Birria Quesatacos are crispy, cheesy, and bursting with flavor. Warm and comforting, top them with red onion pickled in lime juice and chopped cilantro for a bite of freshness.
Birria de Res is a Mexican stew made of meat braised in an adobo, flavored with dried chiles and herbs and it has been on my list of things to make for well over a year now.
I mentioned before when I shared my Carne Guisada recipe that I love me a good beef stew, and I take them very seriously. This recipe took me half a dozen tries, but I’m finally satisfied with it.
I did a lot of reading and researching, before finally realizing that just like most meals – everybody’s Abuelita makes it differently. Then, I decided to just do what felt right, since I never knew my own abuela (we’ll just pretend this is her recipe).
Quesatacos are a super popular street taco consisting of corn tortillas and lots of melty Oaxaca cheese. They’re one of my favorite things to watch restaurants make on IGTV, and judging by just how many videos you can find, I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Arguably the most important part of Birria de Res is the consomé: the stock. The rich, silky mouthfeel consomé has comes from the collagen that’s released by bones when cooked slowly. It isn’t consomé without it!
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between broths and stocks, collagen is the answer. Stocks are usually richer than broths, and that’s because bones are a key ingredient for stocks, but not so much for broths.
Test it out: put a cup of each in the fridge. Come back in a couple of hours and you’ll see that the broth stays fluid, but stock turns into something that looks like Jell-O. Heat the stock up again, and it’s back to liquid.
My freezer is stocked with mostly boneless meat, so I chose to use a boneless chuck roast. This is why my recipe calls for agar agar powder, a plant-based gelatin substitute. You can swap it out for regular gelatin – one packet of it should be enough – or you can elect to use a roast that’s still on the bone.
You can also add soup bones or oxtails to the pot, removing them (any meat stays in the pot!) during step 10 of the recipe.
Whatever you use, you don’t want the bone in the final dish.
Thing to Note:
- Toast your chile pods before adding them to the pot to really bring out their flavors and aromas. To do this place a large skillet over high heat and add the chiles. Toss them around until the skin starts to become pliable and they are pungent.
- I like to add an additional step to the recipe: after I strain the consomé and shred the meat, I combine them both again and let them cool together, then separate the meat and liquid again later to use for the tacos or whatever. In my head, this helps the meat really absorb the flavors. It’s likely unnecessary.
- These tacos can be crispy or soft, depending on how long you fry them. I like crispy, so I do about 3-4 minutes on each side.
- I combine chopped red onion, fresh cilantro, and lime juice to top ours. The bite of it really cuts through how heavy this dish can feel. Talk about the ‘itis!
- Birria is usually eaten like a regular ol’ stew, in a bowl with a spoon, not just in Birria Quesatacos. If you go this route, don’t bother shredding the meat. Just break it apart roughly with a spoon as you’re serving.
- You’ll likely have tons of Birria leftover. I store the meat and broth separately and add it to everything from quesadillas to breakfast hash. My kid made a Birria grilled stuffed burrito filled with rice, refried beans, pico de Gallo, and crema.
If you make these Birria Quesatacos I hope you’ll come back and let me know what you thought! Leave a comment and a rating! Here’s a graphic for your Pinterest Board:Print
You’ve seen it on the Internet: get ready to make ’em at home.
Birria de Res:
- 1 5 lb chuck roast
- 10 dried chile pods, seeded and de-stemmed (I used guajillo, ancho, and arbol)
- 10 C water
- 2 tbsp chicken bouillon
- 1 cinnamon stick (canela)
- 5 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp toasted cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 6 large cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, to taste
- 1 tbsp agar agar powder
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 12 6″ fresh corn tortillas, plus more as needed
- 1 lb Oaxaca cheese, shredded
- oil, for frying
Birria de Res y Consomé
- Place a large stockpot or dutch oven over high heat. Drizzle in your olive oil and add the roast. Sprinkle some salt on top, let it sear for 2 minutes, then flip. Salt the other side.
- Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add your chile pods, onion and garlic, then pour in the water.
- Stir in the chicken bouillon, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cumin seeds, peppercorns and the salt.
- Bring everything to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Your burner will be somewhere around medium or medium-low. Cover and let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the chili pods from the liquid, along with about a cup of the liquid.
- Add the pods and liquid to a blender and blend until completely smooth.
- Place a sieve over the pot and pour in the blended chiles. Use a spatula or spoon to push the blended chiles through the sieve, into the pot. If your blender is super strong you can skip this step but if you’re unsure don’t – you don’t want bits of chile skin in your birria.
- Stir in the marjoram and oregano. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover and continue to cook until the meat is tender and starting to come apart at the marbling.
- Stir in your vinegar and agar powder. Let cook for another 45 minutes or so, until the meat breaks off easily with a fork.
- Remove the roast from the pot. You can place it in a high sided bowl and go at it with a hand mixer, or wooden spoon to shred it. You can also transfer it to a cutting board and chop it up with a knife or shred it with two forks.
- Now, pour the liquid in the pot through a sieve to remove the bay leaves, peppercorns, and any other aromatics. Once strained add the liquid back to the pot: you have consomé!
- Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Drizzle in just a bit of oil.
- Dip a tortilla into the consomé, submerging it completely. Place the tortilla on the skillet. Repeat and fit as many tortillas as you comfortably can.
- Sprinkle on your desired amount of cheese, directly onto the tortilla. Let cook for a couple of minutes, until the cheese has begun to melt.
- Add 1/3 of a cup or so of the birria to the taco. Use a spatula to fold one half of the tortilla over into a taco shape.
- Spoon a bit of consomé over the tacos, then flip them to fry on the other side. Cook until crisp, then remove.
- Repeat until you’ve made enough tacos to serve everyone (keep them warm in a 200ºF oven if needed). Dassit!
- Recipe adapted from Food & Wine.