When we are in the mood for Mexican one dish really stands out that highlights the complexity of flavors found in that cuisine – barbacoa. I’m guessing that everyone has tried barbacoa at some point. After all, Chipotle has it as an option in all of its restaurants. However, its really easy to make your own barbacoa at home and it isn’t any different from a beef stew in the sense that you sear your meat, make a sauce, and let it braise for a couple of hours until the meat is tender. In Mexico, true barbacoa is made in a pit, covered with banana leafs, buried with dirt and cooked for hours. If you want to dig up your yard and try this out, go for it. But I can guarantee that this works just fine with a dutch oven.
This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite books on all things tacos, Tacolicious. My contribution is by way of using some good local Iowa beer (Exile Brewing Company’s Gigi, which is a dunkel) and I also added some chocolate chips and tomato paste for another layer of depth. Peppers and chocolate are an odd but foolproof combination, and I think it actually helps bring out the cumin and oregano. Finally, you could always use beef short ribs – but given their popularity they tend to be more expensive than beef chuck, which I actually think works better and cuts down on unwanted sinew, bits of fat that you normally find on short ribs. Practically, since you shred the meat anyway, this is my preferred cut of beef for this type of dish.
If you make this recipe, be sure to tag your photo #loveandporc
- 3lbs of beef chuck, cut into 2 inch cubes
- 8 gaujillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 3 chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 1 bottle of Negro Modelo or a dunkel (12 ounces) - I actually like Exile's Gigi out of Des Moines for this.
- 2 yellow onions, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leave
- small handful of dark chocolate chips
- ½ cup of water
- Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
- Warm corn or flour tortillas
- Cilantro leaves to finish
- Heat up a stovetop to medium-high heat and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Using a large dutch oven or other similar cooking vessel, add the peppers to the pot and toast for about 30 seconds to 1 minute - you should start to smell the peppers. Remove them to a plate to cool and set aside.
- Season the beef chuck with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pot and in batches, sear the beef for about 3 minutes on both sides, or 12 minutes total, and set aside while finishing up the remaining pieces. You want a good sear on all sides with golden brown beef.
- Lower the heat to medium, and add the onions, garlic, oregano, cumin, bay leave, and salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add in the tomato paste and stir until incorporated, and then add your bottle of beer. Stir well, and then add in the chiles, chocolate, and water, give it another good stir, and simmer for a few minutes (3-5). Remove the bay leave from the pot, and using either a blender or an immersion blender, blend this mixture until smooth. Add the beef back into the pot and put in the oven for about 2-3 hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart easily with a fork.
- Remove the meat from the oven and with two forks, shred all the beef and mix it well with the pan sauce. With warm tortillas, cilantro, and some pickled red onions, this makes the perfect taco. Enjoy!
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