Beef is the meat of choice usually for the dish that we now call Barbacoa. If the name looks similar to Barbaque there is a reason for it. It makes for an interesting read if you want to search it some more. Short version is it comes from South America and or the Caribbean Indigenous population. At one time it would be the whole animal. Any more it is usually the Beef Cheeks and well it is rarely cooked in an old method of digging a whole. Starting a fire adding rocks to the fire until they get screaming hot. Put rocks in whole, season meat and then wrap (Banana is typical) in leaves, Put on rocks then cover the whole :P thing up with dirt and forget about it for hours and hours. Then dig it up and enjoy dinner. Todays method is well going to be a bit more modern.
Tomatillo what is it. I am not sure how wide spread this fruit is across the globe so I will give a brief explanation of it. While it may look like a plant called Chinese Lantern I do not believe it is related. It is in the Nightshade family but then again there are several others in that family we eat and is not well poisonous to us. It is a common item to see in Mexican Foods. Flavor wise the only point of reference that I have is an extra tart green Tomato. The acidity of Tomatillos is great. To make this Salsa which is a broader category than at lot of people realize and this is a blended or smoother not chunky salsa.
Now onto the list of what you need for this part if you want to make this Salsa.
One Pound Tomatillo- Husks removed and wash they can have a resin feel to them. Look for ones that are firm not mushy and the skin is not wrinkled.
One Onion- Peel and Quarter or half it up to you. I like more char flavor so I quarter them.
4-5 Cloves of Garlic skin left on (more or less up to you and your tastes)
One Jalapeno (can go more or less but do not omit completely depending on your taste buds)
Two Serrano (again less spicy add less more well add more or maybe even Habaneros)
Bit of Oil for the above items.
Heat Oven to 450-475 F or 232-246C
Roast 15-30 min.
The key is you will have to check. The garlic may get soft first and a bit roasty and need pulled first. Flip the peppers and tomatillos so it gets charred on multiple sides. Charred as in Black patches is key to the flavor. |
Alternative would be fire up the grill and char them on multiple sides or take advantage of the grill going and do this. Oh and if doing this inside you may hear the song of a home chef ie the smoke alarms probably maybe will go off. \
Once Roasted move to Food Processor or Blender (with extreme caution so lid does not blow off and coat you and kitchen in hot green mess) Add Cilantro and blitz it until it is a smooth puree but not a baby food consistency. Season with Salt and Black Pepper to taste.
This Salsa can be made a day or two early and kept in the fridge. I think the best flavor is around the day after to two day mark but it stays good for a week or two maybe longer I have never had it last over 2 days before it got devoured.
This round made about a pint and a half. I found these containers on Amazon and honestly I use the heck out of them. They work well for the freezer, leftovers, prep work a variety of uses. I get several uses out of them before they hit the round file in the corner but honestly even the plastic stuff from the store I only usually get a few uses out of them before they are stained or smell like whatever spice a dish had in it.
Now this is the point that this recipe takes a hard left or right from "traditional" or even modern "traditional". Instant Pot or a modern pressure cooker. So a slow lower temp dish becomes a much faster cooking dish.
Beef Cheeks. It is well Cheeks from a Cow. It is a meat that begs for long cooking methods like braising. If you cannot find these at your local market visit a Mexican Tiendas or other Latin American Market maybe even Asian Markets but the theme is Ethnic Markets at least here in the States. Honestly I would suggest poking around in them because you may discover that things like spices are well better and less costly and they are great places to learn. If they have a hot food section try that too you may find an amazing inexpensive spot to get a quick bit.
Now if beef cheeks is a bridge too far or beef cheeks do not exist for you then there is a reasonable substitute and that is a Beef Chuck Roast. It will give you a similar texture.
3-4 pounds Beef Cheeks trimmed of silver-skin (It never becomes edible) and majority of extra fat but leave some.
One teaspoon Cumin Powder
One teaspoon Mexican Oregano (Regular Oregano is fine if that is all that you have)
Two(ish) Large Garlic Cloves
One Large Bay Leaf or Two small Leaves(dried is fine fresh is better)
Juice of Two Limes maybe three depending on how juicy they are. Mine I used four as the limes I get here are one step above garbage. Lemons could be used but a flavor difference will happen. Sour Oranges would be good but those are super hard to find.
One Small Bunch Cilantro or Coriander leaves
One tablespoon Minced Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce. More for extra heat but I would not go under 1/2 because you will loose the flavor it adds.
Two Cups Beef Broth If you drink beer then maybe one cup of a Mexican lager and a cup of beef broth would work well
Salt and Pepper to taste so maybe One teaspoon of Kosher Salt.
Add all the items to the instant pot then start it on a high pressure cook setting for 50-60 when time is done turn off and let pressure release naturally. Then pull the meat and shred it. For those without an instant pot or pressure cooker. I would say a crock pot on high for 6-8 hours (until it falls apart). Or in a deepish pot (with lid) that is oven safe I would go 250-275 F or 121-135c for 4-6 hours (until falls apart). If in the oven you may have to add liquid from time to time.
Raw Meat is not photogenic but the reason that I put this image in is well Stems. We at least here in the states use Coriander Leaves and forget the stems. In dishes like this I will use the stem and save leaves for garnish. Roots if you grow them or can find them are delicious also. In longer cooking dishes I will add the stems diced finely and let them go as they soften and well they do not turn OD Green like the leaves when cooked for a long time.
Guacamole if desired
Taco Shells- Corn or Flour and smaller ones in size.
Cheese if desired. Cotija Cheese would be best option it is a hard cheese similar to Parm .
Taco Shells- Corn vs Flour. For a lot of dishes I prefer Corn Tortillas. I am not talking about those hard things Ol El Paso or other brand sells. I am talking about a soft corn tortilla. If you have a Tortilleria near you that makes their own Masa take a moment and drive, walk, ride there. Be warned though it will spoil you for life. The flavor is like no other.
Ok seriously the choice of vehicle for the meat. In my humble opinion you have Corn- Good- Store bought stuff. Better- Homemade from dried masa. Best- Fresh from factory or home using fresh made masa from scratch.
Flour- Good-Store bought Better/Best- Homemade or factory fresh. Flour Tortillas are relatively easy to make and quick too. I tend to make 99% of my own flour tortillas. Corn well from time to time I will make them.
Today I am using a combo of Flour and Corn today and I will warm them wrapped in Tin Foil in the Oven at a lower temp.
This is a dish to make again. For my wife who is a big texture person I will add a chunk of Chuck Roast for her and crisp it up on the stove before I serve hers. Overall this dish is a hit I will be doing again.