Real Deal Holyfield Brisket Breakfast Tacos recipe and cookbook review: The Brisket Chronicles by Steven Raichlen

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Steven Raichlen’s got a new book coming out tomorrow (April 30th), The Brisket Chronicles, and it is wonderful! I’m in love with this book and wish I’d gone with the hardcover already, as it is sure to be oh-so-very well used. He’s got everything in here from barbecue brisket favorites to his family’s holiday braised briskets and even brisket dessert. Like his other books, this has that same welcoming tone and desire to teach you how to get everything just right. His instructions are casual, yet really thorough. If you want to become the brisket master, he’ll help get you there. I was delighted to see that Steven smokes on the exact same smoker that I do, a Horizon RD Marshal that I lovingly refer to as Billy Bob. Spoiler alert – No, he never tells us what he’s named his smoker.

A huge thanks to Workman Publishing for letting me share the recipe for Real Deal Holyfield Brisket Breakfast Tacos with you! I’ll tell you all about the rest of the book afterwards!

Excerpted from The Brisket Chronicles by Steven Raichlen, photographs by Matthew Benson. Workman Publishing © 2019


YIELD: Serves 4 METHOD: Pan-frying PREP TIME: 20 minutes COOKING TIME: 20 minutes HEAT SOURCE: Stove YOU’LL ALSO NEED: A rimmed sheet pan WHAT ELSE: Like much Tex-Mex street food, the Real Deal Holyfield features commonplace ingredients—tortillas, eggs, potatoes, refried beans, and salsa—staples of Mexican American cooking. But it takes a little choreography to put them together for breakfast. I’ve tried to streamline the recipe to the point where you can make it in a single frying pan. (You keep the various components warm on a rimmed sheet pan in the oven.) You’ll need some leftover barbecued brisket and a large cooked potato. A purist would make the tortillas, refried beans, and salsa from scratch, but your favorite commercial versions deliver a pretty awesome breakfast, too. The recipe can be multiplied as you desire—given the setup, it’s easier (or at least more efficient) to make breakfast tacos for many people rather than just a few.

When early morning hunger strikes in Austin, you head for a parking lot filled with sheds, trailers, barbecue pits, and sky-blue picnic tables clustered around a cinderblock roadhouse known as Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ. Proprietor Miguel Vidal grew up in San Antonio, where his dad, like most Texans, staged family barbecues every weekend and his mom made the salsas and tortillas by hand. He worked at various restaurants in Austin prior to opening Valentina’s (named for his daughter) in 2013. “I wanted to elevate the Tex-Mex food I grew up on, while marrying it with Texas barbecue,” says Vidal, who runs the restaurant with his wife, Modesty, and brother, Elias. To this end, he built three massive barbecue pits (named Cobain, Cornell, and Maynard after his favorite musicians). He burns mesquite—not the post oak customary in these parts—resulting in meats with a decisive smoke flavor. His briskets (seasoned with a triple blast of spices, pepper, and salt) go on at 1 a.m. and cook for 14 to 16 hours. On a typical Saturday, he’ll serve 400 pounds of brisket, 200 pounds of pork ribs, and 1,500 house-made tortillas. One morning, Miguel’s father asked for some huevos rancheros. Miguel decided to up the ante, adding brisket and a smoked vegetable salsa. The result was the Real Deal Holyfield, and it delivers a wallop.

2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or Brisket Butter (page 259), or as needed
4 slices barbecued brisket (each slice 1/4 inch thick; about 1/2 pound total; see pages 41 to 70)
1 baked or boiled russet (baking) potato, cut into 1/4-inch dice (use whatever cooked potato you might have on hand)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 flour or white corn tortillas (each 6 inches in diameter)
4 large eggs (preferably farm-fresh and organic)
1 cup warm refried beans, canned or homemade
1 cup Gangsta Salsa (recipe follows), or your favorite salsa
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Warm the brisket slices, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer to a rimmed sheet pan and keep warm in the oven.
  3. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet. Add the potatoes and pan-fry, stirring with a spatula, until hot, browned, and crisp, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the sheet pan with the brisket and keep warm.
  4. Warm the tortillas in the skillet, 30 seconds per side. (Alternatively, warm the tortillas on your grill.) Transfer to the sheet pan with the brisket and potatoes and keep warm.
  5. You’ll need at least 2 tablespoons of fat in the skillet to fry the eggs. If enough butter remains in the skillet, heat it over a medium-high flame; if not, add butter, oil, or brisket butter to equal 2 tablespoons. When the fat starts sizzling, crack in the eggs. Fry until cooked to taste, 2 to 3 minutes on one side if you like them sunny-side up, or 2 minutes per side for over easy.
  6. Assemble the tacos: Lay a tortilla on a plate. Spread it with a quarter of the refried beans. Top with a quarter of the fried potatoes and a slice of brisket. Slide an egg on top. Spoon salsa on top and sprinkle with a quarter of the scallion greens. Assemble the remaining tacos the same way. Serve the tacos open-face, with any remaining salsa on the side.

This calls for leftover bbq brisket. Once you get the book, make The Big Kahuna! Until then, here’s a barbecue brisket recipe of mine to tide you over. ~Jen


YIELD: Makes 2 cups

This pyrotechnic salsa shows how Miguel Vidal blends Tex-Mex with Hill Country barbecue. He cooks the veggies in the smoker—long enough to infuse them with mesquite smoke, but short enough to keep their vegetal crunch. You can certainly smoke the vegetables ahead of time at a previous smoke or grill session.

2 large tomatoes, stemmed and cut in half widthwise
2 large tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut in half widthwise (or more tomatoes)
1/2 small onion, peeled and halved
3 serrano chiles, stemmed and cut in half lengthwise (for milder salsa, remove the seeds)
1 habanero chile, stemmed and cut in half lengthwise (for milder salsa, remove the seeds)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Coarse sea salt

  1. If using a smoker for this recipe, set it up following the manufacturer’s instructions and heat to 275°F. Alternatively, set up your grill for indirect grilling (see page 22) and heat to medium-low.
  2. Arrange the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and chiles, cut sides up, in foil pans. Place in the smoker or away from the heat on the grill. If using a grill, add 1 cup unsoaked wood chips or 2 wood chunks to the coals. Cover and smoke the veggies until they are just beginning to soften, 20 minutes. Keep some crispness—the vegetables should remain raw in the center. Let cool.
  3. Cut the veggies into 1-inch cubes and place in a food processor. Puree as coarsely or smoothly as you desire. Work in the lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste. The salsa should be highly seasoned.
  4. Transfer the salsa to a serving dish or bowl. Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate—it will keep for several days.

My thoughts and pics of the dishes we tried:

1-10) The Big Kahuna: Barbecued Packer Brisket – p 41. Barbecue Brisket, Texas-style. I make barbecued brisket all the time and I’m thrilled to say with one little tweak of his, this was the best one I’d made to date. It was shut-the-front-door good! He has you make a little surfboard out of cardboard covered in foil, and poked all over with an icepick (I used a cake tester) to put right under the brisket on the smoker’s shelf. He promises that it keeps the bottom from drying out in any sort of way, and it totally works! The fat was gorgeously silky. The bark was strong. The meat was so tender and juicy. And the smoky flavor was amazing. I used all post oak to keep it totally Texan. He doesn’t give specifics of how much salt and pepper to use, so I go with Aaron Franklin’s 1 ½% of total weight. I wrote down the starting weight in pounds and ounces, did all the trimming, weighed the trimmings and subtracted that, converted it to grams, and multiplied that by .015 to get the gram weight of kosher salt to use. I seasoned it the day before and left it in the fridge so that it was waiting for me when I was ready to smoke it. Don’t throw out the trimmings! He gives a recipe for Brisket Butter on p. 259 to use the fat, and you can grind any meat trimmings to use in Jake’s Double Brisket Cheeseburgers on p. 211. Zero waste. Niiiice!

11-12) Tuffy Stone’s Burnt Ends – p 74 with Cool Smoke Barbecue Sauce – p 77. Total meat candy. These are perfection. He has you make them from a brisket point, resulting in the most decadent, silky, unctuous, perfectly-melty fat. I only made half the recipe for barbecue sauce because you only need half the amount for the burnt ends. Don’t do that! I ended up making another full batch just the next day.

13) Brisket Ramen – p 164. Flipping delicious dinner. It uses ¾ lb to a pound of your leftover barbecued brisket. I cheated and did the eggs in my sous vide, so they’d be soft boiled. He doesn’t say what seasoning he’s using on the eggs. It looks like togarashi, a Japanese mixed chili powder. That works with the recipe and he’s using it in other spots in the book.

14) Texas Torpedos (Brisket Poppers) – p 199. Fabulous poppers. It uses ¾ lb to a pound of your leftover barbecued brisket. You’ll turn down your music, pay better attention, and not cut the stem-end off your jalapenos. If you do cut it off, not much leaked out into my grill.

15) Real Deal Holyfield Brisket Breakfast Tacos – p 179. It uses ¾ lb to a pound of your leftover barbecued brisket. Don’t skip the gansta salsa. The smoky vegetables really add a lot. I used my brisket butter (smoked brisket schmaltz) to warm the brisket, fry the potatoes, and fry the egg. That takes it right over the top!

16) Bacon Grilled Brisket Bites with Cilantro Lime Sauce – p 197. We loved these. My gang’s team crispy bacon, so I had to budget a little more grilling time than called for. This is a party-hero level appetizer. You can easily get that delicious dipping sauce together while your bites grill.

17) Brisket Baked Beans – p 233. This uses 2 cups of the leftover bbq brisket. Great beans and his are loaded with produce. I used a sweet-style barbecue sauce in these and they were a total kid magnet.

18) Brisket Butter – p 259. This is rendered, smoked brisket fat. All the yes. This is my second favorite thing in the book. You can use it as a fat substitute in any of the recipes. Delicious and zero waste. Niiiice. I brushed it on corn with a little paprika and garlic mixed in. It took my breakfast tacos over the moon. It’s fabulous replacing part or all of the butter in Texas toast. If you are a massive barbecue head and feel sadness when it’s raining and you can’t fire up your smoker, using this stuff to cook your morning eggs or whatever brings that gorgeous wood smoke smell and taste right into your kitchen. Thank you, Steven.

19) Bacon-Smoked Brisket Flat – p 44. This was a nice way to handle the flat. The bacon basted it with its fat as it rendered, keeping the flat nice and juicy and added a little bacon flavor boost. As a bonus, the bacon crisps up in two batches over the course of the cook, giving you a nice cook’s treat.

20) My smoker loaded up with a point for burnt ends, the bacon wrapped flat, beans using leftover brisket from the Big Kahuna, and brisket fat rendering for brisket butter. It’s a beautiful sight.

21) Brisket Chocolate Chip Cookies – p 263. This uses 2 ½ cups of your leftover brisket. The recipe calls for chopped, so it’s a good use for anything that falls apart on your cutting board when you slice the brisket. The flavor of these are amazing! I think anyone who likes mole is going to be a big fan. They’re filled with chocolate and brisket, and then get a little candied brisket topper. They disappeared.

22) Ropa Vieja (“Old Clothes”) “Pulled” Brisket in Creole Sauce – p 171. I needed a dinner plus a dish for book club, and the book of the month took place in Havana, so I doubled this recipe to cover both, and it doubles so easily. My husband’s Cuban and ropa vieja is one of his favorite comfort foods. This version is a terrific one. Everyone loved it. I heavily salted the simmering water to season the brisket, and seasoned it again at the end.

23) Lone Star Toast (Grilled Garlic Bread) – p 242. This is divine. I used half butter and half brisket butter and they just disappeared. Make more than you think is reasonable. LOL!

Some others I have flagged to try: Barbecued Wagyu Brisket Point – p 49 * Joe’s Kansas City-Style Brisket * Asian-Flavored Brisket in the Style of KYU * Korean Grilled Brisket – p 83 * Montreal Smoked Meat – p 123 * Aunt Annette’s Holiday Brisket with Sweet Wine and Dried Fruits – p 133 * Wine Country Brisket Braised with Bacon and Mushrooms – p 142 *German Braised Brisket Flat (Bierfleische) – p 146 * Vaca Frita “Fried Cow” – p 174 * Vietnamese Crispy Brisket Salad – p 205 * Jake’s Double Brisket Cheeseburgers – p 211 * Southern Cheesesteak – p 216 * Smoky Joes – p 218 * Texas French Dip Sandwich – p 219 * Brisket Banh Mi – p 223 * Kettle Corn with Crispy Brisket – p 260

*I received a copy to explore and share my thoughts.

Need a copy of that book? I’m an Amazon affiliate. Anytime you use one of my links to make a purchase, Amazon gives me a tiny percentage. Thank you!

The Brisket Chronicles.Hardcover. Paperback.

My boning knife It’s a Wustof 5″. I love their IKON line for the ergonomically curved handle. It’s a really comfortable extension of my hand. It’s full tang, so you don’t have to worry about the blade and handle separating.

Pink butcher paper. If you’re not using it yet, this will change up your game.

15 thoughts on “Real Deal Holyfield Brisket Breakfast Tacos recipe and cookbook review: The Brisket Chronicles by Steven Raichlen

  1. Breakfast tacos are the #1 thing I miss about Austin. Far and above anything else including actual people, lol.
    These recipes look great but we are NOT getting a smoker. LOL.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But you’ve got tons of property for a big, beautiful smoker! Maybe just a little electric one on the deck. I’ve only tried one of his braises so far. His auntie’s brisket is covered in dried apricots. I need that!


      1. This is the problem when you’ve got 4.25 acres. All kinds of stuff comes to live with you. We have three outbuildings!
        But honestly if we could get rid of some of what we have, I’d be open to do this — it’s just that I just forced dad to get rid of four grills he’d been collecting for a rainy day (well, about two years ago anyway), so the politics of moving something else that looks like a grill might be a bit dicey …
        I do miss smoked brisket — although the Jewish menu legislates regular installments of baked brisket, at least twice a year if not more.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. wow. the brisket chronicles. it doesn’t get much meatier than that!!! I’ve been a fan of S. Raichlen for a long time, but I think I only have one book of his. I’ve quite impressed with all that you made. Every thing. I’ll have to add another book on Amazon…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I stuck with mostly smoked dishes and only tried one of the braises so far, but he’s got his Auntie’s braised brisket in there and it looks glorious. It’s filled with Turkish apricots and those are my favorites. The dish looks jeweled.

      Liked by 1 person

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