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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