully paved road takes travelers to the same place in about 1 hour. It took us 6, but the brisket at the peak was worth it. I’ve been hunting for the recipe ever since.
This peak was called Wine Heights, but the brisket place where we stopped every time we travelled this road had never seen wine. They only served beer and soda, which led to a spectacle involving their pet sow. The sow would wait by the road for travelers to stop there. Then, it would beg for beer. People would buy their own food and drink, and then beer for the pig. The pig would then drink a whole bottle of beer in a few seconds. As the alcohol had its effect, the sow would push the restaurant patrons with her head, demanding more. Eventually, the animal would flop down to sleep it off.
But the restaurant’s brisket was even more spectacular.
Did I say restaurant? It was a mere hut - a kitchen with makeshift walls and a sort of roof. Everything was completely black from the soot of the continual smoke. A person with any concern for hygiene would never eat there.
But we were young, reckless and Colombian, so we stopped.
They served the best brisket I have ever tasted. They let it cook all day long on that sooty fire, and they made it every day. Yet it wasn’t dry, it was juicy. It was tender, yet still firm. The fat was the best part. It was crunchy and tasty. I have never been able to duplicate this combination, but I started to try.
To date I have not been able to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I make a mean brisket. To me brisket has to have fat to cook appropriately, and a little fat has to be left when cutting to taste good.
This is as close as I’ve gotten:
A large (~7 pounds) brisket, WITH FAT ON;
One bottle of beer;
Sazon Goya (sold in Giant, or Latin market);
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons;
Sweet “Oriental Banquet Sauce” - or CLASSIC Coke with sugar, not diet, 1 cup;
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar;
4 cloves of garlic, minced;
And optionally, bread crumbs.
Place the brisket in a large Pyrex or similar baking dish.
Rub the Sazon Goya and minced garlic on both sides. Add the rest of the ingredients except the bread crumbs, then cover and place in the fridge to marinate 4 to 24 hours.
Turn the brisket 3 times; make sure the fat is on top before going to the next step.
Uncover the brisket and place it in the middle shelf of the oven at 250 degrees. Cook for about 3 ½ to 4 hours, basting every half an hour.
Remove from the oven and take the brisket out of the cooking pan and place in a serving plate that has a lip. Some liquid will drain from the brisket, so don’t place it on a flat cutting board.
Wait 10 to 15 minutes and then place on a cutting board and cut it in thin slices ACROSS THE GRAIN. Before cutting you can sprinkle the bread crumbs if you want. Best if eaten immediately, while still hot.
This is not a dish for cholesterol-counting. A little fat left on the meat completes the experience.
Leftover strips can be pan fried with a little butter. Don’t fry too long, as they will turn tough. They can also be placed on a grill to warm. Bread crumbs can be sprinkled on the hot slices for taste and presentation.
The pan gravy can be degreased and added to the brisket or saved for another meat meal. My wife likes to simmer the leftover strips in the gravy so that they don’t get tough.
I eat the brisket with rice and “papas chorriadas” (whole new or red potatoes boiled, skin heavily salted, and each topped with a cheese, onion, garlic and cream sauce).
BON APPETIT! (But my quest continues…)
Mario Salazar is a combat infantry Vietnam Vet, world traveler, renaissance reconnaissance man and pacifist. Now retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and living in Montgomery County, Mario will share with you his life, his thoughts, his musing on living in yet another century of change. He will also try to convey his joy of being old.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.