Want really authentic barbacoa? Well, do you have a spare goat or lamb hanging around? And a nice deep hole to slide in a side of beef, then covered with large agave leaves? No? Well, neither do we (our condo association won’t allow deep holes on our balconies). If you want something close to authentic, then you came to the right place. We have an easy barbacoa recipe that comes together quickly, and it is amazingly delicious.
There is lots of history behind just the word “barbacoa” (it’s not originally Mexican – check out the Wikipedia article for more info) – and it is one of the earliest forms of barbecue in the Western hemisphere. In contemporary Mexico, it is a method of wood-fired slow-cooking in a pit or container that is covered with agave leaves (or banana leaves in some places), which steams or braises the meats rather than roasting. The key to barbacoa is to start with a meat that is relatively high in fat content, and has a somewhat strong flavor. In our recipe, we chose something that is easy to find, and somewhat economical (although these days, the inflation bug is hitting every part of the grocery store): Chuck roast.
We went all the way with our version, making a really easy salsa verde and homemade corn tortillas. It turns out corn tortillas are very easy to make – and SO much better than the store-bought brands, with unpronounceable additives. There are so many easy recipes, but we really like this YouTube video at Villa Cocina:
Preheat the broiler and set the oven rack 6 inches from the top. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse well. They will be very sticky. Cut the tomatillos in half and place cut side down on foil lined baking sheet. Add the garlic, onion, jalapenos. Coat everything with vegetable oil.
Place under preheated broiler for 6 minutes to lightly blacken the skin. Flip everything halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Combine tomatillos, onions, garlic, lime juice and cilantro in blender or food processor and pulse until combined. Season with salt to taste. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Trim the large pieces of fat from beef. Cut into 3 inch chunks and allow to reach room temperature. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat the dutch oven to medium high heat. Add enough vegetable or canola oil to coat the bottom of the pot. You can also use a slow cooker or Instapot.
Add the chunks of beef and sear for about 3 minutes per side. You might have to do a few batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. When seared on both sides, remove from the pan and place to the side.
Turn off the heat and add all the pieces of beef back to the pot. Add the beef stock, bay leaves, cumin and the entire bottle of the Serious Foodie Mexican BBQ Sauce. Turn heat to medium high and bring to boil. Place pot in oven with lid on and cook for 6 hours. If using a slow cooker or Insta-pot, place on low.
Remove the beef from the pan and place in a roasting pan. Using two forks, shred the meat by pulling the forks in opposite directions. Season the meat with salt to taste. We like to de-fat the liquid in the pot by placing it in a tall container, put in the refrigerator for a few hours, and just skim off the top. Adding the beef back into the cooking liquid for a few hours, or overnight, makes for very flavorful meat.
To assemble the tacos: add a healthy amount of queso fresco, chopped cilantro, diced onion (or pickled onion), and sliced radishes
We will be changing our Mexican sauce - but ever so slightly so that it will be very easy to use it as either a grill sauce or a braising sauce. You can check out our Mexican Sauce at the Serious Foodie Shop: