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Monday, October 12, 2009

Brisket makes you happy!



Ugh (as in a caveman grunt).

I used to think I could eat meat and potatoes all day, but I've come to realize my Irish roots have resulted in my needing to eat potatoes every day but my slightly sophisticated tastes need meat well seasoned and tasty. (Andy swears by my potatoes - he says I could cook a potato blindfolded and he's right).

I'm not a fan of the meaty taste of meat. Gamey meat scares me. I've eaten it all: venison, lamb, goat, every part of the cow, ostrich, buffalo, alligator...loads of loads and loads of different red meats .

Wow. I'm salivating as I write this.

But I digress!

Meaty tasting meat scares me.

Problem is most of the tasty meat you have in restaurants is full of fat, calories, sodium and sugar. That is one of the primary reasons I cook so much at home. I control what myself and my husband put in our bodies. I know exactly what we are eating. And our energy levels and consistent health has proven to me we are doing the right thing.

If you eat right for most of the time, you feel right both physically and emotionally. Throw in 5-6 days a week of physical activity and I'm telling you, you are unstoppable.

You feel Present. Aware.

I've written about this before, but you know that funky slump you feel around 2PM or so? Maybe 3PM? You feel a bit depressed, lethargic and plain 'down'?

You're irritable because you are not making smart choice in your diet.

It's the truth!

Our neurotransmitter production is regulated by what we eat. What the hell is a neurotransmitter?

They are brain chemicals which are made from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Study after study shows if you limit the amount and types of protein, sweets or simple carbs in yoru diet, your neurotransmitters are throw off!

Which makes you wacky.

You get pissy, annoyed, short tempered (normal behavior for New Yorkers; not so normal for the rest of the world), feel up and down; manic one moment, depressed the next. It also affects your sex drive AND your sleeping patterns.


The most famous neurotransmitter - serotonin - drops even if you have only been dieting for three weeks! Serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter. It allows the body and mind to stay focused and relaxed.

You can easily imagine what can happen with frequent dieting… fatigue, lack of focus, bad moods, cravings and an overall lower level of willpower.

For women, hormone imbalances or PMS can also increase one’s probability of depleting serotonin levels.

Serotonin levels can be elevated by antidepressant medications. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and others.

I've written this until I'm blue in the face (fingers; face?) but if the type and timing of a person’s food intake were optimized for serotonin production, can we treat depression without medication?

I know it's absurd to think we can across the board, but research has shown it is a PROBABLE.

The link between this neurotransmitter and diet is really damn obvious.

Serotonin is made from tryptophan, an amino acid, along with B vitamins.

Tryptophan is found in protein-rich foods, however, in order for it to have access to and work in the brain, a carbohydrate source is needed as well.

When serotonin levels drop too low, the body attempts to remedy the situation by increasing serotonin production. How does it do this?

The brain produces cravings for sugary, sweet refined-carbohydrate foods such as candies, cookies, jams, icing and other desserts.


This is the answer - and God, I wish it could be a mandate all New Yorkers would be forced to memorize so they'd get in a BETTER MOOD (can you tell I'm in an 'I hate mean New Yorkers mood'?):

1. Carbs increase serotonin levels on their own, without protein.

2. These carbs are highly refined. They take relatively short amounts of time for the body to digest them. Their effect on serotonin production is thus quite rapid.

3. Cravings are satisfied because these simple carbohydrate foods also tend to cause a rapid rise in blood glucose, followed by a large drop - sort of the crash and burn effect. This is due to the fact that simple sugars require little digestion to be converted to glucose, the form of energy our bodies use. A quick lift followed by the crash and burn effect can result in an ongoing cycle that doesn’t get the chance to smooth out unless food choices change.

4. To prevent this from happening, carbohydrates that are nutrient- and fiber-rich are much preferable. Known as complex carbohydrates, these carbohydrates do not cause the immediate, drastic increase in blood sugar followed by a sharp crash, thereby keeping blood sugar at a more stable, even keel over time.

This results in improved mood!

That’s why eating the right foods at the right times of the day is vitally important to feeling great and staying energized throughout the day.

Whole grains and low-sugar cereals, most fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits without added sugar, lentils, peas, beans, brown rice, oat and rice bran, seeds and nuts.

You’ll also want to include protein-laden foods for steady and consistent serotonin production...hence today's recipe:


Managing your blood sugar will assist in maintaining adequate levels of serotonin which results in an enhanced mood and an improved sense of well-being.

This meal at will provide you with the ideal combination to take you through a large span of time feeling calm, level and aware - and it tastes DAMN GOOD.

Here we go!

Let's cook!


Active physical cooking time: 1 hour

Will serve as 8 generous portions

What you'll need for the BRISKET:
  • 4-5 pound FLAT CUT Beef Brisket*
Spice rub:
  • 1/8 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain, non-Hungarian paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons hot chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cracked pepper
  • 1 bottle BULLS-EYE BBQ SAUCE, or (the preferred method), homemade BBQ Sauce.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped fine
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 cup salt-free ketchup
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
What'll you need for the COLESLAW:
  • Dole ready-made bag of coleslaw (in the fridge section)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayo
  • 3-5 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low-fat Buttermilk, 1% milk fat
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • Loads of fresh pepper
What you'll need for the YUKON POTATO MEDALLIONS:
  • 5-6 medium to large Yukon gold potatoes, sliced into 1/2 rounds
  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Pam extra-virgin olive oil spray
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

*I learned about Beef Brisket from my dad and his brothers. They told me the cut of meat is located in the carcass between the fore shank and the plate. The actual meat is removed and trimmed into two distinct cuts, the Flat Cut (first cut) and the Point Cut (second cut). Due to the size of the full Brisket, which may weight between 8 to 12 pounds, it is cut in half by the butcher.

The Flat Cut, which is the piece typically cut by your local butcher, is a leaner and thinner cut of meat. A full layer of fat should be present on one side of the meat surface enabling the Flat Cut to remain moist and flavorful when cooked, but the fat should only be over 1/2 of one side of the meat.

The second cut is the Point Cut, or as my Dad called it, the Deckle. Avoid this cut. It's thicker and fattier.

The fat in both cuts of Beef Brisket help to moisten the meat when the cuts are slow cooked.

Brisket is great for our leaner economic times. I bought a 5 pound piece at Whole Foods in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and paid $4.99 a pound which is a great price, even at Whole Paycheck, er, WHOLE FOODS.

Here is what it should look like.

This side is the side with fat. See how it's a nice, thin layer over most of one side of the meat?

And here is the other side which I had the butcher cut so it's very lean.

You need fat on this meat so it tenderizes as it cooks, but to reduce fat and calories, you need only one side to have fat and only part of that one side.

The idea with tougher cuts of meat is you have to cook them longer to break down the muscle tissue and fiber. So, while Brisket is super cheap, it takes time but it DOESN'T take energy.

Here is what you do:

The night prior to putting in the slow-cooker but if all over with the spice rub (detailed above). Really massage the meat with the spices. I know, so gross, but it's so essential.

Wrap it up very, very tightly with Saran Wrap and refrigerate and put in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

What I did was wrap it up tight Saturday night @ 10PM then on Sunday morning @ 7:30AM I put it in the slow cooker. Yea, I know, my husband and I are clearly major party boys.

Put it in the slow cooker and set it on low for 10-12 hours, or, high for 5-6 hours. I personally like the taste of longer cooking, but both are fine.

After you have put the brisket in the cooker, either make the Homemade BBQ Sauce or use Bulls eye Brand BBQ (just about the best on the market).

Clearly, homemade is much better for you and has a stronger flavor, but if you simply don't have the energy or the time, I understand.

Make the Homemade Sauce by doing the following:

Heat up the oil in a 12 inch non-stick skillet
After 1 minute, add the onion and cook until clear, about 5 minutes
Add garlic, cook 30 seconds
Add the remaining ingredients and cook until thick, about 5-10 minutes

Pour the entire sauce over the brisket OR the entire bottle and cook until the meat offers very little resistance when the tines of a fork are pressed into the thickest center section.

Take the meat out of the cooker (careful; it's very heavy), put in a large casserole dish and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Now, tip the edge of the slow cooker insert up one one side so the sauce gathers on one end. Don't take the insert OUT just tip it so the sauce can gather at one end.

Let the sauce sit in the slow cooker for 10 or 15 minutes, then skim the surface of the sauce with a big spoon to remove some of the fat.

Now - stab the brisket all over with a fork and pour half of the sauce the cooker over it and then cover and let the meat sit for at least 30 minutes, preferably one hour.

Pour our the remaining sauce into a 2-cup glass measuring cup and let it sit to the side.

As the meat rests, occasionally skim the top of the thin layer of fat off of the sauce in the measuring cup until it's mostly fat free. Taste the sauce.

You WILL be amazed. YUM.

Now, as the meat is resting and allowed to soak up those amazing BBQ flavors, you can work on your coleslaw and potatoes which are an essential part of ANY brisket meal!

Get the above item - Dole's Classic Cole Slaw mix. So simple to use. It's great for all kinds of diets. I use it on tacos and burgers - but for a quick coleslaw for brisket it can't be beat.

As the brisket is resting, mix the entire bag with the mayo, the buttermilk, the salt and pepper and vinegar and taste. If you like a bit of spice, you can add up to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a bit more vinegar. Adds hardly any calories.

Let the coleslaw sit and rest as you work on the potatoes.

Put your oven rack on the bottom run. Make sure it's a jelly-roll pan which can take intense heat and not warp.

Heat oven (with jelly-roll pan IN the oven) to 450 degrees.

Slice your potatoes so they are 1/2 inch wide. Very important they are the same width. Measure if you need to. No shame in measuring. Oh, I could write something nasty here but I shall refrain.

Now, this system I got from reading a newer Cooks Illustrated recipe, but, despite their audacious claim, not all of their recipes always 'work' I tweaked this a bit.

Put the slices potatoes in cold water in a pot over a high flame. When it reaches a boil (hint: you can make the water boil faster by covering with a lid - thank to my science hubby for this factoid!), reduce to a simmer for only five minutes.

Rinse the potatoes thoroughly and then put into a large bowl. Pour in 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon salt. Mix.

Now comes the important part. Add another tablespoon oil and another teaspoon salt and mix, mix, mix with a rubber spatula for 2 minutes until the surface of the potatoes are covered with a thin coating of 'starch'. According to CI, this will cause the potatoes to be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside which sorta works.

'Sorta' in the sense they are not as crispy as I would have liked BUT they do end up being very, VERY good and tender on the inside...a bit bite of tender and tasty potato. it's a very clever recipe.

Carefully remove the hot baking sheet out of the oven - pour the final bit of oil on the hot pan and roll it around so the surface is coated.

Gently place the potato medallions on the baking sheet (try not to have them touch; they will brown more evenly if they are not touching) and throw in the oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn the pan around and check to see how they are browning. You must NOT turn them until they are super brown on the first side...very important.

After up to 15 more minutes on the first side, flip them over and crisp them for another 10 minutes or so. Put them on a paper-towel lined plate and cover with salt and pepper and serve.

As you can see, instead of a bun, we torn up a freshly baked Parisian-style Baguette with a bit of the brisket, four potato medallions and a big serving of slaw.

Yum! Perfect for the colder days of Fall!



Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist!

1 comment:

  1. Mike! Wow...delicious looking and love your writing! I'm trying to catch up on your blogs on Sunday mornings...sorry I haven't been reading makes me feel like I'm drowning....much love!