Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mexican Fiesta: Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos


The second taco filling I made for my football-themed Mexican fiesta featured braised beef short ribs. Tender, melt-in-your-mouth braised short ribs are the Holy Grail of braised meats in my opinion. They are irresistible on restaurant menus, easy to make, and feature a relatively cheap cut of meat compared to others. Although there is definite waste (the bone and excess fat/cartilage) it's worth the hours it can take to taste the final result.


These short ribs braise in a seriously aromatic liquid comprised of Mexican beer, blackened tomatoes, beef broth, tomato paste, chipotle chiles, tamarind paste, garlic, orange zest, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and thyme. The aroma is intoxicating. Although the original recipe doesn't call for this, I think a nice final touch is to strain and reduce some of the braising liquid and mix it with the shredded short ribs to add back some flavor and moisture. It's a customary step when completing a braise and I think it's suited for these tacos. Which taco filling are you most anxious to try? The braised beef short ribs or the homemade fresh chorizo I shared yesterday?


Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos
Makes 8 tacos
(Adapted from Tacos)

2 1/4 pounds meaty bone-in beef short ribs*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
12 ounces dark beer or India pale ale (I used an amber Dos Equis to keep it Mexican... stay thirsty, my friends)
5 small tomatoes, blackened under the broiler or on a grill, and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 canned chipotle chiles
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
3 cloves roasted garlic
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 cups low-sodium beef stock or broth
8 corn tortillas, for serving

Season the meat evenly on both sides with salt and pepper. In a braising pan with high sides, heat the oil over high heat. Add the ribs to the pan and sear on all sides until browned, about 1 minute per side.

Pour in the beer and add the tomatoes to deglaze the pan. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chiles, tamarind paste, garlic, orange zest, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, allspice, thyme, and beef stock.

When the mixture starts to bubble, decrease the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer, occasionally skimming the fat from the surface, until the meat can easily be pulled from the bone with your fingers, about 3 1/2 hours or longer, as needed. Don’t overcook the ribs, or the meat will be mushy.

Shred the meat, removing any excess fat or cartilage. Strain the braising liquid and measure about 1 1/2 cups. Add that back to the empty pan and cook over medium-high heat to reduce by half. Mix this glaze with the shredded meat and serve immediately or keep warm in the pan until ready to serve. To make ahead, refrigerate the meat and glaze separately (so the meat doesn't absorb all the glaze up front) and then reheat the them together on the stove top over medium heat.

Serve with warm corn tortillas and your choice of garnishes.

*Note* Be sure to purchase the meatiest short ribs available, without too much fat. They should be thick-cut, 1-or-2-bone size, about 4-inches long, and almost 2 1/2-inches thick.




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