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Category: Holidays / Topics: Cooking Holidays Humor Love Relationships Valentine's Day

Say it with Brisket

by Barbara Greenleaf

Posted: February 5, 2021

Better for Valentine's Day than the most sweet-smelling roses…

My husband comes from a card-sending, gift-giving, party-for-every-occasion family. I do not. This became apparent on our very first Valentine’s Day when he brought home a dozen red roses and then sat back in eager anticipation of what I had gotten him. Then he waited some more. Although this unpleasant scene played out decades ago, my husband has never forgotten it and I, thanks to him, have not forgotten it, either. 

That’s why I start worrying about Valentine’s Day right after New Year’s Eve. At least I usually do, but this year January turned out to be a hectic month and somehow Valentine’s Day slipped my mind until I awoke on February 14th to find a lovely card from my husband propped up against the kitchen sink. My heart fell, but since he was still asleep, I had time to quickly write out an I.O.U. For fifty years the Florists’ Telegraph Delivery Association (FTD) urged customers to “Say it with Flowers.” However, in our house brisket conveys a lot more love than even the most sweet-smelling roses, so that’s what I promised. 

Brisket, in case you are not familiar with it, is cut from the lower chest or breast of the cow and is one of the nine primal cuts of beef. No matter how it’s prepared, its essence is fatty, salty, and loaded with cholesterol—in short, it’s delicious. My husband likes to think my brisket is just like the one his mother used to make. Actually, it’s just like the one Julia Child used to make in the form of boeuf bourguignon, but who am I to disillusion him? 

How to make this husband-pleaser, you ask? Start with a first-cut slab of meat with some fat on it, because fat conveys the flavor. Dredge the slab in flour and sauté in rendered bacon fat, butter and oil. Remove and sauté mushrooms and onions. Transfer all to a Dutch oven. I used to use hunter soup mix, but that was removed from supermarket shelves a long time ago. (Isn’t that always the way? As soon as you fall in love with an ingredient, it’s been made obsolete.) Anyway, add onion soup mix, beef broth to cover and—the most important ingredient of all—Madeira, and lots of it. Cook for at least three hours at 350 degrees until very tender. Then, to truly develop the flavor (unless you live in the tropics and have no air conditioning), leave the dish out overnight. My sister warns that this will cause ptomaine poisoning, but I swear I haven’t lost a guest yet.

Yes, my brisket salvaged Valentine’s Day this year, but it disappeared too fast to be really satisfying. Next year I may be inspired by another venerable advertising slogan, “The gift that keeps on giving.” The only thing I can come up with is a dog, but what if my husband thinks I’ll be the dog walker? Bad idea. Then there’s the Victorian couplet, “When this you see, think of me.” He’s not really the pinky ring type, but as I’m in my third day of cleaning up after the brisket extravaganza, the idea of it is very tempting.

Search all articles by Barbara Greenleaf

Barbara is the author of eight books, including two of particular interest to seniors. She has given us permission to use material from her newsletter, "From the Desk of Barbara Greenleaf," to which you can subscribe on her website.

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Posted: February 5, 2021

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