Homemade tortillas, smoked brisket tacos & a trip to Texas

Smoked brisket tacos on homemade tortillas

Smoked brisket tacos on homemade tortillas

My mind is on BBQ, Tex-Mex and tacos.

This could be because my husband and I will soon be traveling to Austin for a week to eat and drink our way through the city. (Hello Franklin Barbecue — we’re coming for you!)

Or it could be because of Podnah’s Pit — a Portland BBQ institution that within the last few years opened La Taq, their sister restaurant. La Taq specializes in seriously tasty Tex-Mex and is responsible for introducing my husband and me to a previously unknown form of deliciousness: smoked brisket tacos.

Ever since January, when we first dined there, my husband has been dreaming of them. In fact he’s already slipped away once without me to indulge in a late-night taco fest. Not that I’m bitter. Well I would be but he was smart enough to bring me home a chicken sopa.

A few weeks ago I found myself at home with the remainder of my bag of masa and a pound of smoked brisket (bought straight from Podnah’s). It seemed like the kitchen gods had a plan for me!

I wasn’t doing to totally replicate the La Taq taco, but I did want to try my own hand at making a smoked brisket taco. I started with the accoutrements. First up was some pickled corn relish, a treat I made for the first time last summer. It’s super easy to whip up and adds zing and kick to just about anything.

Pickled Corn Relish

Pickled Corn Relish

Next I made a simple cabbage slaw with sliced green cabbage, green onions, lime juice and a touch of plain Greek yogurt.

Cabbage Slaw & Pickled Corn Relish

Cabbage Slaw & Pickled Corn Relish

Then it was on to making my very first tortillas ever, something I was SO excited about. I’m kind of a food nerd like that.

I was doing some recipe research when I got hit by a wave of inspiration. When I made pupusas with masa and water (basically the same recipe for corn tortillas) I thought the dough was a little bland, even with a good sprinkling of salt. I started wondering what would happen if I mixed the masa with stock instead.

While my initial investigation didn’t turn up any recipes using chicken stock, I did find one that blew my mind in terms of “why didn’t I think of that?!”

Aptly titled “Double Corn Tortillas,” the recipe called for mixing the masa with corn stock.


After all – I had two lovely cobs from making the corn relish. I tossed them in some water with onions and let the mixture simmer for an hour or so. Once it was drained and cooled, I added it to my masa and mixed up the dough.

From that point on, tortillas are a super easy thing to make. Roll into dough balls, squish inside a tortilla press (use plastic wrap to keep them from tearing or sticking) and then cook in a hot pan. The Double Corn Tortilla recipe also gave me a good piece of advice — when cooking the tortillas you want them to puff. This will only happen if your pan is hot enough (but don’t get it too hot or the tortillas will burn). The puffing separates the top and bottom of the tortilla making it more pliable and less likely to break.

To get the ideal “puff” the recipe calls for using two pans — one at a lower heat to begin with, and a second one at a high heat to finish the tortillas in. Worked like a charm!

Once I had a pile of fresh, warm tortillas, it was time to feast!

Homemade Corn Tortillas

DSC_4246 DSC_4247

It was so good! Exactly what I had been craving. The smoke from the brisket adds a lovely flavor to the taco and the crunch from the slaw brings the texture. And my first batch of tortillas were also super good — I’m going to be making corn stock all summer!

15 thoughts on “Homemade tortillas, smoked brisket tacos & a trip to Texas

  1. There’s all kinds of crazy mash-up tacos going on here in L.A. (it all began w/ Roy Choi’s Korean short rib tacos). But smoked brisket tacos, mmmm. Good job on the tortillas, BTW — they look beautiful.

    • Thanks! It was fun to make them and now that I have a few batches under my belt, I feel pretty confident about being able to whip them up. I also love me some korean tacos – we have a popular food cart in PDX, koi fusion, that makes them. Though I’d love to taste Choi’s since he’s the original. I bet they are great after a night of drinking!

  2. Never got to eat at Podnah’s and now I’m regretting it. The tortillas look perfect – something I still have not ventured to make, though you make it look easy enough for me to reconsider. Your cabbage slaw and corn relish look like great accompaniments to the taco. I think you hit this one out of the ballpark!

    • Podnah’s is super good — their ribs are so tender and delicious. Well worth a visit if you come back to PDX. And I have owned a tortilla press for over a year so at least I feel like now it deserves the space it takes up! The flavor and texture of homemade tortillas really can’t be beat.

  3. What a beautiful post and lovely photographs. For Mexican food, I love this certain family restaurant here in Sacramento because they treat me like family. Plus, like you, they go the extra mile and make their own tortillas. Who wants the cookie cutter stuff when someone goes to the trouble to make homemade tortillas? I admire the effort.

    • I love homemade tortillas too. And it’s certainly more of an effort if you’re making hundreds of them a day! We are now in Texas and ate at a popular Tex-Mex food cart that does everything from scratch. They were packed the whole time we were there and one bite of their tacos made it obvious why. So much love in there!

    • Thank you! 🙂 And I kind of just can’t believe that corn stock never dawned on me until I read about it! But what a difference it made — such a simple step that gave such great flavor.

  4. yes to the feast 🙂 It does seem a bit south of the border around here lately! Take that, Taco John 😉 It all looks delish, J.

    • Thanks! We have now finished our second day in Austin and I have to say I could get used to it here: we’ve already eaten so many good tacos, drank such good local beer and are enjoying the 90 degree heat. Not a bad life!

  5. Pingback: Homemade Tamales: Good things come to those who wait | Attempts in Domesticity

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