Ah, what to do on a gorgeous, sunny, crisp early spring Saturday in New York City? Head to the East Village to a food-related fundraiser, of course. Yesterday at Jimmy’s No. 43, Jimmy Carbone hosted a Brisket Cook-off, the proceeds of which went to support the New Amsterdam Market. Several local chefs came together along with some other special guests to show what they could do with this cut of meat.
I have never eaten so much brisket, ever, despite how many years I’ve lived here. This wasn’t something with which I grew up, nor were Jewish-style delis, so I don’t really have a personal history with it. Needless to say, when I emerged, blinking at the still-bright afternoon sunlight after several hours underground at the restaurant, my belly was quite full and I could have used a nap, but it was all for a worthy cause. Thanks so much to the people who participated in this contest for letting us have some great bites to eat!
Sam Barbieri and his team brought with them one of the dishes that invited my childhood to come flooding back to me. Their Grandma’s Sauerbraten in Sour Cream Gravy just needed a pile of boiled noodles, some extra sour cream, and chopped chives to have made my day complete. It tapped straight into my German-American heritage; Sam found his inspiration in his own roots as well. I could have stopped right there and not continued to eat anything else. Seems I wasn’t the only one who fell in love with this dish, as he was cleaned out of it by the afternoon’s end.
A culinary producer for the upcoming Rocco’s Dinner Partyand cook, Emma entered this contest on her own. Her tender, delicate Brisket laid over a soft roll covered in a sloppy, mayonnaisey slaw and drizzled with a smoky-spicy-silken barbecue sauce (which I really wanted to take home and keep in my fridge for further eating) was a perfect blend of hearty meat, creamy coolness, and sweet-spice with the bread there to help sop up every single bite.
The folks at Joe Doe brought with them what they called a Jewish-style Brisket, cooked long, low, and slow and dripping with jus (or gravy, depending upon your preference). I enjoyed the deep flavor that the gravy-soaked meat delivered. Served over soft rye bread from Tom Cat Bakery with a slather of a delicious, biting horseradish cream, this would be a perfect cocktail bite to liven up any party.
I had a wonderful time talking to the father of one of the owners of this Brooklyn venue. He’s also their baker and turns out chocolate babka and rugelach for them (none of which was there today, sadly). This didn’t distract me at all from sampling one of the mini Corned Beef, muenster cheese, coleslaw, and thousand island on pumpernickel sandwiches that chef Andrew Burman was whipping up all afternoon. They were so delectable, having my favorite combinations of super thin flavorful meat with cheese and crunchy-cool slaw that I reached over and snagged another one mid conversation. Had these been available near to my former office building, I never would have set a toe into my company cafeteria. Add Robicelli’s Cupcakes into the mix, and I think I might be finding more and more excuses to have to hang out in Brooklyn.
I’m getting a little bit embarrassed that this is 2-for-2 at food events where I’ve bumped into these guys and come this Tuesday night at Choice Eats, where they’ll be doing something with chocolate, I’ll be seeing them again. This time, however, I think that hands-down they had the best thing I ate all day (and the only other item for which I went back for seconds). Their sandwich was a smoked cheddar sauce (using Clothbound Cheddar – one of my favorites), a touch of aioli, a few pickled onions, several sprigs of cilantro all nestled on a soft roll. The ooey-gooey cheese had a bit of a kick which was matched by the onions and then cooled down and given an herbal freshness by the cilantro. All this just brought out the flavor and depth of the smoky meat even more.
Before I even took a taste of this dish, it was described to me as fat cooked in fat (Brisket in Duck Fat). Even in the photo, you can spy a bit of carrot sticking out from the jus and see how beautifully cooked the meat is. One bite and I was completely in heaven with this moist, delicate, tender, lovely meat dressed with a dollop of yuzu marmalade and jazzed up with a hot crunch of lime pickle and a watermelon radish pickle for a perfectly balanced bite.
Winners of the Jack Daniels World Brisket Champions, they brought with them a Shredded Brisket, like what you’d be served on a traditional Southern sandwich. Dressed with a sauce made from the jus along with a few other ingredients (including JD), this was a sandwich that brought back memories of barbecue trips back home, just without all the coleslaw and corn on the cob on the side of the plate. I liked that this was not the same as the other slices of brisket, which gave the meat kind of a new cultural identity.
Ribs within BBQ
This Brisket entry had a great smoky flavor. Unfortunately, I found it a bit dry and in need of some dressing up, but I did enjoy that the meat seemed overall well-prepared and tender. The representatives from this group are part of Teen Battle Chefs, an educational program that is helping the next generation of young culinary stars learn about the craft through internships and opportunities like today’s event, so it was great to see them here. I also ran into them at the Chili Cook-off as well earlier this year.
Another group of future culinary stand-outs to watch will be these folks. Their Brisket Risotto Cakes were one of the more unique things I tried. Who would have thought about doing this? Well, these are also the folks behind the Brisket Cocktail (consommé, vodka, orange bitters, chili flake garnish, and celery salt rim), so look out for them. The group that can come up with this is a team with which to be reckoned. Talking to the creator of it, he said it was born of an idea to finish off the leftover stock used to make the cakes. While I enjoyed the crispy cakes dressed with sour cream and chives as a change from all the sandwiches and slices of meat, I thought that they could have used a bit more heft and brisket-ness. The drink, on the other hand, was actually an interesting, sort of beef-flavored digestivo, and not at all bad-tasting.
The last Brisket I tried for the day was that brought by the team at Fette Sau. This slab of meat had the most beautiful color to it with a gorgeous black pepper crust (sorry that the photo doesn’t quite do it justice). This looked like what you’d see as an example of textbook-perfect preparation. The meat was delicate, pull-apart loveliness with a smoky flavor and bite from the seasonings in the crust. I would have enjoyed piling this high on a sandwich.
If I could have even gotten as far as using Fette Sau’s meat for a sandwich, which I couldn’t possibly think about having room for by the end of the afternoon, I would have really enjoyed piling it high on some of the bread brought to the event by Orwasher’s. I even heard raves about the bread from folks who had never tried it before today, which means that there’s now a whole new group of folks with whom I’ll have to share their amazing, flavorful loaves.
Part of this was actually a culinary competition, so there have to be some results. The judges for the event included Mitchell Davis of the James Beard Foundation, Charlie Granquist from the Food Network, The Food Maven’s Arthur Schwartz, children’s cookery writer Cricket Azima, and Annie Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch editors of Gastropolis: Food and New York City. Some of the categories were a bit, um, specially created for this event, and others were the standards, so that there was a clear winner for the contest. Here’s a photo of some of what they got to take away with them.
Best Brisket Cocktail: Kingsborough Community College
Best Artistic Use of Brisket: Brisket Risotto (Kingsborough Community College)
Most Delicious and Unexpected Brisket: Sauerbraten from Waterfront Ale House (honorable mention went to their Pastrami)
Most Creative and as Yet Unheard of Version: Joe Doe (going for contemporary Jewish cuisine)
Most Elegant Presentation: Fatty ‘Cue
Honorable Mention for Texas Brisket: Mr. BoBo
Third Place Overall: Court Street Grocers
Second Place Overall: Fette Sau
First Place Overall: The Kitchen NYC (as the judges said what is there not to like about fat cooked in fat and sprinkled with tchotchkes, i.e., the garnish)
The People’s Choice Awards:
1st Place – Waterfront Ale House
2nd Place – Fatty ‘Cue
Jimmy’s No. 43 is holding a Brewers for Brewers Benefit for Japan this Monday, March 28, 2011, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the Brooklyn Brewery. From 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on April 9, 2011, there will be a Duck-Off at Jimmy’s No. 43 to benefit Food Systems Network NYC.
For additional events and food-related happenings, please click on the Food Events/ Markets tab on the home page of this site.