Tuesday, March 22, 2016

57. Smoked Brisket Tacos with Ancho Barbecue Sauce and Pico de Gallo

Smoked Brisket Tacos with Ancho Barbecue Sauce and Pico de Gallo Collage

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This latest recipe was part of a big undertaking!  We threw a combination family birthday/retirement party at our house and I decided to do a taco trio!  I thought it would be a great opportunity to knock off a few recipes in one day, and I was hoping that it would be fun for my family to try some of my taco creations.  I'm lucky to have my parents and two of my siblings (and their families) close by, but they're just far enough away that they don't often get a chance to try my recipes.

Fortunately, I've been on spring break this week, so I had a chance to plan ahead a bit.  I decided to make a lamb taco, a brisket taco, and a turkey taco.  I'm not going to lie - it was pretty crazy.  I went to the store with a few notes jotted down on some post-its and tried to get ingredients for ALL of the tacos . . . and a cake!  (Because you have to have a cake if it's a birthday!)

Since I started this project, I've fallen into a comfortable routine.  I come up with an idea.  I develop a rough draft.  I shop.  Then, I make the recipe.  If any amounts or instructions change, I make adjustments to the recipe as I go.  After I'm done and we try it, I review it and finish up the post.  I wouldn't say that it's easy, but it works.

This time, I was dealing with the same process . . . times three!  The cooking processes of the different recipes overlapped.  The ingredients were all mixed up.  To top it off, I was making a new cake recipe that I found on The Goodie Godmother blog (which was delicious, by the way)!

It was an interesting (and slightly stressful) day, but it all turned out for the best!

In this post, I'll focus on the brisket recipe.  It's always nice to have a perfectly cooked steak (medium-rare for me), but I also love a tender, slowly cooked piece of brisket.  There are so many sauces to cook and/or serve it with - the options are endless!

I couldn't help it - I just had to use my Cameron stovetop smoker again!  I've cooked brisket in it before, and I knew it would add a delicious, subtle smoky flavor.  If you don't have one, consider clicking the link below and ordering one!  You'll have it in two days, and it'll be the best fifty dollars you've ever spent.

Well.  That's subjective, I guess.  It's a good purchase, though!

It's very easy to use - it only took me once or twice to get the hang of it.  It's a great product!  We use ours at least a few times a month!  :)

I also highly recommend the following cookbook, which has a lot of recipes that feature this type of smoker, along with a lot of basic instructions for cooking all kinds of different foods (including the brisket)!

After smoking the brisket, I decided to cook it in a delicious homemade barbecue sauce with a spicy ancho chile kick.  I topped the tacos with some grated cheddar cheese, a little bit of sliced cabbage, and a basic pico de gallo salsa.

Due to the varied party spread that I created, (THREE tacos?) it's hard to say exactly how many this recipe serves.  My piece of brisket was almost three pounds.  I would estimate that, if this was the only main dish, it would serve about six.  That's around a half pound per person - pretty safe, for tacos.  Some black beans on the side wouldn't hurt!  :)

Here's the recipe:

Smoked Brisket Tacos with Ancho Barbecue Sauce

Serves about 6 


For the smoked brisket with ancho barbecue sauce:

2.5 to 3 lb. brisket, generously seasoned with salt and pepper

Brisket on Cameron Smoker for Tacos

3 ancho chiles
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. ketchup
One 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. salt

For the pico de gallo salsa:

5 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese

A few cups of thinly sliced cabbage

12 to 36 corn tortillas, depending on their size and whether you plan to double them up


1. Soak the ancho chiles:  Place the stemmed and seeded chiles in a 2-cup glass liquid measuring cup.  Cover the chiles with boiling water, weight them down with a small dish, and allow them to soak for about 30 minutes.

2.  Start the brisket:  Place the seasoned brisket in a stovetop smoker.  Rather than using the lid, cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil.  Smoke over medium-low heat (with 2 tbsp. oak or hickory chips) for about 45 minutes.  Start timing when you can see wisps of smoke.  Remove the smoker from the heat, and allow the brisket to cool a bit on a heatproof surface in a ventilated area (preferably outside).  Preheat the oven to about 275 degrees.

3. While the brisket is smoking, make the sauce:  Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.   Add the onions, lower the heat to medium low, and cook until they are soft and somewhat browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Drain the ancho chiles and add them to the pan, along with about 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.  Add all of the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Cook gently for about 30 minutes.

Ancho Barbecue Sauce for Smoked Brisket Tacos

Carefully transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender (or regular blender) and blend until very smooth.  Return to the saucepan and set aside.

4. Finish the brisket:  After the brisket has smoked, place it in a shallow baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray  Smother it in the sauce.  Cover with foil and bake for about 3 hours, or until very tender.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a bit.

5.  While the brisket is cooking, make the pico de gallo salsa:  Place all of the salsa ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.

Pico de Gallo Salsa for Smoked Brisket Tacos with Ancho Barbecue Sauce

6.  Prepare the tortillas to your liking:  There are a few different ways you can do this.  When I am making tacos with soft corn tortillas, I heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  I place a large sheet of aluminum foil near the pan.  I heat each tortilla in the skillet for about a minute or so on each side, or until it softens and begins to brown.

Corn Tortillas on Cast Iron Skillet for Smoked Brisket Tacos

After each one is done, I place it on the foil and immediately start the next one.  I stack them on top of one another as I work.  When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil and place them in a 250 degree oven until I'm ready to assemble the tacos.  They always stay hot and soft!  If there are leftovers, I heat fresh tortillas for the next meal.  

7.  Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and slice into small pieces.  Return to the sauce.

8.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  (You can double them up if your tortillas are thin.)  Place a few small slices of brisket down the center of each tortilla.  Top with some of the grated cheese.  Add a small amount of the sliced cabbage.  Finish with some of the pico de gallo salsa.  Enjoy!

Smoked Brisket Tacos with Ancho Barbecue Sauce and Pico de Gallo

And that completes the second recipe from my taco trio.  Below, you can see a picture of the whole thing:

Taco Trio - Pulled Lamb Shank Tacos, Brisket Tacos, and Chipotle Turkey Tacos with Cranberry Aioli
Clockwise, from the top:  Chipotle Turkey Taco with Cranberry Aioli, Smoked Brisket Taco with Ancho Barbecue Sauce and Pico de Gallo, and Pulled Lamb Shank Taco with Pineapple-Tomatillo Salsa
These brisket tacos were pretty popular.  They went fast!  Out of the three recipes, this one had the LEAST amount of leftovers!  I found the sauce rather mild - it had a great flavor, though, and the brisket was very tender.  The cheddar cheese and pico were a good call!  The brisket didn't need much in the way of fancy toppings!

Like my lamb tacos, these took some time from start to finish.  There is nothing particularly difficult about this recipe, though.  There is a lot of downtime involved.  If you're making a taco trio or some other crazy party spread, you're in business.  You'll have plenty of time to do other things!

So . . . about that cake.  Wow.  It was amazing.  It's a Snickers cake!  Yes.  As in the candy bar.  There is no actual candy bar involved, though.  It's all from SCRATCH!

Snickers Cake from The Goodie Godmother - Peanuts, Caramel, Chocolate, Nougat

You can find the recipe (created by Mary of The Goodie Godmother) here.  You will notice that mine looks much more . . . rustic than hers.  Ha ha.

Well.  In my defense, I was making three taco recipes at the same time.  I didn't quite brown the caramel sauce as much as I should have.  I assembled it pretty quickly.  I could have let the nougat and the ganache set just a bit more.  There are gooey, sugary substances oozing out all over the place.

Sigh.  A pastry chef I am not.  It was delicious, though!  Steve and I are thoroughly enjoying the leftovers.  (Yes - with a cake this rich and decadent, there were leftovers!)

It was a fun night - eight adults, one six-year-old, one three-year-old, and two two-year olds!  Silliness!  This next photo pretty much sums it up!  I had to include it, because it's just too cute.  I love my nephews!  :)

Silly Nephews Playing Drums

You can find the lamb taco recipe here.  You can find the turkey taco recipe here.  All three recipes were pretty great - I was happy with them!

Next time, though, I might think twice before attempting three in one day!

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  What's your personal limit for the number of new recipes that you'll try during one twenty-four hour period?  Ha ha.

Thanks for reading!

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