John Adams’ Beef Brisket & 2016 Malk Cabernet Sauvignon

John Adams was the second President of the United States. Always included as one of our “Founding Fathers”, but before becoming an important voice in the First Continental Congress, he gained fame as a trial lawyer.  In October 1770 John Adams famously defended Captain Thomas Preston in the trial that followed the “Boston Massacre”.  He won his acquittal, because it was impossible to prove that Preston had ordered his soldiers to fire.  Adams went on to joining a key delegation, that included Benjamin Franklin, that was sent to France to secure support for the American cause.  At the conclusion of the Revolution, he served as George Washington’s Vice President, and then was elected President to succeed Washington.

It was during his time in France when Adams developed his interest in “matters that pertained to the preparation of what we enjoy at the table.” When Adams headed to the Continent,  Abigail Adams had remained home in Braintree, but Adams brought his 10 year old son John Quincy along with him on the trip in order to “promote for young John an expanded view of the world.”  And when in Paris Adams wrote to Abigail, “… the kid has to eat! So I put on apron & picked up spoon to prepare our dinner.”

And so it goes.  Adams was the first President to reside in the newly built White House, he continued his interest in preparing family meals, once ordering Abigail out of the kitchen with a stern rebuke, “Madam, I have this well taken care of. Leave. Vex me no more!”

I have selected one of Adams’ “signature dishes” that he often prepared when hosting informal gatherings at the White House.  My wine choice?  A thoroughly American Cabernet Sauvignon: the 2016 Malk Family Vineyards.  One could make a case that Napa Valley produces the finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines on the planet!  And that’s coming from me, a dyed-in-the-wool lover of Bordeaux!  Malk Family Vineyards’ Cab is the only California wine that I follow from one vintage to the next.  Robbie Meyer is a gifted winemaker and he brings a rigor to vineyard management and a deft touch in the cellar that is seen in his Malk Cabs, regardless of Napa’s overall vintage success.  In short, this guy doesn’t know how to make an ordinary wine!

Malk Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ’16 (Stags Leap, Napa) 
The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is the best wine I have tasted from Malk. Dark, pliant and inviting, with terrific fruit purity, the 2016 is very nicely balanced. Dark cherry, plum, violet, spice and menthol all run through this plump, juicy Stags Leap Cabernet. Silky tannins add to the wine’s considerable appeal and immediacy. Drink it over the next 15-20 years. 93pts Vinous


1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size.  Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming.  Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!

2. Pat brisket dry. Sprinkle brisket on all sides with 1 tsp of salt. Place brisket in slow cooker

3. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.

4. Add smoked paprika, black pepper, thyme, oregano and remaining tsp of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant, about 1 minute.

5. Transfer the onions to the slow cooker, and place on the brisket.

6. Return the pan to medium-heat, add broth and deglaze pan.  Add ketchup, brown sugar and tomato paste and stir to combine.  Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce slightly then pour over the onions and the brisket.

7. Add potatoes and carrots, tucking them around the brisket.  Cook on LOW for six hours.

8. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board.  Slice, served with potatoes, carrots and cooked onions & sauce. 

n.b.  After taking the brisket out of the slow cooker, if desired use a spoon to scrape the “fat cap” it off. Or alternatively if you’d like to remove more fat, slice the brisket and return it to the slow cooker to cool and then refrigerate the contents – let the fat harden, remove fat – and reheat, serve the next day! 

Other notes… I made up some of the Adams’ stuff.  And I actually couldn’t verify that this recipe, or anything close to it, could be attributed to a connection to John Adams

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I love recipes that are easy to assemble and prepare.  Minimum prep time, and then if the dish can be consigned to a slow cooker, we are in “home run” territory!  This chicken dish not only packs wonderful flavor, it is so easy that it is almost embarrassing!  In fact, it rates an 8.7 on the “embarrassment scale!”  To put that into context, making plain Jell-o rates a 9.5 – it misses a perfect 10 because sometimes opening the contents packet can prove a vexing exercise.  The dish itself is a perfect “transitional” dish, i.e. winter is long gone, and true warm weather is still in the nearing horizon.

Gérard Boulay Sancerre “Chavignol” ’18 (Loire, France)
Of the 9ha owned by Gérard Boulay, 8 of the hectares are on the slopes of Chavignol on Kimmeridgian or “terre blanche” soils (similar to the soils in Chablis), which he works manually and has farmed organically since 1990. Overall, Gérard Boulay’s “terre blanche” vineyards produce some of the most distinctive and soil-inflected Sauvignon Blancs in the Loire, with a delineation and minerality often reminiscent of a top Chablis. The 2018 Chavignol offers classic gooseberry and lime zest aromas mingle with notes of minty herb, stone, almond and white flowers. On the palate the wine is pure with a solid core of fruit, excellent focus, racy acidity and a long, mouth watering finish.


6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
1 tsp olive oil
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup dried apricots, halved

Apricot chicken prepped and in the slow cooker

1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size.  Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming.  Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat

3. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.  Add to pan and cook 5-6 minutes, until browned, turning once.

4. Combine chicken broth, lemon zest and juice, mustard, garlic and thyme in the slow cooker and whisk to combine. 

5. Add onions, apricots and seared chicken thighs to the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours

6. Look frazzled and be sure to tell everyone how long you fussed and  labored over making this dish

n.b. Rice or coucous is the “natural” side dish.  A perfect for landing place for the sauce!  Shredded hash brown potatoes would also do the job! 

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Washing of the Hands

Passover, Passover, Passover… I love it today.  I loved it when we lived at 25 Alston Avenue.  I can remember that in advance of the Holiday a station wagon would drive up to our house and park in the driveway by the basement window to our store room… and also Mommie Soph’s “duplicate kitchen”.  The window would be opened and the guy would off load the necessary supplies for the Passover week.  I have no clue what was included in the delivery other than matzah and dessert stuff – pound cake, macaroons & Bartons’ candy.  We know it wasn’t gefilte fish… Mommie Soph had that well covered!

And here we are today.  Trying times.  Yes, there are light hearted stabs at equating  this virus as a plague that Moses over looked in bringing the Pharaoh to heel.  But I’m thinking about this hand washing thing.  And it brings me full circle to our Passover table at 25 Alston Avenue.

Curious isn’t it for our highly-reformed-enjoying-the-festivity-of-Christmas family to have a pretty much by-the-book Passover Seder!  But we did!  And it included the several times that Dad would go into the kitchen to wash his hands!  No foolin’.  I have handled Seders for years, and have never done the hand washing steps! 

But with all our present concerns regarding health & safety we have become hand washing noodniks!  But tonight, I’ll put my sarcasm aside, and in my memory return to our table at 25 Alston Ave, when on cue Dad would dutifully head to the kitchen to wash his hands.

A dish, sometimes overlooked, that Mommie Soph would prepare: eggs in salt water

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Trouble in Caesar’s Household

Ides of March, 44 B.C.E.

Caesar:  Calpurnia! Oh, Calpurrrrrrr-neeee-yah! [from the background, “yes, what is it?] Calpurnia where did you put the spare rolls of toilet paper? I have to “go” and there’s no toilet paper here!  Only two small sheets! [from the background, “it will have to do, dear…”]  It will have to do dear?  It will have to do dear!! I’m the Emperor!  What good is it being the Emperor, Emperor for life I might add, if there is no toilet paper in the house! 

Calpurnia enters the bathroom

Calpurnia:  It’ll have to do.  Here, use this.  Some rags from one of your old togas.  I couldn’t get the wine stains out.  Then you can head over to the Senate.  There is a small kiosk over there that sells “toilet sundries”.  Brutus said there is a toilet paper sale today!

Caesar:  Sale?

Calpurnia: Yes, sale.  Buy 2, get one free. And it’s double green stamps today!

Caesar:  Is it the kind I like? Soft, plush & absorbent?  I don’t want the extra-strength scratchy kind!

Calpurnia:  Yes, yes, yes… Brutus said it’s the kind you like.  You better hurry and get over there before they sell out!

Caesar:  OK.  Brutus wouldn’t betray me.

“tsk, tsk,tsk they only had the extra-strength scratchy kind”

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