Since hitting the foodie big leagues, birria has been seemingly showing up everywhere, from LA to Nasvhille, and on everything, from melty quesabirria to Chicago-style pizza and even cross-continental creations like gyozas. But before you can start using birria as some sort of all-purpose topping on any old trendy street food menu, you must first understand what proper birria tastes like and how it’s to be made.
A proper birria is a heavenly concoction of slightly viscous broth and tender meat. The consomé is to be a perfect potion of rendered fat, meat juices, and adobo sauce that should feel like it rests on your tongue as you slurp it up. The adobo sauce, which drives the flavor of the dish, is made up of a combination of rehydrated chiles and Mexican spices.
If done correctly, birria is a most savory affair with a perfect balance of complex flavors that each get their due in every bite you take. This recipe for a stovetop version hits on all the traditional flavors of birria, and once you nail it, you’ll want to dish it on top of everything.
Makes 10-12 servings
- 4 lbs. beef (2 lbs. chuck roast, 2 lbs. short rib)
- 3-4 cups water
- 6 dried chile guajillo
- 2 dried chile ancho
- 2 cups low-sodium beef broth (boiling)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 large onion, dry skin removed, chopped
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 clove
- ¼ whole cinnamon stick
- 1 Tbsp. beef bouillon
- 2 laurel leaves (or bay leaves)
- 2 Tbsp. cooking oil
- salt and pepper
- onions, cilantro, and lime, for garnish
- Optional: Warm tortillas for making birria tacos
- Large cast iron pan
- Large Dutch oven (5-quart)
- Heatproof bowl
- In a saucepan, bring your beef broth to a boil over high heat.
- Heat large cast iron pan on the stove over medium heat.
- Toast the chiles in the pan for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, turning frequently, making sure they do not burn. (Discard and replace any burnt chiles.)
- Toast the onion in the cast iron over medium for about 5 minutes until the onion starts to brown.
- Transfer toasted chiles to a heatproof bowl, add 1 cup boiling beef broth, and let the chiles soak for 5 minutes, or until pliable.
- Remove the stems of the chiles and pull them open. Remove the yellow veins and seeds, then strain and reserve the broth.
- Add the reserved broth, the chiles, onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, clove, cinnamon, bouillon, and laurel leaves (or bay leaves) in a blender and blend until smooth. Strain and set aside.
- In the cast iron pan, heat two tablespoons of oil.
- Chop your beef into medium cubes, then add salt and pepper to the meat. In the cast iron pan, sear the beef on all sides until the meat is brown, then transfer to the Dutch oven.
- Add the strained chile mixture to the top of your meat in to the Dutch oven. Add enough beef broth to cover the meat.
- Bring the Dutch oven to a simmer, then cook over medium heat for at least 3 hours, but up to 5 hours. (When it’s done cooking, the meat should be tender enough to start falling apart with a fork.)
- Skim grease from the top. (Reserve this grease and use it as your cooking oil if you’re planning on making quesabirria tacos.) Remove any bones and gristle from the mixture before serving.
- To serve, dish your desired amount of meat into a bowl with spoonfuls of the consomé. Top with finely diced onion, cilantro and lime serving with warm tortillas.