Cooking with Bay
Bay leaves are part of every cook’s pantry. But it’s hard to describe the flavor of bay. To me it tastes a bit like allspice; sort of spicy. I like to toss a bay leaf into my pasta water to lightly flavor it. Bay is also a salt buster – it helps reduce the amount of salt you need in a dish. And research is going on for bay’s potential in helping diabetics. In a test tube, bay beats insulin’s ability to break down blood sugar. So it’s not only good, but good for you. You can also flavor a potato with bay. Take a baking potato, cut it horizontally almost in half, insert a bay leaf, rub with olive oil and sprinkle on some sea salt and pepper. Bake as usual. Remove the bay leaf before eating. Go ahead and insert a bay leaf in your pickle jar and pasta sauces. It lends flavor and nutrients. Should you remove bay leaves before serving? Absolutely; a bay leaf can get stuck in your throat or tummy. Can you use bay leaves fresh? YES! And when buying bay to plant in a container or herb garden, try to buy the Laurus nobilis – that’s the true bay and it has a better flavor than the California bay tree.
And if you do grow bay like I do, harvest the leaves by tugging downward until it snaps off. The mature leaves have better flavor than the younger ones. And yes, we will have Laurus nobilis / bay trees at Natorp’s this spring. (Bay trees are hardy to about 15 degrees, so bring them in for winter.)
Easy and Yummy Beef Brisket with Bay
Here’s a recipe that’s great for Passover or for any time you want a really good, really easy roast. Delicious with noodles or mashed potatoes, this roast is a wonderful way to start our recipe sharing for the season!
1 brisket, trimmed of most, but not all, fat – mine was 3# (not corned beef brisket)
1 bottle, 12 oz. chili sauce
1 pouch dry onion soup mix
2 bay leaves
1 can regular Coke, 12 oz.
Preheat oven to 350. Place brisket in pot which is ovenproof with a lid. Mix sauce, soup, bay leaves and coke together and pour this over brisket. Roast, covered, for 1 hour, then turn temperature down to 250 and roast, covered, for 4-5 hours. Four Hours gives you a very tender roast that can be sliced fairly easily. Five hours will give you a meltingly tender, fall apart roast. You can skim the fat off the top and slice the meat and serve with the gravy right away or just put the whole thing in the frig after cooling to room temperature. You can leave it in the pan, too. The fat will congeal and you can simply lift it off. Reheat roast and gravy, slice against the grain (that way it won’t be stringy), serve with the gravy, and enjoy. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves before serving.
IMPORTANT TIP FROM RITA: For a 5-8 lb. roast, double the gravy ingredients.