Friday, April 27, 2012

Beer-Braised Brisket Burritos

Writing this post is giving me big time burrito cravings. The pictures simply don't do this justice! These are awesome! Some of the best burritos I've ever made or had, and quite frankly, really easy to make. Mexican is by far my favorite food genre, so I'm a pretty good judge here. Even Andrew commented a few times about how great the flavor of the beef was.

I could eat Mexican every single day. I think its a shame that most people don't recognize it's pure awesomeness. I feel like when most people think Mexican then envision plates of sloppy Chi-Chi's entrees where everything blends together, but there is so much more out there. The flavors are so deep and so fresh, always making for a good weeknight dinner option! Cilantro. Cumin. Tomato. Chili. Mango. Garlic. Avocado. I mean seriously...this is where it's at. I'll take Mexican over Italian any day. Not that there's anything wrong with Italian, I love it too, but the flavors of Mexico are so much more interesting.

This recipe takes some time in the oven, but it's super simple and something surely everyone will enjoy. Make the beef, wrap it up in a tortilla with some Easy Mexican Rice with Beans and your favorite toppings, and call it dinner.

The cook time on this beef is about 4 hrs. After all, it's beef so low & slow is the name of the game.

Ingredients for Beer-Braised Brisket:
6 Slices Bacon, cut into 1" pieces
2-2.5 lb Boneless Beef Brisket, fat pad cut off bottom
Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 Stalks Celery, roughly chopped
1 Medium Onion, roughly chopped
1 Poblano Chili Pepper, seeded and chopped
5 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tblsp Flour
1 Bottle of Dark Beer (preferably Mexican)
1 Can Reduced Sodium Beef Stock
1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro, snipped roughly
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1 tsp Dried Oregano

Other Things for Your Burritos:
10" Flour Tortillas
Easy Mexican Rice with Beans
Salsa, Sour Cream, Hot Sauce, Shredded Cheese, Guacamole, etc.

Gather your ingredients for the Brisket and preheat your oven to 275 degrees.

In a dutch oven set over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Then remove to a plate, but leave the bacon fat in the dutch oven. I even used a spatula to squeeze the bacon against the side of the pan so I had as much bacon fat as possible left in the dutch.

Salt and pepper your brisket. Then set it in the dutch oven, right in the bacon fat. Oh yeah baby! Anything that starts with bacon is normally a winner!

Lightly brown the brisket, 3-4 mins per side. Then remove to plate. (If you haven't already preheated your oven, now is a good time.)

Throw your celery, onion, and poblano pepper into the now bacon/beef fat.

Let them cook for 7-10 minutes, until the onion starts to become translucent. Then add your garlic and cook for 1 minute (just until fragrant).

Stir in the flour until everything is well coated.

Next, slowly stir in the beef broth and the beer. I absolutely LOVE Modelo beer, but I didn't have any so I went with a leftover Great Lakes Christmas Ale. I know most Clevelanders would have my head for using this beer to cook with, but my options were limited.

Once all of the liquid is in, add your spices–fresh cilantro, dried oregano, and cayenne. Then add back in your bacon, giving it a stir of course.

Now that our delicious base is done, set your brisket right in the center of it. Add in any liquids that may have accumulated on its plate too. Give it a little stir and stick it in the oven.

I cooked mine at 275 for a little more than 3 hours, but you could easily turn the heat down to 250 and cook a little longer. I find that with beef you can always go lower and slower, but never cook above 275 in my opinion.

In the end you should get something delicious like this–chunky, but pulls apart in big strings, and overall juicy and savory.

Let it stand for a few minutes, then cut it against the grain. It's pretty easy to see which way the grain runs (in the pic of me poking it with the fork, it's obviously running horizontal).

Now it's time for the best part, time to build your burrito. Give it a nice base of Easy Mexican Rice, brisket, salsa, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and hot sauce.

Fold over the bottoms and then the sides.

Look at that nice and tidy burrito. It looks so boring, but inside it is bursting with flavor.

This recipe is staying on my favorites list. I'll be making it a lot in my lifetime.

Easy Mexican Rice with Beans

This is a super easy Mexican rice recipe that makes a fabulous stuffer for burritos or an excellent side dish. I use it in my Beer-Braised Brisket Burritos. You've gotta try them! They are awesome!

1 Tblsp Vegetable Oil
1 Medium Onion, diced
2 Tbslp Tomato Paste
1/2 tsp Cumin
3/4 Cup Long Grain White Rice
1 (14.5 oz) Can Chicken Stock
1 Can of Black Beans or Pinto Beans, drained & rinsed
Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tblsp vegetable oil over medium heat. Add onion, tomato paste and cumin. Cook for about 2 minutes stirring frequently.

I only had green onions the day I made & photographed this, worked out fine. How sad is it that I was out of onions?

Stir in the uncooked white rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Stir in the can of chicken stock and a pinch of salt.

Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and cover. Simmer on low, covered for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

When the rice is tender, stir in the beans (black beans or pinto beans both work here).

And there you are. Mexican Rice with Beans! Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Caprese Salad

As many of you know, I'm not really a salad person. However, Caprese Salads I love love love! Since I was a baby, yes a baby, I can remember loving tomatoes. You can ask my mom if you don't believe me, but when I was 2 yrs old, my grandma Berdis was babysitting me and lost me. My mom was frantic. They later found me in the garden, sitting in the tomato plants, eating dirty tomatoes like apples. Lord only knows how many I ate because shortly after my delicate skin broke out in a massive rash from the juice dripping all over me. True story. And to this day, I still love the delicious, juicy tomatoes that summer brings.

My mother in law, Karla, loves tomatoes as much as me. Last summer, we went to Paragon Restaurant in Dayton. She and I ordered "just tomatoes" instead of a salad. How hysterical is that? The waiter probably thought we were nuts.

Caprese Salad is quite possibly the easiest salad to make, so you're not getting step-by-step instructions here, but I will tell you how to make Balsamic reduction.

Ingredients for Balsamic reduction:
1 Bottle Decent Quality Balsamic Vinegar
2-3 Tblsp Brown Sugar

Ingredients for the Salad - quality ingredients are a MUST:
Fresh, Ripe Tomatoes, sliced
Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Reduction
A Few Leaves of Torn Basil
Mixed Greens (optional)
Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper

To make the Balsamic Reduction, all you are going to do is cook it until it reduces by half. So pour your bottle of Balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan set over medium heat. Cook simmering until it reduces by 50% - approx. 30 minutes. Remove from stove and stir in the brown sugar.

Voila! Balsamic reduction! Transfer it to a squeeze bottle after it has cooled and then on to the refrigerator. It will store for at least a month.

I like a some greens with my Caprese Salad, but they are by no means necessary or even traditional, it just makes me feel like I'm eating a more substantial salad. So if you are being traditional or serving it with other things, by all means skip the lettuce.

I mixed my basil in with my greens, but for a more impressive presentation, layer them between the cheese and tomatoes.

Layer the sliced tomatoes and Mozzarella. Sprinkle it with salt and hit it with some fresh cracked black pepper.

Then drizzle on some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and some of the Balsamic Reduction that you made.

And you've got a great salad to enjoy all on it's own or to serve dinner guests. You could even make a huge plate of it for guests, it would be stunning. Enjoy!