Great cookbooks for the holidays: Serious Eats | Rock Candy

Great cookbooks for the holidays: Serious Eats



This week, as you might have guessed, I'm sharing some of the cool cookbooks you might consider when you go about purchasing those holiday gifts.

I am particularly fond of the new Serious Eats cookbook. In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I do contribute to Serious Eats — sharing stories from the American South and from right here in Arkansas. Still, I have to tell you — this is a pretty interesting cookbook. Serious Eats: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Eating Delicious Food Wherever You Are covers where to find the best burgers, breakfast, pizza, barbecue and street food in the United States. Compiled by Ed Levine and the Serious Eats staff, it goes coast to coast with stories and experiences in America's restaurants. It has a lot of Robyn Lee's cool food photography and there are tons of recipes from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. It's a good find for anyone — not just the culinarily inclined but the food lover in general.

If I could fault the book for anything, it's that there's no Arkansas representation in the book. Of course, chances are there will be another one coming along in a little while. And the book does cover a lot of the food you'll find here in our state — including recipes not only for the eponymous Reuben sandwich but for the Russian Dressing and the Corned Beef. Want to share? The recipes are on the jump.


High-quality store-bought corned beef can be used in place of the homemade corned beef here. But in the course of developing this recipe, we discovered how simple it is to make your own corned beef—and just how moist and delicious it turns out.

Makes 4 sandwiches

2 pounds Corned Beef Brisket (page 156), cut into 1/4-inch slices
8 ounces sauerkraut
8 thick-cut slices Jewish rye or pumpernickel bread
1/2 cup Russian Dressing (opposite)
8 slices Swiss cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the corned beef slices in a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1/2 cup of water over the beef, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place in the oven. Steam in the oven for 10 minutes, until hot. Meanwhile, place the sauerkraut and its juices in a small heavy-bottomed skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
2 Place four slices of bread on a cutting board. Top each slice with a quarter of the beef followed by a quarter of the sauerkraut, a quarter of the Russian dressing, and two slices of Swiss cheese. Top each sandwich with a second slice of bread. Spread the top of each sandwich with 1/2 tablespoon butter.
3 Place two large heavy-bottomed skillets over medium heat. Divide the remaining butter evenly between them, 1 tablespoon per pan. Heat the pans until the butter stops foaming. Swirl the pans to coat the bottom, then add the sandwiches, buttered side up. Cook, moving the sandwiches around the pan occasionally, until the sandwich bottoms are golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a metal spatula, carefully flip the sandwiches and cook on the second side, moving them around the pan occasionally, until crisped on the second side. (If you don’t own two large skillets, the sandwiches can be made in two batches. Keep the first two sandwiches warm on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet in a 200°F. oven tented with foil while you cook the second two sandwiches.)
4 Remove the sandwiches to a cutting board, flipping them so the cheese is at the top. Cut in half and serve.

Russian Dressing
Makes ½ cup

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate until needed. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week in a sealed container.

Corned Beef Brisket

Look for well-marbled beef. The point (or deckel) cut of the beef brisket, a triangular cut with a good amount of fat, will produce the best results, but flat (or first-cut) brisket, of a uniform thickness, is also acceptable. The finished product will not be bright pink in the manner of commercial corned beef.

Makes about 2 pounds

1 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
8 allspice berries
8 juniper berries
4 bay leaves
1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1 point-cut fresh beef brisket (3 to 4 pounds; see note above)

1 Combine the salt, peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, allspice, juniper, bay leaves, onion, carrot, celery, and 2 quarts of water in a medium saucepot. Place the pot over high heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, shut off the burner and allow the liquid to cool completely.
2 Place the beef in a 2-gallon zipper-lock bag. Pour the brine over the beef, squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag, and seal it. Place the bag flat in the refrigerator inside a container just large enough to hold it. Allow the beef to pickle for at least three days, and up to one week, flipping the bag once a day.
3 Fill a large stockpot with a tight-fitting lid with 1 1/2 inches of water and place a steamer basket in the bottom. Place the pot over high heat until the water comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Place the beef in the steamer basket with the fat cap facing up. Put the lid on the pot and steam until the beef offers no resistance when pierced with a fork, 3 1/2 to 4 hours, topping up the water as necessary.
4 Transfer the beef to a container that just fits it, pour any liquid left in the pot over the beef, cover it with foil, and allow the meat to cool completely before slicing.

Reprinted from Serious Eats by Ed Levine & the Editors of Copyright © 2011. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

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