Steamed and sliced
I am not going to go on and on about Katz’s deli again. It is enough to merely point out that if you want REAL pastrami then you must go to a REAL delicatessen. Which brings me to the reason I chose to make this dish. Almost everything that is labeled pastrami in an average market, deli and (and this pains me) every outlet in Israel is not pastrami. In fact if you wander into an Israeli supermarket and ask for pastrami you will be shown to a cooler filled with pastrama a term that is attached to any cooked and sliced meat- much like “ham” is used in the U.S. As for the American stuff, it is usually some version of roast beef with some sort of pepper spice rub on the outside. It bears as much resemblance to real pastrami as a Carl Buddig product does to whole cuts of meat.
Now, pastrami is not a quick thing to make. It is a minimum 5 day process that some extend out to two weeks. Your first decision is whether to use a brine or dry cure. A dry cure is more traditional, but a brine cure will impart the same flavor and also boost the liquid content for a more moist cut of meat. The second choice is whether to seek beef plate or use the more commonly available brisket. The third choice is about smoking. You can in fact smoke without a smoker. By using an oven smoking bag or liquid smoke you can get the same flavor as a smoker. Since I really wanted to play with a smoker, and don’t have one, I waited until I was planning a trip to my parents so I could use theirs.
More after the break.
Chopped Chicken Liver
Liver. In popular American culture this word is usually accompanied by a child making a face of disgust and followed by a sneer of “yuck”. Being the unusual child that I was I have always loved liver although I didn’t always know I was eating it. My mother used to make me liverwurst sandwiches. When I was about 4 I asked her if there was liver in them and when she said no, I asked why it was called liverwurst. She replied that the city of Livermore (the next town over) wasn’t made of liver and I accepted this explanation as totally rational. I never bought the whole tooth fairy thing, but this I believed for a shockingly long time. It wasn’t until I entered 1st grade and started eating lunch at school that I discovered that most children find liver disgusting, but by then I developed a taste for it. As an adult I find myself periodically craving liver (this is probably due to my near constant state of iron-deficiency). I love it when there is one left inside of a whole chicken that I can fry up for a little snack and one of the greatest lunches I have ever had was a fried chicken liver po’ boy at Mahoney’s in New Orleans that Gordon and I split along with a cochon de’lait po’ boy (the ultimate in trayfe). It was a heart attack on a plate, with onion rings and an Abita beer on the side, but it was worth every moment of my lifespan I gave up. Marc and all his food intolerance chickened out and ended up eating a salad somewhere down the street. He may live longer as a result but I still dream of that sandwich.
Chopped chicken liver has been a staple of Jewish delis since they were invented (if you have ever seen the chopped chicken liver sandwich at Katz’s you’ve seen the holy grail of chopped chicken liver) I remember my mother making it once with an old hand-crank meat grinder. At some point everyone realized how bad it is for you and stopped making it, but once or twice a year we would go to Max’s and we would order it. Now that we have discovered that all things that taste really good are bad for you and some of the things we thought were better for you were actually making us obese (hello margarine) I decided that chopped chicken liver was coming out of my kitchen once again. Luckily I had two loaves of rye bread just dying for an accompaniment and two Rocky Jr. Liver Cups in the fridge. The cup is one pound of livers from organic sustainably farmed chickens. It also just sound like the prize to a NASCAR race and I am always trying to think of an event where it can be the trophy.
recipe after the jump