Habenero Smoked Brisket

Our brisket recipe begins in a hot oven – a style taught us by our mother's Aunt Mary. She lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, and while we used to discount "Yankee" cooking as bland and uninteresting, we have learned to be less judgmental. In this case, we begin with a seasoning style and a technique, then give it our very own Texas-style twist at the end.

We each grow our own habanero peppers, ostensibly, just for this dish. In reality, the nasty, mean little things creep into other dishes as well. Watch for the smoking technique used at the end of the cooking process in this recipe.

About 1⁄2 cup of Texas-style Barbecue Rub (see Recipes).

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

Kosher salt

Fresh-ground black pepper

3 cups warm water

1 cup whole habanero peppers

One whole beef brisket, cleaned and dried in a large metal roasting pan.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Put the roast, fat-side down in the roasting pan. Mix the brown sugar and flour in a bowl, and use your hands to get all the lumps out.

Salt and pepper the whole side, then rub with about half of the brown sugar-flour mixture. Really give it a good massage. Then flip the roast so it's fat-side up. Repeat, and put the pan in the middle of the hot oven.

The meat will begin to brown in about 30 minutes, so keep an eye on it. The goal is to get the top of the roast to turn a dark, milk-chocolate brown color without burning. When it gets lots of color on it, pour the water over the whole roast, then cover and seal the pan. If your roaster does not have a top, cover it with aluminum foil (heavy-duty works best) and really clamp down and fold in the edges to seal the pan and keep as much of the moisture in as you can.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and cook without opening the oven – or the pan – for two hours. Don't peek! Then turn the oven down to 300 degrees and cook for another hour. Meanwhile, fire up the grill!

You want a large fire that will burn for at least 3 hours, but keep the hot side/cool side configuration. When you have a good bed of coals and a really even temperature – about a medium grill (You want to be able to keep your hand about 5 inches off the grill for four or five seconds) add some good fruitwood or nutwood chips that have been soaked overnight in water, apple juice, or beer – your choice!

Open the roaster – and beware of the steam! That's a nasty burn, so use your tongs to either pierce the foil, or lift the lid and stand back! When the fog clears, liberally sprinkle the top of the roast with about 1/3 of the Texas-style rub then flip it over onto the cooler section of the grill, and sprinkle the other side with about 1/3 of the rub. Close up the grill, and leave it alone for a while. Periodically come back and give the roast about a quarter turn. If you can hold your hand close to the hot side of the grill for more that five or six seconds, add more charcoal and some more wood chips.

After one hour, flip the roast over and repeat the process on the other side. This time, add the whole habanero peppers and the last of the dry rub directly into the charcoal and wood chips. Allow the fire to cool a little bit, but continue to rotate the roast on top of  the grill. When the roast has completed another full rotation, and been on the grill for a total of two hours, it's done!  Flip it back over directly onto the platter you intend to serve it from, and carry it inside and let it set for 10 minutes in perfect solitude.

Slicing a brisket is identical to slicing a flank or skirt steak. Always cut it across the grain and never, ever chunk it up like a chuck roast. Your guests won't know how to cut it, and sliced the wrong way, it is one tough hunk 'o' beef. On the other hand, when you find the right direction, it is tender and flavorful. Slice it into about 1/2 inch slices and serve with your favorite barbecue sauce on the side. (Our favorites are all home made – see our recipe section.)

Menu Suggestions:

Stick to the barbecue/habanero theme here, and add your favorite baked beans and cole slaw. Finish with an apple pie and ice cream.

Smoked Brisket

Grilled Tenderloin

Hamburger Heaven

Flank Steak

Braised Rack of Ribs

Mongolian Beef

Chipotle-Rubbed Filet Mignon with Bleu Cheese

Braised Beef Chili

Grilled Porterhouse

Home-grown hybrid habanero peppers are the secret to the smoke in this brisket recipe. The fresh peppers are thrown right into the coals and send up a divine smell while mildly seasoning the outside of the roast.
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