Ah Brisket. That meat, boiled on the stove for hours, that always looked grey at family gatherings. That's right, I'm NOT from Texas! Since Carnitas is basically pan-fried pulled pork, pulled beef, AKA brisket (the lower chest of poor Mr. Vaca) has become a popular gourmet Amerimex taco.
I was recently in Mexico, tasked with cooking for a local taco night and I got a little ambitious. The brisket cut is nowhere to be found at Costco (the safest place to buy your meat in the Cabo area.) I just couldn't let it go and so I bought some Tri-Tip and hoped for the best.
Tri-Tip is normally too nice a cut of meat to waste on a slow (2-3 hour simmer) but it actually came out great. It is the lower triangle of the bottom sirloin area. I tasted it at various phases and it was so tasty!
This portion of meat (a solid 1lb) made about 12-15 tacos. I used a tomato flavored tortilla, special ordered locally. I def. recommend flour over corn for this recipe. If you are feeling ambitious, make your own and ad some tomato paste to the mix for color and flavor.
Homemade Flour Tortillas
1 lb of Tri-Tip
2 White Onions - Thinly sliced
1 can of Tomato Paste
2 bottles of Bohemia Obscura (Dark Beer)
1/2 cup of Olive Oil
Tsp. of Cayenne Pepper
Tsp. of Chile Powder
Generous Sea Salt to Taste
1 Tbl of Honey
1 Tbl Dried Oregano
1 Head of Cabbage
Green Tomatillo Salsa (Herdez or your own!)
1 Small Red Onion - Finely diced
Cilantro - Finely diced
Use a good Dutch Oven or Heavy Covered Pot
Rub with a Tbl of Sea Salt and pan sear your piece of meat until brown on all sides (Use 1-2 Tbl of Grapeseed Oil to coat the pan)- Med heat here.
Add sliced onions stir them around until brown and wilted. Add your spices and let them get slightly browned/toasted.
Add your first bottle of beer - go ahead, take one sip but that's it! ;)
Turn the light down and add the Tomato Paste - dissolve it into the beer, turn the light to 'medium low' and simmer for 1 hour.
In an hour you should need more beer. Add it and cover and simmer another hour.
Now you should have a nice sauce but not too much liquid. Let it sit for a bit, maybe half an hour. You could do this part the night before, let it cool and then finish the next day.
To finish, simmer for another 20+ minutes. Cool slightly and taste your beef. It should be soft. If for some reason it's still resisting you, add another half bottle of beer, 1/4 cup of oil and continue to simmer.
Once it cools, you can shred with your hands... that's really the best way. Cut into chunks and shred each chunk. Reserve the sauce and use it over pasta the next day. Mmmmmmm.
For the garnish: I broiled a finely sliced head of green cabbage. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and broil until brown. It's even OK if some pieces get a little charred for effect.
I like to use a green salsa with this. Any good gourmet store should have a decent Tomatillo Salsa. If you are feeling ambitious, GO FOR IT.
A spoonful of salsa, a squiggle of sour cream (from a squeeze bottle best) and then dust with red onions and cilantro.
I see after typing this that it's not exactly an EZ recipe, but it's worth it. DELICIOUS. If you already know how to make Brisket, I would pan fry it with a little tomato paste and the above listed spices to get a similar effect and use beer in your water.
Emma is someone I worked with in the fashion biz years ago.
Every day she brought her own lunch, and every week it was a fine selection of homemade Mexican food. Tacos, tamales, enchiladas, tortas. YUM. Emma was always a sharer. Thank you Emma.
One day, the smell at her lunch table was insane and I was drawn over to her like a Chuck Jones cartoon character floating over a white cloud of aroma in the shape of a finger.
She shared some with me and I nearly died. What. Is. In. There???? It must be like a mole, 20 plus ingredients.
It was just chiles, onions, tomatoes, garlic. The usual suspects. But it was the ratio and the frying of the salsa after it was blended that made it so special. Oh and just the right amount of salt.
This was before I was the Taco Maven. The Herdez Salsa Casera has always been my fave. As much as I love Trader Joes, I don't like a single salsa that I have tried. All close to flavorless. And the supermarket Pico de Gallos are ridiculous. The minute you chop that stuff up it starts to go bad.
Currently, the two places I would drive just to get some salsa togo, and then go back home and put that salsa on my own taco are: 1) Viva Fresh in Westchester on Sepulveda Blvd. 2) Tinga Taqueria on La Brea. Their house salsa is a REVELATION. Bottle that shite please. Sell it at Trader Joe's.
This recipe probably serves 6-8 but for 2 I would halve it and make it fresh each time...
She also gave me another tip and said if you cut jalapenos face down once you have cut them in half, your fingers will be saved.
5 Tomatoes (med sized... romas or round) chopped
1/2 med white onion (finely diced)
1 or 2 med cloves of garlic (finely diced)
8 Jalapeno chiles (finely diced - seeds included)
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
2-4 Tbl. olive oil (heated)
*** She did not add cilantro - lots of people don't like it anyway, but if you feel like it, add some!
If you are great with the Cuisinart then go 'machine' all over yourself. You want a rough blend, not a soup. You want to see bits of everything and you want it to have some body. But you also want it to be smooth.
Finely chop everything, except the tomatoes (more chunky) and then give it about 3, 4 second bursts with one of those hand-immersion-blender wands (with blade in not the whipper)
When you have your nicely blended, but rough, mixture, you fry it in a pan with the hot oil for maybe 3-5 minutes... and that's when you add the salt.
Sometimes it feels like a little too much tomato and if the jalapenos don't have enough heat for you, go ahead and add 1 Serrano or 1/2 a Habenero (dios mio!)
There is something about this blend, maybe by frying it in the oil, that keeps the salsa from going bad quickly. And it's so so so so pretty. And tasty.
Viva La Salsa!!!!!