We’ve been on a bit of a Mexican kick around here, first with those amazing fish tacos and now with these incredible beef tacos. Oh! And there was also some pork tostadas that I’ll have to blog about soon – all wonderfully delicious, authentic Mexican meals.

I’m sad these tacos are all gone now! They were so, so tasty. And the recipe made a ton so we were basically eating them all week. They are just packed with flavor – the beef is cooked with chipotle chiles in adobo so it is smoky and complex without being too spicy, and all of the toppings combine to add crunch and sweetness and spiciness and creaminess. There’s a corn and tomato salsa, a cilantro-lime crema, and an avocado-red onion relish (which I didn’t make but I’m sure would be awesome).The biggest hit of the toppings was the spicy pineapple salad – it definitely took the tacos to a whole new level. I’d never had pineapple in a taco before, and it was surprisingly amazing. The combination of the smoky meat and the bright, sweet fruit was out of this world.

The recipes, which comes from Everyday Food magazine, also includes instructions for cumin rice and beans, which was a tasty dish to have alongside the tacos. All in all, it was a fabulous and fun meal – something about all those tasty toppings made it seem really festive. This would be a great meal for a dinner party.

This recipe does take a lot of time – almost 3 hours from start to finish, so you have to take that into consideration. However, once you get the beef in the oven, it’s hands off for 2 1/2 hours so you can do other things – like prepare the toppings. The meal can seem to be pretty involved with all of the toppings, but they do come together rather quickly. All of the toppings except maybe the avocado relish can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.

Smoky Beef Tacos

From Everyday Food, March 2009

Serves 8

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 2 3/4 hours

2 -3 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo*

1/2 cup ketchup

8 garlic cloves, chopped

2 teaspoons dried oregano

coarse salt and ground pepper

1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 3 pounds), trimmed of excess fat

16 corn tortillas (6-inch), lightly toasted

toppings (recipes follow)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, stir together chiles, ketchup, 1 cup water, garlic, oregano, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Cut beef into 4 equal pieces. Add to pot and turn to coat. Cover and bring to a boil; transfer pot to oven. Bake, covered, until beef is fork-tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer beef to a bowl. With a large spoon, skim off and discard fat from the cooking liquid. Shred beef with two forks; moisten with cooking liquid as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly toast the tortillas over a low gas flame using tongs or in a dry skillet on medium heat. Serve beef with tortillas and desired toppings.

*I nervously used 2 tablespoons (chipotles are powerful!) and was pleasantly surprised that the beef came out flavorful but not too spicy. If you want your meat to pack a definite punch, go for 3 tablespoons.

Spicy pineapple salad

Serves 8

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pineapple – peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

2 jalapeno chiles, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced crosswise

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

coarse salt and ground pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil over high. Working in 2 batches, cook pineapple and jalapenos until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with vinegar and salt and pepper.

Avocado-Red Onion Relish

Combine 2 diced avocados and 1 finely chopped medium red onion with 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 3 cups.

Corn and Tomato Salsa

Combine 10 ounces thawed frozen corn with 1 cup quartered grape or cherry tomatoes, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 3 cups.

Cilantro-Lime Crema

Stir together 16 ounces reduced-fat sour cream, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, and 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 2 cups.

Cumin Rice and Beans

Cook 1 cup of rice, either white or brown, according to package directions, but add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin to the cooking water. I used brown rice, so: bring rice and 2 cups of water , a pinch of coarse salt and the cumin to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered, for about 50 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 can of drained and rinsed kidney beans. Cover and let stand for 1 minute.

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