Do a Double Dip


Seriously, in this case it’s not rude. In fact, when making Birria Tacos, tortillas are dipped in adobo just before they’re griddle-seared to crispness. Later, each guest is supplied with an individual cup of adobo, meant for dunking each taco as desired, thus amplifying the flavor even more. All in due time, though before we reach the happy ending, some introductions are in order.

First of all, in explanation, birria, the name of both the tacos and of the saucy beef mixture they enclose, has been all the rage on the street taco scene for the last few years. Food & Wine picked up on the trend in its April 2020 issue. The secret is in the process, namely, in marinating chuck roast and short ribs overnight in a flavorful adobo, then in braising the meat for hours in the same mix. What emerges is beef so amazingly tender it falls from the bone and shreds with minimal effort.

It all begins with a great adobo, and that sauce in turn draws its character from a trio of dried peppers:

From left to right, the guajillo, the cascabel (in the middle), and the ancho. The day is yours, peppers!

These chilies definitely contribute more flavor than heat, as they’re chosen for a long gentle marinade and simmer. They’re meant to release their nuanced flavors slowly. Moreover, the satisfying complexity is intensified when garlic, onion and other spices join the mix. The adobo takes on a richness and a broth-like appearance after it acts as a braising liquid, but before the heat puts the spurs to it, it’s a deep red:

Of course, the meat joining the party overnight and staying as things heat up, makes the adobo smoother and more savory too. However, instead of discarding the sauce after it does its work, it’s thickened and returned to the table, giving eager eaters one more chance to enjoy its magnificence.

As if the point needed any more emphasis, corn tortillas are submerged in adobo before they go onto the flattop. This sears the flavor into them as they crisp, and it unifies the shell with the beef mixture it contains.. Finally, extra adobo served tableside makes it a trifecta.

Birria originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco, on the Pacific coast west of Mexico City. From there it spread rapidly (with a !) throughout the country, and soon, to taco trucks and to taquerias elsewhere. With good reason. Just, in this case, please disregard the etiquette your parents taught you. You most definitely want to double-dip. In fact, pretty sure it’s illegal not to.

*****

Adobo

  • 6 dried guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 dried ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 dried cascabel chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 1-inch wedges (*1)
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
  • 8 cups water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1-and-1/2 teaspoons freshly-ground pepper
  • 1-and-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (*2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 3 dried bay leaves

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over a medium flame. Add chilies to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer chilies to a large saucepan. Add onion, garlic, ginger and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chilies are softened, about 8 minutes. Drain chili mixture, discarding the cooking liquid.

Combine in a blender the chili mixture, vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, bay leaves and remaining 2 cups of water. Secure the lid, but remove the center piece, allowing steam to escape. Place a clean towel over the opening. Process until smooth, about 45 seconds. Let cool to room temperature, about an hour. Cover and chill until ready to use.

NOTES:

1 – Odd, but I thought the stores had run out of onions, thus I substituted 2 shallots.

2 – Use Mexican oregano if you can find it. It has a brighter, more floral taste that really compliments peppers.

*****

Birria Tacos

  • 1 (2-pound) boneless chuck roast
  • 2 pounds beef short ribs
  • 2 tablespoons, plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • adobo (recipe above)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup finely-chopped white onion, rinsed (*3)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • canola oil, for greasing
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • lime wedges, for serving

Sprinkle chuck roast and short ribs all over with 2 tablespoons of salt. Combine roast, ribs and adobo in a large bowl; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerated at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300°.  Transfer the adobo mixture to a large stockpot and add 8 cups of water.  Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over a medium flame, stirring occasionally.  Cover with a lid and place in the preheated oven.  Bake until the meat is fork-tender, about 4 hours.

Remove the roast and the ribs from the braising broth and transfer to a large bowl.  Cover meat with aluminum foil to keep warm.  Return broth in the stockpot to heat over a medium flame and cook, uncovered.  Skim off fat as needed, until reduced to about 8 cups, 15 to 20 minutes.  Season broth with salt to taste.  Shred meat, discarding bones.  Toss the meat with 1-and-1/2 cups of the broth.

Stir together onion, cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a large non-stick griddle to 400°.  Using a  paper towel dipped in canola oil, lightly grease the griddle.  Using tongs, dip each tortilla into the adobo, allowing it to rest in the sauce for 15 seconds.

Place tortilla on the griddle and top with 1/4 cup of meat.  Cook until the tortilla bottom is crispy and is lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes.  Fold the tacos in half and press gently with a spatula.  Transfer to a serving plate, the repeat with the remaining tortillas and meat.

Serve tacos hot, with onion-cilantro mixture, lime wedges and the remaining adobo broth.

NOTES:

3 – Why do that to a great taco?  Shallots are a much better garnish.

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9 thoughts on “Do a Double Dip

  1. I didn’t know birria was from Jalisco. That’s where my father was born. When I still ate beef, I really enjoyed birria. I loved the tender texture. My husband’s actually making tacos for dinner! It’s Taco Tuesday as I’m reading this. He’s making ours with chicken though😄 My husband loves birria tacos so I’ll have to share this recipe with him. Yours look amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, my friend!

      That’s so cool, your father having roots in Jalisco. To think, he and birria share a birthplace. Well, the same state, at least.

      How were your tacos yesterday? Absolutely satisfying, I’d wager. Hey, around here tacos are invited to dinner at least twice weekly, not just on Tuesdays. Majorly addicting, and an endless variety, as you know.

      Chicken would work well for birria too. (Naturally, what else would a poultry fiend type 🐔?) Uh-huh…chicken stock instead of beef broth. Thanks for inspiring another tasty experiment, Jenn!

      Liked by 1 person

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