Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shredded Beef Tacos with Achiote Seasoning

A desire to make shredded beef tacos for my gaming group took me across the city in search of various ingredients. Chinatown for a mortar and pestle to grind fresh cumin and then Numero Uno market off of Hoover for chiles and Achiote powder. This is a great city for food and anyone who says otherwise is mistaken.

I like this recipe because the different steps allowed me to practice a variety of cooking techniques. I also like the fact that the tacos are presented in an authentic style, without a ton of tomatoes, cheese and lettuce on top. There's just delicious braised beef and small tortillas.

Prep time is about 4-5 hours. You will have enough shredded beef for 12-14 tacos.

2 lb. boneless beef chuck
2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons Achiote powder
1 tablespoon Adobo Lemon & Pepper powder
9 peppercorns
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/3 poblano chile, roasted and peeled (See notes)
2 small tomatoes, peeled and chopped (See notes)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
freshly ground pepper
small (4" diameter or so) corn tortillas

1. Place meat in a Le Creuset or Dutch Oven. Add water, peppercorns, Achiote powder, small chopped onion and salt to taste. Cover with foil, then place lid on top.

2. Braise in oven at 300 degrees for 3 1/2 hours or until fork tender.

3. Cool meat in broth. Drain and strain, reserving 1/3 cup broth. Shred meat with 2 forks, discarding fat and tendon. Set aside.

4. Mash garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt to make a paste. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chopped onion and garlic paste. Cook until onion is tender.

5. Cut chile into short strips. Add chile strips and tomatoes to cooked onion. Cook 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Add meat, cumin, Adobo Lemon & Pepper powder and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cook and stir until meat is heated through. Stir in reserved broth. Taste and add salt if needed. Keep warm.

Steps 1-3 can be done the night before. You can place the strained broth and meat into a bowl so that the beef remains tender. The next day, you can warm the bowl over a double-boiler so that the meat can be separated from the coagulated broth.

To roast the chiles, place on an open, high flame on the stove. Roast until a side is blackened, then turn until all sides are black. Let rest for 20 minutes to cool. Next, run the chiles under cold water and peel away the skin. Then slice open the chiles to remove the stem, seeds and veins. The Poblano chiles are very hot. To "cool" them, place the roasted, cooled, seeded and de-veined chiles in a bowl with equal parts water and vinegar for 30 minutes. Rinse very well under cool water.

To peel the tomatoes easily, you will need to blanch them. To blanch the tomatoes, cut out the stem and slice an "X" into the bottom. Place the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water. Within 60 seconds you will see the skin start to separate from the tomato. Remove the tomatoes from the water with a slotted spoon or tongs and place into ice water or simply cold water. Let them rest for a minute. Peel away the skin, using a paring knife if need be. Slice the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds by squeezing the tomatoes then using your fingers.

Serve the meat with the onions and chiles on two small tortillas. Top with salsa, but refrain from adding lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and bunch of other stuff. Just keep it simple with two small tortillas, the meat and salsa.


  1. The ingredients list includes Adobo Lemon & Pepper powder, but I don't see it used in the directions. Where does it come in?

  2. Oh hell. Thanks for catching that. I add it at step six, along with the cumin. These tacos are so good. I think they are especially juicy if you braise the beef the night before and store it in a bowl with the strained broth.