Recipes

Brisket 101 and a spicy Mexican-style brisket recipe: Day 5

I did not know what brisket was. I had a faint inkling that it was a type of meat, likely from a four-legged mammal, but I did not know that it was a cut of beef. I would hear the word ‘brisket’ and a child-like song would echo in my head, “A brisket, a basket, a green and yellow basket” or something like that. But thanks to a few keystrokes into a search engine I quickly discovered that a) brisket is one of the eight primal cuts of beef and is from the breast area and b) the nursery rhyme I had ringing in my head was “A Tisket A Tasket.” Oops.

I did not know what brisket was. I had a faint inkling that it was a type of meat, likely from a four-legged mammal, but I did not know that it was a cut of beef. I would hear the word ‘brisket’ and a child-like song would echo in my head: “A brisket, a basket, a green and yellow basket” or something like that. But thanks to a few keystrokes into a search engine, I quickly discovered that a) brisket is one of the eight primal cuts of beef and is from the breast area and b) the nursery rhyme I had ringing in my head was “A Tisket A Tasket.”

I decided that it was a good idea to invite some friends–two adults and a toddler–over for dinner and that I would serve up Spicy Mexican-style brisket. Who cares that only a few hours earlier I didn’t even know what brisket was and, besides, why wouldn’t a host choose to serve up a dish to toddlers with the word ‘spicy’ in the title?

The recipe was very easy to follow. I did have to pause to think about browning the brisket “four to six minutes per side,” though. The chunk of meat I had was large and almost cubic. Did I need to rotate it so each of the five or six sides touched the bottom of the pot? But after I browned the first side, I saw that the heat travelled up and coloured all sides of the meat so a simple top-to-bottom flip back and forth sufficed.

I had never cooked with chipotle chili packed in adobo sauce. I nearly mixed in two tablespoons rather than two teaspoons into the recipe. That could have been a disaster, since that would have tripled the ‘spicy’ factor in this dish. But I caught myself just in time, thankfully, as I realized later when licking some spilled sauce off of my finger that it was actually burning my lip!

While the brisket was cooking for two hours I had time to prepare a side dish, a salad, and to play puppets with my toddler. I set the timer on the stove so that I wouldn’t forget to turn the brisket “occasionally.” It’s terrible, but I cannot cook without a timer to remind me what I’m doing. The jarring aural signal of the clock timer is far more pleasing to me than the belated sense of smell (“What’s burning?”) followed by the screeching of our smoke detector. On more than one occasion, my neighbours have looked up from their backyard to see me fanning the back door in an attempt to clear the smoke and silence the alarm. But, alas, no smoke detector was activated today.

And so the brisket turned out beautifully and impressed not only my family but also my guests. There was so much gravy that I have a huge container of it now in my fridge. You’ll be glad to hear that it was not too spicy and that, should someone want to avoid the spicy aspect altogether (like the toddlers, for example), the gravy did not permeate the brisket. If you like, you could simply enjoy the tender cut of beef without dousing it with the gravy. But be warned that you’ll end up with an even larger container of leftover gravy in your fridge.

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