Birria is a popular dish from the Jalisco region of Mexico, and the inspiration for this smoky chuck-roast rendition. The meat is cooked low and slow in a broth flavored with blistered onion, tomatoes, and guajillo and ancho chiles, then shredded. It's traditionally served as a soup, or tucked into tortillas that have been dipped in the cooking broth and pan-fried until crunchy. This recipe makes enough to have it both ways, and then some.

Martha Stewart Living, March 2021

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Credit: Marcus Nilsson

Recipe Summary

prep:
35 mins
total:
5 hrs 20 mins
Servings:
8
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Place beef in a large pot and season with 1 tablespoon salt. Add 1 onion half, 5 garlic cloves, bay leaves, and enough water to cover meat by 1 inch (8 to 10 cups). Bring to a boil, skimming impurities from surface. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until tender enough to easily pierce with the tip of a knife, about 2 hours.

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  • Meanwhile, preheat broiler, with rack 6 to 8 inches below heating element. Arrange chiles on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil with oven door cracked open, turning once, until blistered in places on both sides, fragrant, and beginning to smoke, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to a saucepan. Arrange tomatoes and remaining onion half and garlic cloves on baking sheet. Broil, turning a few times, until blistered in places and beginning to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.

  • Transfer to saucepan with chiles; add enough water to just cover vegetables (4 to 5 cups). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Strain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid, and transfer to a blender with reserved liquid, vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, oregano, and 2 teaspoons salt. Purée until smooth.

  • Transfer beef to a plate and strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding solids. Return beef to pot with 5 cups broth and puréed-chiles mixture (any remaining broth can be cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week, or frozen up to 6 months; if you'll be serving the dish as a soup, reserve and keep warm).

  • Bring beef to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until beef is fork-tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Shred meat into bite-size pieces.

  • To serve as a soup, add reserved warm broth to pot, a little at a time, to reach desired consistency (it should be soupy but still have some body to it). Scatter with chopped onion and cilantro and serve, topped with radishes and avocado, with lime wedges alongside.

  • To make tacos, dip tortillas into chile broth, flipping to fully coat, and transfer to a plate, stacking them one on top of another. Fill each with about 1/3 cup shredded beef and a little more chile broth. Fold in half. Heat a generous slick of oil over medium-high in a large, heavy skillet, such as cast iron. When it shimmers, add tacos in a single layer and cook, flipping once (if browning too quickly, reduce heat to medium) until crisp and golden brown in places, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with chopped onion, cilantro, hot sauce, and lime wedges.

Cook's Notes

Traditionally prepared with goat meat and popular in Jalisco, Mexico, birria is more commonly prepared today with large, inexpensive cuts of beef, such as chuck.

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