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Brisket Tacos

I’ve been meaning to do a post since last May that said the following:

“Brisket…get one.  Season it or don’t. Put it fat side up in a big ‘ol pan. Cover it with foil and cook it at 325 for an hour and then 275 for as long as it takes to soften up, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 hours. Let it rest. Eat it.”

I’m not joking. That is all you need to do to have a pretty compelling meal.

Brisket is one of those cuts of meat that is just asking to be cooked slowly to death in its own juices. Put simply, it is done when you can stick a fork into it and it just falls right in to the meat. If it doesn’t, throw it back in the oven and leave it alone for another hour.

It sounds rather low brow, but the fact is that science is at work here. This tough and surly cut of meat turns into silk if you give the fat sufficient time for the collagen to melt.  Any moment before that, you are eating shoe leather. Any moment after that, you have a succulent dish. I’ll admit my grasp of meat science is not the stuff of legend, but I do know this much…if you cook a brisket low and slow and don’t rush the process, you will be rewarded. All of this presumes of course that you can stand the verbal ass kicking you are going to get from your friends who think brisket cooked by any method other than smoking is a sin against nature. I’m sympathetic to that argument…but there is a time and a place for everything. My general appreciation for all things FOOD means that I don’t have many rules. If it tastes good, I eat it. And this is a favorite.

Brisket tacos are a huge thing in Dallas. Most of our Tex-Mex joints have a version of them. My runaway favorite is served at Mia’s on Lemmon Avenue. We have been eating there almost weekly for the last 8 years for two reasons. They have great brisket tacos, and they actually like children. Or at least they have an exceptional game face. Lily is 8 now, and I have vivid memories of setting her little infant self in her car seat on top of the vinyl table cloths at Mia’s for my first few precious meals out of the house after her arrival. The service is lightning fast, too, so if you are sitting there with a ticking time-bomb…I mean baby…you can actually manage a good meal before all hell breaks loose, as it is apt to do with the under 6 month set. There is a timing component, though. The happy kid scenario is dependent on showing up before 6. After 6 the line starts forming and all bets are off. Their brisket tacos are the best in town in my opinion. I believe that they roast their brisket over night with poblanos and onions and all sorts of magic. This is different. But it is pretty great, too.

Onward. This recipe for brisket tacos is just a starter. You will have enough meat for several days worth of meals unless you are feeding an army. Consider serving it on a bed of tortilla chips with black beans, sour cream and guacamole on night 2. On night 3, mix some spicy BBQ sauce in with the remaining meat and have chopped beef sandwiches and baked beans.

Recipe for Brisket Tacos:

Ingredients:

1 (4 to 5 pound) brisket (I used flat cut)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon crushed black pepper
2 dried ancho chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 dried arbol chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 medium onion, quartered
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 dark beer (I used this beautiful Shiner beer)
flour tortillas
avocados
salsa
sour cream
cojita cheese or shredded jack cheese

Instructions:

1. Take the brisket out of the refrigerator while you prepare everything else, so that it can approach room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onions, garlic, ancho chiles and arbol chiles. Pulse the onions, garlic, and the chiles until they are finely chopped. Add the oil and ¼ cup of beer through the feed tube. Process the mixture until it is nearly smooth. Warning: The paste you just created is very spicy and pungent. When you open the lid of the processor, don’t stick your face right over the bowl or you will get an eye and nose full of hot surprise.

4. Place the brisket fat side down in a large roasting pan. Season it with half of the salt and pepper and then slather on half of the chile and onion mixture. Turn the brisket fat side up in the roasting pan. Season the fat side with the remaining salt and pepper and slather it with the remaining chile and onion mixture. Pour the remaining beer in around the meat. (Don’t pour it on top or you will rinse off the chiles and seasonings.)

5. Cover the roasting pan tightly with foil and place it in the oven. Roast at 325 for one hour and then reduce the heat to 275 for approximately 4 additional hours (or as long as it takes for the meat to “give.”)

6. Remove the brisket from the oven and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. Remove the brisket to a platter. Use a spatula to remove the layer of gelatinous fat on top of the brisket and discard it. Cut the brisket into manageable chunks and then use two forks to shred the meat.

6. (optional) Use a fat separator to remove the fat from the juices. Return the juices and the meat to the roasting pan. You can serve it immediately or you can replace the foil top and keep the brisket warm in the oven on a low setting.

7. To serve, allow each person to build their own tacos. Tortilla, meat, cheese, avocados, salsa…whatever floats your boat.

serving alternative: fill the tortillas with brisket and some jack cheese, fold them over, and place the tacos on a nonstick griddle pan. Cook on both sides until the cheese is melted and is holding the tacos together nicely. Serve the avocados and condiments on the table. Don’t forget the chips.

A note on fat removal: Another way to accomplish fat removal without a separator is to pour the cooled juices into a strong re-sealable bag that is sitting upright in a big bowl. Pour the juices in, seal the bag and allow the juice to settle. The fat will rise to the top. You can then carefully snip off a small corner of the bag and pour the juices back into the roasting pan, squeezing off the flow of juices when you get to the fat. As I used my fat separator, I noticed that a lot of the peppers were floating right under the fat. Not wanting to discard these flavorful bits, I put a sieve on top of my separator to protect all the bits and then removed the fat with a spoon. In other words, the sieve pushes down the bits out of the fat and allowed me to spoon out fat without also spooning out the bits. You should do, obviously, whatever works best for you. If you are not eating the brisket until the following day, you can just put the shredded meat, liquid fat and all, into the fridge. The fat will gather at the top and solidify and you can just remove the waxy layer of fat before you reheat the brisket. Or, you can just leave the fat exactly where it is and enjoy it all.

If you are a brisket junkie, also try this wonderful Saucy Brisket recipe. And if you just have a thing for cooking with Shiner, you might enjoy this recipe for Fried Pickles. I have also done a series on smoking brisket which is a whole other ball game. This preparation falls under the category of “mom brisket” and the smoked version as BBQ…the two are not to be confused, as I noted earlier. Here are the two smoked brisket posts:  Brisket Trials :: Brisket Trials, Part II.

 

 

 

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12 comments to Brisket Tacos

  • Courtney

    Your recipe yielded a perfectly cooked brisket. Delicious, easy to make and I have enough leftover for BBQ sandwiches. I like!

  • Kelly

    I love that memory.

  • Joey

    I always have fond memories associated with your brisket. Just after John Ransom was born you came to visit and nurse me out of “new mommy/breastfeeding shock”, and you made your famous brisket one evening. It was the most yummy and loving meal anyone has ever cooked for me and I’ll never forget it! Your oven brisket has since been a go-to meal for me and definitely is comfort food in this house.

  • Kelly

    Yes mommy, I have. And far more important, as well. In fact, I should probably not be allowed anywhere near the grill.

  • ccg

    Kelly, haven’t you burned worse things than chicken on the grill?

  • Kelly

    Barbi, I love that. Small world, indeed. I was born at Brooke while my dad was still in the Army. We moved when I was five, I think, but I still have very fond memories of it. Great town!

  • Barbi Norton

    Kelly – I didn’t know you were born in SA. I was raised there…what a small world! Did you go to school there also?

  • Looks yummy and so easy, I can think of such a multitude of ways to use this tasty meet. Thanks for a simple, great sounding recipe!

  • Kelly

    Susan…me too! I was born in SA. I love the plate, but sadly I cannot tell you much. I bought it at a flea market at Possum Kingdom, TX along with about 20 other “state plate” or collectors plates. I use them for BBQ dinners and the like. The SA one doesn’t have a tag or a mark or anything. It has the Alamo, the Mission San Jose, the Arneson River Theatre, the Convention Center and the Chinese Sunken Garden around the edge and the Tower of the Americas in the center (so it can’t be too old). But I have no info on it. But I sure would love to have a set of them. We might need to check out eBay for this mystery.

  • Susan Marie

    Kelly, you’ve got another one I want to try. But what REALLY got my interest was the plate (bowl?) that the taco is sitting on – I’m a San Antonio native, so I spotted it right off! Where did you get it?

  • Barbi Norton

    Oh my! This made my tummy growl – haha! In our family we usually make a sweet-n-sour sauce for our brisket, but this looks so good we will have to try it.

  • [...] you are in the mood for a different sort of taco, try my brisket tacos or these wonderful black bean tacos. Also, whatever kind of taco you make, consider making my [...]

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