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Nine million pounds of beef recalled--really?

If you read about the beef recall you were probably alarmed. Nine million pounds of beef under different labels is a whole lot of meat out there that we don't want to eat. Another thing that comes to mind is that, if this could happen just like that, now, without much warning, what's to prevent it from happening just about anytime at all?

Well--nothing. That is, unless we have conscientious inspection and testing of the food that is sold in this country, we are on our own as to what to eat. One of the goals of the Republican Party is the elimination of this regulation, and the de-funding of the Food and Drug Administration is on their agenda. I am not making a partisan statement; it is common knowledge that "excessive government regulation" is a major problem in the pursuit of consumer dollars on the right spectrum of politics.

There isn't a lot that we can do about this. If the government is reduced to letting "market forces" control the consumption of food you will have no guarantee that what is on the shelves is good for you. So if you have not yet considered it, you ought to start keeping a pretty sharp eye on your meat products and where you buy them. I buy meat at either Sprouts, where they have a supermarket-style meat department made up of clean products, or at Whole Foods, where they have a butcher shop with items that are plainly labeled organic or grain-fed or whatever.

For that reason I would not be afraid to buy a beef brisket there if I wanted one for a Valentine's Day evening. There is also organic meat at Safeway and several other markets in Tucson, and nearly all the biggest supermarkets feature organic meat.

A beef brisket is a specific type of pot roast, and you must read the label to be sure you are getting a cut of brisket as you read the weight label. In the recipe that I include here, you are looking for a 6-pound cut, which is rather a large piece to handle at home. One place I would go to look for a cut this size would be Costco; I have one hear my house on the Kino Parkway off Interstate 10.




One 6-pound beef brisket, trimmed so that a thin layer of fat remains
1 to 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Freshly-ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons corn oil (or other neutral oil)
8 medium onions, peeled and thickly sliced
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
Kosher salt
2 to 4 cloves garlic
1 carrot, peeled and sliced

Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly dust the brisket with flour, then sprinkle with pepper to taste.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot or other heavy pot with a lid just large enough to hold the brisket snugly. Add the brisket to the pot and brown on both sides until crusty brown areas appear on the surface here and there, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

Transfer the brisket to a platter, turn up the heat a bit, then add the onions to the pot and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onions have softened and developed a rich brown color but aren't yet caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and place the brisket and any accumulated juices on top of the onions. Spread the tomato paste over the brisket as if you were icing a cake. Sprinkle with salt and more pepper to taste, then add the garlic and carrot to the pot. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook the brisket for 1-1/2 hours.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and, using a very sharp knife, slice the meat across the grain into approximately 1/8-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice. The end result should resemble the original unsliced brisket leaning slightly backward.

Check the seasonings and, if the sauce appears dry, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of water to the pot. Cover the pot and return to the oven. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and cook the brisket until it is fork-tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Check once or twice during cooking to make sure that the liquid is not bubbling away. If it is, add a few more teaspoons of water—but not more. Also, each time you check, spoon some of the liquid on top of the roast so that it drips down between the slices. It is ready to serve with its juices, but, in fact, it's even better the second day. It also freezes well.

This dish will go well with potatoes or noodles. I would make mashed potatoes, because that is what I grew up eating, with my mother in charge of the kitchen and her Polish heritage. I don't customarily prepare rice with a dish like this, although you could. You will have a lot of sliced meat, so figure that you can serve a dinner party with this amount of food, and count your potatoes accordingly.

I would also serve a refreshing side salad with this combination, along with a red wine and a dessert on the lighter side, such as a lemon souffle pie, for instance.

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