From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
Personally, we're sort of over the whole "add-bacon-to-everything" craze.
We were excited by the idea of bacon chocolate-chip cookies. And we guess we could get on board for bacon peanut brittle. But somewhere between bacon salt, bacon vodka, bacon coffee and baconnaise, we suffered from bacon overkill.
Still, though, it's hard to argue with this basic fact: Adding bacon to something will probably make it taste a whole lot better.
Which is why we were so excited when our friend Bobby sent us this recipe for Beef Roast Braised with Onions from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. It's a beef brisket that's literally infused with the flavor and fat of bacon, because you essentially just take little pieces of bacon and jab them into the meat all over the surface.
And the best part is, you don't even have to refer to it as "jabbing little pieces of bacon all over the surface of the meat." Why? Because there's actually a word for that!
Ladies and gentlemen? Get ready to start "larding."
As we said, to prepare this meat, you simply take the brisket and insert little strips of bacon into it. (The recipe calls for pancetta or salt pork, but we used some thick-cut Broadbent Hams bacon we had on hand.) There's even a special kitchen tool, called a larding needle, for just this purpose.
We hope you'll forgive us, but our good larding needle is at the cleaner's. Instead, per the recipe's instruction, we tried using a chopstick to push the bacon into the beef. The problem was, the chopstick simply pierced through the little pieces of bacon, rather than forcing them into the meat. (This may not have been as much of an issue had we used actual pancetta or salt pork, but we have a feeling it still would have been a challenge.)
Everything we tried -- the pointy end of a meat thermometer, the blunt end of a plastic stirring spoon -- just pierced the bacon.
Finally, we found a solution that worked perfectly for us: We simply used a knife to cut tiny slits all over the surface of the brisket, and then pushed the bacon into the slits by hand.
If that sounds like a lot of work, it really wasn't. Once we started using the knife, the whole larding process took just 5 minutes or so.
And the crazy part? That's essentially all the active time this recipe requires!
Seriously: Chop up a few onions, throw them in the bottom of a Dutch oven, cover the onions with some more bacon, and then place the larded brisket atop the bacon and onions. Cover and cook for three hours, turning it over every 30 minutes. Eat.
We do have one quibble with this recipe: The three-and-a-half hours of cooking time resulted in a brisket that was a bit overdone for our tastes. When we make this again -- and we will! -- we'll probably shave 30 minutes off the cooking time.
Still, the final result was amazing. The bacon gives the brisket a wonderful fatty richness and a heavenly salty flavor. It's rather stunning how delicious the whole thing is.
But the scene-stealer here may well be the bacon-onion jam. The onions and bacon at the bottom of the Dutch oven caramelize into a sweet, salty, fatty, jammy compote, made even more delicious by the juice that drips from the beef brisket while it lkasjgh;';adlkhfdjsghhhh
Sorry! We started drooling on the keyboard.
Bottom line: This beef brisket is an absolute knockout, and the bacon-onion jam will send you over the moon.
And we just may start larding everything in sight -- bacon overkill be damned!
Beef Roast Braised with Onions
Adapted slightly from the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
Order Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
-- 1/4 pound pancetta or salt pork in a single piece (we used thick cut bacon)
-- 2 pounds boneless beef roast, preferably the brisket
-- 5 cloves
-- 4 medium onions sliced very thin
-- Fresh ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cut the pancetta or salt pork into narrow strips about 1/4 inch wide, use half the strips to lard the meat with a larding needle. Alternately, if you do not have a larding needle, cut small slits uniformly across the surface of the meat. Using a chopstick or your finger, insert the pork slices into the slits.
3. Insert the cloves at random into any 5 of the places where the pancetta was inserted.
4. Choose a heavy-bottomed pot just large enough to accommodate the roast snugly. Spread the sliced onion on the bottom of the pot, over it distribute the remaining strips of pancetta or salt pork, then put in the meat. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and cover tightly. If the lid does not provide a tight fit, place a sheet of aluminum between it and the pot. Put on the uppermost rack of the preheated oven.
5. Cook for about 3 1/2 hours, until the meat feels very tender when prodded with a fork. Turn the roast after the first 30 minutes, and every 30 to 40 minutes thereafter. You will find that the color of the meat is dull and unsavory at first, but as it finishes cooking and the onions become colored a dark brown, it develops a rich, dark patina.
6. When done, slice the meat and arrange the slices on a warm platter. Pour the contents of the pan and the juices left on the cutting board over the meat and serve at once.