Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Wagyu Brisket Tamales with Red Chile Sauce

We've just started having a few cool nights and Summer isn't forgotten yet, but I have already had a big craving for tamales so we made some this past weekend.

Bill and Cheryl Jamison are well known for their BBQ classic, Smoke and Spice: Cooking With Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue-a must have for any barbecue enthusiast.  But a few years ago they came out with Tasting New Mexico: Recipes Celebrating One Hundred Years of Distinctive Home Cooking, which is loaded with fantastic traditional Southwestern cooking, and that is where I turned for recipe ideas.  I used their tamale dough from their recipe for New Mexican Pork and Red Chile Tamales and varied one of their red chile sauces.  

If you can't or don't want to smoke your own brisket, no problem, just buy some from your local BBQ place.  In Knoxville, I'd highly recommend Dead End BBQ or Full Service BBQ.  Both make great brisket.  For corn husks, I just buy those at my local grocery store.  Pretty much all of the major chains carry them in their Latino foods section.   

wagyu beef brisket tamales, leftover brisket, grill dome brisket, kamado brisket

Brisket Tamales with Red Chile Sauce

dough and sauce adapted from Tasting New Mexico


  • 18-24 dried corn husks, soaked according to package directions
  • 1 recipe tamale dough
  • 2 cups chopped smoked brisket
For the Red Chile Sauce
  • 8 ounces dried chiles
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water, see notes
  • salt to taste, 1 to 2 teaspoons


  1. Preheat your grill to 350°f.  Toast the chiles over the fire in a grill pan, tossing once or twice, until the chiles become fragrant.  This should be about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Remove the end and seeds from the chile and discard.  Break up the chiles into pieces in a blender.  Add the tomato paste, seasoned salt, oregano, sugar (optional), and stock.  Pulse the blender until the mixture forms a paste.  Add in water in batches until you reach a sauce like consistency.  
  3. Place thick bottomed pot on the grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.  Add the oil and wait 1 minute.  Add the onions and garlic.  Saute until tender, 5-8 minutes.  
  4. Add the chile mixture from the blender to the pot.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the pot from the grill, taste for seasoning, and add salt as needed.  
  5. Stir in a few tablespoons of the red chile sauce in with the chopped brisket.
  6. Take a husk in one hand and then smear about 2-3 tablespoons of the tamale dough across the wider part of the husk.  Place about 2-3 tablespoons of chopped brisket on top of that.  Roll up into a cylinder, and fold the empty end up (you can tie with a string but we just lay them folded side down).  Repeat with remaining dough and brisket.
  7. Place a trivet in the bottom of a large stock pot and fill 1/2 inch deep with water.  Place the tamales in, folded side down, tightly close a lid on top, and heat until steaming.  Steam until the dough firms up, 45 minutes to 2 hours, replenishing the water as it dries up.
  8. Remove from heat and carefully remove lid to avoid steam burns.  Serve tamales with some of the sauce ladled over them.
Yield: 18 tamales
Tags: brisket, beef, Tex-Mex

I forgot how long steaming the tamales could take.  I was starving by the time they finished 2 hours later!  

wagyu brisket, willy's butcher shop knoxville
This Wagyu brisket from Willy's Butcher Shop in Knoxville was drop dead gorgeous!  Look at that marbling.

Homemade beef rub, best brisket rub
This brisket was for our enjoyment, not a competition, so I just used my beef rub on it (kosher salt, cracked black pepper, crushed green peppercorns, onion, garlic, red and green bell pepper, and oregano).

brisket prep, how to prep brisket,
The rack under the brisket helps the rub stay on instead of getting stuck to the bottom of the bin.

smoked beef brisket, butcher paper brisket, whole brisket
Instead of foil, we used butcher paper for wrapping.  I plan to do a full Franklin method brisket soon using our offset BBQ pit but this time, I used one of our Big Green Eggs.

smoked beef brisket, butcher paper brisket, whole brisket
I got a really nice, dark bark on this brisket.

juicy brisket, sliced brisket, bbq brisket,
Black gold! Dark and smoky on the exterior, tender and juicy on the inside.
sliced beef brisket, smoked brisket, big green egg brisket, kamado brisket

dried chiles, aji panca
The Jamison's recipe called for dried New Mexico chiles but I used up what I had on hand, namely; aji panca chiles, Hatch chile pieces, and Hungarian chiles. 

fire toasted chiles
In the book, the advise to cook in a pan with oil but I wanted to use fire instead.  This went quickly and the chiles were fragrant.

grill dome red chile sauce
I got my Grill Dome stable at 350°f` and then while sauteing the onions/garlic, a shut the lower vent down some as shown to keep the temps down.  Going in and out of the grill to stir lets more air in and makes your temps rise, so you have to adjust.

I seasoned the onions with 1/2 teaspoon of the season salt.  It all ends up in the same dish and I think seasoning the onions as they cook makes them better in the final dish.  I use Meat Church Season All as my go to season salt.

Our mix was thick, almost like a paste.  We used 8 oz by weight, like their recipe called for, but theirs were whole and over half of ours were dried pieces of chile so there wasn't the waste of seeds and stems. No worries, we just thinned it with water until we got the desired consistency.

tamale chile sauce, brisket tamale
Smelled so good!

homemade tamales
You get better with practice, it's more one of those "by feel" kind of things rather than strict measurements.

how to cook tamales at home
Stacked and ready to go.

bbq brisket tamales, beef tamales
I had pinto beans to go with these but these took so long, I got hungry and ate the beans.  Oops.
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