Cayenne is a red or green hot chili pepper used to flavor chile food dishes and is also used for medicinal purposes. Named for the city of Cayenne in French Guiana, it is a cultivar of Capsicum annuum related to bell peppers, jalapeños, and others.
FOR THE DRY RUB:
2 cups dried red chilies, such as cayenne
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
FOR THE PASTE:
2 tablespoons palm or brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
20 garlic cloves, peeled
10 small shallots, peeled
2 inches young fresh ginger, peeled
1/4 cup well-stirred coconut milk, preferably Aroy-D brand
FOR THE BRISKET:
1 whole untrimmed brisket (about 12 pounds)
Serves 12 to 14
MAKE THE DRY RUB
In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the dried chilies until they take on a dark color, pressing them down with a wooden spoon to increase contact with the pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to inhale over the toasting chilies. Transfer them to a plate, then toast the peppercorns, swirling and shaking them until they crackle lightly and release their aromas, about 3 minutes.
Working in batches, grind the dried chilies and black peppercorns to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Stir in the lime zest. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, mix in the salt, and set it aside.
MAKE THE PASTE:
In a food processor, combine the palm sugar, fish sauce, garlic, shallots, and young ginger. Pulse to a paste, then add the coconut milk and pulse more to smooth it out. Transfer the paste to a bowl and set it aside.
MARINATE THE BRISKET
Put the brisket in a deep container and rub on the dry rub. Make sure to coat it thoroughly.
Next rub all of the paste on every part of the seasoned brisket. Cover the container and refrigerate for at least 24 and up to 48 hours.
COOK THE BRISKET
Preheat a smoker to 190°F. Remember, you’re using a nice local hardwood but no pine, cedar, hickory, or mesquite, which will overpower the flavors in this dish.
Smoke the brisket for 12 to 14 hours, monitoring the temperature the whole time and doing what you can to keep it within 10 degrees of the target temp of 190°F. At 10 hours, and every hour thereafter, check the beef with a skewer. The brisket is done as soon as the skewer goes in and out easily and when you get a jiggle that’s borderline erotic upon poking the brisket with a finger. Or, fine, when it’s around 150°F in the lean, flat part of the brisket. This is not your Jewish grandma’s brisket, so don’t expect it to fall apart.
Using some large, flat spatulas, remove the brisket from the smoker. Let the meat sit untouched for at least 20 minutes before carving and devouring in order to give the brisket some time to reabsorb its juicy juices.
Whole, untrimmed brisket means don’t let anyone cut off the fatty deckle and leave you with only the anorexic lean (or flat).
You should be using a nice hardwood that’s local. Don’t use pine, cedar, hickory, or mesquite as the brisket will be in the smoker for a long time and the scents from those woods are so strong that they will overpower the flavor of the meat and seasonings.