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.

66 thoughts on “Birria

  1. 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!

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

  2. 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!

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

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

    • 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!!!

    • 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!

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

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

      • 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. :))

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

  6. 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!

    • 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!

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

  7. 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.

    • 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!

  8. 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.

    • 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…

  9. 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 !

    • 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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…

    • 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!

  12. 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.

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

  13. 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

    • 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…

  14. 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!

    • 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.

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

    • 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!

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