Brisket, a delicious challenge and Karen Kennedy’s anthology “You’re Never Too Old To: …”
by Christina Stock
I have been a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) Judge for eight years — ever since Smokin’ on the Pecos KCBS competition kicked off. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend you join one of these classes, if you like to barbecue or just enjoy the product. You learn so much about meat, how to prepare the different cuts and what to look for in an exceptional cut and its preparation.
When you cook a roast in an oven, the saying goes, low and slow. That’s how you achieve tenderness in meat. However, in smoking meat, it’s all about temperature control, which means, no peaking while the meat is in the smoker. I know, that is so hard, but every time you open the lid, the temperature goes haywire and your piece of meat will be cooked unevenly.
The most difficult cut to prepare — and the most delicious — is the beef brisket. I am not even going to dare to post a recipe here. There are better barbecue smoking connoisseurs than I am and each one has their favorite seasoning, wood to use and different cut. They all agree that a packer-trimmed brisket is the typical brisket to use, and barbecue cooks prefer to buy it with minimal trimming of fat, so they can trim it themselves down to no more than .25 inches of fat before seasoning. Everybody agrees that the prime brisket that gives the best flavor should be well-marbled with fat, to keep it juicy during the smoking process.
How long to smoke it? Well, any cook will tell you that it takes what it takes. It all depends on the weather, if it is cool or hot, if it is raining or not. It’s all practice.
My recipe comes in when you had your brisket, enjoyed it, and — you have some leftover. What to do? Of course, you could just eat it cold on a sandwich, but what’s the fun in that? Turn it into a new favorite:
Open-faced Hungarian brisket
1/4 pound leftover brisket, chopped
2 bell peppers, orange and red, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 Tbsp. barbecue sauce
2 English muffins, toasted
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat, preferably a cast iron pan. Toss in the chopped brisket and fry until it sizzles.
Add the bell peppers, onion and garlic. Fry on low heat until the onions caramelize. Lower the heat and put a lid on top of the pan.
While the brisket and vegetables continue cooking, cut the muffins in half and lightly toast.
Add the barbecue sauce on each side of the muffin.
Take the brisket/bell pepper mix off the fire and top the muffins evenly with the mix. Serve right away.
Beyond Mother’s Day
First of all, I want to send out a big high-five to all good mothers, mothering aunts and grandmothers in our community. You are the guiding light, the heart and soul leading the next generation on the right path — some of the kids know this already, some will figure it out later in life. I am very blessed that my mother is visiting from Germany and I will be able to celebrate Mother’s Day in Roswell with her.
As a book review, I chose today the anthology of an amazing mother who collected the stories of awe-inspiring men and women. This mother is Karen Kennedy and the book is “You’re Never Too Old To: …,” listing the titles of all 23 featured stories. The stories are those of real strength, of hope, survival and being persistent in achieving one’s mission in life. Kennedy dedicated the book to her children and family. Remember those wise words your mom loves to say, or — if you have lost her — might have said? This is how Kennedy’s book starts, one example being, “The world has a way of telling you what to do; it will have you running around in circles like a hamster in a wheel if you let it.”
Kennedy starts the anthology off with her own story. She is straightforward in remembering her childhood in the ‘80s; her struggles to stop smoking; how her grandfather made changes to outlive his doctors who told him he would die. “You’re never too old to change your bad habits,” describes how she found what helped her, which includes writing.
Another story is about a skateboarder from California, who replaced marijuana with meditation. He overcomes the pain he suffered from back and neck injuries at the age of 21, how he was inspired at 35 to start skateboarding and due to his limitations, invented a new skating style. He includes his love story that came out of grief for a lost love.
Then there is the story of one of our own, Jeneva Jewel Martinez’s story that she wrote with Curtis Michaels. Reading her struggle gives one chills. Her honest and brave recount on getting the news that she has breast cancer, struggling with uncooperative health insurances, bad advice by doctors that made her lose her stomach muscles and — instead of taking the word of the doctor who tells her that she would be, for the rest of her life, a dependent — Jewel Martinez fights against it with the help of her partner whom she marries. From there, she reclaims her body and spirit, becoming a mother again, becoming a roller derby athlete and becoming the voice of the voiceless, of Roswell’s homeless population.
Her story is extremely well-written, touching and emotional. Some of the other stories are shorter, some are longer, some could have used a better copy editor. All, however, have that message — to not give up and to not listen to those who put you down.
The anthology is not a self-help book or a white-washed feel-good book. It shows stages in people’s life, like Christina Blake in story 21, whose life changes when her mother is murdered and she is in jail; then there is Pat Balvanz’s “Bloom” story. Balvanz is 85 and her life was anything but easy, divorcing her husband when that would make her an outcast; leaving her life not once, but twice when her kids were adults and setting an example for them: That it is never too late to find love, to not hold on to fallacies and that it is only too late when you are dead.
After finishing the stories, the reader feels a strong connection to every author. We are all on this journey called life — we all know it will end one day, but to make the journey an adventure and to make the best out of what one has, that is truly living.
I end this review with one of my now-favorite expressions from artist Debra Rapaport, “Be bold, be creative, be colorful, be who you want;” and from Katie Damiano, “You have all the power you need to crush it in life … Now grab your chance to race across the sky.”
Kennedy’s books are available at amazon.com. She is seeking story submissions for her next anthology. To submit a story or for more information on story length and details, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For submitting a story, put in the subject line, “New story.”