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Monday, September 17, 2012

Bucket List

New York Times, September 12, 2012
Bucket lists have become very trendy.  Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has one.  Babies that are dying of awful, incurable diseases have them.  Pets have them.  Clearly having a bucket list is the thing to do.

I've never really jumped on the bucket list bandwagon.  Maybe it's just that I'm a kill joy.  Or maybe it's that I figure I'll get to do a lot of cool things in my life and that I don't need to put them on a list to keep track.  Who knows.  Who cares.

One thing is for sure.  You won't catch me making a bucket for Pebbles, even if her health goes and she only has three days to live.  She's would have had a good life and wouldn't need donations of dog toys or trips to the park to confirm that.

Maybe I really am a kill joy.

So imagine my surprise when, this morning, I mentioned to Ted that going to a farmer's market with Melissa Clark is something that I have on my "list of things I really want to do."  In fact, I went so far as to suggest to him that setting me up on an excursion with Melissa would be a lovely birthday present.  Ever the pragmatist, Ted pointed out that my birthday is in February so there's nothing all that exciting at the farmer's market then anyway.

Melissa and I could buy potatoes and root vegetables and then we could talk about what to do with them.  So there, Ted.

Some of the things I have on my "list of things I really want to do" will never happen.  Let's be realistic.  I doubt I'm ever going to write a great novel.  Chick Lit seems more likely, and even that's a long shot.

Climbing Mt. Everest sounds cool too.  I think reading about people who have done it is probably as close as I'll get to base camp.

The point of all this is that maybe I really do have a bucket list after all.   I'm not quite trendy enough to call it that.  Or maybe I'm a rebel because  I don't need a bucket list to do cool things.

In the meantime, I think I'll concentrate my efforts on those things I can actually achieve.  Like making dinner.  And maybe going to a farmer's market with Melissa Clark.

Recipe:  Braised Brisket with Plums, Star Anise and Port
(Melissa Clark, New York Times, September 12, 2012)

*Note:  This recipe is perfect for the Jewish holidays.  I know.  I should have given it to you last week.  What can I say?


1 brisket (6 to 7 pounds), preferably second cut
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch lemon thyme or regular thyme
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 white onions, thinly sliced
1 cup ruby port
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 whole star anise (or 2 whole cloves)
4 whole bay leaves
2 1/2 pounds ripe but firm plums, halved and pitted
Thyme leaves, for garnish (optional).


Season brisket all over with salt and pepper. Place it in a large container and cover with garlic and half the thyme sprigs. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours. Let meat stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Wipe off garlic and thyme.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place a very large Dutch oven over high heat. Add oil. Place brisket in pot and cook, without moving, until browned, about 7 minutes per side. (Cut meat into two chunks and sear in batches if it doesn’t fit in a single layer.) Transfer to a plate.

Add onions to pot and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook onions, tossing occasionally, until golden brown around the edges and very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour in port and wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in star anise, bay leaves and remaining thyme. Scatter half the plums over the bottom of the pot and nestle brisket on top. Scatter remaining plums over meat. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook, turning every 30 minutes, until meat is completely fork tender, about 5 hours. After 4 hours, uncover the pot so some of the liquid can evaporate and sauce can thicken.

If you have time, let brisket cool completely in the pot, then refrigerate, covered, overnight. (This makes it easier to remove the fat from the top with a slotted spoon.) Reheat meat in a 300-degree oven for about 45 minutes before serving, if necessary. If sauce seems thin, remove meat from the pot and bring liquid to a simmer. Let cook until it’s reduced to taste. Slice meat and serve with the plum sauce, garnished with thyme leaves if you like.

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