Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mexican Roast Beef Tacos

Aside from having my mother, my grandparents didn't do a whole lot of things right. They illegally immigrated from Durango, Mexico sometime in the forties; and, I assume in the process of trying to survive, deal, and acclimate, quickly developed some horrible habits in the barrios of Los Angeles, California.

My grandpa was a towering man with giant forearms and the visage of a wooden Indian. He worked at a gas station and loved baseball but he really wasn't any good at either. I mostly remember him getting fired and never wanting to play catch with me. Really, it seemed like his true talents lied primarily in drinking and falling asleep in places that were not a bed or his house.

So every morning my grandma would half-mindedly call around looking for him. Somehow while dragging me around the kitchen on a blanket and re-frying the leftover roast beef, she managed to check with each one of his friends. And usually, by the time I was finishing the last bits of my breakfast, my grandpa would wander in, reeking of cheap beer and gas.

My grandparents would yell at each other in Spanish for a few minutes. Call each other drunks. And then mull about in silence, giving each other crusty looks until dinner time.

Clearly, my grandma was a woman of fortitude and resilience. But, as her purpose and identity in life was consumed with chasing after her borracho, I feel like her culinary genius went largely unrecognized and under-appreciated. Sure, she cooked with lard. And maybe she went a little heavy on the salt. So, while I'm not interested in that kind of dietary abuse, I am interested in honoring that incredible roast beef. And thankfully, Gilly and I figured out a delicious way to recapture it with just as much flavor and a lot less of the slow, impending death.

Now, if only I could trick someone into dragging me around on a blanket.

Mexican Roast Beef Tacos
  • 4-5 pound chuck roast
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 bay leaves
  • corn tortillas
  • Guacamole

Season all sides of the beef with a good amount of salt and pepper. Don't be shy, you want the outside to be well coated. In a large Dutch oven, or other heavy pot with a tight cover, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the beef to the pot and sear it on all sides, taking the time to build a nice golden crust all the way around. Add the onion and garlic and allow to soften and brown slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, plus 1 tomato can of water, beef broth, and spices, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Add just enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer with a lid for 3 hours until the meat is fork tender. Let the meat cool in the liquid. Shred meat and set aside.

When you’ve made your guacamole and arranged your taco fixings, reheat the shredded beef in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. This makes the meat slightly crispy on the outside and still juicy and delicious on the inside.


  1. Knit me a blanket, I'm your girl.

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