Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cranberry Feather Steak and Japanese Rare Cheesecake

For many years, I was allergic to cranberries. Yes, I know - a very odd thing to be allergic to indeed. As a kid I seemed to be sensitive to many foods, all of which I gradually outgrew. My cranberry allergy seemed quite stubborn, however, and lasted well into adulthood. Every so often, especially around Thanksgiving time, when cranberries seemed to be present everywhere, I would sneak a tiny bite as a test. And year after year, I still had the same reaction. I gave up trying for a few years and then one day I was suddenly not allergic to cranberries anymore. So, having been deprived of their sweet yet tangy taste for so long, I was delighted to finally get to use them in recipes.

As it so happens, I had a can of whole berry cranberry sauce given to me by another American I knew here, who kindly dropped off her remaining canned foods and pantry staples before moving back to the States. I sought out a recipe in which to use it, and came across numerous variations on Cranberry Brisket. It sounded a bit odd to me, but at the same time, intriguing. The recipe I tried was very simple, so simple I was able to prepare everything and pop it into the oven in about 15 minutes while talking on the phone. Now that is pretty easy!

I was unable to find an actual brisket in the local Waitrose, so I decided to purchase a recent addition to their meat counter lineup, a feather steak, a very economical cut of beef. The butcher said it was excellent for braising and casseroles, so I thought I would give it a try. This cut is usually sold sliced in wafer thin steaks, but the one I purchased was a whole slab, like a flat end of a brisket. It is well marbled, the pattern of white streaks giving it the look a feather, supposedly. I just thought it looked like well marbled meat, and a potentially perfect substitute for the desired brisket. The biggest cut they had only weighed in at just under a kilo (about 2 pounds), which was half the size of most of the Cranberry Brisket recipes I had seen, so I did have to adapt the recipe a bit. It turned out really tender and delicious, something I will want to make again for certain.

Cranberry Feather Steak (adapted from numerous versions)
(serves 6)

1 Tbsp olive oil, as needed
1 (2 pound) slab of feather steak (or brisket)
seasoned salt and cracked black pepper, enough to dust both sides of the meat well
1 small red onion, chopped
sweet paprika, to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce (half a 15 ounce can, roughly)
2 Tbsp dry onion soup powder

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Rub the meat all over with a bit of olive oil, then dust well with seasonings on both sides. Heat a skillet and brown the meat on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Set out a large sheet of foil, draping it loosely over a casserole dish, and place the meat on top, leave the foil unsealed for now though. Add the onions to the same skillet, sprinkle with a touch of paprika, and brown for just a few minutes to soften. Place onions on top of the meat. In a small bowl, mix the tomato paste, water, and cranberry sauce, then pour over the meat. Sprinkle the onion soup powder over the top evenly.

Bring the edges of the foil together and seal tightly, keeping in mind that you will need to check the meat later, so make sure you have a way to peek inside. Pop the casserole into the preheated oven and let cook until fork tender. Most of the brisket recipes said 3 hours for a larger cut, but my feather steak took 3 hours even though it was half the size.

Allow to rest for 30 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain. Serve with the sauce ladled over the top. I served this with simple salad and some roasted root vegetables.

For dessert, I decided to try a recipe I found here for Japanese "Rare" Cheesecake. I believe that the "rare" part refers to the fact that this type of cheesecake is not baked or steamed, but uses gelatin to set the cake. There are no eggs in the recipe and the use of yogurt gives this a very light and refreshing taste, quite different from the much heavier sour cream laden cheesecakes. I had a can of tinned sweetened Maine blueberries, itty bitty tart berries in juice, so I drained them and served just the berries on top.

One thing to note: My cheesecake pan is a bit larger than the suggested 8" pan, so as a result, my cheesecake came out very low, about brownie height. I recommend using a smaller pan.


  1. I'm so impressed with how often you cook. Your recipe just looks delicious. I never liked cranberries much growing up then a couple of years ago I won a recipe contest with Ocean Spray cranberries and now I love them! I love then not only because of the prize $ but I really did learn to like them while testing my recipes. I especially like cooking with Craisins.

  2. Cooking is a huge stress reliever for me. I am moving very soon too, so I have been trying hard to use up all of my ingredients. I still have a lot of pantry items but most of my perishables are gone now, except condiments. I like craisins too :)

  3. That looks incredibly delicious Heather as does the cheesecake! You always come up with the most interesting recipes. I hope the packing is going well! I know I haven't been posting on the forums lately, but I have been reading.

  4. Thank Marie:) Getting ready to move is a real task.. I am still trying to sort things and make sure anything I don't want is out of the house. I won't get to cook for a while after this week, so I am trying to squeeze in what I can.