Smoked Brisket Breakfast Tacos
So I was down to my last piece of frozen brisket from a full packer I smoked up Texas-style last summer. This final two-pound chunk was mostly the flat portion of the cut, with just a little bit of the point at one end still remaining. If I'm eating brisket, I'm all in on the fat, so I often leave the relatively fatless flat for other folks, but in this case I wanted to find a use for it that would compensate for lack of luscious and delicious fat in other ways. I landed on brisket breakfast tacos as something I thought would fit that bill, and these certainly delivered the goods.
I went all in all these tacos, not caring if the amount of effort going into making them might render the recipe too daunting for the standard homemade breakfast. Of course, you can pick and choose the parts of this recipe you want to include and/or sub out for store-bought alternatives to lessen the overall effort. One easy thing to pull off the supermarket shelf is the salsa. I personally wanted to make my own because I've been on an Anaheim pepper kick lately and wanted to try out a roasted-pepper salsa that would feature them front and center. I had picked up a variety of peppers though and had so many on hand that I ended up making this salsa base using a trio—Anaheims, a poblano, and jalapeño.
After roasting, resting, and peeling the peppers, they went into a blender along with a can of fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. I gave it whirl until smooth, which is my salsa preference, but if you prefer chunky or somewhere in between, just purée it for less time. After a final seasoning with salt, I was digging how this salsa had a distinct fruity character with a medium heat from the blended peppers.
Next up was the tortillas, and I'll take any excuse to make flour tortillas, but again, if that's not your jam or you just want to save time, this step is easily skippable by buying pre-made. The reason I'm so into homemade though is it allows me to make my preferred Houston-style tortillas that are thinner and contain enough fat that it leaves nearly transparent spots that are a clear "windows to weight gain." The fat is first melted in water, and my preferred fat to use is lard, but I've found a really neutral tasting one is required, like leaf lard. I've been left with too many off-flavored lards in the past that, if I'm not confident in the product, I go with vegetable shortening instead, which is the majority of the time.
The dough then quickly comes together when you merely pour the hot water and fat mixture through the feed tube of a running food processor that has the flour and salt inside. Once the dough is formed, I take it out and knead it into a smooth ball, and then cover in plastic wrap for 20 minutes.
This was good down time for me to prep the remaining fillers. First and foremost is that brisket, and I did that by cutting 1/4-inch slices from the defrosted meat, wrapping those in foil, and sticking them into a 325°F oven until warmed through.
Also in the mix was bacon, which I cooked stovetop instead of the usual grilled method I advocate. I was only make tacos for the wife and myself, so I could cook the few strips needed all at once in a pan, but if you're cooking for a crowd and making the full eight servings this recipe is scaled to, the grill, or a sheet pan in the oven, are better options to be able to cook all the strips needed in one fell swoop.
With the brisket heating and bacon done, enough time had passed to cook the tortillas. At this point, I've done this enough times that the process is second nature and quick for me. I can roll out each piece of the divided dough in the time it takes to cook each tortilla, which is usually about a minute. So sixteen tortillas are usually done in about sixteen minutes.
You need a very hot surface for them to cook that fast though, so I utilize a cast iron skillet heated to just about the smoking point, which is around the 500°F mark. This not only cooks the tortillas in no time on each side, but I found the high heat also results in an even more tender final product. That tenderness is then enhanced further by stacking each finished tortilla on top of each other underneath a dish cloth so they steam as well.
Eggs are a requirement of the breakfast taco, but what form they take is purely your personal preference here. I'm partial to scrambled, and there are a few methods I use to get good scrambled eggs. One of those is to whisk the eggs with sour cream and salt, and I thought the light tang and added moisture the sour cream lends would be fitting here.
I cooked the eggs in butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat to my desired doneness, which was probably tad more undercooked than most folks would prefer. I did them that way here on purpose though, knowing the eggs were going to sit a bit and didn't want them to get overly tough or hard during that time.
The final step I did after finishing the eggs was to create a layer of crispy cheese. This is a method I saw and practiced in my Serious Eats days, writing an entire post on the subject. A non-stick pan is pretty crucial for making your life easy in doing this as the cheese is in direct contact with the pan until is starts to crisp up. While the cheese is melting, the tortilla is placed on top of the cheese so it both sticks to the bread and the tortilla gets some time to warm up again so it will be its best, soft and pliable self.
After getting a crispy layer of cheese adhered to the tortilla, I assembled the final taco with a single slice of brisket, half a strip of bacon, generous spoonfuls of eggs and salsa, and cilantro, scallions, and pickled jalapeño slices.
It was a lot in one taco, but it all came together in delicious Tex-Mex fashion. For me, the centerpiece was the tender and warm tortilla and the bonus was the smoky brisket whose slight dryness due to lack of fat and reheating was more than compensated for by the creamy eggs and salsa. The bacon added a crunch and a strong salty bite that was well paired with the tangy and spicy jalapeños. The herbs added a fresh factor to an otherwise pretty heavy taco that left me stuffed after consuming only two. I so enjoyed it and had enough ingredients to make a third, but I didn't want to over extend myself because I knew the next day I had a plan for the little bit of brisket I still had remaining by learning how to make brisket kolaches for the first time...but that's a story for next week.
Smoked Brisket Breakfast Tacos
- Yield 8 servings
- Inactive 45 Minutes
- Cook 50 Minutes
- Total 1 Hour 35 Minutes
- For the Salsa
- 2 medium Anaheim peppers
- 1 medium poblano pepper
- 1 medium jalapeño pepper
- 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more to taste
- Kosher salt, to taste
- For the Flour Tortillas
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening
- For the Eggs
- 8 large eggs
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- For the Tacos
- 16oz Colby jack or Longhorn cheddar cheese
- 16 4-5-inch long slices of smoked brisket, reheated if necessary
- 8 slices cooked bacon, halved
- 32-48 slices of pickled jalapeños
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
- To make the salsa: Place Anaheim, poblano, and jalapeño peppers over an open flame on a stove top or grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until completely charred all over. Transfer peppers to a medium bowl, cover, and set aside until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes.
- Remove charred skins, stems, and seeds from peppers and transfer pepper flesh to the jar of a blender. Add in tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. Cover jar and purée until desired consistency. Season with salt to taste. Transfer salsa to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
- To make the tortillas: Place flour and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Place water and lard or vegetable shortening in a small saucepan set over medium heat and warm until solid fat has completely melted. With the motor running, drizzle hot liquid through the feed tube of food processor and process until a solid ball of dough forms. If ball does not form, add in extra water, 1 tablespoons at a time and continue to process, until it does. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times to create a smooth ball. Cover dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. Split dough into 16 equal pieces, cover, and let rest an additional 10 minutes.
- Heat cast iron skillet, griddle, or comal over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, place one ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface and pat down into a flat disc. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out to a very thin 6-inch round. Place dough in skillet and cook until bubbles form on top side and bottom side has light browned spots, 15-30 seconds. Flip tortilla and cook until second side develops light browned spots, 15-30 seconds longer. Transfer tortilla to a plate and cover with dish cloth. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Cover tortillas with a kitchen towel to keep warm.
- To make the eggs: In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, and salt. Melt butter in a 12-inch non-stick skillet or cast iron pan set over medium heat. When butter is completely melted, add in egg mixture and cook, occasionally stirring gently, until eggs have set to desired doneness. Transfer eggs to a medium bowl.
- To make the tacos: Place roughly 1oz of cheese in a non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat. When cheese begins to melt, place tortilla on top of cheese and cook until cheese begins to brown and crisp, about 1 minute. Slide a spatula under cheese and transfer tortilla to a plate, cheese side up. Top tortilla with 1 slice of brisket followed by 1/2 a slice of bacon, a large spoonful of eggs, and a spoonful of salsa. Top with pickled jalapeño slices, cilantro, and scallions to taste. Repeat process with remaining tortillas and ingredients, serving immediately as each is done.