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.

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.

Chilaquiles Rojos

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Chilaquiles are supposed to be a breakfast dish but let’s be real: chilaquiles are (a) rich enough to carry me through the day and (b) extremely delicious so let’s just eat them for lunch or dinner, too. Breakfast for dinner, amirite?

The red chile sauce is a little time-consuming here but once you have that out of the way, the rest of the dish is easy to assemble.

Chilaquiles rojos

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (about 8 medium), halved lengthwise, preferably Roma
1 onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
1 dried chile de arbol, stemmed and seeded
5 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 dried chipotle chile, stemmed and seeded
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 quart water
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems separated, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 eggs
12 cups thick corn tortilla chips
2 avocados, sliced
8 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
1/2 cup Mexican crema, for serving

1. Preheat broiler with oven rack in middle of oven. Place tomatoes, cut sides up, and onion on a rimmed baking sheet, and broil in preheated oven on middle rack until charred, about 20 minutes. Let cool and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron skillet over medium. Add chiles and garlic cloves, and cook, turning often, until chiles are fragrant, about 4 minutes. Remove chiles from skillet. Continue cooking garlic cloves, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and softened, about 10 minutes total. Let garlic cloves cool; peel and set aside.

3. Bring 1 quart water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Add toasted chiles, and boil, stirring occasionally, until chiles are softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid.

4. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, chiles, oregano, salt, reserved cooking liquid, and 1 cup cilantro stems in a blender. Process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Set red chile sauce aside.

5. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium. Crack eggs into skillet. Cook until edges are set and starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Cover skillet, and cook until whites are set and yolks reach desired degree of doneness, 2 to 3 minutes for runny yolks. Transfer eggs to a plate. Add red chile sauce to skillet over medium. Bring to a simmer. Pour red chile sauce over chips in a large bowl; toss to coat. Divide chip mixture evenly among 4 plates. Top evenly with eggs, avocado slices, queso fresco, crema, and desired amount of cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

Laotian-Style Khao Soi

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“Anytime I’m eating spicy noodles in a bowl, I’m happy.” – the late, great Anthony Bourdain.

He was right, of course. I can’t think of much that’s more satisfying than a bowl of noodles. This Laotian-style khao soi is a lot different than its richer, northern Thai-style counterpart, down to the zucchini ribbons that are served alongside rice noodles for a lighter bowl. It’s perfect on a sweltering summer day.

Laotian-Style Khao Soi

Ingredients:

3 dried Thai chiles
1 cup hot water
3 tablespoons avocado oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 pound ground turkey
1 plum tomatoe, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup soybean paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 bunch cilantro
8 cups chicken broth
14 ounces dried thin rice stick noodles
3 cups zucchini ribbons
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
Black pepper
Lime wedges

1. Crumble Thai chiles into a medium heatproof bowl. Add 1 cup hot water; let stand 15 minutes. Drain chiles; discard liquid. Process chiles, oil, and garlic in a mini food processor until chiles are very finely chopped, about 30 seconds.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add chile mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add turkey; cook, stirring occasionally to break pork into small pieces, until browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, soybean paste, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, sugar, and paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced and turkey is coated with sauce, about 8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, separate cilantro stems from leaves. Chop leaves to yield about 1/2 cup; set aside for garnish. Stir together chicken broth, cilantro stems, and remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium. Uncover; strain and discard cilantro stems. Cover broth; keep warm over medium-low.

4. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles, and divide evenly among 8 serving bowls. Add zucchini ribbons to hot broth; cook over medium-low until just tender, about 1 minute. Using tongs or a spider, remove zucchini from broth and divide evenly among serving bowls. Top each bowl with about 1/4 cup turkey mixture and 1 cup hot broth. Sprinkle bowls evenly with mint and reserved chopped cilantro. Garnish with black pepper and serve with lime wedges.