south-of-the-border essentials: spicy beef birria

a recipe by
Andy Anderson !
Wichita, KS

This is my version of a popular Mexican dish that has been here since the early 1500’s. When a recipe has been around that long, you might expect there are dozens… possibly hundreds of variants, and you would be correct. My version is faithful to the main ingredients; except for one particular item, but I will talk about that later. So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.

serves Several
prep time 30 Min
cook time 3 Hr
method Bake

Ingredients For south-of-the-border essentials: spicy beef birria

  • PLAN/PURCHASE
  • THE CHILES
  • 2 - 3 lg
    dried ancho chiles
  • 2 - 3 lg
    dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 - 3 sm
    chiles de árbol, more if you want it spicier
  • THE COOKED VEGGIES
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp
    grapeseed oil, or other non-flavored variety
  • 1 sm
    carrot, peeled and grated (optional)
  • 1/2 md
    yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 clove
    garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp
    tomato paste
  • ADDITIONAL BITS
  • 14 oz
    diced tomatoes, 1 can, with juice
  • 2 Tbsp
    apple cider vinegar
  • 1 c
    beef stock, not broth
  • 2 tsp
    dried oregano
  • 1 tsp
    ginger powder
  • 1 tsp
    coriander powder
  • 1 tsp
    salt, kosher variety, fine grind
  • 1 tsp
    ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp
    dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp
    white pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 - 2 pinch
    ground cinnamon
  • THE BEEF
  • 2 c
    beef stock, not broth
  • 2 - 3 lg
    beef short ribs, with bones
  • 1 1/2 lb
    chuck roast, cut into large chunks
  • ADDITIONAL ITEMS
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp
    lime juice, freshly squeezed

How To Make south-of-the-border essentials: spicy beef birria

  • 1
    PREP/PREPARE
  • 2
    What will you need? This recipe can be made in a single oven-proof pot; preferably something like a Dutch oven. However, whatever vessel you choose, it will need a tight-fitting lid.
  • 3
    The Holy Trinity The three chilies we are using are sometimes called the holy trinity of Mexican cooking. Dried ancho chilies: Ancho chilies vary in spiciness and have a smoky flavor when dried. They generally have a mild-to-medium heat with a fruity flavor that is perfect for marinades. They measure about 1,000-1,500 SHU on the Scoville Scale. Dried guajillo chilies: Guajillo chilies have a sweet, fruity, almost tangy, smoky flavor. They have a mild heat, 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville scale. And, like ancho chilies, work well in marinades. Dried chilies de árbol: Chilies de árbol are spicy, registering 15,000–30,000 on the Scoville scale. They have a smoky, nutty flavor. These are the chilies we will be using to bring the heat to our Birria. In a typical marinade you would use equal parts ancho, and guajillo, and add de árbol according to how much heat you desire, on average about 20% of the total volume. FYI: De árbol chilies are smaller than the others, and as a general rule of thumb, the smaller the chilies, the hotter they are. Bottom Line These are the three chilies I have chosen for this recipe, but choose what you have, experiment, and have some fun with it.
  • 4
    The Beef We are using beef; however, as I mentioned earlier, you could use pork, chicken… even fish. I do like chuck roast for this recipe, but with the long, slow cook time, almost any type of beef will do nicely. Choose something with a bit of fat; not too lean. As to searing, we are not going to be doing that for two reasons: In the original recipe the meat was not seared, and with the spicy marinade/sauce we are using it would not make a difference in how the final dish tastes.
  • 5
    What is Spicy Beef Birria? Birria is a Mexican dish that hails from the state of Jalisco. Traditionally made from goat meat, it can also be made with beef, chicken, or pork. I have also seen it made with fish, but I will pass on that version. In addition to the meat, it is simmered in a broth composed of chilies, thyme, oregano, cumin, onions, garlic, other spices and beef broth, then cooked low-and-slow and served as a thin stew; almost a soup or consommé. It is also served as a taco and then dipped into the consommé… Yummy. It is a popular dish in Mexico and served by street vendors in Central Mexico and beyond. The dish has been around since the early 1500’s, and the name “birria” translates into the word “worthless,” because the Conquistadors that were in Mexico at the time, did not like goat meat, and thought it was vulgar. So much for good taste.
  • 6
    What to serve with Spicy Beef Birria? Traditionally, it is basically hunks of beef (or whatever meat you choose), in a marinade or broth. So, you could serve it in bowls and give everyone a spoon. That is probably how it was originally served, and they did not use spoons, just their hands. Hope they washed them first. Today we have a few options, for example you could serve it in a bowl with some nice warm tortillas. You could ladle it over some steamed rice. You could separate the broth from the meat, put the meat into tacos, and then dip the shells into the broth while eating. Instead of leaving it in chunks, you could shred it up and use it as you would any shredded spicy beef, pork, or chicken. Depending on how you serve it, you might want to have some freshly shredded cheese, chopped onions, and tomatoes, some lettuce, or whatever else you think might work.
  • 7
    How to store Spicy Beef Birria? Covered in the fridge, you can expect it to be good for about 5 – 7 days. The good news is that it can be frozen. In a freezer bag, it should last 2 – 3 months. If properly vacuum sealed, it will last a year or longer. So, if you want to make a large batch, no worries. Suggestion: Do not make a BIG batch until you try it and decide if you like it.
  • 8
    What is with that Dang Carrot? Okay, carrot is a non-traditional addition to this recipe; however, after making it the first time, I felt it needed just a hint of sweet, and I did not want to add more cinnamon, so in the second batch, I chucked in a bit of carrot and got the flavor I was looking for… you can leave it out if you wish.
  • 9
    Dem Bones, Dem Bones For a silky broth, you need the help of a few bones, slowly simmering in the broth. Short ribs worked for me; however, oxtails would probably work; or maybe just a few beef bones from your butcher. You can leave them out, but the broth will suffer for it.
  • 10
    Gather your ingredients (mise en place).
  • 11
    Cut off the tops of the dried chilies, then remove most of the seeds. Add to a bowl, pour boiling water over them, let rehydrate for about 20 minutes, then reserve.
  • 12
    Place a rack in the lower position and preheat the oven to 350f/175c.
  • 13
    Add the oil to a pot over medium heat, then sauté the onions and grated carrot (if using), until softened, about 3 – 5 minutes.
  • 14
    Do not let the onions or carrots brown or burn.
  • 15
    Add the tomato paste, after the first minute, and stir into the onions and carrots.
  • 16
    Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 60 seconds.
  • 17
    Add the reserved chilies, the onion/carrot/garlic mixture, and all the “Additional Bits” items into a blender or food processor fitted with an S-blade.
  • 18
    Blend until the mixture is completely smooth. Blend, Baby, Blend.
  • 19
    Add the mixture to the ovenproof pot, then add the beef stock and stir to combine.
  • 20
    Chop up the beef.
  • 21
    Add all the beef and stir into the broth.
  • 22
    Cover and place into the preheated oven.
  • 23
    Bake until the beef is nice and yummy tender, about 3 – 4 hours.
  • 24
    Open the pot every 45 minutes or so and give it a bit of a stir.
  • 25
    You want the meat to be below the broth, so if the level of broth gets too low, have a bit of extra beef broth on hand, just in case.
  • 26
    Every time you open the pot, check for proper seasoning by taking a wee taste. Good chefs taste as they cook.
  • 27
    When tender, take out of the oven, remove the short rib bones with a pair of tongs (the meat should fall off the bones back into the broth), and let the pot sit covered for about ten minutes.
  • 28
    After the allotted time, skim the fat off the top of the liquid.
  • 29
    As a final step, stir in the lime juice to brighten the dish, and do a tasting for proper seasoning.
  • 30
    PLATE/PRESENT
  • So Yummy
    31
    I gave you a few serving tips earlier in this recipe; choose one or come up with your own unique idea. FYI: Do not forget some tall cold ones. Enjoy.
  • 32
    Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

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