Curing pastrami is a celebration of great craftsmanship. This pastrami begins with a great cut of beef—a 5-pound piece of brisket from the fatty end, which is called the point—and is transformed by salt, smoke, and time into something magical. Not only is the experience of preparing pastrami a worthwhile exercise, the meat that results is free of commercial artificial preservatives, and its wonderfully salty and spicy flavor is reminiscent of what this cured meat is supposed to taste like. The process is not complicated, but it does take some planning. We use our restaurant smoker. You could certainly try it in a backyard smoker, but in this recipe, the pastrami is cooked in the oven. We add shiro dashi to give it a bit of smoky flavor. A tiny bit of pink salt (sodium nitrite) is necessary to preserve the meat and protect it from dangerous bacteria. —Michael Anthony
about 4 pounds
3 1/2 tablespoons
3 1/2 tablespoons
red pepper flakes
bay leaf, crushed
cinnamon stick, crushed
1 1/4 cups
2 2/3 tablespoons
pink salt (sodium nitrite)
packed dark brown sugar
garlic cloves, minced
5-pound brisket from the fatty end (point), untrimmed
In a small skillet, lightly toast 1/2 teaspoon of the peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon of the coriander, and 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard seeds over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
Grind in a spice mill.
Put the ground spices in a large pot and add the pepper flakes, allspice, cloves, mace, ginger, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, kosher salt, pink salt, granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, garlic, and 4 quarts water. Bring the brine to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the brine to a vessel large enough to hold it and the meat—which will be added later— and refrigerate until chilled.
Put the brisket in the brine and weight it down (with a plate and tomato cans, for example) to keep it completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 5 days. Remove the brisket from the brine, rinse it, dry it, and put it on a large platter. Discard the brine. In a spice mill, process the remaining peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and the fennel seeds. Transfer the spices to a small bowl and mix well. Coat the brisket with the spice mixture and sprinkle the shiro dashi over it. Cover the platter and refrigerate for about 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 250°F.
Put the brisket on a rack in a roasting pan. Add a cup of water to the pan and tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil. Cook the brisket until it reaches 165°F on a meat thermometer, 3 to 4 hours. (If you don’t have a thermometer, the brisket is ready when it is very tender.) Let the meat rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, transfer the pastrami to a cutting board and cut against the grain into thin slices. The pastrami will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Michael Anthony began cooking professionally in Tokyo, Japan where he quickly grew to love the Japanese connection to the changing seasons. Following his time in Japan, Mike moved to France to hone his culinary skills at a number of renowned restaurants. He joined Gramercy Tavern as the Executive Chef in 2006 and under his leadership the restaurant has earned a number of accolades including a three star New York Times review in 2007 and the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Restaurant” in 2008. In June, 2011 he was named Chef-Partner of Gramercy Tavern. In 2012, Michael won the James Beard Award for “Best Chef in New York City.” Michael is the author of The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook.