I went back to the farmer’s market, back to the place where I got the brisket to make pastrami last month. This time I got a chuck roast, primarily because it was affordable. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, so once I got home I started flipping through cookbooks. After finding a few possibilities I settle on Northern Style Shredded Beef with Tomatoes from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless. I doubled his quantities, and used Fresno chiles instead of the spicier Jalapeños or Serranos. Feel free to halve this recipe, and to use whichever chile you prefer.
2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 medium onions
6 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup lard or vegetable oil
4 ripe medium sized tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped, OR one 29 oz. can tomatoes, drained and chopped
4 green onions, root ends removed and chopped in ¼ inch pieces
Fresh Fresno chiles to taste, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
Kosher salt, about a teaspoon
Place cubed beef, one halved onion and 2 cloves of garlic in a heavy dutch oven, cover with cold water and add 2 tsp. kosher salt . Place on high heat until water starts to boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Partially cover and simmer gently for about an hour, until meat is very tender. Ideally the meat should cool in the broth and sit overnight in the fridge. If you don’t have time, just skip that step and allow the meat to cool enough to handle. Strain and reserve the liquid, skimming off excess fat. Finely shred the meat, discarding any gristle or fat (or feed it to your cats/dogs/chickens) and dry it on paper towels.
Dice the remaining onion and garlic. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat then add the lard or oil. Once hot add onions and shredded beef and stir frequently for 8 to 10 minutes, until well browned. This is a crucial step in developing intense flavors, don’t rush through it. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, green onions, tomatoes, and chiles. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have softened. Deglaze your pan with about one cup of the reserved broth, and simmer until the liquid is evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
Meltingly soft, intensely beefy, this filling is good with corn or flour tortillas. It hardly needs any accompaniment, but you could certainly add shredded lettuce, lime wedges, cilantro, a little salsa, whatever sounds good. So delicious, I can’t wait to make it again.
P.S. I picked up a trick watching Jacques Pépin. When you need to peel tomatoes, or anything you’d normally have to blanch first, simply use a serrated peeler, and the skin comes off quite easily.
Also a friend of mine told me to save the root ends of green onions and stick them in the ground, and they will grow again. Sure enough it works. A constant supply of green onions at your fingertips.