The month of May is the gateway to summer: longer sunny days, cocktails on the sand, the smell of smoldering charcoal lacing the air. It’s also National Barbeque Month, but instead of the typical burgers and dogs you throw on the grill try making these short rib tacos instead.
You start with a cut of beef called chuck roll which contains a mix of tough and tender muscles that come from an area between the ribs and backbone. This mix lends itself to a slow four-hour braise with breaks down the fibres and allows the pepper, garlic and tomato slurry to penetrate the meat. Make sure you have a roasting pan for the braise and foil to cover the pan. Once cooking is done you shred the meat, blend the vegetables and mix both with the braising liquid still in the pan. If you don’t want to make the masa then you can simply use storebought corn tortillas to build the tacos. And the toppings? Use your imagination!
Short Rib Meat:
- 10 pounds chuck roll
- 1 pound yellow onions
- ¼ cup garlic cloves, either chopped or left whole
- 2 guajillo (or New Mexican or other dried) peppers
- 1 ancho pepper (can use all ancho peppers if you can’t find guajillo
- ¼ cup beef base or highly concentrated stock (Better Than Bouillon is a good brand)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups corn flour (Maseca is a popular brand)
- 2 tbsp lard
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
- Canola Oil
To build the tacos (per taco):
- 2 ounces of short rib
- 1 tortilla
- Toppings: avocado slices, radish, julienned, chopped cilantro, or whatver you like
Short Rib Meat:
- Cut the chuck roll into thick steaks.
- Season with salt and black pepper.
- Sear both sides in a heavy-bottom pot or pan until you get a medium browning.
- Cut the onions in half and add to the meat in a large roasting pan. Add the garlic, either chopped or whole.
- Remove the stems from the peppers and add to the meat.
- Dissolve the tomato paste into beef base and distribute evenly over the meat.
- Add just enough water to cover the meat. Use foil to cover.
- Cook at 250 °F until tender, about four hours. Remove the meat and set aside the veggies and a small portion of the braising liquid.
- Shred the meat and remove any excess fat.
- Using a standing or immersion blender blend the vegetables with some braising liquid until smooth.
- Add the blended vegetable mixture and shredded meat back into the pan with the braising liquid.
Masa (optional, or use a packet of small corn tortillas):
- Mix all ingredients together and add lukewarm water as needed to create a smooth dough.
- Do not over mix and allow the mixture to rest for one hour.
- Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into golf ball size balls.
- In a tortilla press using wax paper, push the dough into tortillas.
- Heat a pan with canola oil and cook tortillas on both sides until lightly browned.
The fun part comes in building your tacos. The meat is so tender a flavoful that it doesn’t require much addition. Avocado adds creaminess and tempers the heat of the pepper and radish provides crunch. Cilantro is ubiquitous in Mexican cuisine and adds a nice citrusy element.
Now sit back with a cold beer or margarita and tuck in to your tacos. This dish is a great addition to a Memorial Day party or any other gathering where you need to feed a crowd.
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