This Mexican-style delight showcases the brisket’s intensely beefy flavor by pot-roasting the meat in a rich adobo sauce. Pasilla peppers give the adobado brisket (meaning adobo-spiced brisket) a deep, smoky heat spiced with cumin, cloves, and cinnamon and brightened with apple cider vinegar.
Long and slow. That’s the magic mantra for turning a good-sized piece of bone-in brisket into a wonderfully tender, full-flavored joint of beef. The bone-in cut I used was a fairly hefty six-pounder. It went into a big, tightly sealed, cast-iron pot with its adobo for four hours in an oven set at 340F / 170C. That’s what I mean by long and slow.
This sort of patient cooking locks in all the brisket’s flavors and gives them time to be enriched by the hot and smoky spiciness of the adobo.
It will also allow you to carve steak-like slices that are gorgeously grained, remarkably tender, and packed with the sort of big flavor you’d expect from a fine piece of sirloin or ribeye.
Now, brisket might not be widely regarded as the swankiest of beef cuts, but it outshines some that are, in terms of its flavor. It comes from a group of powerful muscles that sit above the front legs and support over half the animal’s weight. It’s a hard-working cut that requires some laid-back attention to bring out the very best in it.
Why choose bone-in brisket? I prefer it since the bones help conduct the low heat through the meat. And also because (and possibly more importantly) the bones add their own rich beefiness to the brisket’s flavor.
The flavor-boosting adobo
In addition to the pasilla chilies and spices, there are fresh red cayenne peppers, red onion, garlic, oregano, and bay leaves in our adobo. All these ingredients are used in generous quantities to create a cook-in sauce with a bold character that’s strong enough to match the big, distinctive flavors of the beef.
To provide a counterweight to the brisket’s rich fat content, the sauce gets its noticeably fruity, balancing tang from apple cider vinegar and the zest, flesh, and juice of a good-sized, tart orange.
Those acidic additions in what we now think of as adobo-style sauces were first used long ago for their preserving qualities – to keep meat fresher for longer.
The term “adobo” comes from a Spanish word for marinade, and it began its rise to widespread culinary fame some 400 years ago and the days when colonial Spain controlled the Philippines. From there, its Spanish-Filipino influence traveled to South America, eventually becoming particularly popular in Mexican cuisine.
Nowadays, vinegar and citrus feature far more for their flavors than as preservatives, similar to how we continue to savor the effects of smoking, brining, and pickling some foods.
And to serve alongside your adobado brisket? Rice, grilled corn cobs, or creamy mash would all be good. For me, those slices of beef pair perfectly with some very easily made but extra-special potatoes, so that’s the route I chose to go.
Roasted potatoes with baby onions, garlic, and oregano
This is so simple to make that it has no business being so outstandingly good.
For a start, the prep is minimal. The medium-sized potatoes don’t need to be peeled. You just cut them into quarters and add them to a baking dish along with unpeeled baby onions, skin-on garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Give the lot a good stir and cover the dish tightly with silver foil. That’s it. Your prep’s done.
As for the cooking, that’s about as straightforward as it gets. Just let the covered dish bake for an hour with the brisket in your low oven. During that time, the potatoes and onions will cook through in their steamy juices, and the garlic cloves will mellow considerably, turning to the consistency of thick, heavy cream inside their skins.
You’ll then give the uncovered dish some much higher heat for 20 minutes in the oven – to provide the potatoes with some darker golden color and a crisp finish to their outsides.
Adobado brisket with onion and garlic roasted potatoes. Serves four – probably with enough to spare for a few brisket sandwiches the next day.
Adobado Brisket With Onion and Garlic Roasted Potatoes
For the adobado brisket
- 4 pasilla chilies soaked for 15 minutes in 1 ½ cups boiling water. The pasillas I used were each about 4 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide.
- 4 fresh red cayenne chilies finely chopped seeds and all
- 6- pound bone-in brisket
- 2 red onions medium-sized, peeled, halved and cut into ¼ inch slices
- 8 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 orange medium-sized, use all the zest, flesh, and juice and discard the rest.
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 heaped teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 cloves ground
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 ounce fresh cilantro roughly torn for garnishing the brisket just before you serve it
Cooking your adobado brisket
- First, a word about timing: the brisket will cook for in the oven 4 hours, and the potatoes will bake with it for the last hour. When the 4 hours is done, the brisket gets removed from the oven, and the heat is increased to finish roasting the potatoes in a much hotter oven while the brisket rests before you carve it.
- To cook the brisket in its adobo, I used a big, cast-iron Dutch oven with a good lid and a sheet of heavy silver foil to ensure a particularly good seal between the pot and its cover.
- Start by setting your oven to 340F / 170C and positioning a shelf so that your big pot will sit in the middle of the oven.
- Add the pasilla chilies to a heatproof bowl or jug and cover them with 1 ½ cups boiling water.
- After the pasillas have soaked for 15 minutes, remove any stems and add them – seeds and all – to your food processor with the water.
- Blitz the pasillas for a minute, then add the cayenne peppers, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, vinegar, salt, black pepper, and the juice, zest, and flesh of the orange. Now blitz the lot until you have a smooth, free-flowing paste.
- Place the brisket in a large mixing bowl and pour the paste over it. Use your fingers to give the brisket a thorough coating of the paste.
- Add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves to your Dutch oven and set the coated brisket – bone-side down – on top. Spoon any remaining paste over the top and sides of the brisket.
- Cover your big pot with a layer of silver foil extending about 1 ½ inches beyond the pot’s rim. Sit the lid snugly on top and use your fingers to crimp the foil into place to create a tight seal all around the lid. That tight seal is important because it will ensure all the flavors of the brisket and adobo remain locked in the pot during its time in the oven.
- Set your big pot in the oven and let it cook for 1 ½ hours at 340F / 170C. Then remove it from the oven so you can give the adobo a few stirs and baste the top and sides of the brisket with it. Once that’s done, carefully re-seal the pot with its foil and lid, and return it to your oven for another 2 ½ hours at the same 340F / 170C.
- After 2 ½ hours, remove the pot from the oven and let it sit, without its covering of foil but with the lid ajar, for 15 minutes. This little bit of ‘resting’ matters because it allows the brisket to firm slightly so that it can be more easily carved into even, steak-like slices. Once that time’s up, carefully transfer the brisket to a board ready to be carved -and sauced.
- To sauce your carved brisket, warm the adobo in your Dutch oven over medium-high heat. As soon as it starts bubbling, spoon a little of it over the cut brisket. I poured the remaining sauce into a warmed jug so that folks could help themselves more at the table.
- Now, if you feel the adobo sauce is a little too thick, by all means, stir in some water as you heat it, ready for saucing the brisket and serving.
Cooking the potatoes
- Add all the ingredients to a baking dish that’s large enough to hold them all in a single layer with a bit of space between them. Give your dish a few gentle stirs so that the potatoes, onions, and garlic cloves get a coating of oil, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Now cover the dish with a layer of snugly fitting silver foil. Once the brisket has had three hours in your 340F / 170C oven, set the potatoes in the oven and let them cook for an hour until it’s time to remove the brisket.
- Once you’ve done that, turn the oven to 430 F / 220C, remove the potatoes’ baking dish and take off its foil covering.
- Give the potatoes, onion, and garlic an oil-coating stir and set them back in the oven for another 20 minutes – while the brisket rests and you take a few minutes to carve it ready for serving.
- That hot-and-fast 20 minutes time in the oven will be enough to add some crisping, golden color to the potatoes and allow you to serve them piping hot alongside your carved, lightly sauced, and cilantro-garnished brisket.