Q. I heard you talking on the radio about your dislike of lobsters boiled with crab boil. I agree with you that it just doesn’t work. But a few years ago I tried adding some crab boil to beef brisket and found that it made an interesting version of boiled beef. It also worked well with pre-boiling beef for a Texas-style BBQ whole brisket that is finished on the grill with sauce. Do I have your approval?
A. First of all, this quarter doesn’t dispense approvals for what other people eat–just what my taste is on the matter, without suggesting that it ought to be adopted widely. (I don’t know why I have to state that, but the way some people get indignant about this sort of thing compels me to do so now and then.)
A fellow barbershop singer told me some years ago that when you boil a corned beef with a little bit of crab boil, it comes out exceptionally good. That absolutely did prove true. You couldn’t pick out the crab boil flavor at all. It only registered as a more interesting flavor in the beef. I imagine the same would be true with an uncorned brisket. I would, however, keep the additive small–a tablespoon for a flat brisket, two or three for whole briskets (depending on size), simmered in a big pot of water with the usual seasoning vegetables.
Come to think of it, I encountered this back in the early 1990s, from the hand of Chef Paul Prudhomme. He cheffed the closing supper for the Napa Wine Auction that year, and served exactly that: brisket (as well as shrimp and sausage and onions) all boiled in crab boil. It was so good that his big rolling kitchen dispensed everything it had very quickly.