Homemade Pastrami

enjoy some deli

Last weekend, Kramer and I were lucky enough to enjoy a meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, about an hour outside of the city. This restaurant has always been on my list, but it is very fancy, so Kramer and I wanted to wait until the perfect time to go. We had just had a hectic few weeks, with Thanksgiving preparation and guests and everything, so we figured that this would be a great way to unwind and relax together with some great food and beautiful scenery. I could not have imagined a more perfect afternoon. We got there around 1:45 for our 2:30 reservation. We walked around a bit (and just a bit, as it was freezing outside) and had a cocktail in the lounge while we waited to be seated. The dining room was absolutely gorgeous, and the staff were the most attentive that I’ve ever experience. I honestly felt a little out of place – having someone pull the table out for you when you need to get up to go to the bathroom is something you definitely have to get used to, hah, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be quite there! Anyway, the food was, of course, phenomenal. Dan Barber, the head chef’s, philosophy is to eat locally, use every part of the animal, and still make what he’s cooking interesting. It seems simple enough, and at its core, it really is, but the imagination that you see on the plate is above and beyond anything I’d ever experienced before. We had an edible tree with potato and sage toasts, prosciutto, cranberry paper, figs, caramelized bread (or something, I don’t even know to be honest) and white beets, followed by the most delicious, savory beet burgers and beet sushi with fresh, spicy wasabi. We had pork mousse with bitter chocolate, pickled plums with goat cheese, fried anchovies, and pickled cauliflower, radishes and bell peppers. This was all followed by a crazy black squid ink dish with squid and celery root, then buttery brioche with an all-greens pesto of sorts and warm, fresh ricotta. We had whole grain bread with fennel salt, beet salt and whipped lard that was sweetened with something that made it taste almost like dessert. There were build-your-own tacos with sea scallops, fermented corn, carrot yogurt, corned beef and avocado all wrapped in thinly sliced kohlrabi, and hay-smoked parsnips along with more bread. The final course (and I know I am forgetting one or two dishes along the way) was a fall-apart-tender piece of goat with a light curry sauce, which I really appreciated because usually these things end with some kind of beef and I adore goat. Dessert was crazy, too – cranberry sorbet with little meringues, fresh cranberries, chocolate, pistachios and caramel, alongside fresh biscuits with fig compote, bittersweet chocolates and candied pecans. We had great cocktails, some really interesting beers, and finished with an espresso. Even just thinking about this meal makes me feel stuffed, but if you notice that it was mostly vegetable based, I didn’t feel disgusting when we were done eating, just overwhelmingly satisfied and drunk on food (although maybe the alcohol had something to do with that, too). Oh, and there was a bonus to all of this: Jean Reno and his family were seated right next to us, so of course Kramer and I were immediately giddy when we got to our table. We basically watched The Professional once a week when we first started dating, so it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Homemade PastramiGood food and drink at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Anyway, that was our gluttonous Sunday. Thank you to Kramer’s dad for giving us the gift card to get us there. We’ll all have to go together some time, right? Ha! Aside from all that, we had a pretty busy weekend, too. We had dinner with two other couples at Glasserie on Friday night, which was fantastic. This was another vegetable heavy restaurant, which can be good in the winter time when you’re probably already eating too much – we had radishes with cumin and feta, fried cauliflower with capers, grilled potatoes with a soft-boiled egg, sweet potato dumplings with hen of the woods mushrooms and cranberries, and the pièce de résistance, grilled and stewed rabbit with flaky bread, pickled vegetables and more. It was quite the meal but somehow we managed. We stopped by a bar for a couple of drinks afterward before heading home, then Kramer and I made an out of character decision to immediately go to bed instead of staying up and falling asleep on the couch watching television. I am so proud of us. On Saturday, I did a ton of baking while Kramer played Sim City, which he really deserved because he had been so busy this semester with school and he needed to just relax. Later that night, we headed out to a few holiday parties around Brooklyn and had a great time. All of my friends are so grown up, throwing proper holiday parties and everything. I was so impressed. Kramer and I ended up going out with our friend Danny for one last drink before, again, making the executive decision to just go to bed. I guess we are all grown up, too. Sunday was pretty lazy, too – we watched SNL, ate breakfast, then I did some baking and cooking while Kramer played Sim City and took a little cat nap before I convinced him to order in sushi for dinner (sometimes this takes convincing). Now, it’s Monday, and we’ve got a week left before the next holiday – huzzah!

Homemade Pastrami

I made this pastrami in October, if you can believe it, but with the holidays and all, more festive dishes took front and center and these photos just kind of sat around. I figured that it was time to share them – brisket’s on sale this time of year and I really do recommend picking one up to make your own pastrami with. Yes, this does take six days – did you read that? Six days. Because you know what? When I originally read this recipe I did not realize it would take six days, but thankfully it all worked out. I found this recipe from Michael Anthony, the head chef of Gramercy Tavern, so I knew that it would definitely be delicious. Other than making sure that you have enough time when you make this pastrami, you need to be sure that you have the right ingredients. The two that I found that made this dish was firstly, the sodium nitrite, or pink salt. It’s called pink salt not because it is actually pink, but because it is colored pink so as to not be confused with regular salt. Sodium nitrite will help protect your pastrami from harmful bacteria during the curing process, but it can also be dangerous in large quantities, so be sure to keep it out of reach of children and don’t accidentally touch your mouth or anything if you’ve be in contact with it using your bare hands. I know that sounds overly cautious, but better safe than sorry! In reality, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be hurt by the stuff, but just be aware that it isn’t your average salt – it is used specifically to stop bacteria from growing while you make things like pastrami or bacon or what have you. The second most important ingredient is shiro dashi, which has a lovely smokey flavor and is my new go-to when I want to add a really umami, savory flavor to something. I found a bottle at Kalustyan’s, but any specialty Asian grocery store will probably have it, or you can order it from Amazon. Once you have these two ingredients, you’re basically good to go. Making pastrami at home has nothing on the sometimes dry, over-processed stuff you see at some stores or bad delis. Once you’ve brined and roasted your brisket, the result is a fall apart, incredibly tender, absolutely mouth-watering pastrami that you’ll want to use for sandwiches, on salads, in eggs, alongside potatoes, and more. Kramer and I couldn’t believe that a regular ol’ brisket turned into this beautifully pink pastrami in our own fridge in less than a week. If nothing else, it’s a fun project to work on together and it’ll definitely make you want to try your hand at curing other meats.

Homemade PastramiGetting into the spirit.

Homemade PastramiToast your whole spices.

Homemade PastramiThen grind them as finely as possible and add them to your brine.

Homemade PastramiWeigh down the brisket in your brine with something heavy, then place in the fridge for 5 days.

Homemade PastramiWhen ready, crush up the rest of your spices.

Homemade PastramiCoat the brisket in your spice mixture.

Homemade PastramiThen pour your new favorite ingredient, shiro dashi, over it. Cover and allow to sit in the fridge for 12 hours (I let mine sit overnight).

Homemade PastramiRoast your pastrami for 3-4 hours, until super tender.

Homemade PastramiHomemade Pastrami

Homemade Pastrami
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
Make delicious pastrami at home! It's definitely worth the effort.
  • 3½ tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3½ tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon whole cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 bay leaf, crushed
  • ¼ cinnamon stick, crushed
  • 1¼ cup kosher salt
  • 2⅔ tablespoons pink salt (sodium nitrite - this can be dangerous in large quantities so play it cool!)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 5-pound brisket from the fatty end (point), untrimmed (I used a more lean piece that was about 3.5 pounds)
  • 1½ tablespoon fennel seeds
  • ½ cup shiro dashi (this is an essential ingredient - don't skip it!)
  1. In a small skillet, toast ½ teaspoon of the peppercorns, ½ teaspoon of the coriander, and ½ teaspoon of the mustard seeds over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Grind in a spice mill or use a mortar and pestle to grind as finely as possible. Put the ground spices in a large pot and add the pepper flakes, cloves, caraway seeds, ginger, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, kosher salt, pink salt (sodium nitrite), 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 - you can put the brine in the fridge to speed up the process.
  2. Transfer the brine to a vessel large enough to hold it and the meat—which will be added later— and refrigerate until chilled. I used a Dutch oven. Put the brisket in the brine and weight it down (I used a heavy pestle from my mortar and pestle, but plates or jars will work, too) to keep it completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 5 days. FIVE DAYS! I just want to make sure everyone reads that.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. To serve, transfer the pastrami to a cutting board and cut against the grain into thin slices (I cut mine as thin as possible but I do not have the skills that Michael Antony obviously does - you can also cut it into thick cubes to put over eggs or in salads). The pastrami will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.


8 Responses

  1. Elena says:

    Oh, that looks really good! I really need to get all the spices, get patient and try to make this…

  2. Sasha says:

    “Total time: 148 hours” – #nobigdeal

    • Sydney says:

      I know! The recipe formatter that I use won’t let me just put “6 days” – ha! It looks ridiculous but what can you do?

  3. Mark says:

    What is the difference between shiro dashi and other types of dashi? The only current sellers of shiro dashi on Amazon only sell it by the case, and the price is a bit high.

    • Sydney says:

      Shiro dashi has a wonderfully smoky flavor and aroma – it makes the pastrami taste as though it spent some time over a wood grill. You can certainly forgo it entirely, or maybe check out some Asian grocers in your area?

  4. Your dinner sounds amazing! I’m definitely jealous of all the awesome plans you always have. The pastrami looks super too.

  5. Lynna says:

    OMG. SIX DAYS?!?! But, oh my god…this pastrami looks to die for!!

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