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Frame Recipe: The Vargas Family’s Beef Birria

Frame > Frame Stories > April 2022: The Taco Issue > Frame Recipe: The Vargas Family’s Beef Birria
FRAME STORIES -recipe birrera_1268
Photo by Joe Vaughn

Birria is one of those special dishes that people usually make for big events, like weddings and quinceañeras. It’s a very rustic, comforting dish from the region of Jalisco, where it’s typically made with goat or lamb. In my family, my father used to make it with lamb. We’re not such big fans of lamb, so we use beef. What’s special about this recipe is that it’s been passed on for generations. My grandparents were taqueros in Mexico. This recipe was created with the knowledge from my grandparents passed on to my father, who uses a few different ingredients that others don’t use. And there’s a lot of love in it. There’s a lot of different home cooks or people who make birria differently. Some recipes add cinnamon, some don’t. Some ingredients can overtake and overpower the dish and this one has a nice balance of citrus and sweet and spice. This is a simplified version of my family’s recipe.

— By Eddie Vargas

Ingredients

3 pounds boneless short rib or roasting beef, cubed into large chunks
1 Spanish onion, halved
1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
6 whole dried chile guajillo
4 whole dried chile pasilla
2 oranges, halved
4 whole roma tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1 small stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons salt, plus more to taste
Water

Lime wedges
Corn tortillas

Directions

1. Place the chunks of beef into a big stockpot and cover with water. Add oranges, half of the cilantro, one-half of the onion, garlic, chiles, tomatoes, salt, cinnamon, oregano, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until meat is tender, about an hour and a half.

2. Remove everything but the beef and liquid from the mixture and pour into a blender. Blend until smooth.

3. Add blended ingredients back into the pot with tender beef and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes on low heat.

4. Serve hot meat in a bowl with consomé and a side of reserved cilantro, chopped onion, lime wedges, and fresh corn tortilla.