Birria Quesatacos Tasty (2021)

You may have only heard about barrio sometime in the last few years, but this gloriously rich bright red stew has been consumed throughout Mexico, especially in its birthplace of Jalisco, for generations. It is a stalwart of big celebrations and cookouts, as well as a fantastic hangover cure that is usually required after said celebrations.

You’ll see it served in the form of tacos (or quesadillas or tortes or mulitas) all over your social media feed, but “barrio” refers to the stew. It’s traditionally made with goat meat that is braised for hours with dried chilis, garlic, and various spices to produce a flavorful consommé (broth) and tender meat. Depending on the preparation, barrio can be thick (like a Texas-style Chile) or loose (like a classic beef stew).

To help in developing this recipe, I turned to José Moreno head chef and co owner of New York premier barrio truck, Birria-Landia. Though he wasn’t ready to give up his famous recipe, he was more than happy to give us some cooking tips.

It’s all about the beef. “For the brood [broth] to taste really good you need bones.” As with many broth-focused dishes (like pho, tonkotsu ramen or beef demi-glace), José’s barrio derives a lot of its flavor from beef bones and marrow. His preferred bone-in cut is beef shank that he buys from a specialty wholesale butcher, but when he was starting out with smaller batches he used beef short ribs. Short ribs are one of the best things to braise and are, luckily, easy to come by. To supplement these boney cuts and add some more meat to the dish, José recommends cuts like top round or brisket, which are well-suited for hours of braising and will result in a shred able, juicy topping for your tacos. It should be filled with chilis—but not too spicy! José uses a mix of dried chilis to provide the flavor backbone of the dish, while also achieving the dark red color that barrio is known for. However, despite being packed with chilis, José says a classic barrio shouldn’t be spicy. You can see that through his choice of the central chili pepper in his barrio: “The base of my barrio is guajillo’s. You cannot make barrio without guajillo’s”. Guajillo’s are one of the most popular and commonly used chili pepper in Mexican cuisine and provide an earthy, sweet flavor that does well to supplement other tastes and types of chilis. José supplements the mild flavor of guajillo’s with some mohrites—jalapeños that have been smoked and dried. They add a bit of smokiness and heat that really add to the briar’s complexity. Low and slow is the way to go. José braises his barrio for hours. This long cook time is absolutely necessary to break down and tenderize the brisket while also leaching the beef bones of all their flavor. I know it may seem laborious, but the reality is once you’ve gotten everything in the pot and put in your oven, you have 4 to 5 hours to do whatever you like. We took all of these tips and ideas to heart in developing our own recipe below. And though barrio can be served in countless ways, we love making quesatacos stained red with the fat of the barrio and seared until almost crispy. This helps melt quest oaxaca and create what is essentially a mini quesadilla. What’s not to love?

Of course you cannot forget to serve them with a side of consume. Half the joy of eating barrio is absolutely drowning whatever you’ve stuffed with your brisket and short rib into the flavorful broth.

Birria Quesatacos Tasty (2021)

Tried making barrio at home? Let us know how it came out in the comments below!

Preheat oven to 350º F. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat add guajillo, Morata and papilla chilis. Toast the chilis for 1 to 2 minutes, moving frequently to ensure they don’t scorch. Remove to a medium bowl and cover with enough boiling water to cover the chilis, about 3 cups. Use a small plate or bowl to completely submerge the chilis. Let sit for 20 minutes or until rehydrated and pliable. Remove the chilis and reserve the liquid.

While the chilis soak, season beef with salt and pepper. Increase the heat in the Dutch oven to medium high and add vegetable oil. Working in batches, sear the beef thoroughly (6 to 7 minutes per side for the brisket/roast, 4 to 5 minutes for the bone-in parts). Remove seared beef to a plate or cutting board.

In a blender add the dehydrated chilis, garlic, cloves, cinnamon stick, oregano, cumin seeds, tomatoes, vinegar and 1 ½ cups of the Chile liquid. Blend for about a minute or until the mixture becomes a pourable paste.

Return the beef to the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the quartered onion and bay leaves. Add the Chile paste and enough water to just cover the beef (for us this was 3 to 4 cups of water). Bring the barrio to a simmer.

Remove the Dutch oven from the heat, cover and move it to the preheated oven. Braise the barrio for 4 to 4 ½ hours or until all of the beef is fork tender. Discard the bay leaves and onion and move the beef to a cutting board. Reserve all of the broth (or consume). Shred the beef and set aside.

Taste the consommé and season with salt and pepper. Depending on your preference of the style of barrio you want, you may want a thinner consommé. If you want to thin it out, add your desired amount of water, chicken or beef stock. Bring to a simmer and taste/season again.

Birria Quesatacos Tasty (2021)

Barrie can be stored in the fridge, in airtight containers, meat and consommé separated, for up to 5 days.

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