Ancho-Pomegranate Pulled Brisket Tacos

I've been on a taco binge ever since getting back from L.A.  I miss the beach and the sun, and though I can't deny the turning leaves or the chilly bite that's taken hold in the air here in New York, this is my way of dealing with it. I may be forced into pulling out the stockings and grabbing a jacket each time I leave the door, but nothing can stop me from seeking out those flavors and rolling them into a warm tortilla.

Over the past few days, we've had shrimp tacos and braised pork tacos. At a restaurant the other night, I ordered grasshopper tacos, which were surprisingly good--nutty and salty, like intense crispy mushrooms.

I'm actually typing this while eating my lunch: cilantro-marinated chicken tenders, grilled and topped with spicy mango sauce and Greek yogurt on a warm flour tortilla.

It's an addiction, but I don't want help for it.

In fact, I want you to join me in my obsession.

Because of the Jewish holidays, brisket has been on super sale around here. I recently picked up a small 6-pound one and decided to have some fun with it.

I raided my spice cabinet and mixed up a smoky rub of ground ancho chiles, cocoa powder, ground coffee, smoked paprika, brown sugar, and a few Latin spices.

I rubbed this all over the meat, which I then cut into large chunks for easier cooking.

After searing all the pieces, I nestled them into my heavy Dutch oven with a bottle of pomegranate juice, a few bay leaves and garlic cloves.

Simple and only about 15 minutes of prep time. I left the whole thing simmering on the slowest burner while I went about my day. (A slow cooker or a low oven would work beautifully here, too.)

It wasn't long before our entire apartment filled with that heady, savory aroma; even the UPS guy commented on it as he walked down the hall with a package in hand. While the meat cooked, I quickly pickled a couple red onions (I'll share that easy recipe tomorrow).

I told Eugene the plan and he asked me what kind of wine he should pick up at his brother's store on his way home from work.

"The tequila kind," I said.

Spicy margaritas were also on my menu...

We set up camp in our living room, bowls filled with the tender shredded meat, Greek yogurt, the onions. A pitcher of jalapeno margaritas, clinking over ice and sweating condensation onto my coffee table. I crumbled up some queso fresco for an additional salty bite. Fresh cilantro and my favorite Chipotle Tabasco Sauce, finished off the dish. 

Eugene loved it all so much he couldn't stop thanking me between bites. In fact, he was so overwhelmed he kind of exhausted himself and fell asleep on the couch before 10pm. No complaints from me, though--that just meant I got to finish the margaritas myself!

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Ancho Pomegranate Brisket Tacos

For the spice rub:
2 tablespoons ground ancho chile
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoon ground coffee
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground oregano
3 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons kosher salt

For the meat:
5-7lb beef brisket, trimmed
Oil for frying
3 cups pomegranate juice (such as POM)
3 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
4 large garlic cloves, crushed

For serving: tortillas, pickled red onions, Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, queso fresco, hot sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the ancho, cocoa, coffee, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, sugar, and salt.

Cut the brisket into 4 to 6 large pieces, and rub completely with the spice mixture. Reserve any unused spice mixture for future recipes (this is also great on pork shoulder!)

In a large heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven, heat a few tablespoons of oil, and sear the pieces of brisket in batches, turning to sear on all sides. Return all the brisket pieces to the pot, pour in the pomegranate juice. Add the bay leaves, onion halves, and garlic cloves.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to the lowest setting, cover, and let simmer at least 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender. (Can also be cooked in a slow cooker.)

Remove the meat from the pot and use a fork to shred. Serve along with tortillas and other toppings to make tacos.

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