The Week (US)

Birria de res: The Mexican stew that has Instagram abuzz


“It’s hard to say exactly what makes birria birria,” said Tejal Rao in The New York Times. The word suggests a delicious hot mess, and there are too many regional variations on the Mexican stew to count. But birria has seen “a meteoric rise in popularity recently,” particular­ly for the soupy style made with beef and popularize­d by birria vendors in Tijuana. On Instagram, “the hype for birria is relentless.”

Below is a version adopted from a recipe that Texas-born chef Josef Centeno learned from his grandmothe­r. Goat or lamb can be substitute­d for the beef, and you could choose to shred the meat for tacos. That said, “the best way to serve birria is immediatel­y and simply, in a bowl, with some warm corn tortillas.”

Recipe of the week

Birria de res

2 poblano chiles

5 guajillo (dried) chiles, stemmed, halved lengthwise, seeds removed

5 lbs bone-in beef shoulder, cut into large


1 tbsp fine sea salt

¼ cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed 1 medium white onion, finely chopped 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar 6 garlic cloves, peeled 2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano 2 tsp toasted white sesame seeds ½ tsp ground cumin

4 cloves

Fresh black pepper

1 cinnamon stick

2 fresh or dried bay leaves

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro 2 limes, quartered

Corn tortillas, warmed

Turn a gas burner to high. Using tongs, place poblanos directly over flame. Cook until totally charred, turning as needed, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap so poblanos can steam. After 10 minutes, peel off blackened skins, remove stems and seeds, and roughly chop flesh. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, working in batches to cook in one layer, flatten guajillo chile halves and toast about 15 seconds, turning once. Place in a bowl and add 2 cups hot water to soften.

Season meat all over with salt. Heat oil in a large, oven-proof pot over medium-high. Working in batches, sear pieces on all sides until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side, transferri­ng browned meat to a bowl. After all meat is seared, add onion to pot and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Return meat to pot and preheat oven to 325.

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine chiles, chile soaking liquid, tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, ginger, oregano, sesame seeds, cumin, cloves, and a few grinds of black pepper. Purée until smooth.

Add blended mixture to meat in the pot. Add cinnamon stick and bay leaves, along with 4 to 6 cups water, enough to amply cover. Cover and cook in oven until meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

Divide among bowls, sprinkle with cilantro, and provide lime wedges and warm tortillas on the side. Serves 8 to 10.

 ??  ?? A dish that’s just waiting for tortilla dipping
A dish that’s just waiting for tortilla dipping

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