This year, I took over the Mother’s Day hosting duties and had the family over for a Mexican-inspired lunch. For some time now and inspired by shows on TV about food trucks, I wanted to try a shredded beef filling for tacos. Although I love short ribs and considered splurging on some, I decided to go with boneless beef stew instead. The method I followed is the classic preparation for braises: brown the meat, deglace the pan, submerge in yummy liquids and aromatics, and cook long and slow. The broth that this recipe produced is the best beef soup base I’ve ever had. Whatever you do, please don’t throw these magic leftovers out! Next time I make this, I’m definitely reserving all the liquid and some of the beef to make a hearty soup with potatoes, carrots and rice.
In addition to the braised beef, our taco bar included two types of refried beans: black with chorizo, and pink with bacon and onions (Mama’s recipe). We also had pork carnitas I bought from my neighborhood taqueria, BiL’s guacamole, MiL’s bean and corn salad, and Sister’s mini lemon tarts for dessert. The mothers enjoyed themselves, even though I wouldn’t let them get anywhere near the sink and the dishwasher! I insisted that I could handle the cleanup by myself, especially on Mothers’ Day… but then again they wouldn’t be Mama and MiL (and Sister) if they didn’t offer to help.
A sample of some of our taco fixings (guacamole, bean salad, and pink refried beans). I finally got to use the cookie cutters my friend Maribel got me for Easter!
GF 360° Braised Beef Tacos
For every pound of meat, combine in the food processor:
- 1/2 small onion
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1/3 poblano pepper (seeds/ribs removed this time around)
- 1 oregano brujo leaf (1/4 teaspoon dried oregano would work too)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Let the meat marinate overnight. The vinegar will help tenderize the beef chunks, which facilitates the shredding process that results in a melt-in-your-mouth taco.
(based on three and a half pounds of beef)
- 1/2 head of garlic, chopped across unpeeled
- 1 pound pearl onions, unpeeled
- 1/2 poblano pepper, seeds and ribs removed
Roast all aromatics in a cookie sheet for 35 minutes at 400F°. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel onions but leave the garlic intact.
- 3.5 pounds beef stew chunks
- Canola or grapeseed oil for searing beef
- 1 32 oz. box beef stock
- 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- Couple of glugs of red wine vinegar
- Roasted aromatics
Preheat oven to 325F°.
Remove beef from marinade (to be discarded) and dry the chunks as best as you can with paper towls. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high flame and once it is hot, sear the beef on all sides, working in batches. Regulate the heat as needed to ensure that the pan drippings/crud at the bottom don’t scorch.
After all the beef is cooked, add tomatoes with their liquid, and deglace the pan for a couple of minutes, really working off the browned bits. Add back to the pot the beef, the peeled onions, the halved garlic head and poblano pepper, and cover everything with the beef stock. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Transfer the Dutch oven to the oven, and cook for 2.5 to 3 hours, until meat breaks up easily. I took the meat out of the oven at two hours and it wasn’t soft enough – it definitely benefited from the additional time in the oven. I loved this recipe, and would love to work around it to get more spice into the meat. I was too cautious thinking of the people with limited heat tolerance.