Brisket, flank steak, bottom round, blade and other tough cuts of beef have long-held me in their grasp. I love the idea of taking a piece of boot rubber and turning it into a succulent meal. However, it’s taken some practise to figure out how to do that. My first pot roast happened at a family dinner where I’d invited a couple of foodie friends to join us. I bought what I thought would be lots of beef, not taking shrinkage into consideration, at all, and that’s only the beginning of what turned out to be one of my most embarrassing dinner party wipeouts. I loosely followed a recipe confidant that my adjustments would only enhance what was touted as a ‘fork-tender experience’. Ha! You couldn’t get through that roast with a hack saw. The only saving grace was how little there was of it once it came out of the oven. The beautiful piece of beef sat on my serving platter transformed into an emaciated hunk of tire tread. What should have pulled apart with a couple of forks needed an electric carving knife to portion. I’m sure sparks flew as I sliced. My family and friends gnawed away, without an unkind word, generously pouring gravy on every bite to help soften the chew. Of all the secrets I’ve discovered about the art of cooking tough meat the most important is not to trust the cook time in any recipe. There are too many variables involved with meat cookery.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS USE THE FORK SHRED METHOD.
To test whether your meat is ready to serve; take two forks, insert the tines back to back into the thickest part of the meat and gently pull the forks apart. If the meat shreds easily, your good to go.
My Mexican braised brisket tacos are an awesome place to start learning to cook tough meat. Most of the magic happens in the oven. Once the meat is fork shredable, you stuff it in a taco shell, use my topping suggestions or make up your own combination. I guarantee no one will wear out their jaw chewing.
MEXICAN BRAISED BEEF TACOS – serves 4
- Mexican braised beef – recipe follows
- corn taco shells
- shredded romaine lettuce
- red bell pepper, sliced thin and chopped
- ripe avocado, sliced thin and chopped
- navel orange, sliced thin
- sour cream
- fresh cilantro, chopped
THE LOVE: Start checking your beef at around the 3 hour mark. When it pulls apart easily with two forks, it’s ready to eat. Also, you’ll have way more sauce than necessary to serve with the tacos. Instead of throwing it away use it as a soup base or add it to a chil recipe.
- 1 beef brisket – 2 pounds
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup olive
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons jalapeno pepper, chopped and seeded
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- One 19-ounce can tomato puree/passata
- 3 cups dry white wine
- Prepare the SPICE BLEND – recipe follows
- Preheat the oven to 325* F.
- Sprinkle the beef on both sides with lots of black pepper
- Rub all of the spice blend onto both sides of the meat.
- Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the brisket and cook until browned.
- Turn over and repeat.
- Transfer to a plate.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the garlic, celery, carrots and onions and season with salt and pepper.
- Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in the wine and cook for 1 minute more.
- Add the tomato puree and bring to a low boil.
- Add the brisket, cover and braise in the oven until very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. The liquid should almost cover the beef. If you find that your liquid is evaporating during the cooking time either add water or more wine.
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons hot paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dried mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.
Thanks for reading.