So I have cravings. I’m not really sure what brings them on, but once I start thinking about certain flavors, I can’t stop. Sometimes the cravings are typicial (vanilla ice cream with peanut butter, anyone?), while other times they’re a bit more “specific”. Recently I found myself coating bananas in honey and dipping them in Grape Nuts cereal. Seriously. My latest obsession was to find something that would satisfy a spicey/tangy desire. First, I ended up eating pickled jalapenos out of the jar with a dab of Sriracha sauce on top. Again, I’m not kidding. Keep in mind, this need for spicy food is new for me. I used to be a “medium heat” girl. Now it seems as though there’s nothing I can’t handle. The hotter, the better.
I found the answer to my cravings with today’s recipe. You’re looking at an excellent braised-beef taco. Though it has a bite, it isn’t so hot that it should scare you away. It’s more on that “tangy” side that I had been craving– though you can adjust the heat to your liking. I added queso fresco (Mexican cheese) for balance, and plenty of cilantro to give it a fresh flavor. Corn tortillas give it an authentic texture, though my guess is it’ll be good with flour ones, as well. For the beef, I turned to Mr. Reliable, Mark Bittman. The result was a tender, perfectly-flavored braised meat. While these tacos pack a little heat, it’s not overwhelming. My kids were able to eat them. For my own, I scaled up the scovilles by loading them with fresh-chopped jalapenos.
If you prefer a milder dish, reduce the amount of cayenne pepper. You can also use less vinegar if you don’t want that powerful tangy “pop” that I was looking for. Even scaled down, the combination of the warm spices and the vinegar cooking with the beef for hours makes an incredible sauce. You’ll want to drizzle it on the tacos, and use it as a dipping sauce. I can’t stress this enough, but like all meat-based dishes, you should use the best meat you can find and/or afford. I used a grass-fed beef brisket for this recipe. Enjoy!
The Recipe: Spicy Braised-Beef Tacos with Vinegar
The Spice Rub:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika ( I used 1 tsp sweet and 1 tsp sharp)
5 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, divided
1 whole beef brisket, about 5 pounds
salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
2 cups minced onions
3 tablespoons tomato paste or 1 large ripe tomato, cored and chopped (peeled and seeded if you have time)
3-4 cloves minced garlic
3 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water ( I used chicken)
3-5 tablespoons white vinegar ( more, if necessary)
1. Preheat oven to 325° F. ( You can cook also cook this brisket on top of the stove if you like). In a small bowl mix together the mixture for the spice rub: salt, sugar, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, coriander, and paprika. Rub mixture over the meat. At this point you can choose to sear the meat or not. If you chose to do so, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil in a large Dutch oven that can be covered over medium -high heat for 2-3 minutes. Swirl oil around, then add the beef. Sear it for about 5 minutes on each side, or until it is nicely browned. Remove to a platter.
2. Wipe out pan with paper towel and return to medium heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they are golden and soft, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, then stir in the tomato paste/or tomato and garlic. Return the meat to pan, add the stock or water and vinegar, and cover.
3. Cook over low heat or in the oven, turning the meat about every 30 minutes, until tender, 2 1/2 – 3 hours. If the sauce seems too thin, allow the meat to rest on a platter for a few minutes while you boil the liquid down over high heat, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until it thickens somewhat. Taste the sauce and add more salt, black pepper, or vinegar if necessary. Shred the meat and assemble the tacos. Serve with corn or flour tortillas, queso fresco, cilantro, and jalapenos. Be sure to serve with plenty of the sauce for dipping your taco into. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
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