Speaking of “Real” Mexican Food: How About Making Some Birria?

Oct 31, 2014 by Joe Houchin

BirriaBirria is a hearty and versatile Mexican stew. The stew is served year round, but especially during Christmas and other big holidays. It originates from the Mexican state of Jalisco, but can be found in restaurants and road side stands throughout much of Mexico. The stew can be prepared in a variety of ways, but most often uses goat meat.

Restaurants in Mexico specializing in birria will often decorate their walls or entrance with a pair of goat horns. The goat horns serve to announce the availability of birria. Goat horns are also considered an aphrodisiac and are a symbol of the virile animal.

The type and amount of chiles used in the broth base varies from chef to chef. Guajillo and ancho chiles are the most popular ones used in birria. These peppers are toasted and soaked in hot water before being removed and blended with either vinegar or water. The peppers are then used to form a paste that powers the spicy flavor of the dish.

In addition to goat meat, birria is also made with pork, beef, or lamb. Meat from the green iguana is also used in coastal areas of Jalisco. The meat is always marinated overnight using the chile paste and a mix of other spices, including cumin, oregano, and cloves. More than one kind of meat is often used when preparing the dish.

During the cooking process, the dish is left to simmer for hours. Although cooked with the meat still on the bone, patient chefs are rewarded with meat tender enough to fall off the bone. Birria is known both for its incredibly tender meat and rich, well-blended flavors.

Most commonly, the broth is thin and plentiful enough that it is served as a bowl of soup with the meat in it. When eating it this manner, the chunks of meat are removed and placed on a small corn tortilla adorned with sides, usually including cilantro and onions. After the meat and sides are in position, it is dipped in the broth and eaten.

The second manner of eating this dish is to remove the meat and cook down the broth until it is thick and saucy. This thick sauce is then poured over the meat. Tortillas, packed with the typical sides, are then covered with the meat and sauce.

This traditional Mexican dish is often sold by street vendors in Mexico. Birria can be made with beef, veal, pork, goat or lamb making it quite versatile. Many people will use more than one type of meat, combining one, two or three kinds in one dish. Poultry is not traditionally used in this dish. You will need a Dutch oven or large casserole dish with a tight fitting lid and a rack that sits inside.

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs meat with or without bones

4 guajillo chiles

3 ancho chiles

3 cascabel chiles

1 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground thyme or 2-3 sprigs

6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 cup of water

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped cilantro

Corn tortillas

Start Chile Paste

Toast the chiles on a hot pan until browned, but not burned. Remove the seeds and veins and cover with hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. When done soaking, process in blender with the vinegar to make a paste.

Meat Rub

Mix the salt, pepper, cloves, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and thyme. Rub the meat well with this mixture. Then coat the meat with half of the chile paste. Let marinate overnight.

Cook the Meat

Fill a Dutch oven with water. Add the chopped onion, bay leaf, garlic and the remaining chile sauce to the water. Place meat on a rack that sits just above the water. Place lid on and bake for 4 hours at 350 degrees.

Prepare the Dish

Remove the meat and place into serving bowls. There are two ways to finish. The first way has no broth. Remove bay leaves from liquid. If liquid is too watery, reduce by boiling in a small pan. Coat the meat chunks with the reduced chile sauce. Use meat to fill tortillas and top with onions and cilantro. The second way is to let the liquid cool slightly and remove the bay leaves. At this point some people blend the liquid. Add enough hot water to make at least 2 cups. Ladle the liquid over the meat and top with chopped onion and cilantro. Serve with warm corn tortillas. Enjoy!

This article is brought to you by the Sonoran Resorts Sales Group, www.sonoranresorts.mx, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales and Marketing.

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