Mrs Bailey’s Brisket
As on Earth, so on Mars: throughout the Empire, brisket is a cheap meat, often sold rolled and tied to make a cheap joint, which can then be slow-roasted or baked in a covered dish with root vegetables, a splash of liquid and a lot of time. In the US, where brisket can be prohibitively expensive, we’d call it a pot roast and use a slab of chuck.
As with so many of Mrs Bailey’s foodways, this really isn’t a recipe so much as a method, so try this:
Start with the meat. Either a round of brisket or a slab of chuck roast: about three or four pounds, either way. Salt and pepper its surfaces generously while you heat a cast iron casserole/dutch oven over a high flame while you preheat the oven to 300F.
Once the dish is hot, add a splash of olive oil and a lump of butter. As soon as the butter is melted and sizzling brightly, add the seasoned meat. Leave undisturbed for five minutes, until thoroughly browned; then turn it. Repeat until all its surfaces are seared, then set it aside. (Turkey forks or the nearest equivalent are really helpful here.)
Vegetables (1): Slice a couple of onions while the meat is browning, and now throw those into the pot. Toss ’em about for a couple of minutes and then add a generous quantity of garlic: crushed or sliced or whole cloves, as you like. Cook for another minute.
Deglaze: Add a third of a bottle of wine. White or red, your preference. Bring up to a sizzle.
Herbs: Nobody has a herb garden like Mrs Bailey’s, but we do what we can. A couple of sprigs of rosemary, half a dozen of thyme, maybe some basil, some marjoram… Lay them all in the pot atop the sizzling onions-in-wine.
Put the meat back and the lid on, and leave it in the oven for a couple of hours.
Vegetables (2): Scrub half a dozen carrots, and peel them if necessary. Scrub a pound or two of small potatoes. Take the pot out of the oven, lift out the meat and add the vegetables. Depending on how much liquid has accumulated, you may want to add half a pint of good beef stock, or even more if you like a lot of gravy.
Seasoning: Taste the liquor, and add whatever more you feel that it needs by way of seasoning. Salt and pepper, if needed, but now is the time to stretch yourself. If you want a little more umami — Mrs Bailey would call it “savour” — add a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, or soy, or fish sauce, or half a dozen salted anchovies broken up. If you’d like a breadth of sweetness, add tomato purée or passata. For a little bite, add a dash of vinegar. You get the idea. Mix and match, personalise.
Cover the pot and return it to the oven. Cook for another two or three hours, until both meat and vegetables are utterly tender. Serve the meat in slices if you can, in shreds if it disintegrates.
You can find more of Mrs Bailey’s recipes here: