Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

If I ever eat too much, it’s not because I am stressed, unhappy, or over-hungry. It’s usually because the food is just too delicious and I can’t stop, no matter how hard I try.  We’ve all had meals like that… You want to stop, you know you should stop, you’re not even hungry anymore, but you can’t.  Do you regret it later?  Maybe, but for a once-in-a-while extraordinary meal, why not?  The memory will last a lot longer than your post-meal food coma.  

Let’s talk about what exactly it is we are creating.  Tacos.  The ever popular, always pleasing food that really can never go wrong.  So many people love tacos.  And, what is normally overlooked is the diversity of tacos themselves.

According to Merriam-Webster, a taco is: A usually fried tortilla that is folded or rolled and stuffed with a mixture (as of seasoned meat, cheese, and lettuce).

If there ever was a dish open to interpretation, this is it! Some sort of meat, cheese and lettuce stuffed into a tortilla, which may or may not be fried.  Okay.  So, what will you do?  Seasoned ground beef in a crunchy shell?  Yes.  Blackened rockfish with pico de galo in a soft corn tortilla?  Yes.  Slow braised and pulled pork with bbq sauce in a flour tortilla?  Of course.  Anything you think will be delicious stuffed in a tortilla will work.  

My post today happens to be focused on one of my favorites: braised beef short ribs, cooked in a lavish broth of peppers, coca-cola, Mexican herbs and spices and strong chicken stock.  The beef is then shredded, the broth is reduced to a sauce, and both are combined to bring out every ridiculous little bit of flavor.  Salsa verde, or tomaillo salsa is used, and a few other little simple garnishes, and that’s it! This may seem like an elaborate and time consuming process, and it is, but it is ideal for a crockpot, or a Sunday when you’re home, the weather is cold, and nothing is better that slow cooking something wonderful for a afternoon of football.

Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 3 1/2 – 4 hours
Yield: 4 to 6 portions

Ingredients:

For the Braise:

3 lb beef short ribs, bone in
2 small red onions, rough chop
1 head garlic, cut in half
8oz regular coke
4 cups excellent quality chicken stock
1/4 cup mixed dried peppers
1 tbsp cumin seed
1 tbsp corriander seed
2 bay leaves
kosher salt
black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Salsa:

1 lb tomatillos, peeled
3 japalenos
1 poblano pepper
1/2 red onion
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough chop
juice of 4 limes
kosher salt

To Finish:

6in corn tortillas
crumbed cotija cheese, or queso fresco
finely shredded cabbage
sour cream

Method:

For the Braise:

Liberally season with beef with salt and pepper.  In a heavy bottom small stock pot, sear the beef, all sides, in vegetable oil.  When caramelized, add the onions and garlic and continue to sear to develop a little color.  Add all the spices and cook until highly fragrant.  Add the coke and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer and turn heat to low.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer over very low heat until the beef is highly tender.  Remove the beef and strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer.  Let the beef cool, and reduce the sauce until slightly thick, taking care to remove the fat that will build on the surface.  Shred the beef (either by hand or with two forks), discarding all fat, gristle and bones.  When the sauce is appropriately thick, remove it from the heat and add the shredded beef back into the sauce.  Hold warm.

For the Salsa:

Toss the tomatillos, onion, and peppers in oil, salt and pepper.  Grill until charred.  Cool.  Take as much skin off from the peppers as you can, without wasting too much time.  A little skin on the peppers is perfectly acceptable.  Put everything in a bar blender, add the lime juice and half the cilantro.  Pulse until everything is well broken down.  It should not be smooth.  Add the cilantro and check seasoning.  Add salt, lime juice or more cilantro if necessary.  Cool and reserve.

To Finish:

Toast the tortillas on a hot skillet or flattop until warmed through, about 20 seconds a side.  Load them up with the braised beef, salsa, a dollop of sour cream, cotija cheese and shredded cabbage.  Serve right away.

My suggestion would be a little extra tapatio hot sauce for finishing, a few lime wedges and ice cold Corona.  But, hey, they’re your tacos, finish them in whatever manner that will make them most delicious for you.

Enjoy.

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