Chef Martin Picard’s Recipe for Montreal Smoked Meat
Montreal Smoked Meat is a kosher-style deli meat, similar to American pastrami, that is made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices. The brisket is brined for at least one week to allow the meat to cure and become infused with flavor. It is then covered with a dry rub and hot smoked over hard wood. This particular recipe cuts no corners, allowing you to make your own smoked meat from scratch, just like Martin does at his sugar shack restaurant. It requires a bit of planning and effort, but it results in a delicious finished product that is served in Martin’s omelet soufflé recipe found in Issue 3, or simply stacked high on rye bread with mustard and a pickle.
The recipe is adapted from Martin’s newly published cookbook on all things maple syrup. The cookbook, titled Cabane à sucre Au Pied de cochon (Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack), is printed in both English and French versions and is self-published by the chef and his team. The 386-page book offers more than creative 100 sugar shack recipes by Martin Picard accompanied by 2,000 color photographs. It was released in Canada on March 1, 2012 and will be available in the United States in Fall 2012.
4 quarts water
1 ¼ cups kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. pink salt (Prague powder #1)
2 ½ tbsp. fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup leeks, green parts only
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. red wine
5 lb. beef brisket
3 ½ tbsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. dill seed
3 tbsp. coriander seed
1 ½ tsp. yellow mustard seed
1 tbsp. celery seed
1 tbsp. fennel seed
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 ½ tsp crushed red chiles
1. In a saucepan set over high heat, bring the first 9 brisket ingredients to a boil to create a brine. Stir with a whisk to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Add the red wine and refrigerate until completely chilled. Place the brisket in the brine and cover with a plate to completely submerge the meat under the liquid. Let the brisket marinate in the refrigerator for 7 days, turning the meat regularly to make sure each bit of the meat comes in contact with the brine and that it remains completely submerged (this prevents spoilage).
2. When ready, remove the brisket from the brine and pat it dry with a clean kitchen towel. Discard the brine and refrigerate the meat until ready to use. In a bowl, mix all the dry rub ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Cover the brined meat with the rub, making sure all parts of the brisket have a generous coating of spices. Wrap the brisket in 3 pieces of aluminum foil.
3. Preheat a smoker (using maple wood if possible) to 150°F. Smoke the brisket for 12 hours, maintaining as constant a temperature as possible. Ensure the fire is smoking throughout the cooking process by adding wood as needed. When finished cooking, transfer the brisket to a cutting board and let rest, in the foil, for 30 minutes. Slice and served as desired.
Note: If you don’t have a smoker, you can still make this recipe using a charcoal grill. Soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes and light the coals using a chimney starter. When the coals are ready, pour them into a charcoal basket and place the basket off to one side of the grill. Layer half of the wood chips on top of the coals and cover the grill for 1-2 minutes, with the vents open, to allow the wood to start to smoke. Slide a drip pan onto the bottom grill grate in the open space adjacent to the charcoal basket. Set the upper grill grate in place and place the foil-wrapped brisket on the upper grate above the drip pan and away from the coals so that that it can cook using indirect heat. Cover the grill, with the bottom vent open and the lid vent closed half way. This is an important point to remember, because too much oxygen coming through the vents will keep the coals burning hot. You want the heat to be as low as possible without actually burning out. Also, be sure the vent in the lid is directly above the brisket. This will draw the smoke from the wood chips past the meat. After one hour, add the other half of the soaked wood chips and 6 new charcoal briquettes. Continue to cook, adding new briquettes (and additional soaked wood chips if you like) to the basket every hour until the meat is ready, about 7-10 hours. Rotate the meat halfway through the process to ensure even cooking. When finished, transfer the smoked meat to a cutting board and let rest, in the foil, for 30 minutes. Slice and served as desired.
Photograph by Dana Dorobantu is of the outdoor smoker at PDC’s Sugar Shack.