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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Off the Cuff: Cocoa and Chile Rubbed Braised Brisket

by Panda

Last week, Mango and I picked up a 3lb brisket from DeKalb Farmer's Market to use for making burgers with.  We found ourselves without dinner options one night, so I portioned out 1lb of the brisket to make us dinner with.

We'll often buy meat and other ingredients to make meals with, with no set plans as to what to do with them.  Not only do I find it fun to improvise, but I also think being able to put something together with what you have on hand is a useful skill; you don't always have everything readily available for making a specific dish with.  And, as a bonus, you may just come up with a new recipe that you'd enjoy making again.  Typically when I throw stuff together I choose ingredients for a reason... I almost always try to include something sweet, something tangy, and something earthy (umami), and also usually something aromatic.  These flavors may come in different proportions depending on what I'm going for, but they're usually in there in some way or another.

I thought that it would be nice to do a coffee rub, as I had spoken with a friend of mine the other night about it.  Coffee and red meat marry well together.  However, after digging around in our cabinets, I wasn't able to find anything that I thought would work well with it.  Then I spotted some cocoa nibs.

I don't remember what I bought these for - I think to brew cocoa tea with? - but they weren't doing anything sitting there in our cabinet, and I thought they would be a great replacement for coffee in my rub.

Into my spice grinder went the cocoa nibs, along with some cinnamon and peppercorns.  I then added this to my mortar and pestal, along with chopped garlic, salt, olive oil, chipotle pepper, and a tiny bit of honey.

I opened the brisket up with my knife, first cutting width-wise into the meat (with the grain) through the top 1/3 of the thickness of the meat, and then again through the last 2/3 of the meat to make one thin, wide piece of meat.  I took my rub and rubbed it all over the inside and outside of the meat, then rolled it back up (basically into its original shape).  The meat went into my hot cast iron pan to sear on all sides.

I didn't have any string to tie it up with, so I just kept it together with tongs while it seared.
Now for the braise.  I decided to use onions as a base, so I sliced one up and threw it into the pan, letting the onions break down and caramelize.  Now what could I use for liquid?  No beef stock handy, and no red wine... but look at what I found.

Don't freak out.  I know this is a good beer.  I only used some of it.  I drank the rest :D
Deglazing the delicousness.
Stout and beef are good friends, and the chocolatey flavor of the stout would go perfectly with the cocoa nibs.  I also threw in a bit of balsamic for a little more sweetness and tang, and a bit of soy sauce to boost the umami.  Once I scraped up all the good bits from the pan, everything went into some foil together, and I pinched the foil shut to make a package for the beef to braise in.  Using a foil package is nice, because it keeps the meat nice and moist, and you don't need a lot of liquid to braise the meat in.  Into a 350F oven it went, along with some potatoes I wanted to roast (and then some asparagus a half an hour later) in a separate container.  An hour later I was rewarded with some tasty, tasty brisket.  I let it rest, then sliced it and put it back in the braising liquid to stay warm and soak up some more flavor.  I finished up the roasted veg and made a quick tomato and onion salad to go with.

And there you go.  Might I suggest you enjoy this with a hot flakey biscuit?

Mango: I can't remember what we talked about when we were cooking this.
Panda: Probably buttocks.

Chile and Cocoa Rubbed Braised Brisket

1lb brisket, preferably the fat end (another cut of meat will work for this as well)
Small handful cocoa nibs
Small handful ground chipotle chile
5 finger pinch of salt
About 1tbsp of peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves garlic
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tbsp soy sauce
Olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced
1c stout beer

Preheat your oven to 350F, and heat a cast iron pan (a regular frying pan will do if you don't have one) over medium heat.
Grind the cocoa nibs, peppercorns and cinnamon stick in a spice grinder until medium course (keep an eye on this, because the fat in the cocoa nibs may make them stick to the sides of the spice grinder).  Add this mixture to a mortar and pestal along with the garlic, salt, chipotle pepper, and a bit of olive oil.  Grind into a paste - if the paste is too thick add a bit more olive oil.  You want a consistency that will allow you to rub this all over the meat.

Open your meat up by slicing into the top 3rd of the meat and opening it like a book.  Then slice into the bottom 2/3 of the meat and open that towards the other side - this will give you one thin, wide piece of meat.  Rub the paste all over the meat, then roll the meat back up.  Optionally, you can tie the meat together using some cooking twine to help it hold its shape.

Add some olive oil to your pan.  Sear the meat on all sides until nicely browned, then remove.  Lower the heat to medium.  Add a bit more oil, then your sliced onion. Stir the onion around until the onion is brown and caramelized.  Deglaze your pan with the beer, balsamic and soy sauce - scrape with a wooden spoon to remove all the bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the mixture from your pan along with your beef to a piece of aluminum foil (be sure to fold it up a bit before doing this so that it doesn't run out).  Bring the foil up around the meat and fold it shut to create a package.  Place this package in an oven proof baking dish (this is just in case there is a leak in the foil) and place the dish in the oven.  Braise for at least 1 hour, preferably 1.5.  Allow the meat to rest for at least 15 minutes, then slice and return to the baking dish along with the braising liquid.


  1. omg, first comment

    fap fap fap

  2. I wanna make and eat this!