Savory Plum Dishes
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Now that the summer has transitioned into autumn, I am thrilled to resume my favorite cooking method: braising. I love the way that the prep for a braise is usually short; the oven does all of the hard work. A cut of meat that starts out tough slowly cooks for hours until it is meltingly tender. Best of all, braises taste better the following day, making them ideal dishes for gatherings.
A few weeks ago I was inspired by a New York times article by Melissa Clark on braising a brisket with Italian plums and port wine. Because of the wonky weather in New York this year, peaches and plums were mealy and unappealing to eat raw, but I envisioned cooked plums melting down into a beautiful regal sauce.
I purchased a second cut grass-fed brisket, which is the fattier of the two possible brisket cuts. Since grass-fed meat tends to be extra lean, this is the better of the two cuts to use. I salted and peppered the six-pound piece, seared it on both sides in a little oil for about 7 minutes per side in a large skillet, then transferred it to a plate. I added a few cups sliced onions and a few cloves minced garlic to the pan, and gently sweated the onions until softened. I then added a cup of port and a cup of rich chicken stock, and scraped up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. To a baking dish that would fit the brisket, I added a couple pounds of halved Italian plums along with a couple cinnamon sticks, a few stars of star anise, some bay leaves and a handful of fresh thyme branches. I poured the onion-wine mix over the plums, lay the brisket on top, and spooned some of the liquid over the brisket. I covered the pan with foil and placed it in a 325 degree oven for about 5 hours. Every half hour or so I flipped the brisket. The last half hour I uncovered the brisket to thicken the liquid. I let the meat cool to room temperature, then chilled it overnight in the refrigerator. I sliced it while cold and shared the dish with friends. I reheated the sliced pieces in the oven in the sauce. The brisket was succulent and delicious.
Brisket braised with Plums
Since I was not yet over plums, I made a quick plum sauce to go over duck breasts. While my duck breasts were searing, I added a bit of the rendered duck fat to an adjacent skillet and sweated some sliced onions. I then added a cup of chicken stock, a cup of port, a cinnamon stick, some star anise pods, a few sprigs thyme, a bay leaf and 2 pounds of halved plums. I let the whole sauce reduce while the duck breasts cooked. The duck and the sauce were finished around the same time, in about 15 minutes. Earlier in the day I had roasted some whole beets in a pan with thyme, olive oil, and water for a couple of hours. When they were ready, I slipped off the skin, cut them into wedges, and drizzled a bit of pomegranate molasses over them.
I served the meal with a mélange of corn, peppers, and zucchini and a few spoonful’s of lacto-fermented carrots. This bright and colorful meal took only 30 minutes of labor.
Duck with Plum Sauce