Maximizing the Flavors of Short Ribs
This recipe maximizes the texture and flavor of the beef used in many Mexican and Southwestern dishes. When properly cooked, beef short ribs are one of the most tender cuts of meat. Combining this with fresh ground Mexican spices and slowly cooking the short ribs to the point that the meat falls apart, is basis of this dish. While you can use less expensive cuts of meat (chuck roast or eye of round) and get similar results, the beef short ribs are densely flavorful and delicious. You can use boneless short rib meat as I did in this example, but the bone-in beef short rib is just as flavorful and is braised like the boneless variety. Cooking low and slow with the short rib bone will enhance the final flavor. Once cooked, the meat can be served on its own or makes exceptional burritos, tacos or enchiladas. I recently did this very thing for my wife’s book club on Cinco de Mayo.
Store bought ground chile powder may be used instead of grinding your own chiles, however if you are looking to maximize the flavors, roasting and grinding your own gives you more control. I prefer to use complementary chile varieties which offer deeper taste profiles. Many of the spice companies I recommend allow you to purchase small amounts (1 oz.) of each type of chile, so you don’t have to buy more than you need.
In this recipe I’m using a lesser known chile, the morita. Morita chiles are smoked mature red jalapenos. They are similar to chipotles, but not smoked as hard and retain a fruitier flavor. Morita chiles are more traditional in Mexico City than the chipotles are here in the United States. An additional (optional) flavor to add to the beef short rib spice mix is instant espresso powder (which is more Southwestern Cuisine than traditional Mexican). The small amount of espresso powder adds a deep earthiness to the final product, but the recipe is still delicious without it.
The finished product is deeply flavorful and makes for a memorable dish no matter how you use it. It’s fantastic in tacos, tamales, burritos and enchiladas. It would also be spectacular on nachos or quesadillas, or as a meaty ingredient in your next chile con queso.
Shredded Mexican Short Ribs
- 3 lbs boneless short ribs (if using bone-in short ribs, separate each rib to season) (Alternatives-Chuck Roast or Eye of Round)
- 2 tbsp ancho chile, ground (Ground pasilla chile is a good substitute)
- 1 tbsp morita chile, ground (Alternate chipotle, ground)
- 2 tbsp oregano, dried (preferably Mexican oregano)
- 2 tsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 1 tsp cumin, roasted and freshly ground (Alternatively you can use ground cumin)
- 1/4 tsp espresso instant powder (optional)
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp course ground black pepper
- 2 clove minced garlic
- 1 whole onion, peeled and julienned
- 1 whole orange, juiced
- 1/2 whole lime, juiced
Prepare the chiles by removing the stems and seeds. Roast the chiles in a dry heavy bottom pan like an iron skillet over medium high heat.
Once the chiles are roasted and cooled, briefly cut or tear them into smaller pieces and process them in a spice grinder. Working in batches, sieve the chiles with a fine mesh strainer to remove anything that wasn't completely ground.
Roast and grind the cumin seeds. This will extract the full flavor from the cumin. Sieve the cumin seeds as you did the chiles and discard anything that didn't get ground up. (Alternatively, use pre-ground cumin to save time.)
Once all of the chiles/cumin have been ground, add the dry spices (ancho, morita, oregano, cocoa powder, cumin, espresso powder [optional], cinnamon, sea salt and coarse black pepper) to a bowl and mix thoroughly to combine.
Rub the short rib meat thoroughly with the spice mixture to coat evenly. Cover and marinate the meat in the spices overnight. If you don't have time to marinate, you can still use the meat right away, the flavors are just stronger if marinated.
Using a slow cooker, add the seasoned beef short ribs to the container and top with the sliced onion, minced garlic and fresh orange juice. Place the lid on the container and slow cook the meat according to the directions on your slow cooker (usually on low for about 6-8 hours or until fork tender).
Alternatively, you can place the meat in a heavy bottom pot with a tight fitting lid on low heat, but this route will cook the meat much faster (in about 2 hours until tender).
Once the meat is fork tender, strain with a colander fitted over another pot to save the sauce. If the sauce is very liquidy, you can reduce it and then add back into the shredded meat. Or place the sauce in the fridge for a couple of hours to solidify any fat and remove it from the sauce once it has congealed. Then add the sauce back to the meat.
Now that the meat is fork tender and the sauce has cleaned of any excess fat, the Mexican style beef short rib is ready to used in any way you wish. The meat can be frozen and will keep well for several months. When I make this I will double or triple the amount so I can have it ready whenever I need it for making a variety of different Mexican style dishes.