Pastrami tacos. Is this even a thing? What does that even mean? Wait, isn’t pastrami more Jewish deli and less Mexican street food? Though I understand these thoughts, as I had them myself when I first saw this recipe, it actually excited me. Here’s a cookbook that is not afraid to explore, evolve, and expand our own understandings and flavors. But hey, it’s not authentic Mexican! That might be true. Then again it might not. I am not saying pastrami is a Mexican creation. What I am saying is that I echo the sentiments of Alex Stupak in “Tacos” that calling something authentic is to limit it, to say it can not grow, evolve, or change, and that simply isn’t how food have ever worked in human history.
This leads us to the question, what is a Taco? Simply put it’s a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. That’s exactly what this pastrami taco is. Not only that but it showcases that a taco might be better than the sandwich. Being able to wrap or roll the bread around the filling better contains it. It gives it a better bread to filling ratio. So why not have fun with it. Why not have fun with your foods. Most of us are a result of a combination of cultural backgrounds so why not find ways to bring all that together and share out loves and passions around food with other cultures and see how they can come together and make something even more amazing like a pastrami taco.
I have blogged in the past about my Jewish heritage. I don’t know if somewhere deep in my DNA I have a preference for certain flavors or preparations but somewhere I connect to pastrami. Corned beef is fine and in making it they start the same way but a good pastrami makes me smile. From the deep red flesh to the dark black spicy crust, pastrami has a lot to say and in my opinion is the perfect sandwich meat.
When digging through The Gefilte Manifesto I discovered a recipe on how to make pastrami at home. I must say I am VERY excited to do this but it takes a week to brine and it needs attention every day so it will have to wait. However when I came across Pastrami Tacos in “Tacos: Recipes and Provocations” I was intrigued. This recipe didn’t use brisket instead it used boneless short ribs. It also only required brining for 3 days to a week. Then as I read the recipe I discovered that the cooking technique was much simpler so I thought this would be a good first run at making homemade pastrami.
FOR THE PASTRAMI:
- 120 grams Kosher Salt
- 146 grams Dark Brown Sugar
- 22 grams Pink Curing Salt #1
- 21 grams Honey
In a small saucepan add 48 fl ounces of water and all the brining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and immediately remove from the heat. Pour the contents into a bowl to cool. Once cool, cover and put it in the fridge to chill.
- 2 pounds Boneless Short Ribs (country ribs)
Place the short ribs into a medium bowl that either has a lid or your can secure with plastic wrap well and tight. Pour the chilled brine over and cover. Place in the fridge. Brine for 3 days to a week.
Finally it’s time to make pastrami!
- 34 grams Black Peppercorns
- 18 grams Coriander Seeds
In a frypan over medium heat toast the seeds until you hear popping and they become aromatic. Remove from the heat and transfer to a spice grinder. Pulse into a fine sandy texture. Carefully open and pour onto a plate.
Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Drain the ribs, rinse under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Place on the plate with the spices and coat the meat completely with the spices. Place the meat into a dutch oven. Pour water around the meat filling half way up the meat. Place in the oven covered and cook for 6 hours. Once an hour check on the meat adding more water ensuring it stays about halfway up the meat.
Remove the meat from the oven place on a cutting board and let rest for 1 hour. Once it’s rested, using 2 forks start scraping the meat until you find the grain of the meat Then working with both forks pull the meat apart at each grain creating strands of pastrami.
FOR THE PICKLED CABBAGE AND MUSTARD SEEDS:
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 Dried Bay Leaf
- 1 tablespoon Black Peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon Coriander Seeds
In the same pan you toasted the spices for the pastrami toast the spices for the pickling liquid. Until smokey and fragrant. (Leave Whole)
- 4 cups Cider Vinegar
- ½ Onion, sliced thinly
- 1 head of Garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
- 2 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Salt
All all the ingredients into a 4 quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer and immediately remove from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes to infuse. Strain out the solids and keep the liquid.
In a small container with a lid add:
- 3 ounces of Mustard Seeds
Pour enough liquid over the mustard seeds to cover.
In a larger container with a lid add:
- ¼ of a Large Green Cabbage, shredded
Pour the remaining liquid over the cabbage. Place a plate over the cabbage to help weigh it down. Let pickle for a minimum of 1 hour or until ready to use.
To assemble the pastrami taco using either corn or flour tortillas place a fork full of the cabbage (let the liquid drain off first). Then add a mound of shredded pastrami.Top with the mustard seeds and some fresh mince onion. Enjoy!