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Birria Tacos – A Cozy Kitchen

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This Birria Tacos (tacos de birria aka quesatacos) recipe is juicy, cheesy, delicious—a true showstopper. It begins with braising a birria de rez and then making a consomé and frying up tacos with Oaxacan (or mozzarella) cheese. Instructions for oven, Instant Pot and slow-cooker methods are all included!

I first saw these very famous Birria Tacos on Tiktok during qu*rantine when I was looking for mini adventures to go on. I was like, hmm, what are birria tacos?!? Obviously I knew what birria was.

So, after I saw someone eat them from a taco truck on Tiktok and quickly googled “Birria tacos near me” and luckily there were some results! I hopped in my car and headed to the valley. I consumed them, consome dripping down my chin and it was HEAVEN.

What IS Birria

First let’s start with Birria. Hailing from Jalisco, Mexico, birria is a rich stew that’s typically made with either goat or lamb. It’s traditionally served in a consomé broth along with a mixture of cilantro and white onion. There are no tacos involved! Birria is truly the best – it’s so delicious on a cold day.

Traditionally there is no chicken in sight, but if you wanted to use chicken, you absolutely could!

What are Birria Tacos

Birria Tacos (tacos de birria and sometimes called quesabirria tacos) consists of the braised meat inside a corn tortilla that’s been pan-fried in the fat that sits at the top of the birria. You may be asking yourself: are birria tacos spicy? I say not really. BUT, please keep in mind that I am Peruvian and this means I grew up with spicy food so my tolerance is quite high.

The Birria Tacos are then filled with melty Oaxacan cheese (quesillo), cilantro, lime and white onion. And a small bowl of consomé is served on the side for dipping. Truly a magical meal! 

Birria Ingredients 

All of these ingredients can be found at your local Latin market and you’re truly not making tacos de birria without these dried peppers. They are essential! 

  • Dried chiles and/or peppers – This recipe calls for guajillo, ancho and chiles de arbol. I love dried chiles. They are so delicious and rich in flavor. I recommend using kitchen shears to trim the edges and discard the seeds. Of course, you could leave the seeds if you like it and want it super spicy. 
  • Mexican oregano – You can find this at a Latin market and it’s very different from, say, Italian oregano. Of course, in a pinch you could use the Italian version. The Mexican version I find is more fragrant and delicious. 
  • Mexican cinnamon – Phew. Maybe my favorite version of cinnamon. It’s much more brittle and snappy. It’s easy to break in two. If you’re using regular cinnamon, I would say just add it to the mixture to boil and then remove it and discard. No need to add it to the blender. 
  • Cuts of meat – I’m using chuck stew meat that I bought in a big chunk and just cut it into 3-inch pieces. And then for flavor purposes, I added 1 pound of short ribs. You can use ALL chuck stew if you want (so 3 pounds). If there is any fatty excess pieces, just leave them because they add flavor to the sauce. I also used 1 pound of oxtail in one testing of it and it was wonderful. I was just frustrated that it yielded very little meat.
Meat being seared
onion and tomato boiling
Boiled items in strainer

How to Make Birria

  1. Bring meat to room temperature and then salt it liberally.
  2. In a large pot that has an oven-proof lid, place it over medium-high heat. You’re probably going to have to do this in batches, but sear the meat on both sides for about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a bowl and then repeat with the remaining pieces of meat.
  3. Then you’re add the chiles, tomatoes, onions, spices and garlic to a pot. Cover the chiles and everything with water and simmer for about 20 minutes. We want the tomatoes and chiles very softened.
  4. Drain it and then transfer everything to a blender, along with a cup or two of beef broth or water. Blend it up until super smooth.
  5. Add the meat back to the large pot and pour the sauce over it. Pour 1 cup of broth in the blender and swish it back in forth (to pick up any extra sauce) and pour it into the pot. Bring it to a gentle simmer and then cover. Transfer the pot to the oven to braise for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until the meat shreds easily.

How to Make Birria Tacos 

  1. Remove the meat from the sauce and shred it with two forks.
  2. Add some of the sauce (the consomé) to a bowl and add a little beef broth if it needs to be thinned out.
  3. Mince up some onion and cilantro and mix it in a small bowl with a few squeezes of lime and a pinch of salt.
  4. Add a spoonful of the cilantro and onion mixture to the consomé and add a squeeze of lime.
  5. Dip a corn tortilla into the top of the sauce. This should be mostly fat. And add it to a non-stick skillet, set over medium-high heat.
  6. Flip over and then add a small handful of shredded meat and a handful of Oaxacan cheese. Shape it into a quesadilla/taco. And flip it over so it can get crispy and melty on the other side.
  7. Transfer to a baking sheet and place in a 200F oven while you work your way through the rest of the Birria tacos.

Tips and Tricks

  • Cuts of meat – You can substitute in goat, lamb or you can choose oxtail instead of short ribs.
  • To make this ahead: I actually think this is a great make-ahead meal. You can make the birria first, shred the meat and store the sauce in the fridge. The fat will solidify on the top. You can use that to the pan with the tortillas if you like. Or you can warm it back up when you’re ready to serve.
  • Most of these ingredients like Mexican cinnamon, dried chiles and/or peppers and Mexican oregano at a Latin supermarket.
Tortilla in pan

Can I Make This In an Instant Pot OR slow cooker?

  • Instant Pot – o make it in the Instant Pot, you would simply make the sauce as stated in the recipe. And sear the meat in the Instant Pot. Pour in the sauce atop the meat and set it to Stew Setting. It should be High Pressure for about 50 minutes.
  • Slow Cooker – you would make the sauce as stated in the recipe. Sear the meat (if your slow cooker has this option – most do). And then pour in the sauce and broth. Set it to “high” and cook for 6 to 7 hours.
Birria Tacos on plate

If you make this Birria Tacos recipe, let me know on Instagram!

Looking for more Latin recipes? Here are a few favorites:

Print Recipe

Birria Tacos

This Birria Tacos recipe is juicy, cheesy, delicious—a true showstopper. It begins with braising a birria de rez and then making a consomé and frying up tacos with Oaxacan cheese. 

Ingredients

Birria de Rez:

  • 2 pounds boneless chuck
  • 1 pound oxtail or short ribs
  • 1 teaspoon neutral oil (avocado or vegetable oil)

Sauce:

  • 7 ancho chiles (ends trimmed and de-seeded)
  • 7 guajillo chiles (ends trimmed and de-seeded)
  • 3 chiles de arbol (ends trimmed and de-seeded)
  • 1 white onion (peeled and halved)
  • 6 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 Mexican cinnamon stick (See note if not using Mexican cinnamon)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups beef broth or water (divided)

Tacos:

  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1/4 white onion (minced)
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Kosher salt
  • Corn tortillas
  • 3 ounces Oaxacan cheese (or mozzarella)

Instructions

To Sear the Meat:

  • Bring the meat to room temperature, about 30 minutes and then sprinkle liberally on all sides with kosher salt. In a large Dutch oven (or a pot with an oven-proof lid), set over medium-high heat, add the neutral oil. When hot, add the meat and sear on all sides until browned. I like to do a hard sear. You’ll have to do this in batches. Transfer to a bowl.

To Make the Sauce:

  • Meanwhile, in another medium pot, add the dried chiles, halved white onion, garlic cloves, tomatoes, spices, bay leaves and add cold water until it covers everything. Place over medium heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Pour through a strainer and transfer everything (including the whole spices) to a blender. If your blender is small you may need to do this in batches.

  • Add the apple cider vinegar and about 1 cup of beef broth or water and blend until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Add salt to taste (I added about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt).

  • *Note: I have a high-powered blender and it resulted in a super smooth sauce. If you have a blender that is meh, you may want to run the sauce through a strainer to discard any big bits the blender didn’t puree. Very optional!

To Braise the Meat:

  • Preheat the oven to 300F. Add the meat back to the pot and pour the sauce over it. To the blender, add the remaining 2 cups of broth or water and swish it around to pick up any leftover sauce and pour it into the pot. Place over medium heat until it reaches a gentle simmer and then immediately cover and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for about 3 hours, until the meat is tender.

To Assemble the Tacos:

  • Mix together the cilantro, white onion, lime and salt.

  • Remove the meat from the sauce and shred using two forks. Ladle the broth into a bowl and add a handful of diced cilantro.

  • Add a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Dip the tortilla into the top of the broth (this should be fat) and add it to the skillet. Pan fry on one side for about 30 seconds and then flip over. Add a some of the shredded meat and the shredded cheese. Fold over and cook until pan fried on both sides, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and serve alongside the broth.

Notes

Tips and Tricks: 

  • Cuts of meat – You can substitute in goat, lamb or if you can choose oxtail instead of short ribs.
  • To make this ahead: I actually think this is a great make-ahead meal. You can make the birria first, shred the meat and store the sauce in the fridge. The fat will solidify on the top. You can use that to the pan with the tortillas if you like. Or you can warm it back up when you’re ready to serve.
  • Most of these ingredients like Mexican cinnamon, dried chiles and Mexican oregano at a Latin supermarket.
  • If you’re not using Mexican cinnamon, remove it and discard it when you’re done boiling all of the chiles. Mexican cinnamon is very brittle and will easily blend up. But if it’s from say Saigon or somewhere else, it tends to be very hard. I wouldn’t put your blender through that! 
  • To Make it in the Slow-Cooker – You can make this recipe in the slow-cooker by adding the meat and sauce to a slow cooker. Add the broth and set it to high and let it braise for 6-7 hours. 
  • To Make it in the Instant Pot – Sear the meat in the IP. Pour the sauce in, along with the broth. Close the seal, set the setting to “high pressure” and press the “Stew Meat” option. This should be about 50 minutes. Do a natural release. And it should be perfect! 

Equipment: 
Le Creuset Dutch Oven | Vitamix Blender | Ninja Blender | Instant Pot | Chef’s Knife | Stainless Steel Bowl | Kitchen Towels | Colander |

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 250kcal (13%) | Carbohydrates: 39g (13%) | Protein: 3g (6%) | Fat: 4g (6%) | Saturated Fat: 2g (13%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 3mg (1%) | Sodium: 46mg (2%) | Fiber: 3g (13%) | Sugar: 1g (1%)



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