October 1, 2010 7:00 PM
Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce
POSTED IN: Recipes , Main Courses
TAGS: Black , Brisket , Chile , Chili , Chilies , Food , Mexican , Negro , New Mexico , Pasilla , Stew , Tomatillo
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This is by far, the best brisket I've ever had.

The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.

It's become the trump card I pull out for guests that love unusual and authentic flavors from Mexico. The best part of it is, the hardest part about making it, is waiting for the brisket to cook on its own. 

I first tried a version of it in Santa Fé de la Laguna, Michoacán. A popular dish in that region, it goes by the name of Carne Enchilada. A young and knowledgeable Purépecha cook, Berenice Flores, showed me how to make it at her home. When my whole family sat down to eat it, we kept asking her for more corn tortillas to wipe the sauce clean off the plates.

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In Michoacán its typically made with pork, but when I got back home to DC, I couldn't resist trying it with brisket. As well as adding a layer of seasoned onion to the sauce.

When Cecilia Ramos, Executive Director for Mexico and the Dominican Republic at the IADB, invited me to cook an authentic Mexican menu for the monthly Board of Directors, the first thing that popped into my mind was this dish.

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The sauce has a base of two exemplary Mexican ingredients that are now widely available in the US.

First, Pasilla or Black chiles, which are the dried Chilaca chiles, by far the most common chiles grown and used in Michoacán. Their flavor is earthy, a bit bitter and slightly spicy.

If you don't find Pasillas, you can substitute with New Mexico chiles.

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Secondly, the Tomatillos, with their singular tasty tartness. The combination of the Pasillas and the Tomatillos is so good, its even hard to describe.    


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Aside from having a lot of fun planning the menu, cooking at the kitchens of the IADB under the expert guidance of Chef Craig Psulgi was quite a ride.

Forget about the facility: It's any cook's dream. What's more, the cooking team he directs is a group of international hard working people with the friendliest of dispositions.   

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They are used to making all sorts of Latin American meals, focusing on different national cuisines to satiate the cravings of the multicultural staff from the IADB. Thus making a unique Mexican menu at the IADB is one big challenge.

In the end, what I really wanted, was to make the Mexican patrons there feel back at home. 

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Though I had thought of a full menu, I didn't consider the appetizer for the pre-lunch hour. Since they had some beautiful shrimp, we came up with a tasty appetizer: quickly sauteed shrimp on top of a brioche toast, smothered with an easy avocado cream, topped with a spicy red bell pepper sauce.

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For the salad, we had watercress and spinach with a Jamaica vinaigrette.

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We offered a choice between Pasilla and Tomatillo brisket and an Acapulco style fish. Both with a side of a comfy Mexican rice and a pickled chayote side (sorry about the photo with the fluorescent lighting of the professional kitchen...)

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Yes there is always one or another kind of drama in the kitchen.

We almost dropped the entire tray with all of the brisket on the floor.

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Chef Psulgi caught it just on time.

And with that extra adrenaline rush, plating away we went.

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Always have to put a finishing touch in there...

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The waiters, I must say, were quite patient and helpful.

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And right before the luncheon started, I was invited to step out to describe what it was that they were all about to eat, that was on their menus...

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I'm happy to say that everyone seemed to love the brisket. Yes. Even the ones who opted for fish, because I insisted they try the brisket too...


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For dessert we offered black and white Tres Leches Cake..

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Because it was a soothing end, for the feast of flavors that came beforehand...

Makes 6 to 8 servings

3 pounds trimmed brisket of beef, rinsed and cut into about 2-inch chunks (leave some fat on!)
5 garlic cloves, peeled
5 peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided (plus more to taste)
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
3 ounces black or pasilla chiles, (may sub for New Mexico) stems and seeds removed
3 tablespoons corn or safflower oil
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1 cup boiling water
2 cups meat cooking liquid
chopped white onion and cilantro leaves(optional garnish)

Place meat chunks in a large cooking pot along with 5 garlic cloves, peppercorns and salt. Cover with water, bring to a boil, cover partially and simmer over medium heat for 3 hours, or until meat is very soft. Drain and reserve 2 cups of its cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, char or roast the tomatillos on a baking sheet under the broiler, or directly on the comal or dry skillet or grill over medium heat, for about 10 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times. Tomatillos are ready when their skin is blistered and lightly charred, and their flesh is soft, mushy and juicy.

Toast chiles on a hot comal or dry skillet over-medium heat for 5 to 10 seconds per side. Chiles will release their aroma and become more pliable, and their inner skin will become a bit opaque. Don't let them burn.

Place toasted chiles and roasted or charred tomatillos in a bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water and 2 cups of reserved meat cooking liquid (if you don't have 2 cups, add more water). Let this mixture soak for at least a half-hour and up to 4 hours. Pour the mixture into the blender or food processor, puree until smooth and reserve.

And 3 tablespoons of corn or safflower oil to the same pot in which meat was cooked, and heat over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add cooked meat chunks and brown them, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add the chopped onion, and stir as you continue to brown the meat for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Incorporate pureed chile mixture and a teaspoon of salt. Stir and simmer over medium heat for about 10 more minutes. The meat should be completely tender, yet still in chunks. The sauce should be think enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, but not pasty.Taste for salt and add more if need be.To serve, you can garnish with some raw chopped onion and cilantro leaves.

If there is any meat left over, you can cool, store and refrigerate it in a closed contained and then reheat, covered over a low simmer.


Pati, you delight me. I really want to try this out, this looks so good!

Lauren | October 4, 2010 10:16 AM

Wow! Everything looks beautiful! Thanks for the brisket recipe!

Adelina | October 5, 2010 4:10 PM

Why thank you Lauren! Give it a try, its really worth it.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Lauren | October 6, 2010 10:58 AM

My pleasure ; )

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Adelina | October 6, 2010 10:59 AM

It looks delicioso!!! Glad the tray didn't fall -- love your expression :)

Yvette Marquez | October 7, 2010 3:19 AM

I was VERY glad the tray didn't fall too!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Yvette Marquez | October 7, 2010 9:46 AM

This looks amazing and I can't wait to try it! I noticed the black tres leches cake you served for dessert... do you have the recipe for that?? I have made your tres leches cake and love it. Thanks for your wonderful website!

Judy Tyler | October 19, 2010 9:52 PM

Thank you Judy!
All you need for that dark chocolate version is to turn that vanilla sauce into a chocolate one ; ) Just simmer it with about 6 to 9 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and let it cool before you pour it onto the cake!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Judy Tyler | October 19, 2010 10:21 PM

Quiero hacer esto esta semana, pero no estoy segura qué carne de res comprar en México. ¿Qué crees que me conviene :Pecho o falda?

mmm, también quiero hacer tu postre! yum yum!

Sandra | November 16, 2010 10:37 AM

Sanduch! Los dos funcionan! Pecho o Falda. Me cuentas que tal te quedo??

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Sandra | November 16, 2010 1:24 PM

Pati.....This recipe makes my mouth water, I hope it is ok to post to my Facebook page??? My good friend wants me to make for our Girls Day...

Many thanks in advance,
Donna Wasserstein...;)

Donna Wasserstein | December 6, 2010 10:52 PM


Pati Jinich replied to comment from Donna Wasserstein | December 7, 2010 2:20 PM

would canned tomatillos taste bad or is it better to use fresh? i have this big can of tomatillos i don't know what to do with!

ricanhavoc | January 16, 2011 6:40 PM

Well, if you have the canned, you may want to rinse them well before you use them and not let them go to waste... But truth is, it tastes much better when they are cooked from fresh.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from ricanhavoc | January 17, 2011 1:04 PM

My girlfriend made this for me one night, and yes, it is indeed by far the best brisket I have ever had. Thank you so much for the recipe, and good call on insisting that everyone at the Luncheon try this. ¡Que rico!

G | January 17, 2011 5:42 PM

Hi G,
So glad you liked it!!!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from G | January 18, 2011 1:08 PM

I made this the other night and it was truly delicious. Thanks for sharing!

Alicia | April 6, 2011 10:53 AM

I found your show on my local PBS station here in Dallas (KERA) this morning, and my wife and I loved it. This brisket recipe looks great and I can't wait to try it. Question: Would using a slow cooker to cook the brisket work just as well as a large pot? Thank you.

John P. | April 23, 2011 1:52 PM

Chicken in tomatillo, chipotle and brown sugar sauce was delicious. But the sauce didn't thicken. Is it because I used a dutch oven? I agree with other fans that I could use help with suggestions for other dishes to accompany the entree.

But I love the music you use for the cooking show. How about the name of the opening piece, "Dame, dame, dame el piloncillo..." and the artist? I think your music selection and volume are just right for the food you present!

Thank you for the delicious dinner and the food knowledge.

Susan | April 25, 2011 12:29 AM

I love your show because you have such a pleasant way of
explaining things its very warm and inviting,I cant wait to
try this brisket recipe it looks delicious!! Thank you

Yesenia | April 25, 2011 1:39 AM

This recipe sounds delicious. I will definitely be making this soon. Thanks for celebrating our Mexican kitchen. I love these flavors and am always looking for a new way to incorporate them into my cooking. I usually ask my mom for recipes but now I have you to go to as well. I saw your show and love how you speak about our ingredients. Your passion really comes through.

Bertha | April 25, 2011 2:44 AM

Thank you for making cooking seem so simple and such a joy, I enjoyed watching your show very much ♥ Just keep on being you!

Reem | April 30, 2011 4:27 PM

Hey Susan,
I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe, sorry the sauce didn't thicken enough! Did you keep the lid on the dutch oven while it simmered? The recipe comes out best if you allow the sauce to simmer for a long time uncovered. That allows the sauce to concentrate and it will deepen in color as it thickens. And it's great to hear you enjoyed the music from the show. The theme song is called "Dame" and is by Domingo Siete. Thanks for the comments!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Susan | May 11, 2011 3:44 PM

Hola John,
It's so nice to hear that you are enjoying the show! You can definitely use a slow cooker to make the brisket. It should work just as well as a large pot. Hope you enjoy it!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from John P. | May 12, 2011 11:19 AM

Hola Bertha,
Aww that is so sweet of you to say! Enjoy the brisket! I hope you find it to be as tasty as your mom's recipes.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Bertha | May 13, 2011 11:23 AM

The music I heard on the show was not Mexican, it was Cuban son and Montuno(great stuff, though)

Phil Garonzik replied to comment from Susan | June 22, 2011 1:51 AM

Pati, I saw your show for the first time this afternoon and loved it! You really have a way with words to make a person want to get in their kitchen and start cooking those delicious recipes. From now on I will be a regular viewer of your show on Sat. afternoons!
Thank you

Lupe | July 23, 2011 9:15 PM

Hola Lupe, You are too kind. I'm so happy that you enjoyed the show. Keep cooking till your heart is content!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Lupe | July 26, 2011 11:33 AM

THank you so much for this recipe. I love Mexican food and - living in Germany - have first grown my own tomatillos this year as they're not available here. Now I have a big crop to use up and this recipe will be a keeper. It's easy to do, it contains beef and even people who generally find chili too hot loved this. No one guessed the tang came from tomatillos, not vinegar.
Wish your show'd be on television here...
THanks again, Susanne
Susanne | September 12, 2011 2:59 AM | Reply

Susanne | September 12, 2011 3:00 AM

Hola Susanne,
That is so exciting you are living in Germany....and growing tomatillos! Fresh tomatillos are the best. I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe, and I have more tomatillo recipes on the website if you are looking for new ideas for your crop :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Susanne | September 12, 2011 3:24 PM

Do you think if I make it with Pork Brisket and maybe a little less tomatillo, it could still work? For dietary restrictions, my husband can't eat tomatoes, but we'e dying to try this recipe.....By the way, he is homebound and loves your show. Calls me at work to print the recipes and try them later....Yummy...

Becky S. | October 5, 2011 2:59 PM

Hi Becky, I am so happy you and your husband enjoy the show and recipes. Yes, of course you can use pork but the tomatillos are harder to substitute and are essential to this recipe. I would not recommend changing the amount of tomatillos. However, I have another recipe for you to try where you do not have to worry about dietary restrictions and is equally delicious! It is seared duck breast with hibiscus flower and orange sauce, but you can use whatever meat or poultry you like. You can find the recipe here Please let me know if you have any more questions :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Becky S. | October 6, 2011 2:06 PM

Pati, made this for my husband earlier this week and he would not stop complimenting me! Thank you Pati's Mexican Table!!!

Cindy | October 13, 2011 12:07 PM

Hola, Pati! Yo hice esta receta hoy para mi familia y yo. Todo era fabuloso pero despues tres horas de coccion de la carne todavia parecia un poco dura. Yo he tenido esta problem antes con la carne. Yo estoy usando la carne para desmechada de que puedo comprar en el mercado cerca de mi casa. Yo creo que la proxima vez que puedo tratar esta receta yo voy a usar mi crock pot. Cuales son sus reccomendaciones para carne mas tierna. Y tambien yo tengo que decir que la salsa con los tomatillos fue muy deliciosa. mi papa no podia dejar de comerlo. entonces mucha gracia para su ayuda. cioa! -Evie

Evie | November 13, 2011 9:20 PM

I just made this - and I doubled the sauce. So delicious! Thank you so much for posting this!

Michele Joyce | January 23, 2012 5:32 PM

So glad you loved the sauce Michele!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Michele Joyce | January 25, 2012 3:36 PM

Can you give instructions for pickling the chayote?

brenda | April 16, 2012 10:05 AM

I will actually be posting a recipe soon Brenda for Pickled Chayote!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from brenda | April 19, 2012 11:29 AM

I made this over the weekend and it was absolutely delicious. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

Laura @ Blogging Over Thyme | August 23, 2012 8:26 PM

My pleasure, we just had it for dinner this past Friday night...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Laura @ Blogging Over Thyme | August 26, 2012 9:44 PM

I find myself wondering if one could pressure cook the brisket instead of the 3 hr cooking on the stove top and still have it turn out as good.

Dennis Rockwell | October 19, 2012 2:32 PM

Dennis - Yes, of course! About 40 minutes in a pressure cooker for the brisket. Just be careful with the pressure cooker!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Dennis Rockwell | November 5, 2012 4:47 PM

Hi Pati,

My mom and I are big fans! I was wondering what kind of liquid did you mean in your ingredient list for "2 cups of meat cooking liquid"? Is it just water or a beef broth?

Melanie Ojeda | November 16, 2012 1:25 AM

Hola Melanie, The meat cooking liquid is the water reserved after you boil the meat (refer to the first paragraph in the procedure). I hope that clears it up. Thank you for sending me your question!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Melanie Ojeda | November 29, 2012 1:30 PM