Hello culinary geeks!
Today, I’m thrilled to share with you my version of beef carnitas. Carnitas are generally made with braised pork or beef, often fried first.
As a woman living with an endocrine disorder, I tend to modify most recipes so they are better for me to enjoy but still tasty enough for everyone else. Brisket is not a low fat ingredient nor is this recipe incredibly healthy, but it is a little lighter and definately easier.
This is a perfect meal to serve to guests because it’s easy to prepare in advance, and you can set out a variety of toppings to please even the pickiest of eaters. I’d suggest setting out guacamole, shredded cabbage, lime wedges, sour cream, corn, refried beans, black beans, queso fresco, and hot sauce along with this fresh salsa.
I prepared this meal specifically for company with dairy and gluten allergies so I kept it very simple. I will allow your creativity to guide you to do as you wish as long as you promise to make this recipe. You’re going to love it!
(Just a heads up, the directions may seem like a lot but it’s really quite simple. It’s the curse of writing out steps rather than a demonstration.)
This recipe feeds 4-6 people.
For the beef:
2 1/2 pounds beef brisket
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided in half
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Chili powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 large dried bay leaves
For the salsa:
10 ounces grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 red onion, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
25 pack corn tortillas (check ingredients to insure it’s gluten free)
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
Begin by heating up a Dutch oven or a large heavy bottom pot on the stove top to medium-high. Using clean paper towels pat the brisket all over until it’s dry. Cut the brisket into four equal chunks for even cooking and browning. Sprinkle all sides of the beef with half the tablespoon of salt and the black pepper. Depending on the width of your Dutch oven, brown your brisket on both sides in batches. This should take about 2 minutes per side. Once every chunk of brisket has been browned, remove it from the pan.
(You can use a slow cooker if you’d like, just be sure to brown the brisket in a separate pan. Then add the rest of you ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.)
Turn the heat down to low and in a small bowl mix together all of your spices leaving out the salt. Add a tablespoon of canola oil to the pan followed by your spice mixture. Sauté until fragrant. This should take about 30 seconds. Be mindful of the heat as the spices could easily burn (you can skip this step if you’re uncomfortable and add it after the tomato paste has been sautéed.) Next, add the tomato paste and cook it until fragrant. This should take about a minute.
Add the 2 cups of water and stir until the paste mixture has dissolved. Add the remaining half tablespoon of salt, the bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Now add the beef and reduce the heat to a small simmer, about medium. Cover with a lid and simmer for approximately 3 hours or until the beef is tender and falling apart.
About an hour before the brisket is done, you can prepare the fresh tomato salsa. It’s as easy as chopping your tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, garlic, and cilantro. Toss it all together and season with salt and pepper. Let it set in the refrigerator for an hour or until ready to serve.
When the brisket is finished and completely tender, remove it from the liquid and allow it to rest on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes. Once it’s rested, shred the beef with two forks and chop it into smaller pieces. At this point you need to taste the beef. You may need to add a small pinch of salt. You may also decide whether or not you want to add the beef back into about a cup of the cooking liquid for a spicier flavor or leave it as is for a more beefy flavor. Both are equally delicious!
One last step I think is crucial for taste and stability is to quickly grill the tortillas. You don’t need a grill pan to do this. You can use a cast iron skillet or a nonstick pan. Store bought corn tortillas are just fine but they tend to be flimsy and lacking in freshness. When you grill the tortillas, they become more firm and less likely to break. It also imparts a fresh charred taste and amps up the corn flavor.
If you need to prepare the tortillas a bit in advance, you can try this method for keeping the tortillas warm. In a bowl wide enough for the tortillas to remain flat, lay out a clean dish towel in the bottom topped by a clean paper towel. As you grill the tortillas, add them in the bowl and keep covered with another clean dish towel. When all of your tortillas are grilled, cover the entire bowl with aluminum foil. They will stay warm at least 30 minutes until you are ready to serve.
Now, assemble and enjoy! The brisket is the star of this dish and you can easily modify the toppings to those you may favor.
Please, let out a loud squeal for these carnitas!
May the fork be with you,