For some reason, I keep hearing more and more about Montreal-style smoked meat lately, and thankfully, I keep running into it. Last month, in Brooklyn, I had lunch at Mile End, and along with the imported bagels and poutine, they also made a dynamite smoked meat/pastrami that took me right back to the legendary Schwartz’s in Montreal (where they refer to it simply as viande fumée):
It’s basically a whole brisket that’s been brined (always a secret recipe, but often containing coriander, salt, sugar, water and other spices) then dry-rubbed with more secret spices (often black peppercorns and probably coriander seed as well) and finally, smoked over hardwood like oak and cherry, for anywhere from 12 – 15 hours. I was pleasantly surprised to find an outstanding rendition right here in Chicago recently, at Fumare Meats, one of the stands inside the Chicago French Market.
I know they’ve had a Montreal-style smoked meat ever since they expanded the kitchen at The Hopleaf, in Andersonville (great with a Québécois beer, eh?) But then I read Julia Kramer’s blurb in Time Out’s roundup last week, from their “100 Best Things We Ate” issue, where she talked about the smoked meat at Fumare. I had been to the great little stand before, since they carry the boudin and andouille from the Elburn Meat Market, but for some reason, didn’t recall seeing the pastrami/smoked meat as an option. Her rhapsodic post got me salivating, and I rushed down there yesterday to try it for myself. It was fantastic. They use a bit of mace in the dry seasoning, which is why some might think there’s a bit of cinnamon on it. There were crusty bits on the exterior; moist, meaty, juicy hunks inside, and I found myself just pulling the rosy-hued meat apart with my fingers and summarily popping it into my mouth. Served on some dark rye, with a bit of dijon or yellow mustard, it was one of the best meat sandwiches I’ve had the pleasure of stuffing down my gullet this year. Merci Ms. Kramer, for the loving reminder.