Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Bollito Misto That Never Was

I started with this recipe: (Bollito Misto). My first “mistake” was the meat I purchased. In my little neighborhood of Brooklyn, it can be hard to find good meat. We have a corner grocery that I like to call “Third World” because for some reason there is often sawdust on the floor, and the only thing I feel I can safely purchase there are canned goods. Other than that, it’s kind of a haul to the better grocery stores, and even then I mostly find what I call “questionable meats”. In New York, we have something called Fresh Direct - an amazing online grocery store where you order your goods, and they are delivered right to your door. The only problem is that they have yet to add our zip code to their delivery area. So I often end up buying meat and other specialty items in Manhattan on my way home from work, at the usual Manhattan marked-up prices. I found a beef brisket at Food Emporium, a pre-packaged national brand, and figured it was worth a try.
I got tied up in the hell that is Manhattan on the weekend – I had to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond for some things, then Macy’s for some sheets (hell-on-earth any day of the week in NYC, even if you use a non-Perfume Department entrance). So after hauling 5 bags home on the crowded train, I categorically refused to go back out again for special ingredients for this recipe, and decided to make do with what I had in the kitchen. As I had promised Ms. Mallow that I would cook and take pictures this weekend with my inaugural Sweet and Savory site recipe trial, I scoured the refrigerator for appropriate substitute ingredients to try this yummy looking recipe.

I pulled out green cabbage, red cabbage, red onion, chicken bouillon cubes, and some leeks. Then I pulled out the package of beef brisket, and noticed it actually read “Corned Beef Brisket”. A different beast all together. sns 013

But then I realized what a great combination the cabbage would make with the Corned Beef! My German ancestors sang "Jawohl!". I also figured the leeks would make it even heartier. Even though using chicken broth with beef was in my mind a horrible faux pas, I was determined to make this meal.
Over-all, it was very simple. I hadn’t planned on making a dipping sauce as the original recipe called for simply because I lacked the ingredients. Since it was a completely different recipe now anyway, eliminating that last process made it all the easier.
After the initial searing of the meat (my apologies in advance to Mallow and other vegetarians for the carnal nature of these the pictures), sns 005it was just a matter of chopping and adding. I have to admit I’m very ignorant about herbs and spices. I have a general idea of which types of spices go with which cuisines (like, cardamom and curry are Indian, basil and oregano tend to be Italian…) but I am clueless otherwise, and probably tend to create ridiculous interpretations of what would otherwise be very sensible aromatic dishes. In this case I think I added Mexican Oregano, for no other reason than I was emptying a bag of the imported herb into my new magnetic spice containers, and had some extra I didn’t want to throw away. Not sure if that counts as a method when it comes to my madness. sns 003
The purple and green cabbage, combined with the deeper green of the leeks sure looked pretty in the red Dutch Oven (One of my favorite wedding gifts. Thanks Rose!) sns 021(Speaking of leaks, does anyone have a suggestion for getting these really clean? I chopped them into big chunks, and then rinsed each piece as thoroughly as I could. Is there a better/smarter way?) sns 016Once boiling, I lowered the temp to simmer, then covered the pan, and went on to more important things; drinking a beer and watching an episode of The L Word with my husband. As I sipped, I considered that adding a beer instead of the chicken broth may well have been genius! Ever cooked meat with beer?
Once the timer went off, and I had removed the meat and veggies, I boiled down the broth. It was a deep brownish-purplish color, very pretty, but a little too watery to be “gravy”, even once reduced. I ladled a little over the serving dish, and decided to save the leftover broth in case I am inspired later (suggestions anyone?). sns 068
The end result was very flavorful, though the cut of meat was horrible – there was a layer of gristly fat on the bottom of each slice that we had to cut off before taking a bite. My husband’s earlier “Leeks? Blech!” and my “You love leeks. I’ve cooked them before” were cancelled out by his “you’re right, I do like leeks. These veggies are good.” I always know I’ve done well by him when he shoves food down his gullet so fast, it’s as if he has never eaten.

The flavor of everything was great, but overall because of the bad cut of beef, it was a little disappointing. Also, looking at the pictures now, it looks kind of vintage East German, a little...grey. sns 066
I wonder what a real Bollito Misto would taste like? Once I track down a good cut of meat, I’ll give it a proper and less-improvised, whirl.

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