Brisket-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Bone Broth and Cotija Cheese

I really wish I'd come up with this recipe. It's really very simple, so basic when you look at the components of it, that it's a wonder a million of us didn't come up with it. If this dish looks and/or sounds even vaguely familiar to you, it's because I wrote about it on a recent food-crawl through Texas last fall. You may remember I penned quite animatedly about how much I loved this small plate showcased at Ft. Worth's Woodshed Smokehouse. You can read about it here ...

The Woodshed is not Tim Love's first and only restaurant, he's the mad scientist behind more than a few Texas eateries winning acclaim. His "freewheeling personality" has obviously led to his innovative urban cuisine and these brisket-stuffed peppers are a perfect example of that. I've been longing to recreate this dish since I had it last October, but piquillo peppers aren't easy to come by in Page, AZ (I picked up four bottles at Whole Foods in Las Vegas), and other recipes always seemed to get in the way.

Before I get much further, I will admit to you that this is a total cheater's dish. What I mean by that is a) I did not create it (alas!) and b) I did not smoke my own brisket (shock and awe!). I do not, as of yet, own a smoker, though I am attempting to smoke some smallish recipes with an indoor/stovetop smoker - I'll keep you posted on that. No, I did not smoke the brisket, but I obtained a pound already smoked and chopped for me at our local BBQ joint, Big Texas John's BBQ. It was way too easy to just saunter in, place my order, and saunter out. I promise one day I'll tackle barbecued brisket. Just not today :).

Piquillo peppers are sweet, wood-roasted peppers imported from Spain and they make the perfect little pocket for holding chunks of tender, juicy brisket. Simply withdraw from the jar, drain the juices away from it and stuff the little pepper with brisket. Don't let the "bone broth" scare you off, either. Bone broth is really just home-made broth made from animal bones. You can make yours with pork, beef or chicken bones. I'd purchased my brisket a day earlier and used my homemade broth to gently warm the cold brisket in. The smokiness from the meat gently leached into the broth and while I'll admit this dish is a cheat, it wasn't too far off from the bone broth I enjoyed at Woodshed. You really could go all out here and make broth out of smoked bones if you want a more intense smoky flavor out of this dish. Don't let me hold you back!

After the meat was warmed, I stuffed each pepper then drizzled the bone broth over them. I sprinkled the dish with Cotija cheese (a hard cow's milk cheese originating in Mexico -  but really, you could use anything here that you enjoy) and then slid the dish under the broiler for a few minutes. These will brown quickly so keep your eyes on them - you're not cooking anything here, just broiling the cheese and the tops of the peppers. I enjoyed my peppers with a sprinkling of roughly-chopped, peppery arugula leaves.

If you're looking for recipes for a tapas party, this one needs to be among them. So simple, so much flavor, so get busy already!