One of the best things to happen to Dallas in the past year is the arrival of HEB grocery stores. Sure, there have been locations in some of the surrounding towns such as Waxahachie and Burleson. But if you live in Dallas or Collin County, these were almost an hour away and not convenient for weekly shopping.
Like any food nerd, when the first Collin County store in Frisco opened, I was there. During its debut week, the lines were around the building. But once you made it inside, the energy was upbeat and friendly in spite of the crowds. Everyone was thrilled to have a Texan icon closer to home.
Soon after, one opened in Plano. Since I live in Dallas, that’s been the one I now shop at weekly. It’s a quick jaunt up the toll road and I get to stock up on items that were either of lesser quality or higher prices at the stores closer to me.
One of the things that I’ve been buying at HEB is briskets. Over the past year, I’ve been learning how to smoke meats on an offset smoker (more on that later), and HEB has a fine selection of packer cuts, ranging from select to Wagyu.
Now, a packer cut of brisket—which is the entire muscle from the cow and includes both the flat and the point—feeds many as the average size is 12 pounds. It’s been fun sharing my cooking bounty with my friends. Though I still get leftovers and in my freezer are various bags filled with smoked beef remnants.
There are many delicious options for using this meat, such as throwing it into beans, stuffing it into tortillas for brisket tacos, and baking up brisket enchiladas. Last summer, this brisket esquites was a popular dish in my home, as well.
On a recent trip to HEB, however, I saw in their freezer section smoked brisket macaroni and cheese. Sure, it would be simple to buy their product, but macaroni and cheese is one of the easiest things you can make. And with some leftover smoked brisket on hand, that part of the equation is sorted, too.
While I have many ways to make macaroni and cheese, for this one I used a blend of American and Cheddar cheeses. This gave the dish a creamy, tangy sauce. The brisket, as you would assume, brings the smoke and a meaty heartiness. To finish, taking my cue from HEB, I topped it with pickled jalapeños. A fine Texan dish, indeed.
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Brisket macaroni and cheese
- 8 ounces dried elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces room temperature smoked brisket, cut into small cubes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded yellow Cheddar
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded American cheese
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch cayenne
- Pickled jalapeño slices, for serving
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil on high, and add the pasta and salt. Cook according to the package’s directions until tender then drain the pasta. Turn off the stove
- Rinse out the pot and then return it to the stove. On medium-low heat, melt the butter then add the onion. While stirring occasionally cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the brisket to the pot, and cook until warm, about a minute or two. Pour in the heavy cream, then add the Cheddar and American cheeses. While stirring, cook until the cheese has melted, about 2-4 minutes.
- Season the sauce with the pepper and cayenne, then return the cooked pasta to the pot. Stir until the pasta is well combined with the cheese sauce, then taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed.
- Serve warm topped with pickled jalapeño slices.