Birra – Heaven in a Bowl
I am one of those fortunate people whose jobs have taken them around the globe. However, our neighbor to the south, Mexico, has tantalized my palate on many occasions over the year. Many years ago my job required me to go to Mexico quite frequently. This was a very fattening job because the business lunches were always fantastic, and portions were always large and I ate with reckless abandon.
We frequented one particular old restaurant/truck stop, I believe its name was La Trocadero, but I’m not sure as it was about 30 years ago. What I do remember is the soup I repeatedly ordered. It’s called Birria, rolling the R’s if you are talented. As is the case for many dishes originating in the state of Jalisco, broth is king. This red chili broth has a ton of flavor and medium heat. The heat can be increased by adding more cascabel peppers, or a few Chili Tepins (emphasis on few).
This heavenly clear red chili broth soup is made with suckling goat meat. Yep, I know; goat may not sound too appetizing to some Americans. Get over it. It IS delicious, especially in this dish. Think of it as a Mexican version of Boeuf Bourguignon. While it is not a quick dish to make, it is well worth the effort. The chilies are readily available in most grocery stores in the Southwest, and should be available in most Mexican specialty stores elsewhere. If you cannot find them locally, check online.
The Birria I ate was served with finely shredded lettuce, sliced radishes, thinly sliced red onions, limes and cilantro on the side for garnish. This allows for making additions you like as you eat.
Chef David Hall’s Version of Birria
4 lbs meat (preferably suckling goat)
6 ancho chilies
4 guajillo chilies
4 cascabel chilies
8 California chilies
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unfiltered cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
½ teaspoon ground thyme or 2-3 sprigs
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups of red wine
1 15.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, low or no sodium
2 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped cilantro
1. Remove the seeds and veins from the chilies.
2. Toast the chilies on a hot pan until browned, or underneath a broiler, but be careful not to burn them.
3. Place the chilies, pepper, cloves, oregano thyme, garlic, salt and cinnamon in a blender with hot water to soak for 10 minutes.
4. When done soaking, purée in blender with the vinegar to make a paste.
5. Cut the meat into 2” chunks
6. In a Dutch oven, sear the meat on all sides, in small batches. Don’t overload the pan or you will not get a good sear.
7. Return all the meat to a Dutch oven, adding the red wine, tomatoes onion and bay leaves, then cover the meat with some stock (beef preferably, but chicken will work).
8. Simmer for about 4 hours or bake at 325⁰F until tender. The meat should practically fall apart.
9. Discard the bay leaves then shred the meat using two forks (similar to making pulled pork).
10. Return the meat to the Dutch oven to warm, making stock additions sufficient to cover the meat.
11. Adjust for seasoning and salt if necessary
12. Serve hot with the garnishes on the side.
Please take the time to make this dish.
We have some slots left in our Adult Culinary Boot Camp starting Saturday, March 24th. Classes meet once a month on a Saturday for five months. Detailed class notes, groceries and recipes are provided. For more details, check us out on the web at www.thymeforachef.com. Come join us for a memorable learning experience you will use for the rest of your life. Contact us to enroll for a very fun and very filling experience.
Chef David Hall
Thyme for a Chef, LLC