I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it. I want to dance in the streets. I want to yodel on the rooftops. I want to pretend my immersion hand blender is a microphone and spin around the kitchen singing.
Why all the fuss? I have found the perfect brisket recipe.
That’s right, you heard me. I am in love with a brisket. (Fortunately, Soren is in love with it too, so there’s no awkwardness, and nobody has to leave anybody over a piece of meat).
To be perfectly honest, it’s not so much the brisket that has me swooning as it is the sauce — a silky-smooth, coffee-colored concoction that’s the perfect blend of smoke and spice. Placed atop the brisket on a warm corn tortilla with a few slices of pickled onion and some cabbage slaw, it’s the perfect food. Seriously. Angels sing. The heavens open up. Saint Peter descends, leaving the pearly gate unattended while he fixes himself a plate. It’s that good.
Before I give you the recipe, I want to pause to say thank you to Deb. Her food blog, Smitten Kitchen, is a work of art. Every recipe I’ve made has been delicious. Seriously, if I were having George Clooney, Nelson Mandela, and the Queen of England over for dinner, I would feel entirely comfortable cooking one of her recipes without even testing it first. She’s that good. Not surprisingly, she’s the one who turned me on to this brisket. Her recipe, which is adapted from a Food Network recipe, is great as is. But I’ve reposted it below with a few minor changes. This works in the oven, or in a crockpot (which everyone on the East Coast calls a slow cooker. Snobs.)
Southwestern Pulled Brisket
Serves 6-8 as filling for tacos.
3 pounds beef brisket
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
1 to 2 chipotle chiles en adobo (Even 1 adds a strong kick. Use 2 with caution. I open a can, pick out the peppers I want to use, and freeze the rest.)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses
Pre-heat the oven to 325 F. If using grass-fed beef, 310 F.
Season the beef generously with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat just until beginning to smoke. Add the meat and sear, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 10-14 minutes total. If the brisket has a layer of fat on one side, sear that side second. Transfer the meat to a dutch oven; leave the skillet on the heat.
Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander, and cumin to the drippings in the skillet and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in water and pour the mixture over the brisket. Crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the dutch oven; add the tomato juices, chipotles, bay leaves, and molasses. Cover, and place in the oven for 3.5 hours. Check for tenderness by sticking a fork in the meat. The fork should slide in easily. The meat should be nearly falling apart. If the brisket isn’t quite tender, put it back in the oven and cook for another 30 minutes to an hour. This kind of beef is nearly impossible to overcook. I usually leave the meat in the oven for a total of 4 hours. Also, you may need to add a little more water before you put it back in the oven. The meat should be at least halfway submerged in the juice.
When the meat is fully cooked and tender, pull it out of the dutch oven and put it on a platter covered with tin foil. Let it rest while you make the sauce.
To make the sauce: First, fish out the bay leaves. Then skim off any fat that has collected. (You can also chill the sauce if you want to remove even more fat. It will harden in the fridge and you can easily remove it). Use an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor to grind up everything left in the dutch oven. This should be all the juices and vegetables minus the bay leaves. When the sauce is completely blended, reheat and serve with the brisket.
Crockpot version: Instead of putting everything in a dutch oven, put it in a crockpot. Set it on LOW, and cook the brisket until it pulls apart easily with a fork, about 8 to 10 hours.
This brisket is great on its own, but it is even better on a corn tortilla with a dollop of sauce, some pickled onions, cabbage slaw, and black beans on the side. I highly recommend Deb’s recipe for pickled onions. And make sure you salt the cabbage before you make the slaw.