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.

Smash Burgers with Secret Sauce

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I never really loved burgers (outside of the ones my maman makes) until Gott’s Roadside came along. A Napa institution, Gott’s has made its way around the Bay Area. The produce is fresh, the meat is local, and there are no iffy secret ingredients. We occasionally have Gott’s as a treat, and this is how I’ve come to love burgers. And now I make a homestyle version myself, and truth be told, it’s the sauce that really carries these burgers. Don’t skip the chipotle peppers here — they’re what take these burgers over the top.

Smash burgers with secret sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup finely chopped dill pickles
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 chipotles in adobo and sauce from a can
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (20% percent fat)
4 hamburger rolls
1/2 head of romaine or iceberg lettuce, leaves separated, torn into pieces about the size of the buns
1 onion, very thinly sliced into rings
4 thin tomato slices
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 thin slices cheddar cheese

1. Heat a cast-iron griddle over high until heated.

2. Make the sauce: mix together pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup, adobo sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set special sauce aside.

3. Divide beef into 4 6-ounce portions (don’t form into patties). Place portions between 2 sheets of parchment paper, spacing 6 inches apart, and, using a meat mallet, firmly smash to create patties, about 5″ across. Transfer to a baking sheet.

4. Quickly warm the hamburger buns in the hot skillet, turning once, until buns are warmed through, about 1 minute. Spread sauce over cut sides of buns. Place 3–4 pieces of lettuce on bottom buns and top each with some onion and a tomato slice.

5. Add oil to skillet. Season patties lightly with salt. Place patties in skillet, seasoned side down, and season top sides lightly with salt. Cook, undisturbed, until outer edges are brown and undersides are crisp, about 3 minutes. Flip and place a slice of cheese on top of each patty. Cook until cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Transfer patties to buns with toppings.

Steak and Kimchi Rice Bowls

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I could probably eat rice bowls every single day. Give me a bowl, give me rice (obvs), and top it with all the tasty things. These steak and kimchi rice bowls are protein packed and super healthy: brown rice, avocados, spinach, sunflower seeds, and kimchi make this a energy-packed meal.

Steak and kimchi rice bowls

Ingredients:

8 ounces to 1 pound boneless rib-eye steak, trimmed (you can also use hanger or sirloin steak)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 cups brown rice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
4 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 avocado, cubed
3/4 cup kimchi
4 cups baby spinach
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1. Sprinkle steak with 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 1 day.

2. Cook brown rice according to package instructions. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. Meanwhile, separate shallot slices into rings. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until browned and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to a plate; set aside.

4. Add mushrooms and 1/8 teaspoon salt to the pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and cook, stirring, until tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl.

5. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Cook the steak, turning once and adjusting the heat as necessary, until browned 4 to 5 minutes per side depending on how you like your steak. Transfer to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into cubes.

6. Transfer the rice to the bowl with the vegetables and add avocado, kimchi, spinach, and the steak; toss with lemon juice and gently mix to combine. Divide among 4 shallow bowls. Top the rice mixture with the shallots and sunflower seeds.

Spaghetti with Ragu

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There are a million ragu recipes out there and I know there’s nothing particularly unique about this one, expect that it is SO. EASY. Internet, if you’re looking for a quick and dirty ragu recipe that is also, you know, delicious, you’ve come to the right place. Listen, I love three-hour pasta sauces as much as the next carb-lover out there, but sometimes you just want something easy.

I’ve made this with hand-rolled pasta but your run-of-the-mill grocery store spaghetti will do just fine here, too.

Spaghetti with Ragu

Ingredients:

1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
1 pound and 2 ounces ground beef
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
Salt
Pepper
Parmesan cheese, for grating

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and add the onion and garlic, cooking slowly for about 10 minutes, until softened and lightly colored. Add the bay leaves, rosemary, ground beef, and tomatoes. Stir well, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours with a lid on the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary from the pan and discard.

2. About 15 minutes before the ragu is done, cook the spaghetti in a separate pot according to package directions. Drain the spaghetti and stir the pasta into the hot ragu. Serve with a generous amount of grated Parmesan.

Cumin Beef

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The first time I had cumin beef was decades ago at an Islamic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. The silk road influences were obvious: cumin is often used in Ughyur cuisine in China’s Xingjiang Province, in tandem with loads of garlic and chiles. I was hooked.

This fragrant dish is a cinch to make and takes me right back to that first time I tasted Muslim Chinese cuisine. Serve this with rice for an easy weeknight meal.

Cumin beef

Ingredients:

1 pound trimmed sirloin steak
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon potato flour
1 green or red bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Cut the beef into thin slices. In a medium bowl, stir the marinade ingredients with 1 tablespoon water and add the beef, mixing to coat. Cut the peppers into 1-inch strips, then cut diagonally into diamond-shaped slices.

2. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a wok over high heat. Add the beef and stir-fry until just cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove beef from the wok and set aside.

3. Return the wok to the heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the garlic and chili pepper, and stir-fry until hot and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Return the beef to the wok and add the cumin and dried chiles, continuing to stir-fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Just before removing from the heat, add the green onions and stir. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.