Ever wish there was a cookbook out there with seasonal recipes and sprawling, high-quality photographs that pay homage to your favorite local growers? I’m sure there are thousands of these kinds of cookbooks that revolve around California farms, at least one cookbook per farm I imagine, but not so here in Massachusetts. Here, there’s just one. (So far.) (That I know of.)
I’m talking about Fresh & Honest, a beautiful collection of recipes and seasonal sources from Peter Davis, chef of Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge. The focus is on simple, traditional New England fare with fresh, local ingredients, but he takes that a step further by introducing us to the fishermen, cheesemakers, and farmers that supply his restaurant, including Pat Woodbury of Wellfleet, Bob Stetson of Westfield Farm in Hubbardston, and Steve Verrill of Concord’s Verrill Farm, among others. Recipes include roasted pumpkin soup, strawberry-rhubarb compote, lobster chowder, red flannel hash with poached eggs, and grit cakes with mushrooms. It’s such a pretty book (it recently won a New England Book Festival award), that I kind of wish I wrote it myself. But former Boston Magazine colleague Alex Hall wrote it with Davis, so that’s close enough. The point is that such a book exists and is available for such greedy little hands as mine.
I’ve been agonizing over which recipe to share with you, and I’ve finally settled on one: maple-stout marinated brisket, one last hearty, meaty dish before we move into summer’s lighter fare. I know I’m in a minority among the Boston-area, beer-loving public, but I don’t love drinking stout (I’ve discussed this before). I find its meatiness offensive in a beverage. But I do like to cook with it, so I planned to use Moody St. Stout from Waltham’s own Watch City brewery to continue the local theme. But, of course, they ran out right before I got there, so I had to quickly formulate a backup plan. Twenty minutes later, their Chocolate Thunder Porter caught my eye. Come to find out, it’s made with local Taza chocolate! And the fact that it’s a porter, which I do like, AND it contains chocolate, meant that I had no problem helping Husband polish off the rest of the growler alongside this rich, tender, dark-chocolatey brisket. Win-win.
Maple-Stout Marinated Brisket
This is not a weekday meal. It requires marinating, browning, and long, slow cooking for 6 hours. Start early the day before you need to eat it.
1 4-lb. beef brisket
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
½ cup maple syrup (the darker, the better)
2 cups stout (or chocolate porter!)
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 bay leaves
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce (I used way less because that much Tabasco scares me!)
1 cup onion, finely diced
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the mustard and maple syrup. Add the beer, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, Tabasco, and onion, and mix well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Let cool completely.
Soak the brisket in the marinade for 24 hours in the fridge. Heat grill and brown over low heat on all sides, being careful not to burn it. This can also be done in a hot, oven-proof skillet with a thin film of oil. Preheat oven to 275°F. In a tightly covered pan, cook brisket in the oven for 6 hours or so, basting with the marinade every hour. When tender, remove from the oven and let rest tented with foil for 30 minutes. Slice brisket across the grain and drizzle with pan drippings. Serve with mashed potatoes and, I don’t know, maybe something green!
Source: Adapted from Fresh & Honest by Peter Davis and Alexandra Hall.