Sous-Vide-Que Pastrami

"Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies." Milton Berle

Every 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 stocking up on discounted packages of corned beef.

For many folks, 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 I affectionately refer to as "Jewish barbecue" or 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", I share my 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. 

While I have had great success with his recipe, I wondered if I could make it even better by using the sous vide method. The result? It took some trial and error to dial in the various steps, but to my tastebuds the final product was better than anything to be found at New York's best delicatessens. The sous vide method thoroughouly breaks down tough connective tissues in the meat, creating rich-tasting collagen that also helps keep the meat moist.

Before trying this recipe, note that the meat is flash chilled after sous viding it. Chefs often include this step to prepare dishes ahead of time, chill them, and then finish them as soon as an order comes in to the kitchen. You could also make this dish ahead, but the real purpose of flash chilling here is to cool the meat enough so that it can then 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.

Ingredients

1 package uncooked corned beef brisket, about 3 to 4 pounds

4 tablespoons coarsely and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

Method

1) Prep. 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 the manufacturer's instructions and set the water temperature for 150°F.

3) Remove the desalinated corned beef from the pot and place in a gallon-size sealable freezer bag. Carefully submerge the freezer bag in the water bath until most of the air has been removed and then seal the bag. Once bag is submerged, cook the corned beef for 36 hours.

4) Fill a large container with a 50/50 mix of ice and water. Place the bag of sous vided corned beef in the ice water for 30 to 60 minutes to quickly reduce the meat's core temperature to 34 to 38ºF. Place the meat in the refrigerator until ready to smoke (up to two days ahead of time).

5) Fire up. 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 top vent fully open and 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 mix well.

7) Remove meat from the freezer bag and pat dry with paper towels before seasoning all over with the dry rub mixture.

8) Cook. 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 until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, about 1 1/2 hours.

9) Serve. 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?

Sous Vide Que Pastrami

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