"Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies." Milton Berle
Each St. Patrick's Day, countless Americans celebrate by donning green apparel and downing even greener beer. But while they are busy getting green at the gills at the corner pub, I'm at the store stockpiling discounted packages of corned beef.
For many, these pre-cured corned beef briskets are a once a year indulgence, to be cooked alongside some cabbage and potatoes. For me, however, they are a gateway to what Meathead affectionately refers to as "Jewish barbecue", pastrami. If you like Reuben sandwiches made with corned beef, you have to try them with pastrami.
In the article "Pastranomy: Close to Katz's Home Made Pastrami Recipe", Meathead shares his recipe for transforming corned beef into pastrami, first by desalinating the meat, then by coating it with a peppery spice blend, and finally smoking and steaming it to Katz-like quality.
But while I have had great success with his recipe, I had to wonder if I could make it even better through the use of sous vide. The result? While it took some trial and error to perfect the water bath and smoking steps, the final product was better than anything that can be found at New York's best delicatessens. Sous vide really breaks down the tough connective tissues in the meat and makes the meat moist with the gelatin formed from them.
Before trying this recipe, however, it is worth noting the inclusion of a flash chill to the preparation method. While this step is primarily used chefs looking to finish sous vide dishes as orders are placed later in the day, the purpose in this recipe is to cool the meat enough so that it can absorb plenty of flavorful smoke as it slowly reheats on the grill.
Recipe: Sous-Vide-Que Pastrami
Makes. 4 to 6 sandwiches
Takes. 36 hours to sous vide; approximately 90 minutes to smoke.
Special tools. Sous vide immersion circulator. One gallon sealable freezer bag.
Serve with. Guinness beer.
1 package uncooked corned beef brisket about 3 to 4 pounds
4 tablespoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1) Put the corned beef in a pot slightly larger than the meat and cover it with cold water. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours in order to remove excess salt from the meat. If you can, change the water once or twice.
2) Prepare a sous vide immersion circulator such as Joule by ChefSteps according to instructions and set water temperature for 150°F.
3) Remove desalinated corned beef from the pot and place in a sealable freezer bag. Carefully submerge the freezer bag in the water bath until most of the air has been removed and then seal. Once bag is submerged, cook the corned beef for 36 hours.
4) Prior to the end of the sous vide process, fill a large container with a 50/50 mix of ice and water. Once corned beef's water bath has finished, still in the bag, place it in the ice water for 30 to 60 minutes to quickly reduce the meat's core temperature. Place the meat in the refrigerator until ready to smoke (up to two days ahead of time).
5) Prepare a grill for 2-zone cooking. On a charcoal grill, place a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets to one side of the grill's charcoal grate in order to create direct and an indirect cooking zones. Adjust the grill vents to maintain a temperature of about 225°F on the indirect side for smoking. Add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. Position the lid on the grill with the fully opened top vent positioned directly above the indirect side in order to force the smoke over and around the meat. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is as hot as possible and the other half is approximately 225°F.
6) Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl and blend well.
7) Remove meat from the freezer bag and pat dry with paper towels before seasoning all over with the dry rub mixture.
8) Once the grill is ready, place the meat on the cooler side of the grill as far from the heat source as possible. Allow the meat to smoke for approximately 1 hour 30 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
9) Remove the pastrami from the grill, wrap it in a double layer of foil, and allow it to sit for 1 hour before unwrapping and slicing against the natural grain of the meat. May I recommend a Rockin Reuben Sandwich?