• 2 – 3 pounds beef brisket or flank steak
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 – 3 dried red chiles or a teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • a handful of celery, fennel, and or parsley tops
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper or 2 cubanelle peppers, chopped
  • 1 – 3 hot green chiles, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 – 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place beef in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with a cover. Add the peppercorns, salt, red chiles, aromatic greens, and a bay leaf and cover with cold water by at least 2 inches. Bring to a simmer slowly, then cover and cook on as low a flame as possible for 3 hours for the flank steak, 4 for the brisket. Turn off the heat and allow the meat to cool in the stock. (You can seal it up in a container, covered in stock, and store it in the fridge for a few days like this, if convenient, before doing the final steps.)

Heat the olive oil in a large high-sided skillet, or that same dutch oven, over medium heat. Fry the onion for a minute, let it cook slowly until translucent, decreasing the heat as necessary. Add the pepper, green chiles, and garlic, along with a scatter of salt, and continue frying until all are well wilted and smelling great. Don’t really let in brown much. Add the tomatoes and sherry, and bring to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes on medium-low, or until reduced to a sauce consistency.

Meanwhile, shred the beef by hand into thready fibers, reserving the stock. (Cut it across the grain first so that the shreds come out around 2 inches or so in length.) Don’t be frightened if it’s a bit resistant—especially if the meat is chilled—just show it who’s boss. Discard anything you wouldn’t consider eating, but slice up any marginal bits and add them to the mix for more flavor and texture. Add the meat, along with 1 cup of the reserved broth, to the sauce. Stir well, cover and simmer on low heat for 30 more minutes.

Taste for salt and season with pepper. At this stage, too, you can store it, sealed up in the fridge, for a couple days, and as you might imagine, it only improves. Serve piping hot alongside rice and fried plantains, and a nice cold drink.

-PM