Birria Tacos

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I know the quesabirria taco trend is what’s hot in the food truck streets right now, but I’m partial to birria tacos. Maybe I’m old school, but birria on its own is super filling. Adapted from Food & Wine, these birria tacos are rich and tender, thanks to a combination of chuck roast and short ribs. Making these tacos is time-consuming (it’s best to start the day before), but they’re well worth it.

Ingredients:

For the adobo:

6 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 dried cascabel (or more guajillo) chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 large white onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
10 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped peeled fresh ginger
8 cups water, divided
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 thyme sprigs
3 dried bay leaves

For the tacos:

1 (2-pound) boneless chuck roast (about 2 1/4 inches thick)
2 pounds English-cut beef short ribs (about 3 ribs)
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
8 cups water
1 cup chopped white onion, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Vegetable oil, for greasing
16-20 packaged corn tortillas
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Make the adobo: Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium. Add chiles to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer chiles to a large saucepan; add onion, garlic, ginger, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chiles are softened, about 8 minutes. Drain chile mixture; discard cooking liquid.

2. Combine chile mixture, vinegar, salt, black pepper, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, bay leaves, and remaining 2 cups water in a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Process until smooth, about 45 seconds. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and chill until ready to use.

3. Make the tacos: Sprinkle chuck roast and short ribs all over with 2 teaspoons salt. Combine roast, ribs, and adobo in a large nonreactive bowl; toss to coat. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 300F degrees. Transfer adobo mixture to a large (9 1/2-quart) Dutch oven; add 8 cups water. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium, stirring occasionally. Cover with lid, and place in preheated oven. Bake until meat is fork- tender, about 4 hours.

5. Remove chuck roast and short ribs from braising broth, and transfer to a large bowl; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Return broth in Dutch oven to heat over medium, and cook, uncovered, skimming off fat as needed, until reduced to about 8 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Season broth with salt to taste. Shred meat; discard bones. Toss meat with 1 1/2 cups of the broth.

6. Stir together onion and cilantro in a small bowl; set aside.

7. Heat a large nonstick electric griddle to 400°F or a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Using a paper towel dipped in canola oil, lightly grease griddle. If using fresh tortillas, stack 2 tortillas, and use tongs to dip them together into adobo broth. (If using packaged tortillas, dip 1 tortilla per taco.) Place stacked tortillas on griddle; top with 1/4 cup meat. Repeat with as many tortilla stacks as will comfortably fit on griddle. Cook until bottom tortilla is lightly browned and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold tacos in half, gently pressing with a spatula. Transfer to a serving plate. Repeat process with oil, adobo broth, remaining tortillas, and remaining meat.

8. Serve tacos hot with onion-cilantro mixture, lime wedges, and remaining adobo broth for dipping or sipping.

Winter Crunch Salad

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Even though it’s March, I’m still making this mixed salad of hearty winter greens spiked with savory Parmesan and crunchy seeds and apples. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, this salad gets better after sitting in fridge for an hour or two. I’ll be eating this well through springtime.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1/2 small shallot
1 Meyer lemon
1 small garlic clove
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 bunch Tuscan kale (about ¾ pound)
5 or 6 ounces Brussels sprouts
2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
1/2 apple, halved and thinly sliced

1. Make the vinaigrette: Finely chop shallot half and transfer to medium bowl. Juice lemon over bowl. You should have about 2 tablespoons juice. Using a microplane, finely rate garlic clove into bowl. Whisk in 2 Dijon mustard and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

2. Wash and dry kale, then pat leaves dry. Strip leaves from thick stems, discarding stems, then thinly slice leaves. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Trim knobby end of Brussels sprouts. Cut sprouts in half lengthwise, then arrange halves cut side down on board and very thinly slice. Add to bowl with kale.

4. Drizzle dressing over kale mixture; season with salt and pepper. Lightly massage and toss with your hands to coat.

5. Add cheese, apples, and sunflower seeds and toss lightly to incorporate.

Portobello Mushrooms with Pesto and Garlicky Almonds

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It’s mushroom season! Maitake, oyster, enoki, need I go on? This easy side (or vegetarian main) is a mycophile’s dream because you can adapt it to any type of large mushroom. I use portobellos but king oyster or any hearty mushroom works excellently. Served atop pesto and with crunchy almonds, you can eat this on its own or with pasta.

Portobello mushrooms with pesto and almonds

Ingredients:

1/2 cup almonds
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
6 portobellow mushrooms (about 2 pounds), trimmed, gills removed
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 1/4 cups refrigerated pesto

1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Spread almonds in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in oven until toasted, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

2. Coarsely chop almonds. Place almonds, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to a small bowl.

3. Score each side of the mushrooms with a 1/8-inch-deep diamond pattern. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Place mushroom halves, cap sides down, in hot oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook mushrooms, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip mushrooms and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking mushrooms until tender and golden on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove mushrooms from skillet. Return skillet to medium-high, and repeat process with remaining olive oil, mushrooms, salt, and pepper.

4. To serve, spoon pesto onto a serving platter. Top with mushroom halves and almonds.

Pasta with Black Truffle Butter and Mushrooms

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It’s truffle season! Here’s an indulgent main dish that’s perfect for the (post) holidays: carby pasta, earthy truffles, and a healthy hunk of butter. Any kind of pasta will do but I prefer something a little unique here: casarecce, gemelli, or even tagliatelle are all fine options. Serve this with a simple green salad on the side and you’re all set.

Pasta with black truffle butter and mushrooms

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 teaspoons black truffle paste or finely grated black truffle
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound mixed fresh wild mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (about 6 cups)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound pasta
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 4 tablespoons), divided

1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Stir together butter, truffle paste, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small bowl until combined. Set aside.

2. Toss together mushrooms, 2 tablespoons oil, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until coated. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through cook time. Let cool to room temperature.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. In the meantime, cook garlic and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high, stirring constantly, until garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth and cooled mushrooms.

4. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta and truffle butter to mushroom mixture in skillet over medium-high; toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is emulsified, about 1 minute, adding reserved cooking liquid 1 tablespoon at a time until desired sauce consistency is reached. Remove from heat. Add parsley and 2 tablespoons cheese; toss to combine. Transfer pasta to a serving platter; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese.

Walnut-Pecan Maple Bars

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The two best pies I’ve ever had are my sister’s infamous pecan pie and San Francisco’s now-shuttered Mission Pie’s walnut pie. Sadly, I’m a little baking-challenged and my attempts to make pie always leave something to be desired, but these easy bars deliver all the satisfaction of pie without the fuss. A little bit walnut, a little bit pecan, these maple bars are the best of both worlds.

If you don’t have a square baking pan, you can substitute a 9-inch cake pan instead. Also, good luck getting these to last more than a day.

Walnut-pecan maple bars

Ingredients:

Crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Butter 9x9x2-inch metal cake pan. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and egg yolk in bowl to blend. Add flour and salt; beat until moist clumps form. Gather dough together. Press dough over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of pan. Bake crust until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool.

2. Make the filling: Combine maple syrup, brown sugar, whipping cream, and butter in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until butter melts and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat; mix in vanilla and nuts.

3. Pour filling into crust. Bake bars until filling is bubbling in center, about 15 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack (filling will become firm). Chill 1-2 hours. Cut into 16 bars.