This book is a treasure trove of such things. It’s chock-full of not only recipes, but also techniques, illustrative photographs, and detailed explanations of every facet of meat preparation. If you’ve ever wondered how to properly butterfly a leg of lamb or truss a chicken, this is the book you want on your kitchen shelf. James Peterson’s message with this meat-focused book is a familiar one to most of us by now, but no less important for its repetition: eat less and eat better. Peterson advocates choosing your meat with care according to your own ethics and principles, and then preparing it as beautifully as possible.
Following these ideas, his book focuses intensively on technique. He takes us animal by animal, cut by cut, explaining how to pick each one and prepare it for cooking. The recipes tend to be fairly simple and straightforward, as with “Pork Chops with Mustard and Vermouth Sauce” and “Lamb Shanks Braised with Shallots.” But each recipe showcases a specific cut and a specific technique, giving us the basic tools to approach other recipes and our own explorations.
Basically, Peterson’s book fills in the blanks. So many recipes we come across assume we know or gloss over the basics, leaving us to sort it out on our own. This book explains what those recipes don’t and helps us feel confident heading into the kitchen with an unfamiliar cut of meat. Peterson really has given us a kitchen education here.
Peterson has several comprehensive single-subject cookbooks already under his belt, Sauces, Baking, and Fish and Shellfish to name a few. Like those, Meat is sure to become a constant companion in our kitchens.
• Find the Book! Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson. Published by Ten Speed Press, 2010. ($24 on Amazon)
Brisket with Pomegranate Juice
Makes 8 main-course servings
1 first-cut or second-cut brisket, about 5 pounds, trimmed of fat
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, white part only, sliced
6 large cloves garlic
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups chicken broth, or as needed
2 tablespoons meat glaze, optional
Season the brisket all over with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the brisket and brown well on all sides, turning as needed. Transfer the brisket to a heavy ovenproof pot just large enough to hold it. Pour the fat out of the pan.
Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions, leeks, garlic, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables soften. Remove from the heat and pour the vegetables over the brisket. Pour in the pomegranate juice and then add enough broth to come halfway up the sides of the brisket. Add the meat glaze, nestle in the bouquet garni, and bring to a simmer.
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil, pressing it down slightly in the middle so that moisture will condense on its underside and drip down onto the exposed parts of the meat, and then with a lid. Slide the pot into the oven and braise the brisket, basting it every 30 minutes with the braising liquid, for about 4 hours, or until it is easily penetrated with a knife.
Transfer the brisket to a smaller ovenproof pot (or clean the pot you used for braising). Strain the braising liquid into a glass pitcher and skim off the fat with a ladle. Or, ideally, refrigerate the braising liquid at this point and then lift off the congealed fat in a single layer. Pour the degreased liquid into a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer, skimming off any fat or froth that rises to the surface, for about 30 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Meanwhile, raise the oven temperature to 400°F.
Pour the reduced liquid over the meat. Slide the pot into the oven and cook the brisket, basting it every 10 minutes with the liquid, for about 30 minutes, or until the brisket is covered with a shiny glaze.
Remove the brisket from the oven and cut it into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Serve on warmed plates surrounded with the braising liquid.
(Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.; Photo credit: James Peterson © 2010)
Related: Have You Ever Bought a Whole Pig?