BRISKET TACOS: ANOTHER ONE FOR THE OMG FILES

Apologies to my vegetarian friends, this one is all about the meat. Brisket, in a very simple preparation, cooked in the crock pot for hours, until the connective tissue surrenders in all its glory. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. A small can holding a simple ingredient that imparts so much flavor and just the right amount of background heat. Love it. I found this recipe online and did a quick cut and paste of the ingredients, promptly forgetting to write down the link. Proper credit is not possible at the present time, if I ever find it again I’ll edit the post to include it. However, I modified the recipe a bit, so here’s to hoping that my crime is not worthy of too heavy a punishment. The recipe makes a ton of meat, which for us means leftovers galore. You can always have a taco party and invite ten of your best friends over…They can bring their pets too.  It will be a huge batch of taco-happiness!

SLOW-COOKER BRISKET TACOS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

4 bacon slices, cut in pieces
2 shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 beef brisket, trimmed, about 4 pounds
1 cup chicken broth
2 canned chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Place bacon and chopped shallots in a 6- to 8-qt. slow cooker. Stir together salt and pepper; sprinkle over all sides of brisket. Place brisket over the bacon/shallot mixture.

Process broth and all ingredients except apple cider vinegar in a blender  until smooth; pour mixture over brisket. Cover and cook on low for  7 hours or until brisket is fork-tender. Transfer brisket to a 9- x 13-inch baking dish; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, reducing it for about 10 minutes. Stir the apple cider vinegar. Coarsely shred the brisket, add the sauce and mix. Serve over tortillas, or white rice, with your favorite toppings.  I served with avocado slices and crumbled Cotija cheese. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Didn’t I tell you it made a H.U.G.E. batch?  I tell you another thing, it was better a couple of days later. The interesting thing is that the heat of the chipotle peppers seemed to dissipate a little instead of getting stronger. Maybe it just permeated the dish in a more uniform manner. That’s probably the case.

You can enjoy it over tortillas. Corn, please, the flour ones are so heavy you will have to lay down and spend a few hours thinking about the Big Bang, the Heinzenberg’s Uncertainty Principe, and how on Earth could you feel so stuffed…  You can serve them wrapped in a sturdy Romaine lettuce (messy but good), or over white rice. You can go for the kill and indulge on a nice helping over polenta. Just be ready for that Big Bang frame of mind. Yeah, brisket and polenta. It could conceivably kill me…

Next on my list? Short-rib Tacos. Go visit Karen’s site, and be ready to swoon!

ONE YEAR AGO: Aloha!

TWO YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs with Tomatillo Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: Ten Years Ago

FOUR YEARS AGO: Someone Got a Summer Shave

FIVE YEARS AGO: Border Grill Margaritas

SIX YEARS AGO:  Goodbye L.A.

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Vermont Sourdough

 

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PULLING UNDER PRESSURE

Are you afraid of the pressure cooker? Are you so terrified that you don’t even own one and the thought of that thing in your kitchen gives you nightmares? I am here to help you out. As 99.99% of Brazilians, I grew up used to its noise a couple of times per week, making sure we never ran out of black beans, a staple in any Brazilian kitchen. Looking back, I am forced to admit that my Mom’s pressure cooker was scary. That thing had zero safety features and relied on the experience (and perhaps a little luck) of the user not to blow up. A wimpy-looking closing mechanism, a gasket that would definitely be worn out in a few months, and a tiny valve that danced the dance of the steam on top, but seemed ready to fly off any second. Basically, Mom’s pressure cooker was like a bomb in waiting. But, apart from one incident in which black beans tainted the kitchen’s ceiling, nothing serious ever happened.  Having said all that, today’s pressure cookers have absolutely nothing to do with the ones from my past. They have safety mechanisms in place that prevent building excessive pressure, and the lid simply will not open unless the pressure in versus out is equalized.  I don’t even hesitate to grab mine whenever I want to make black beans, but truth is, they are incredibly useful to cook many types of food, from soups to sauces, from meat to grains, veggies, and even desserts! But, let’s start with a favorite recipe of mine, Pulled Pork. An American classic made in a classic Brazilian cooking vessel, the one and only pressure cooker!

Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork22

PRESSURE COOKER PULLED PORK
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

5 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into large chunks
water
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup apple cider

Place the chunks of meat in the pressure cooker, add water to just barely cover them, then add the bay leaves, and all other ingredients. Mix gently to dissolve the salt and incorporate the apple cider.

Close the pressure cooker and turn the heat on high until it builds pressure, then lower the heat and cook it for 45 minutes.  When the time is up, turn the heat off and allow the pressure cooker to come down naturally, it should take about 15 minutes, maybe a little less.

Open the pan once the pressure is equalized, and transfer the meat carefully to a baking dish. It will be very tender. You can save the cooking liquid, put it in the fridge to make it easier to remove the layer of fat that will form, using it as a base for sauce.

Shred the meat with two forks, discarding any fatty pieces or gristle. You can use the meat right away or save it for several days in the fridge.  When ready to use, you can saute it in olive or coconut oil to crisp up the edges, or warm it up gently in a pan and then spread the pulled meat on a layer and run it under the broiler (my favorite method).   Serve with tortillas, or over steamed rice and black beans, incorporate in sauces, improvise a Tex-Mex lasagna with it…  and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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A word about pressure levels:  these days you can find regular pressure cookers and also electric ones. Many models will have two levels of pressure, the lowest around 6 psi (pounds per square inch), the highest from 13 to 15 psi. My pressure cooker delivers a single, powerful level of pressure of 15 psi. If yours doesn’t reach this level simply cook the meat 5 minutes longer. I have no experience with electric pressure cookers, but from what I see around they require longer times in general, perhaps 30% or even longer cooking times.  Use the specifications provided in the instruction booklet you have somewhere, or let google do the research for you…

Pulled pork is definitely one of our favorite meals, I’ve made it many, many times, as Phil’s kids also used to love it. My default recipe is in the blog and it is fantastic. However, I must say this one pleased me even more!  Something about the moisture retained by the meat cooked under pressure, and the way the seasoning is more uniformly present instead of concentrated on the charred surface made this dish a complete winner in my book…  The meat won’t look gorgeous as it comes out of the pressure cooker, so don’t be discouraged when you open the pan. Trust me on this. Get the meat out very gently, pull it and try a little piece… even without browning on a pan or under a broiler you will be amazed by how wonderful it is.

I like to serve mine over Romaine lettuce leaves, a bit of guacamole, shredded Queso fresco…

servedSally


But, of course, you can opt for a more authentic presentation that will include corn tortillas, and a serving of refried beans on the side…  It’s all good!

servedPEK


And you know what I love the most? Leftovers for lunch, so easy to put together… a quick saute of the meat, some tomatillo salsa, half an avocado, Queso fresco for good measure, and a nice sprinkle of the world’s best hot sauce, Sriracha!  Tell me, isn’t this a great lunch?

leftovers

I hope I convinced you to lose your fear of pressure cooking.  Pork shoulder is very forgiving and probably one of the best types of meat to inaugurate your pressure cooking adventures.  Second best type? My vote goes for chicken thighs.  Stay tuned, I’ve got a nice curry coming up sometime soon. Well, you know… soon enough.

😉

before I leave you, a little picture of me and Mom, who doesn’t cook anymore, but I am sure remembers fondly the days in which she prepared the best black beans in the known universe for her family! As this post is published, I’ll be almost leaving Brazil to fly back home…

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ONE YEAR AGO: Cooking Sous-vide: Two takes on Chicken Thighs

TWO YEARS AGO: Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic

THREE YEARS AGO: On my desk

FOUR YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

FIVE YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

SIX YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo

CLASSIC SHRIMP GOBERNADOR TACOS

Another great recipe coming straight from the adorable  Marcela Valladolid, these tacos can be prepared very quickly. Plus, if you make the shrimp filling the day before, the meal will be ready in less than 15 minutes. I tried hard to find the specific origin for Gobernador Tacos, no luck. Then, a dear friend sent me a link with the whole story behind it. (Thank you, Dr. G!). These tacos are very popular in Baja California.  I can guarantee they will be equally popular in your home!  😉

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CLASSIC SHRIMP GOBERNADOR TACOS
(adapted from Marcela Valladolid)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 tomatoes, seeded. chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped
1 cup canned tomato puree
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup shredded Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese
Lime wedges and hot sauce for serving
.
In a large heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced shallot and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the tomato puree, oregano, bay leaf, and smoked paprika. Cook for another couple of minutes, remove the pan from the heat and reserve.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
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Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Lay 2 tortillas, flat on the bottom of the pan, side by side. Put a small mound of cheese on 1 side of each tortilla. Wait until the cheese melts slightly,  and then add about 2 tablespoons of the shrimp mixture to each tortilla. Fold the tortillas over into half-moon shapes and cook to melt the cheese completely, another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.Repeat with the remaining tortillas, cheese, and shrimp mixture. Arrange the tacos on a serving platter and serve with lime wedges and hot sauce on the side.
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ENJOY!
to print the recipe, click here
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sauce
The shrimp sauce, so tasty as the taco filling, is equally wonderful as a main dish.  Just add a little white rice and some guacamole to complete the meal…

served

Deliciously messy to eat, this is a great recipe for a warm summer night!  One extra tip: do not cut the shrimp too small, keep the pieces in large chunks. If you want to splurge, chunks of  lobster tails in these tacos will be absolutely awesome!  Expensive, yes, but awesome!  😉

If you like Mexican food, tune into Mexican Made Easy, it’s always fun to watch Marcela preparing classic dishes,  often with a healthier approach.  Not much else appeals to me in the FoodTV these days, and that’s a little sad.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Walk Towards the Sunset

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen

THREE YEARS AGO:  Heavenly Home-made Fromage Blanc

FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Perfect Sunday Dinner

A TACO FOR NOAH

munching2 With the tragedy in Newtown, 2012 could not have ended on a sadder note.  That Friday I returned home  early to wait for friends who were driving from Oklahoma to visit, and when I turned on the TV  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  But nothing prepared me for the email I received shortly thereafter from my friend Farine, saying that her grandson Noah was among the young victims.  I was folded in two,  as if someone had punched me in the stomach.  I know the same feeling hit thousands and thousands of people around the world, but it’s nothing compared to the pain of the families who lost their loved ones.  It was such a senseless and cruel action.

Farine mentioned that in his young life Noah struggled with an important decision: whether to become an astronaut or a taco store manager.  He loved tacos so much.  I’d have probably advised him to first become an astronaut and then set up his taco shop on a beautiful, peaceful planet around some distant star…    😉    Today I share a recipe that I’m sure would please Noah.  It’s found in “Just Tacos“, a book by Shelley Wiseman, who works in Newtown and was devastated by the catastrophe.  Shelley not only gave me permission to print her  recipe, she also asked me to dedicate it to Noah and his family.

The tacos are ultra-special, as a result of their corn tortillas tinted with hibiscus flowers.  The pork cooked in tomatillo sauce is simply amazing!

tortillas

HIBISCUS-FLAVORED CORN TORTILLAS
(from Just Tacos,  reprinted with permission from Shelley Wiseman)

1/2 cup hibiscus flowers
2 + 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups masa harina
1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring the water to boil, add the hibiscus flowers and sugar, mix and simmer for 5 minutes.  Let it cool until it is just a bit warm.  You will not use all the tea for the dough.

In a large bowl,  mix the masa harina and salt.  Add one and a half cups of the warm hibiscus tea to the flour, incorporate to form a soft, still moist dough.  If necessary, add more tea.   Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, than pinch small portions to make tortillas using a tortilla press.    Cook the tortillas on a hot griddle or cast iron pan.   Keep them warm in a low oven, covered with a damp cloth.

to print the recipe, click here

compositedough
porksauce

TACOS WITH PORK IN GREEN SAUCE
(from Just Tacos, reprinted with permission from Shelley Wiseman)

1 + 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 Serrano peppers, stemmed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
3 allspice berries
1 whole clove
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt (divided)
3 pounds pork shoulder, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Cover the tomatillos and Serrano chiles with cold water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, until the tomatillos are tender but still intact, about 15 minutes. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Heat the cumin, allspice berries, and clove in a small, dry skillet, shaking the pan until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Put the spices in a blender along with 1 cup of the tomatillo cooking water and blend until the spices are ground. Using a slotted spoon, lift the tomatillos and chiles out of the remaining cooking water and put them in the blender along with the garlic, cilantro, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Blend until fully smooth. Reserve.

Pat the pork dry and season with the remaining teaspoon of salt.  Heat the oil  in a heavy pot over medium-high heat and brown the pork in batches, without crowding, until brown on all sides.  Return all the meat to the pan and add the tomatillo sauce.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat. Simmer the pork, covered, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the sauce is thickened, one and a half to two hours.  Shred the meat with two forks, return to the sauce and make tacos with the accompaniments of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  This dinner could very well be a special on Noah’s Taco House! The pork in tomatillo sauce was probably one of the tastiest fillings for tacos I ever had!  You can adjust the level of heat by leaving some of the Serrano chile out of the sauce, but for our taste the full amount had a nice kick.  It is a perfect make-ahead dinner, as the flavors of the pork sauce intensify while sitting in the fridge.

Just Tacos is a must-have cookbook, by the way.  Many variations of corn tortillas are included in the book, as well as countless versions for taco fillings.  In fact, the book cover says it all: 100 Delicious Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. I give you a few tasty examples: Duck Legs Braised in Chipotle-Tomatillo Sauce, Tacos with Grilled Shrimp in Adobo, Creamy Poblano Chile and Corn Tacos, Swiss Chard and Potato Tacos, Yucatecan Pulled Pork Tacos...

I close this post with a picture that I imagine would bring a huge smile to Noah. One of our dogs, Buck, always lays by Phil’s chair at the  dining table and is usually  very well-behaved.  Somehow the smell of this dinner got to him, and every minute or so he would make his presence a little more obvious, standing up and touching Phil’s arm as delicately as possible with his paws.

  “Hello, Daddy, here I am!  Got a piece of meat to spare?”
compositeBuck

ONE  YEAR AGO:  Maui New Year!

TWO YEARS AGO: Natural Beauty

THREE YEARS AGO: Sunflower Seed Rye

SALMON TACOS

I’ve always twisted my nose at seafood tacos, considering them an abnormality of the gastronomic world.  But,  life has its own way of teaching important lessons and during our stay in Los Angeles, we sampled some fish tacos that made me reconsider my opinions. What can I say? I loved them, as well as the particularly incredible array of tasty salsas that place has to offer.

Since we came back, I wanted to make some type of fish tacos at home, and this recipe that I adapted from Food and Wine magazine was a perfect starting point.
CHIPOTLE-RUBBED SALMON TACOS
(adapted from Food and Wine)

2 tablespoons yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound skinless wild Alaskan salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 corn tortillas
Salt
1 Hass avocado, mashed with a squeeze of lime juice
salt and pepper
1 cup finelly shredded cabbage

for salsa:
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 English cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 ripe tomato, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small red onion, finely diced (optional)
1 + 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 + ½  teaspoons sugar
salt to taste

Prepare the salsa by mixing in a bowl the apple, cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, and onion (if using).  Add the vinegar and sugar, season with salt, and reserve.  It can be prepared hours in advance to intensify the flavors.

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt with the lime juice, season with salt and pepper and reserve. In another small bowl, combine the chipotle powder with the orange zest and sugar. Rub each piece of salmon with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and then with the chipotle–orange zest mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Heat the tortillas either in a low oven, wrapped in foil, or on top of a flame (my method of choice), until they are softened and heated through.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan. Season the salmon with salt and grill over high heat until nicely browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
Gently break each piece of salmon in half. Spread the mashed avocado on the warm tortillas and top with the salmon, Apple-Cucumber Salsa and the cabbage. Drizzle each taco with the lime yogurt and serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  This simple recipe is like a symphony of flavors – the salsa has it all: spicy, hot, sweet, the green apple is the key ingredient.  As to the cabbage, I’ve got a tip for you. If you love it in its raw state but the crunch factor seems a bit excessive,  put the shredded/julienned cabbage in a small bowl, add very hot or boiling water to cover, count to 5 seconds and quickly drain it, rinsing it with plenty of cold water.  This simple step softens it just enough, but won’t cook it. Perfect texture to top your tacos.

This type of meal is a favorite of ours: all the ingredients spread on the kitchen island, and we can enjoy them whichever way we like, very relaxed, very Summerish!
I sometimes go for a tortilla-less version, lighter but just as flavorful….

….but it’s nice to go for the full treatment with a bit of rice to round the meal

Whatever your preference, this meal is a winner!  If you are not sold on the idea of a fish taco, please, try this one, you will be very pleasantly surprised.

ONE YEAR AGO: Cinnamon-Turban Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Summertime Gratin

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