Saturday, November 16, 2013

Slow-Cooked Beef Barbacoa {Dutch / French Oven method}

I recently pinned a recipe that caught my eye: Chipotle Barbacoa Tacos. I was hosting a Mexican-themed dinner party this weekend-- a perfect time to make a big batch! Now, I know most would not try out a new recipe the day they're hosting a dinner party... I guess I'm reckless like that. {Living on the edge, this one.}

I did a little poking around on the Internet after seeing that recipe and realized that slight derivations of this same recipe are repeated over and over... basically everyone must have gone to Chipotle's site, checked the ingredient page, and returned to their home kitchens. The glitch is that most of the recipes recommended using a slow-cooker... which I don't have. What I do have is a large Le Creuset French oven and a leisurely Saturday. 

So, with that in mind, here's my easy recipe for a day when you can stick around, enjoy some family time, and let your home fill with amazing aromas...

A lot of the recipes I came across involved extra steps like grilling peppers, pressing things through sieves, browning the meat, etc. that I deemed unnecessary.

I went easy on myself when it came to ingredients. Yes, I had a bunch of limes... but those could be reserved for the cervezas. One of those plastic lime things {that my kids always want to buy and use as a 'cool squirter'} contains exactly the right amount-- 1/2 cup-- of juice, already squeezed for me. Besides, that would have been a lot of lime squeezing... I wanted to keep my Saturday simple.

I used a bit of creative licence when making this dish... I was kind of like a kid in a candy shop when it came to my spice drawer.

And while I was, originally, going to go the dried chipotle route, these canned ones in adobo were the ones I could find.

Having a high powered blender or food processor made this recipe a cinch. While the actual cooking takes the bulk of a day, the prep takes mere minutes, and then the beef just slowly cooks.

Really, the hardest part of this recipe was the waiting. The aromas were able to escape even the tight fitting lid.

I peeked at the 4 hour mark....

And at the 6 hour mark my patience ran out.

I pulled the hunk of meat out, shredded it with two forks...

and then popped it back in the sauce while I went for a long walk. It slowly simmered for 1 more hour in the sauce.  I came home to an amazing smelling house and perfect shredded beef.

Slow-Cooked Beef Barbacoa
(Makes about 25+ servings. Freezes perfectly. You can easily halve this recipe too if you don't have a large pot. I used a 7 1/4 quart Le Creuset French Oven.)

7-8 lb boneless beef round bottom roast*
slow cooking sauce:
1 1/2 onions, rough chopped
10 +/- cloves garlic
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
three 6 oz can tomato paste
two 16 oz jars chipotle salsa
one 7.5 oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups beef broth

In a food processor or blender, combine onions, garlic, lime juice, cider vinegar, tomato paste, salsa, chipotle peppers, spices (cumin, cinnamon, oregano, smoked paprika, cloves) and salt. Pulse to a thick, smooth consistency. Add this to a large pot with a tight fitting lid, then add the beef broth, stir to combine, and place the beef roast into the pot. Turn burner onto medium-high, until the liquid comes to a nice, quick simmer, then lower heat and cover. Keep at a low simmer for 6-7 hours, until beef can easily be shredded with a fork. Carefully remove beef from the sauce, and shred using 2 forks. Then, return shredded beef to the sauce and simmer for another 1-2 hours until very tender. The barbacoa beef will freeze well for up to 3 months in an air-tight container. 

This made a very large batch, which was great, since it takes long enough that it's kind of a once-a-season sort of recipe. On Saturday, I served the beef barbacoa alongside a batch of my butternut squash-black bean enchiladas, citrusy black beans and Spanish rice at a casual fiesta-themed dinner party. On Sunday, we enjoyed leftovers at our family dinner. And I popped three family dinners' worth into the freezer for busy nights or action-packed ski weekends ahead.

*This is the cut that my butcher recommended, based on what he had in stock. You could also use brisket, shoulder or rump roast, top round.

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