My husband and I have been together now for five years and married for three. We’ve hit all manner of speed bumps and road blocks as we’ve negotiated towards peaceful co-habitation, but none have been more difficult than establishing an array of dinnertime meals that are able to make us both happy.
I come from a family with solid hippie tendencies. The dinners of my childhood tended to feature items like brown rice, beans in place of meat and kale (well before it was trendy). We had lots of fresh vegetables and tart yogurt was billed as a treat.
Scott’s family tended towards a more processed diet. There was a lot of meat, string beans only came out of cans and Velveeta was viewed as a viable cheese for sandwiches and after-school snacks.
Finding our middle ground in the midst of these divergent origins has been tough. We’ve each had to surrender some ground in order to share meals. I’ve stopped shoehorning kale into every meal and Scott has added several lines to the list of vegetables he willingly eats.
I’ve found that the best dinner recipes for us are the ones that are assembled just before serving. That way we can choose our preferred components. One recipe I’ve recently come across that I like for this kind of customization is Rachael Ray’s Brisket Bowls. In it you braise a hunk of beef in a medley of carrots, onion, celery, garlic and ginger. While the meat stews, you cook up basmati rice with a puree of spinach and cilantro. When the brisket is done, you puree the tender braising veggies into a smooth sauce.
Scott opted for more meat, less rice. I went for more of the green rice (I used brown instead of white), several scoops of the sauce and a few shreds of the brisket for flavor. Though brown rice takes longer to cook, it’s got far more nutrition and flavor. We both ended up entirely satisfied by the meal. If you’ve got a similar mixed culinary marriage (or picky children), these brisket bowls should rocket to the top of your to-make list. Make it your pre-Thanksgiving Weekender.
Before you start braising, here are a few things you should know:
– The beauty of the braise is that it takes a tough, inexpensive piece of meat and renders it juicy and tender. Rachael’s recipe says to braise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, but I found that my particular cut needed 4 hours of low heat to fully collapse.
– As I noted above, I used brown basmati rice in place of white. If you also want to make that switch, add about 20 minutes to the cook-time.
– Remember that braised meat gets even better the next day. This is a great recipe for cooking, refrigerating and reheating.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, is now available.