Mexican Birria de Res (Beef Stew)
Makes 12-15 tacos
One of my favorite memories growing up was going to the street market in Mexico City and get the ingredients and watch my Grandmother as she made Birria. Just one of many dishes she did at her home with patience and love.
Birria is a wonderful traditional Mexican dish, originally made with goat meat, but also made with beef, veal, lamb or pork, so be sure you asked what kind of “Birria” you are getting if you go to a restaurant.
Birria de Res; (Beef Birria) is the most popular in the USA as it got much attention on social media and this is the one we will be making on this recipe, this Mexican stew is made of meat braised in an adobo, flavored with dried chiles and herbs. It is also important to know that Birria is usually eaten like a regular stew, in a bowl with a spoon like a soup, not just in Birria tacos and quesatacos. If you go this route, don’t bother shredding the meat. Just break it apart roughly with a spoon as you’re serving it and top it just like your tacos with the cilantro onion and a squeeze of lime and serve it with warm corn tortillas.
Possibly the most important part of Birria de Res is the consomé: the stock. The rich, silky mouthfeel consomé has comes from the collagen that’s released by bones when cooked slowly. It isn’t consomé without it, so If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between broths and stocks, collagen is the answer. Stocks are usually richer than broths, and that’s because bones are a key ingredient for stocks, but not so much for broths.
I normally like toasting the dried chiles before boiling them to make the adobo or any time you use dried chiles for any recipe, this revives their flavor and helps extract even more of it into the final adobo, but be sure not to burn them as they can burn very easy, see it as putting paper on a on a hot skillet, it only takes few minutes to achieve the job.
When boiling the chiles, pile the onion pieces on top to keep the chiles submerged in water.
Toast your chile pods before adding them to the pot to really bring out their flavors and aromas.
To do this, devein and de-seed peppers and place all the chile skins on a large skillet over high heat. Toss them around until the skin starts to become pliable and they are pungent.
I also like to add an additional step to the recipe: after I strain the consomé and shred the meat, I combine them both again and let them cool together, then separate the meat and liquid again later to use for the tacos or whatever. In my head, this helps the meat really absorb the flavors.
These tacos can be crispy or soft, depending on how long you fry them. I like crispy, so I do about 3-4 minutes on each side.
I combine chopped red onion, fresh cilantro, and lime juice to top the tacos. The bite of it really cuts through how heavy this dish can feel.
You’ll likely have tons of Birria leftover. I store the meat and broth separately in the refrigerator for several days and add it to everything from quesadillas, burritos, flautas and more, both freeze really well.
We will break down this recipe in three parts for ingredients and directions, one is the making of the “The Adobo” the main component to flavor a good Birria, secondly, we will do the cooking of the “The Meat” and third the “The Assembly” of the dish.
6 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 dried cascabel chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 large white onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
10 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped peeled fresh ginger
8 cups water, divided
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 thyme sprigs
3 dried bay leaves
1- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium. Add chiles to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer chiles to a large saucepan; add onion, garlic, ginger, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chiles are softened, about 8 minutes. Drain chile mixture; discard cooking liquid.
2- Combine chile mixture, vinegar, salt, black pepper, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, bay leaves, and remaining 2 cups water in a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Process until smooth, about 45 seconds. Let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover and chill until ready to use. You can make the adobo ahead and it can be chilled in an airtight container up to 3 days.
1 (2-pound) boneless chuck roast (about 2 1/4 inches thick)
2 pounds English-cut beef short ribs (about 3 ribs)
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
8 cups water
1- Sprinkle chuck roast and short ribs all over with 2 tablespoons salt. Combine roast, ribs, and adobo in a large nonreactive bowl; toss to coat. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
2- Preheat oven to 300°F. Transfer adobo mixture to a large (9 1/2-quart) Dutch oven; add 8 cups water. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium, stirring occasionally. Cover with lid, and place in preheated oven. Bake until meat is fork- tender, about 4 hours.
3- Remove chuck roast and short ribs from braising broth, and transfer to a large bowl; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Return broth in Dutch oven to heat over medium, and cook, uncovered, skimming off fat as needed, until reduced to about 8 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Season broth with salt to taste. Shred meat; discard bones. Toss meat with 1 1/2 cups of the broth.
1 cup finely chopped white onion, rinsed
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Canola oil, for greasing
32 (6-inch) fresh corn tortillas or 16 packaged corn tortillas
Lime wedges, for serving
1- Stir together onion, cilantro, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl; set aside.
2- Heat a large nonstick electric griddle to 400°F or a large (12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Using a paper towel dipped in canola oil, lightly grease griddle. If using fresh tortillas, stack 2 tortillas, and use tongs to dip them together into adobo broth. (If using packaged tortillas, dip 1 tortilla per taco.) Place stacked tortillas on griddle; top with 1/4 cup meat. Repeat with as many tortilla stacks as will comfortably fit on griddle. Cook until bottom tortilla is lightly browned and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold tacos in half, gently pressing with a spatula. Transfer to a serving plate. Repeat process with oil, adobo broth, remaining tortillas, and remaining meat.
3- Serve tacos hot with onion-cilantro mixture, lime wedges, and remaining adobo broth for dipping or sipping.
Chef Martin Lopez