TACOS DE BARBACOA
Having grown up in the Bay Area, I’m pretty accustomed to eating some damn good Mexican food. As a true fan of the cuisine, I consider myself blessed to live within minutes of the birthplace of the original Mission-style burrito. So, with some of the best taquerías in the entire state literally moments from my apartment, it’s with great embarrassment that I am here to say I enjoy eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill every once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I would NEVER pass up a burrito from one of my favorite joints here in town, but when I find myself craving some good barbacoa, I always know where I can find some.
Even though we have a taquería on every corner here in San Francisco serving mounds of carnitas, al pastor, chile verde and carne asada, very few in fact offer a version of this dish. Good barbacoa is succulent beef that is slow-simmered in a spicy broth flavored with tangy lime juice, smoky chipotle chiles and plenty of garlic until it’s practically falling apart. Seasoned with just the right amount of herbs, vinegar and salt, Chipotle’s come pretty darn close to some of the best I’ve ever eaten. So, cobbled together from a few imposter recipes and knock-offs floating around the internet, along with some good, old-fashioned cooking know-how, I am here to offer my rendition of the barbacoa I’ve come to love from this massive chain restaurant . I typically have them throw the stuff in a burrito at the restaurant, but here I serve it in authentic Mexican fashion, mounded up on a griddled tortilla and topped with diced white onion, plenty of cilantro and a lime wedge for squeezing over the top. Pass some good bottled hot sauce or some avocado-tomatillo salsa for another great accompaniment or whip up a batch of cochinita pibil or chile-braised pork and throw a taco party.
TACOS DE BARBACOA
Slow-braising the beef is the essence of this simple recipe. After you’ve made the adobo sauce in a food processor or blender, make sure you dry all sides of the beef chuck before adding them to the oil in the pot. I like to take my time when searing beef like chuck or short-ribs for braises. Take care to brown the beef evenly without scorching or burning the fond at the bottom of the pot as this will contribute bitterness to the dish while it is simmering. If necessary, I’ll brown the beef in two batches if I don’t have enough room to accommodate high heat searing without running the risk of steaming the meat its own juices. Before placing the lid on the pot, cover it tightly with tin foil to create a nice seal — this will aid in the loss of moisture and liquid reduction over the long braising process. Check the meat after a few hours or so to make sure there is sufficient moisture in the pot and add more stock if necessary to come about 1/3 of the way up the side of the beef. This dish can be completed through step 4 and refrigerated overnight. If you decide to go down that route, store the meat separately from any leftover braising liquid and reheat them together over low heat before serving.
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 3-4 canned chipotle chiles
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt or 3 teaspoons Kosher
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 pounds boneless chuck roast, excess fat removed
- 3/4 cup chicken broth, plus more as needed
- 3 bay leaves
- 20 warm corn tortillas
- Diced white onion, chopped cilantro and lime wedges for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 275°.
- Combine the cider vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, clove, black pepper and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth — about a minute or so. Transfer the spice paste to a bowl and set aside.
- Dry the roast all over with paper towels, cut away any excess fat and slice the meat into 4 evenly sized pieces. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a very large pot set over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Working in batches if necessary, sear the beef on all sides until deeply browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add the chile puree to the pot and stir until the beef is well-coated. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the lid with tin foil and add the lid to create a very tight seal. Place the pot in the oven and braise the meat for 5-6 hours, removing the lid during the last hour or so to allow the simmering liquid to reduce slightly. Allow the beef to cool slightly, spoon off any easily removable fat from the braising liquid and then use two forks to pull/shred the beef into bite size pieces.
- Taste and adjust as necessary for seasonings. Serve spooned onto warm corn tortillas topped with diced white onion, chopped cilantro and lime wedges for garnish.
Makes about 20 tacos