martes, 13 de septiembre de 2011

Just In Time for Mexican Independence Day: Birria

Contrary to popular gringo belief, May 5th is most definitely fucking NOT Mexican Independence Day. May 5th commemorates the Battle of Puebla, the one time the Mexican Army defeated the French Invasion Forces (only to lose a similar battle exactly 1 year later) sent by Napoleon Bonaparte as an attempt to keep Americans in check. For some reason even we don't get, Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16th, the day the War started; whereas May 5th was adopted as Mexican Heritage Day by the Miller Brewing Co. as a way to sell more beer to already alcoholic mexican immigrants. Way to go.

The origins of the dish known as birria are forever lost in time. The word itself means "unimportant" in ancient spanish. Still, it's probably the most iconic meat stew in mexican cuisine. One thing we know for certain is that it came from the state of Jalisco, although variations exist even among families in the same town. This particular recipe is sort of Jalisco-inspired, yet it misses two very important ingredients: Pulque and Maguey.
The leaves are widely used in mexican cuisine

Although some purists argue that the flavor is deeply afected by the presence of the Agave leaves, I've found it only contributes to the consistency of the broth and does little for flavoring in itself, so I completely left it out for the sake of simplicity.

Start with 1/2 a lamb (that's around 16 lbs worth of meat) left over from our previous meze night. As with all good stews, leave most of the fat, connective tisue and bones, as they will release collagen and make everything come together. Rinse the meat and rub it with salt.
We also ate his liver with a nice Chianti

Now, take 6 lbs of ripe tomatoes, chop them up in large chunks and place them in a pot with only 1 cup of water.

These are your chiles. Get good chiles from a mexican market. I mean really GOOD chiles. You could cook Kobe beef and fuck it up with shitty chiles or bottled sauces. Add 2 large anchos, 2 large Californias, 4 large Chipotles and a fistful of Árbol and Moritas to the pot with the tomatoes, along with 4 large garlic cloves and 1 large onion. Cover and steam over a low flame for 20 mins, or until the tomatoes are mashed to a paste.
Left to right: Ancho, Árbol, California, Morita and Chipotle

While the tomatoes stew, take 6lbs of beef, in this case chuck pot roast, and chop it ip in fist-sized chunks.
MEAT..... yum!

Blend your stewed tomatoes and feel the hair on your chest grow and your voice deepen as you smell your delicious concoction. A mustache may start to show now. Women beware of the potentially harmul effects of the pure testosterone you're handling right here.
Also known as Salsa...

Now layer the meats with some sea salt and whole peppercorns in a large pot. Pour some sauce over the whole thing. Repeat until you're done. At this point, some people add 2 cups of pulque. I couldn't find any. You can substitute with a cup of mezcal. This helps soften the meat even more and adds another layer of flavor. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.
Douche-ing it up with italian sea salt I actually got in Italy

The next day, take your tightly covered pot and simmer it over a medium low flame for 4 hours. Traditionally, the lid is held in place with masa. This way the steam from the stew cooks it and turns it into an airtight seal. I didn't buy mine in time, so I used aluminum foil.
Say it with me: FUCK. YEA.

DO. NOT. PEEK. Let the meat steam and do its thing. After 3 and a half hours, uncover and check for doneness. Take the larger chunks of meat and shred losely. Return to the pot and keep at a low simmer.

Be warned, the stains do not come off. Ever

Now serve. Take some meat, put in in a bowl, ladle some broth around it. Top with finely chopped onions and cilantro, a good squeeze of lime juice and some shredded cabbage. Make some salsa (I assume you've figured out THAT much so far) and pass it around. Supply abundant corn tortillas.
Beware of dick-exploding awesomeness (it might startle you at first, but it comes back, bigger and better).

Or make tacos, whatever rocks your boat
The Champ had at least 8 tacos
Epic Mexican Hangover Cure!
 Printer-friendly version: Birria de Borrego (Mexican Lamb Stew)
6 lbs lamb, whatever parts you like
6 lbs chuck pot roast, cubed
6 lbs tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 large Ancho chiles
2 large California chiles
4 large Chipotle chiles
50g Árbol chiles
50g Morita chiles
4 large garlic cloves
1 large onion, quartered
1/3 cup black peppercorns
Sea salt
2 cups Pulque (optional)

Garnishes: Chopped cilantro, chopped onions, limes, red salsa, corn torillas
  1. Rinse your meats, pat dry and rub with salt. Let rest
  2. Simmer the tomatoes, chiles, onion and garlic with very little water and blend into a thick paste
  3. Mix the meats, sauce, peppercorns and salt in a large pot. Add the pulque if you get some.
  4. Cover and marinate overnight. Get shitfaced during said night.
  5. Cook over a low flame for 4 hours
  6. Serve, cure your hangover
  7. Be Awesome

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