Cook the Books – Prune & Ottolenghi

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This week an epic edition of Cook the Books. Sara the Librarian, two books, two recipes, two weeks. The new Prune book and the beloved Ottolenghi.

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Gentle readers, this journey begins over two weeks ago. I’m a big fan of Gabrielle Hamilton as I’m sure you could tell by my staff pick and I have been anxiously awaiting the Prune cookbook. It is a beautiful book. I realized as soon as I began flipping through, this is less of a home cook guide and more like a restaurant guide. There is no introduction, no charming anecdotes about who inspired each recipe and the yield is all in restaurant quantities. Always up for a challenge, I decided to attempt her brisket recipe, which requires a week of brining, a night in the fridge with a rub and a whole day of cooking slow and low. 

Really, the only place to go is Schatzies to pick up a brisket. The smallest size available was a 7 pounder, much too much for my boyfriend, Ren and I. The knowledgeable butcher was more than happy to guide us toward an alternative – a rare pleasure to find someone who freely gives great advice from behind the meat counter. We picked up a chuck roast weighing in just over 3 pounds and prepared a brine bath of bay leaves, thyme, sugar, salt and peppercorns.

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After the week, we dumped the brine and dried off the roast which then got a rub of salt, pepper and paprika all over. Now, technically Ms. Hamilton suggests leaving it in the walk in overnight with the rub, but that part may have slipped my mind and it was more like an hour or two. Ren browned it on all sides in the cast iron pan while I prepared the braising liquids; beef broth, red wine, guajillo chilies, garlic, onion and thyme.

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The next step was to wrap it up tight, cover and leave alone in a 275 degree oven for 4 hours.

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Ms. Hamilton advises to leave it be for the whole four hours, to then unwrap it and check every half hour up to seven hours. Well, since we had cut the recipe so far down, four hours was ample time and our little roast was ready to eat. So Ren unwrapped and put it out to rest. (Why does everything have to rest? Is it exhausting being in the oven?)

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Meanwhile, I got to work preparing our side. Earlier in the week, Sabena, the generous library assistant, was kind enough to bring me a bag of Jeruselum artichokes. I had a hunch Mr. Yotam Ottolenghi knew what to do with those strange little tubers.

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 Sure enough, his books include plenty of ways to use them, I settled on roast potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes with lemon and sage. I boiled the potatoes then sliced them up and tossed with sliced Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, olive oil, sage, salt and pepper. The mixture goes on a baking sheet and in the oven for 30 minutes. After that I added lemon and chopped kalamata olives and roasted for another 15 minutes.

IMG_8808        At the very end I tossed with parsley and we were ready to eat!

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The dinner turned out deliciously. The meat was tender and flavorful and the potatoes had a really unusual taste, I love the combination of citrus, olives and sage. This is a great meal to prepare when it’s cold outside and you can have a long lazy day at home, but not to attempt if you are in a rush or pressed for time.

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