Cheatin’ on Chipotle: Beef Barbacoa
The barbacoa at Chipotle is a thing of beauty. Other than the new Bonfire Bowls at Baja Fresh, Chipotle’s barbacoa is by far my most frequent craving for a slow carb meal when we’re out and about. Now, The Boyfriend and I fully appreciate Chipotle’s more natural approach to feeding the masses, but sometimes we just don’t want to pay extra for guacamole.. or wait in line. You might have to wait all day for this homemade take on your favorite burrito bowl, but it will feed you all week without actually having to eat the same meal twice (see suggested pairings below).
~ 6 lbs boneless chuck short ribs (or equivalent)
2 yellow onions, halved
7 oz chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (1 can)
2 dried red chilis
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp True Lime crystals (or 4 tbsp fresh lime juice)
~ 3 tbsp vegetable oil, for searing
1 small bunch radishes, thinly sliced (optional, for garnish)
3 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
Blender or food processor
Slice onions into thin half-moons and place at the bottom of the crock pot (in theory, this step is completely optional, but I love onions and think they add great flavor to this dish). If you don’t want to use onions, add 1 tsp of onion powder or granulated onion to the blender sauce (further instructions below).
Rinse meat under cold water and pat dry. Trim about 40% of the fat off – leaving enough to render down in the crock-pot, but not so much that the meat won’t sear. Cut the chuck into smaller pieces – I ended up with about 10 total – this will make it a bit easier to fit everything in the slow cooker as well as increasing surface area available for searing (a must-do step to lock in all that great flavor).
Heat oil in a large pot or pan over medium heat. Sear each piece of meat until golden brown (1-2 minutes per side) and for a few seconds on each edge. Add to the slow cooker.
In your blender or food processor, combine: apple cider vinegar, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, True Lime crystals (or lime juice), dried peppers, and all seasoning/herbs/spices. Blend until smooth. Note: If you have a mortar and pestle, I’d recommend crushing up the dried peppers and discarding the seeds before adding them to the blender. Add blended sauce and 1 cup chicken stock to the slow cooker and mix gently, coating as much of the meat as possible with the sauce (my crock pot was pretty damn full at this point so it was a bit of a challenge, but I did what I could).
Set crock pot on high for 6+ hours or on low for 10+, stirring occasionally (and to make sure that any pieces of meat sticking up out of the liquid do not dry out or burn). We actually went out in the middle of making this dish, so I had it on high while I was home for about five hours and then set it on low for an additional four hours (nine hours total) and it came out perfect.
When meat is fork-tender and falling apart, remove meat and onions from the crock pot to a scratch-resistant bowl. Add about 1/2 cup liquid from the slow cooker back to the barbacoa and, using two forks, shred the meat. Adding some liquid back to the barbacoa will keep the meat moist and will also help keep it alive in the fridge a little longer.
Serve immediately: with a few thin slices of radish for a nice little crunch, with lettuce leaves for “green tacos,” or however you choose! Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 5 days.