Jeff Mauro's Quesabirria Tacos Beauty, as seen on The Kitchen, Season 33.
Recipe courtesy of Jeff Mauro

Quesabirria Tacos

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 5 hr
  • Active: 1 hr 20 min
  • Yield: 16 to 20 tacos
“Quesabirria,” a compound word combining queso (cheese) and birria, a traditional Mexican stew, is basically a beef birria taco with melted cheese, or a kind of a cross between a taco and a quesadilla. The tortillas first get dipped in fat skimmed from the braised beef before topping with shredded braised beef and cheese. It gets served with beef broth/braising liquid on the side to sip or dunk the taco in between bites. The dish originated in Tijuana but has traveled up the West Coast and gained popularity in the US via social media. My biggest piece of advice with this dish is to let the braised meat chunks cool and use your gloved hands to pull the meat into shards. This way, your fingers can detect and discard any fatty pieces.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the beef base, ancho and guajillo chiles, garlic, tomato and quartered onion. Stir until combined. Simmer for 5 minutes and take off the heat. Using a spider, fish out all the chiles and veg and place in a blender. Blend until smooth. Reserve the purée. Also RESERVE the cooking liquid — this will be used for the braise.
  3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season all sides of the chuck roast and short ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, sear the chuck roast on all sides until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the short ribs, then transfer to plate and set aside.
  4. Reduce the heat under the Dutch oven to medium, add the oregano and cumin and gently heat in the residual oil for 30 seconds, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot.
  5. Return the meats to the pot, add the reserved purée and stir to mix. Top off with some of the reserved cooking liquid so all the meat is completely covered. Add the bay leaf. Place in the oven, uncovered, and braise until the meat is very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours, checking every 30 to 45 minutes to ensure there is enough liquid in the pot. If too much liquid has evaporated, add in more of the cooking liquid.
  6. Transfer the meats to a platter and let cool. Remove the bones from the short ribs and, using your fingers, shred the meat and discard any funky or gristly pieces. Taste and hit it with a little salt if need be.
  7. Once the braising liquid cools a bit but is still warm, use a large metal spoon to skim off that beautiful orange fat from the top and reserve in a medium bowl. Also, reserve the braising liquid in the pot, keeping it warm over low heat on the stove.
  8. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Heat a cast-iron griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush with some of the reserved fat if you like.
  9. Dip one side of a warmed tortilla into the reserved orange fat (or brush it on) and place dipped-side down on a cutting board. Top half of the undipped side of the tortilla with about a 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and 1/4 cup of the shredded beef. Season with salt. Fold in half to close and set aside. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, cheese and meat.
  10. Working in batches, place the tacos on the heated griddle or skillet and sizzle until golden brown and all melty, 2 to 3 minutes per side. You can hold the already made tacos in the warm oven on a sheet tray.
  11. Ladle some of the braising liquid into ramekins or small bowls. Add some of the remaining diced onion to the ramekins and top with cilantro. Serve the quesabirria with lemon wedges and the braising liquid, for per-bite dunking!