Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Southwestern Pulled Brisket Tacos with Spicy Pickled Shallots and Spicy Green Onion Slaw

When left to his own devices, if I ask Alex to pick out a recipe for dinner he will pick an Asian (or Asian-influenced) recipe nine times out of ten.  I usually go with it, but Sunday night I wasn't in the mood for Asian food.  Thursday night Alex and I went to Ma Peche for dinner for upscale Vietnamese-influenced food.  Then we made a chicken stir-fry over sizzling rice for dinner on Friday.  On Saturday Alex and I took his brother to Biang! in Flushing and then gorged ourselves on dumplings that we picked up in Flushing that evening.  And then Sunday afternoon we made a tofu dish from Every Grain of Rice:  Simple Chinese Home Cooking.  Enough already.  Don't get me wrong - I love Asian food.  But sometimes I want to experiment with other cuisines.  I crave variety.  So I called an audible on the brisket recipe that Alex had selected (braised brisket with star anise, soy, etc.) and declared that we were making a brisket taco recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen instead.  The recipe at Smitten Kitchen called for cooking the brisket in the slow cooker for 8-10 hours but I was too lazy to get the slow cooker out of storage so we decided to braise it in the oven instead.  In some ways I wish we had used the slow cooker because the brisket might have been more tender, but whatever.  It might also have helped with the tenderness if we bought a brisket with slightly more fat on it.  Our brisket was fairly lean, but I wasn't going to hit the grocery store again for a fattier piece.

This dish was one where each element contributed to the final dish in some crucial way.  When I sampled each component I wasn't blown away by any of them.  But when you combine them something really delicious happens.  The brisket was sweet, meaty and (relatively) tender.  It represented one of the few instances where I thought that molasses did wonderful things to a dish by providing depth of flavor and sweetness, without being too overpowering.  The slaw and the pickled shallots added some much needed heat and acidity to the tacos.  I really liked the combinatation of olive oil and mayo in the slaw because it added moisture and creaminess without cooling the slaw down too much and making it heavy and mayo-laden.  As a side note, this isn't a slaw that I would eat on its own - I think it is a little aggressively spicy for that (perhaps if I used one chili it would be better for snacking), but it was the perfect slaw to serve on top of (or with) the brisket to really kick it up a notch.

Recipes after the jump!

Southwestern Pulled Brisket

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 pounds beef brisket
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tbsp dark chili powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp 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 whole canned chipotle chiles en adobo (we used 2 peppers - do not use the whole can)
2 dried bay leaves

1/4 cup molasses
corn tortillas (taco-sized)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the beef generously with s&p, to taste. Heat a large Le Creuset (or other Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat just until beginning to smoke. Add the meat and cook, turning once, until browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes total. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside; leave the Le Creuset on the heat.
Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander, and cumin to skillet and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in water and return the brisket to the Le Creuset fat-side up.  Top the brisket with some of the softened onions.  Crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the pot; add the tomato juices, chipotles, bay leaves, and molasses.  Cover the Le Creuset and put it in the oven.  Cook the brisket until it pulls apart easily with a fork, about 3 hours.  Check on the brisket at least once or twice during this time period to ensure that the liquid has not boiled away and spoon some braising liquid over the top of the brisket.  If the brisket looks dry and the liquid has evaporated, add more water.
Remove the brisket from the oven when tender and set aside to cool for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove brisket from the Le Creuset and set aside on a cutting board.  Turn off the oven.  Use two forks to pull the brisket part. Strain the sauce to remove the solids and return the brisket to the sauce.  Toss to combine.

While the brisket is cooling, wrap the corn tortillas in aluminum foil in 2 packages of 3-4 tortillas each.  Warm the tortillas in the oven using the residual heat from the brisket. 

Serve brisket with warm tortillas, slaw and pickled shallots.

Spicy Green Onion Slaw

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup green onions, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1-2 serrano chiles (we used 2 and it was pretty spicy so use your judgment here)
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 cup pure olive oil
1 bag coleslaw mix
1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
lime juice (to taste)

Blend green onions, vinegar, chiles, mayonnaise, s&p and olive oil in a blender or mini food-prep until emulsified. Place cabbage, red onions and cilantro in a large mixing bowl, add the dressing and stir until combined.  Season with s&p and lime juice (we used about 1 tbsp lime juice) to taste.

Spicy Pickled Shallots

2 medium to large shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
dash Tabasco (optional)
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar and hot sauce. Add shallots and let sit for at least one hour.

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