Birria

Birria de Res – Recipe from Chef Josef Centeno, Adapted by Tejal Rao, from NYT Cooking email, dated February 10, 2021
Yep, this photo got my attention!

Birria, the regional stew from Mexico saw a meteoric rise in popularity recently, as a soupy style made with beef, popularized by birria vendors in Tijuana, took off in the United States. Chef Josef Centeno, who grew up eating beef and goat birria in Texas, makes a delicious, thickly sauced version based on his grandma Alice’s recipe, mixing up the proteins by using oxtail, lamb on the bone and even tofu. Preparing the adobo takes time, as does browning the meat, but it’s worth it for the deep flavors in the final dish. The best way to serve birria is immediately and simply, in a bowl, with some warm corn tortillas.. —Tejal Rao

Birria de Res

2 poblano chiles
5 guajillo chiles, seeded, stemmed and halved lengthwise
5 pounds bone-in beef shoulder, cut into large pieces
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
¼ cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 cloves
Fresh black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
2 dried bay leaves
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered
Corn tortillas, warmed

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Use tongs to place the poblano chiles directly over the open flame of a gas burner set to high. Cook the poblanos until totally charred all over, turning as needed, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the poblanos can steam. After 10 minutes, use your fingers to pull the blackened skins away from the poblanos, then remove the stems and seeds. Roughly chop the poblanos and set aside.

If you want this process shown in photos, click on poblano roast.

While the poblano chiles steam, place a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches to cook the guajillo chiles evenly in one layer, flatten the chile halves on the hot skillet and toast them for about 15 seconds, turning once. Put the chiles in a bowl and add 2 cups hot water to help soften them. Set aside.

Season the meat all over with the salt. Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof pot over medium-high. Working in batches, sear the meat on all sides until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side, transferring the browned meat to a large bowl as you work.

After you’ve seared all the meat, add the onion to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Return all the meat to the pot.

Use a seed toaster to toast the jumpy sesame seeds.

To peel the roasted poblanos after they’ve steamed and cooled, simply use a paper towels or your fingers to remove the charred surface, then with a knife remove the stem and any membrane and seeds on the inside.

Meanwhile, add the tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, ginger, oregano, sesame seeds, cumin, cloves and a few grinds of black pepper to a blender, along with the chopped poblanos, toasted guajillos and the chile soaking liquid. Purée until smooth, scraping down the edges of the blender as needed. I bought a case of “Joysey Tuhmatuhs” to try them out. Fabulous ingredient!

Pour the blended mixture into the pot with the meat. Add the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, along with about 4 to 6 cups of water, enough to amply cover the meat.

I didn’t add water because I used less meat and I wanted the stew more stewy and less soupy. Cover and cook in the oven until the meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

Divide among bowls and sprinkle with cilantro.

Serve with lime wedges for squeezing on top, and a side of warm tortillas.

This stew is so good. Great depth of flavor; you can really taste the cumin and cinnamon.

By Published On: April 7th, 202166 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

66 Comments

  1. David @ Spiced April 7, 2021 at 6:26 AM - Reply

    Wow, this sounds like a fantastic stew, Mimi! I can see why that photo got your attention, too. We’ve been eating soups and stews for the last 4 months, but I suspect we’ve got another couple of weeks left in soup season. This might need to make it’s way to the list – it sounds so flavorful!

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 7:01 AM - Reply

      It’s really good. Love the seasoning in it. I just didn’t make it as soupy as the recipe suggested.

  2. Jeff the Chef April 7, 2021 at 7:07 AM - Reply

    I’ll bet this is delicious! I like your less-soupy version, although I think I’d like it either way.

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 7:12 AM - Reply

      I much less of a soup person, no matter the weather. It was really good more chili-like in any case. Great flavors!

  3. Travel Gourmet April 7, 2021 at 7:59 AM - Reply

    That sounds wonderful, Mimi!

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 8:03 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Kay!

  4. cookingwithauntjuju.com April 7, 2021 at 8:26 AM - Reply

    Fabulous! I need to make more Mexican dishes and your recipe sounds like a keeper. I roast my peppers on the grill, usually a number of them and freeze the peeled peppers to use as needed. I find (even poblanos) smell up the kitchen!

    • chef mimi April 12, 2021 at 8:03 AM - Reply

      Well isn’t that smart?!! Why have I never done that? Funny, I love the smell of roasting peppers in the house!

  5. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen April 7, 2021 at 9:09 AM - Reply

    This looks so beautiful and flavorful! Great offering Mimi!

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 10:26 AM - Reply

      Definitely flavorful! Really nice seasoning.

  6. angiesrecipes April 7, 2021 at 9:31 AM - Reply

    Can I please come over for the dinner? This looks incredibly delicious and flavourful with all the wonderful spices and quality ingredients. And you even own a seed toaster??? wow…

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 10:26 AM - Reply

      You’re always welcome, Angie! Doesn’t everyone have a seed toaster?!! Seriously, everyone should.

  7. kitchenriffs April 7, 2021 at 9:38 AM - Reply

    Mmm, this looks good. Love birria, and I almost never make it — it’s more one of those things I order in restaurants for some reason. Like your version — although I love soups, I adore stews! So good — thanks.

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 10:27 AM - Reply

      Interesting. I’ve lived very near the border in CA and TX and have never come across it until I got that email!!! See? Always more food to try!!!

  8. Tabula Rasa April 7, 2021 at 10:21 AM - Reply

    That looks lovely

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 10:27 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much!

  9. Ronit Penso Tasty Eats April 7, 2021 at 10:29 AM - Reply

    This looks so very flavorful. I’m definitely for a less soupy version.

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 10:35 AM - Reply

      Yeah, I don’t know why that didn’t appeal to me, even though I was terribly attracted to the photo! It would be good either way!

  10. Mary April 7, 2021 at 3:47 PM - Reply

    Yep, this has got to be made and soon!
    Now please tell me: What is a seed toaster?
    My cooking education is not complete! :))

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 4:07 PM - Reply

      Well, it’s for toasting small seeds that bounce when heated. The little lid holds them inside the pan!!!

      • Mary April 8, 2021 at 4:27 PM

        Thanks Mimi. I had a look at the photo again and saw the lid in the background. Great. There’s a utensil for most things I guess. :))

      • chef mimi April 10, 2021 at 9:28 AM

        I should have taken a better photo. Yes, there’s a hinged metal mesh lid that snaps on and keeps the seeds inside.

  11. Alex April 7, 2021 at 3:58 PM - Reply

    This looks really good, Mimi, and I have dried guajillos and poblanos here . . .

    • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 4:06 PM - Reply

      Nice…. Aren’t they hard to come by in Germany?!

      • Alex April 7, 2021 at 5:06 PM

        A Mexican couple has an Import store that sells dried chiles, fresh corn and flour tacos as well as sauces etc. The selection is decent for Germany, and not expensive. I even ordered 100 corn husks for tamales not too long ago :-)
        Check it out!: https://www.mercadomexicano.de/

      • chef mimi April 7, 2021 at 5:17 PM

        Wow! That’s so great!

  12. cookingwithshy April 7, 2021 at 8:03 PM - Reply

    This is a brilliant recipe share Mimi!!

    • chef mimi April 12, 2021 at 8:06 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much!

  13. Debra April 7, 2021 at 8:50 PM - Reply

    How flavorful! And you’ve really helped me understand something, Mimi. I live in Southern California and I don’t even know if you could imagine how plentiful Mexican food is here. On top of the thousands of restaurants, there are food trucks everywhere, and most boast “birria” on their menus. All my life I thought birria was exclusively goat! And I can’t “do” that…under any circumstance. LOL! But when you mentioned even tofu my antennae really picked up on the versatility and the flavors you’ve outlined here are really exceptional .Once again, I learned something useful here. So thank you!

    • chef mimi April 8, 2021 at 6:59 AM - Reply

      Aww, well you’re welcome! It certainly can be goat, but not exclusively. I’ve had goat – it’s good. It doesn’t taste like chicken! When we were in Peru I had guinea pig. My mother cooked us “worse” stuff growing up, and I was taught to taste everything! Just once! I’m really envious of where you live – I’m basically a Californian. Went to school at UCSB. One girlfriend from Ensanada introduced me to avocados and jicama and salsa! I’d love to experience the whole food truck thing! And such great markets. Lucky! Once can certainly live a great life without eating goat!

  14. Tandy | Lavender and Lime April 7, 2021 at 10:55 PM - Reply

    It looks so good. I wish we could get all the chillies here that you have access to.

    • chef mimi April 8, 2021 at 6:55 AM - Reply

      I know. That’s sad. They should be available global, especially these days! I do get so many international products on Amazon, thankfully!

  15. Ben | Havocinthekitchen April 8, 2021 at 7:14 AM - Reply

    I am not familiar with Birria, but this dish looks and sounds absolutely fabulous, hearty, and delicious. Definitely should be served with flatbread (or even freshly-baked sourdough bred hehe) to get all this aromatic sauce.

    • chef mimi April 8, 2021 at 7:58 AM - Reply

      I thought about some soft, white flour tortillas, but that’s also why I made it more stew-like and less soupy. I’ve lived close to the border in TX and CA and never heard of this, which is exactly why I love getting recipes, reading cookbooks, and following blogs!

  16. Eva Taylor April 8, 2021 at 3:27 PM - Reply

    I just love all of the warm spices used in this dish, and it’s stew, who doesn’t love that? I haven’t heard of it before so it’s definitely going on my list of things to cook before the really warm weather hits us.

    • chef mimi April 12, 2021 at 8:05 AM - Reply

      Well I’d never heard of it either, and I’ve lived near the border! Well, better late than never.

  17. Healthy World Cuisine April 8, 2021 at 10:35 PM - Reply

    So what time is dinner? Heck we will even settle for leftovers. Bet this recipe is even better the next day after the flavors have a chance to mingle.

    • chef mimi April 9, 2021 at 6:03 PM - Reply

      I’m ready any time for you!!! And my husband can attest that it keeps getting better, cause we had leftovers. I still cook for four…

  18. 2pots2cook April 9, 2021 at 3:40 AM - Reply

    There is so much comfort in stews like this one ! It reminds me of hot Hungarian goulash but , of course, mix of spices is so much different ! As we both are into this type of food, serving anything aside works great for us. And, not to forge : your photos are amazing !

    • chef mimi April 9, 2021 at 6:02 PM - Reply

      Ohhh, thank you!!! The hyacinths had just bloomed to I used a few individual flowers for some color!

  19. Molly Pisula April 9, 2021 at 8:28 AM - Reply

    Oh, this looks so good! The color on this is amazing. I am looking forward to being back in the States where I can find good chili peppers!

    • chef mimi April 9, 2021 at 6:02 PM - Reply

      Oh I know! I hear that a lot. But have you used amazon? It’s my international deli 🤣But seriously, I get so many international products from them.

  20. Hannah Kaminsky April 10, 2021 at 6:17 PM - Reply

    Birria is really having a moment now! There’s a food truck out here that makes an INCREDIBLE vegan version, and I haven’t the faintest idea of how they pull it off, especially looking at the traditional recipe. I think I’m gonna leave this one to the experts and keep ordering out!

    • chef mimi April 10, 2021 at 6:20 PM - Reply

      Wow, a vegan version? Amazing! I’ve never heard of this, so I was excited. Thanks for even commenting!!!

  21. Ron April 11, 2021 at 5:10 AM - Reply

    Mimi, I know this dish and your version looks amazing. And, corn tortilla are definitely my choice for this dish as well as a cold Modelo Especial beer…

    • chef mimi April 11, 2021 at 6:53 AM - Reply

      I love Modelo, Tecate, Corona, and Pacifico. I prefer Mexican beers for some reason. As for birria, I don’t know why I’m the only one who’s never heard of it before!! Oh well, I do now!

  22. sherry April 11, 2021 at 8:11 AM - Reply

    i’ve never heard of a seed toaster – sounds like a great idea. what a fab stew thingy this is. all those chillies. it’s not easy to get different sorts here. this is a new dish to me. sounds very hearty.

    • chef mimi April 11, 2021 at 8:15 AM - Reply

      Definitely hearty. Definitely delicious. And, everyone should have a seed toaster! One year I gave them as Christmas presents! (To friends who cook, obviously!)

  23. sippitysup April 11, 2021 at 8:10 PM - Reply

    Birria is among my favorite foods. I’ve never attempted to make it, but I’ll drive 50 minutes across Los Angeles to eat it. I wonder why that is? This recipe with this provenance should change all that. GREG

    • chef mimi April 12, 2021 at 7:09 AM - Reply

      HA! That is funny. Well I’d love for you to try it to see how it compares. According to the source it’s authentic, but you never know…

  24. Liz @ spades, spatulas, and spoons April 12, 2021 at 1:53 PM - Reply

    I have seen birria recipes all over the place lately, good for you that you took the dare and made it. I’m with the person who would drive 50 miles rather than undertake it.

    • chef mimi April 12, 2021 at 4:58 PM - Reply

      gosh that’s interesting. This was the first time ever I’d heard of it. It makes great leftovers, too!

  25. Fran @ G'day Souffle April 12, 2021 at 7:57 PM - Reply

    Yum! I made something similar recently, except using pork shoulder. I think your beef shoulder suits this recipe since it has more ‘depth’ than pork. How come I never heard of Birria before (and I live just 6 miles from Tijuana)! I’m a little scared to ccoss the border by myself these days, but I’ll definitely be making my own Birria!

    • chef mimi April 12, 2021 at 8:15 PM - Reply

      I think it was in 1985 the last time I went to Tijuana by myself! But I’ve never heard of birria until I got this email. The beef is good. but honestly, pork would be great as well.

  26. Katherine | Love In My Oven April 12, 2021 at 10:08 PM - Reply

    I’d have to make this with less chilis for the kids, much to my disappointment. But other than that this looks so flavorful and delicious!!! We’d love it.

    • chef mimi April 13, 2021 at 6:55 AM - Reply

      I remember that same issue. I’d just separate into two pots – adults and kids! But the recipe is wonderful!

  27. myhomefoodthatsamore April 13, 2021 at 1:29 AM - Reply

    Golly gosh! This looks amazing Mimi! Interesting that fresh ginger was used, I never associated ginger with Mexican food before.

    • chef mimi April 13, 2021 at 6:54 AM - Reply

      Me neither, and I’ve cooked a lot of it. You really taste and smell the cinnamon and cumin, and of course the chile peppers. Really good flavors!

  28. Raymund April 13, 2021 at 7:52 PM - Reply

    This looks hearty delicious! bring out the extra soft tacos :)

    • chef mimi April 13, 2021 at 8:05 PM - Reply

      Exactly!

  29. David Scott Allen April 17, 2021 at 5:55 PM - Reply

    I feel so lucky to love in a place where birria and birria tacos are the norm. Love the recipe here – might need to try it soon!

    • chef mimi April 17, 2021 at 9:42 PM - Reply

      Omg yesssss! You are lucky!

  30. For the Love of Cooking April 20, 2021 at 10:48 AM - Reply

    Yum. This is my kind of meal. It looks flavorful and so delicious.

    • chef mimi April 20, 2021 at 11:21 AM - Reply

      It’s very tasty. Great flavors!

  31. Karen (Back Road Journal) April 28, 2021 at 3:50 PM - Reply

    I’ve been seeing recipes for Birria lately but I’ve never had it. It sounds like it would be delicious was all the spices used.

    • chef mimi April 28, 2021 at 6:29 PM - Reply

      Exactly! Not overly spiced (not that we care!) but great layers of good flavors and spices!

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