Saturday, April 24, 2010

What I Almost Made for Dinner: April 24, 2010

Brisket carbonnade.

Bon Appetit magazine, you have steered me wrong wrong wrong.

I don't like brisket.  But I have a bunch of them because apparently that's what you get when you buy a mixed quarter of beef, and I've so far succeeded at finding ways to cook them that range from tolerable to hey! pretty good.  And I was pleased to see a recipe in the May Bon Appetit for a beef stew (called a "carbonnade") using caramelized onions and a lot of Belgian dark beer.  The magazine recommends the recipe for "any muscular cut of beef that's good for stewing."  Sounds good, right?

I tried making it today using an arm roast, figuring that after four hours the brisket would shred into a flavorful sauce.

Nope.  We're on hour five and that sucker is cooked through and still it will not shred.  Additionally, if not worse, the flavor of the sauce is very weird.  It tastes like everything I hate about traditional brisket.

Chuck has gone out and returned with pizza.  I am continuing to simmer that hunk of beef until it falls apart on its own and hopefully I can salvage it for tacos or something.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained; but watch out for Bon Appetit and its insane Belgian recipes.


  1. What a waste of a lot of Belgian dark beer if it didn't end up working out! I did a rump roast the other day that I was very unhappy with. Rargh!

  2. Hi Jody. I'm the Web Editor of Bon Appetit and consulted with our Test Kitchen when I saw your blog post. Here's a note from them, and again, so sorry about the difficulties! Thanks for trying our recipe. -Emily, BA Web Editor

    From Test Kitchen: We regret that you had difficulty with the carbonnade recipe. Here are some tips to help explain your results.

    Brisket Carbonnade will be a different dish than short ribs carbonnade. Even though the two cuts are fine for braising, the results will be different. No meat, even the short ribs, will shred on their own. When short ribs are very tender, they will fall off the bone, but brisket is different, it has no bones.

    Brisket won't get tender in the same way as short ribs: it will be tender like a pot roast and taste good, but because the flat-cut of brisket doesn't have the same internal fat deposits, connective tissue, or structure, its texture is firmer than short ribs even when it is cooked through. So even with the same technique, it will maintain it's own unique texture and flavor and qualities.

    Cooking a piece of meat for 5 hours instead of 21/2 will naturally affect the flavor of the sauce. It will be overly reduced and concentrated, so gradually adding water to replace the liquid that evaporates during extended cooking will help maintain the original balance.

    We hope this information is helpful. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

  3. Awesome, thanks Emily and test kitchen gurus! I appreciate your taking the time to read and respond here. (And, as usual, this dinner was a no-go because I did it wrong. No surprise there.)

  4. LOL, Jodi - you are my culinary idol and it's helpful to know that you are human and occassionally make a dinner that doesn't turn out as you'd hoped. I'm not at all surprised that Bon Appetit reads your blog. I find it interesting and humorous and I'm sure that they do as well.

    Even when things don't go as planned, I doubt that the boys around your table are ever disappointed when the "mishap" results in them getting pizza! This is the perspective that all Mothers must maintain. Keep up the cooking and the blogging as well!

    -Neighbor Shannon