Monday, October 24, 2005

Margy Cooks! Asian Pot Roast!

Score another one for Mark Bittman. His handiwork showed up again on our table, this time courtesy of Margy, who made the Asian pot roast from the book The Minimalist Cooks Dinner.

Margy, who's very good in the kitchen despite her protests that she can only work from recipes -- as if there's anything wrong with that -- might tell you that she was playing with a handicap: She wanted swanky brisket, yet I bought her some humble chuck instead. But the recipe said that either cut of beef would do, and I admit I was looking to apply the concept of minimalism to our grocery bill.

Brisket = $3.99/lb.; boneless chuck = $1.79/lb. That really adds up over a four-pound piece of meat (never make a braised-meat dish without buying enough for leftovers).

Choosing the chuck was a hard decision, but we can get the brisket when we have company. Anyway, I'm happy to report that the meal came out beautifully. Simmered slowly in a powerful potion of soy sauce, water, star anise, and ginger, with a bunch of lovely farmers-market turnips added near the end of cooking, the falling-apart beef possessed an ineffable quality that made me unable to stop eating it. And this after the dish scared the hell out of poor Margy, who tired of the house-filling aroma of star anise long before the roast was ready and feared the spice would dominate the other flavors like a scenery-chewing actor alongside more subtly expressive performers. On the contrary, the anise perfumed the broth perfectly and remained satisfied with a supporting role.

So we're here to give Mr. Bittman the highest compliment we have in our house (well, right after "Sweet drum solo!"): His recipes work. And that's a great comfort, especially with a dish that takes three hours to cook -- unattended or not.

Score another one for the Minimalist, and score another one for Margy.

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