Let’s Cook! Beef Short Rib Tacos

May 3, 2011

With Cinco de Mayo soon upon us, the thoughts around the Eating (and Drinking) around the World Kitchen turned to Mexican food… of course with the ubiquitous Tequila and Margaritas around here, eats from South of the Border are never too far from the front burner…

While looking for something to make, I happened upon an article (“Bobby’s Taco Bash”) featuring several taco recipes (duh…) in the May, 2011 issue of the Food Network magazine. Actually all the recipes looked pretty good, but it was the Birria Tacos from Marcela Valladolid (the comely host of  “Mexican Made Easy”) that looked like the one to try.

Of course I had to monkey around with the recipe some (which, of course, included adding alcohol) but I think it turned out pretty darn good… so now, let’s cook!

The tacos are topped with pickled onions (and in my version freshly pickled peppers as well), so we need to start those first and allow to marinate (preferably) overnight, or at least for several hours.

Pickled Onions and Peppers

1 Red Onion, very thinly sliced

2-3 Fresh Jalapeno Peppers, very thinly sliced

2-3 Fresh Serrano Peppers, very thinly sliced

1 Cup White Vinegar

1 Cup Water

8 Tbl Sugar

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Dried Oregano

Put the onions into a plastic container or Zip-loc bag. Ditto with the peppers. Mix the rest of the ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the liquid over the onions and peppers until covered and refrigerate.

Now on to the main meat…

Beef Short Rib (Birria) Tacos


3  Lbs Beef Short Ribs (bone-in)

2  Bottles Beer (Mexican preferred, light or dark, your choice… or just water if you must…)

5  Dried California Chile Peppers

5  Dried Ancho Chile Peppers

5  Dried Arbol Chile Peppers (these are the hotter ones, so reduce or eliminate if you’re iffy about the heat – you can add heat later with cayenne, etc if you so desire)

1  14.5 oz can Peeled Tomatoes

1  White Onion

4  Cloves Garlic

12  Whole black Peppercorns

1  Tbl Achiote Paste (from the Latin market)

1/2  Tsp Cumin Seeds

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Corn Tortillas, for serving

Lime Wedges, for serving

Pickled Onions and/or Peppers, for serving


1) Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.

2) Dry the short ribs with paper towels and season one side with salt and pepper.

3) Heat a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to medium-high heat with enough oil to glaze the bottom. Add the beef ribs (seasoned side down) and cook until nicely browned.

Season the other side and turn to brown. Continue turning to brown each side until looking pretty darn gorgeous… you will probably need to brown the meat in a couple of batches. Each batch may take 10-20 minutes to get nicely browned.

4) Remove the short ribs from the pot and drain off most of the oil and discard. Return the pot to the heat and add about half of a bottle of beer and deglaze all the cooked goodness.

Put the meat back in and add the rest of the beer until the meat is just covered. Add more beer and/or water if needed.

5) Bring to a boil, cover tightly and put into pre-heated oven. Forget for about 1.5 hours while you have a margarita or Cerveza… after the time has passed, remove from the oven and turn the ribs over and return to the oven (okay, you probably really don’t need to do the turning thing, but it makes me feel better…). You’re gonna let them sit there for another 1.5 hours, so we’ll now work on the sauce (which you could have really done during the first 1.5 hours and stuck in the fridge if you so desired – or even the day before…).

6) Take the dried chilies and pull out the stems and discard.

California, Ancho and Arbol Chilies

Open up and discard the seeds.

Soak the chilies in warm/hot water to cover for about 30 minutes until soft.

Take the chiles from the water (keep the H2O around from now…) and put into your blender or food processor. Add the tomatoes, onion, peppercorns, garlic, achiote paste and cumin.

Achiote Paste - find it at your Latin Market

Blend until very smooth, adding reserved soaking water if needed. Set aside.

7) At the prescribed time, remove the meat from the oven.

Tender, tasty meat...

Take the beef from the broth and set aside to cool for a bit. Allow the fat to rise to the top of the broth in the pot and skim off (or you could do all this a day ahead, refrigerate, and take of the congealed fat easily). Shred the meat (just use your hands) and discard the bones and any excess fat.

8 ) Heat the reserved broth and add the chile puree and stir or whisk to combine. Simmer for a while…

have another Margarita or brew… or two… maybe 30 minutes or more… add the shredded meat…

and simmer some more (at least 10 – 15 minutes, or pretty much as long as you want). Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

9) Now let’s eat! Warm your corn tortillas by your favorite method, add some of the meat mixture and top with the onions and peppers. Give a squeeze of lime and enjoy!

You could certainly add a little crumbled queso fresco too if you’d like.

This recipe isn’t a worknight one for sure – it does take some time, but it isn’t too complicated and I think the results are well worth the time…

Enjoy your Cinco de Mayo – Salud!

Now back to the kitchen…

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