Beef Meat

Spicy Braised Beef Tacos with Cilantro Pesto

I had in mind some fabulous beef tacos I had a few years ago in a restaurant called Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar, near Cleveland, Ohio. A faculty member treated me for having helped her with some technology for her courses. It was more than a fair trade. I have no idea how the soft taco filling was actually made, but the memory was at least an inspiration for me.

I chose to braise the beef chuck roast on the stove, because I didn’t want to turn on the oven. I have my eye on a cast iron dutch oven for making such things on the grill, but while it’s still on my wish list, the stovetop will do. It’s a toss up as to whether the beef or the pesto was the hit of meal, or maybe it was the combination. Either way, I think these tacos are going on the menu of favorites.

Spicy Braised Beef Tacos with Cilantro Pesto

  • Servings: about 8 soft tacos
  • Difficulty: time-consuming
  • Print

Spicy Braised Beef

3 lb chuck roast

olive oil for browning

13 oz crushed tomatoes

up to 1/2 cup water or beef broth, as needed

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (canned chipotle in adobo sauce would be good, too)

1/2 teaspoon salt for cooking sauce

salt & pepper for seasoning beef

  1. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high to high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoon olive oil, then brown the seasoned chuck roast on both sides.
  2. Add the garlic and spices to the pan next to the roast and stir for a few seconds, but watch that none of them burn.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes and as much water as you think you need to keep the sauce moist for about 3 hours of simmering. I suppose it depends on the quality of your crushed tomatoes. Some crushed tomatoes seem very watery or saucy, and some are very thick and full of tomato chunks. I needed about 1/2 cup of beef broth.
  4. Bring the sauce to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer for about 3 hours, until the meat pulls apart easily.
  5. Remove the meat to a platter or board, and pull apart. Strain out the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and add to the pulled beef.

Cilantro Pesto

2 bunches cilantro tops, cleaned and dried

1/2 cup parsley (I used my frozen, chopped parsley)

1 red onion, roasted on the grill

3 jalapeño peppers, roasted on the grill, peeled, and seeded

1 bulb roasted garlic

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup Cotija or Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

*Keep in mind that roasting garlic, onion, and jalapeño produces a milder taste than the fresh versions, which may be too strong for some tastes. If you aren’t going to roast them, you might adjust the amounts to your taste.

  1. I put everything but the oil into a food processor and processed until it was all finely blended.
  2. While the processor is running, slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube until the pesto is blended.
  3. Store in the refrigerator to serve with all kinds of meats, especially in tacos.
Putting the tacos together:

Soft taco shells

Shredded cabbage—red looks nice

Spicy braised beef

Cilantro pesto

Crumbled queso fresco

Build the tacos in the order above. That was easy.

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