Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reconnecting with my Inner-Martha

After a recent move to our nation’s capital, I’ve been feeling, well, a little disconnected from the role of military spouse. In the last several months I’ve returned to an almost full-time post at a fantastic public relations agency, Zeno Group. It’s filled with wonderfully creative colleagues and clients who inspire, entertain and challenge me each day. But, I feel as though I’m a civilian again, not really connected with my peeps – the merry little band of military spouses that I hold dear. Yes, we do all manage to stay connected on Facebook, through a myriad of random quizzes, pithy quotes and photos that chronicle our lives and locales. And, while I’ve got a few mil-side girlfriends scattered across Northern Virginia, it’s not the league of ladies that often inspire civilian questioners to ask, “Is it just like Army Wives?” In a nutshell, I’m feeling a little removed from the dinner parties and Air Force squadron-sponsored events that peppered our lives and awakened my inner-(Military) Martha --Stewart, that is.

Then spring sprung. It all started at the Farmer's Market. I’m not sure if it’s the ramps (that I’m still not quite sure just what to do with), the baby arugula from my favorite lettuce grower or the fancy, French radishes that have inspired me to take a little time and explore the kitchen -- that has become simply utilitarian in the past few months. With cookbooks and gardening magazines strewn across the floor and a little dose of sunshine...my inner-Martha is back and ready to cook (and write) again, albeit maybe not attending the latest squadron pot luck…well, at least not this week.

With all that said, ironically, none of these things will be found at your local Farmer’s Market. It’s weeknight meals that have been on my mind lately. How do I make something relatively low maintenance that can do double-duty and not feel tired and boring during the week? Searching my freezer for inspiration, I uncovered items that I deemed as a “great deal” weeks ago while shopping at the commissary (a.k.a. base grocery store). I unearthed a frozen piece of brisket…of course, brisket. I must credit Gary, my boo, for this fantastic and easy preparation for the best party and soulful entree around. This brisket has made the rounds from Uncle Herb’s lucky 07/07/07 birthday party for the masses to a perfect freezer meal, that once prepared is at-the-ready for a home-style dinner fix. It’s great in a hearty sandwich, accompanied by corn on the cob and creamy potato salad – if you’re feeling jaunty. Rejuvenate it later in the week over some toothy papardelle pasta, or egg noodles, with a peppery arugula salad, tossed with a lemony vinaigrette and shave of salty parmesan. This is also perfect atop some creamy polenta.

Give it a try. No kidding, I’m headed for the fridge.

Beef Brisket
5 lbs. beef brisket
28 oz. canned tomatoes (Muir Glen fire-roasted, if you please)
28 oz. V-8 juice (low sodium)
3-4 beef bouillon cubes
½ c. prepared horseradish (not creamy)

Note: The following details the directions for preparing this in a low-and-slow oven. But, if you’ve got a Crockpot, mix all the ingredients, as specified below and cook on low for 8 hours. I prefer to do mine overnight, chill it during the day. Then it’s ready to be reheated for dinner later in the evening.

Crockpot-Free, Oven Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lay brisket as a single layer in a roasting pan and cover with tomatoes and juice, then stir in some horseradish and bouillon. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper, then seal with aluminum foil. (The parchment ensure that the acid in the tomatoes doesn’t react, creating a barrier from the aluminum foil.) Cook for 1 ½ hours, then taste for seasoning - it may need a little more of the salty bouillon or horseradish for a little more zip. Continue to cook for another 3 ½ - 4 hours.

Remove from the broth and let cool, slightly. Remove the fat cap from the meat and discard. Then take two forks to pull the meat into shreds. Return to the broth and refrigerate. When fully chilled, skim off any remaining fat that may have surfaced.

Reheat, serve and enjoy.