Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Crockpot barbacoa...easy & delicious

I love barbacoa.  It reminds me of when we'd go see my Grandpa in San Antonio.  On weekends, he'd buy a pound of barbacoa and corn tortillas for us to eat after church.  The rich meat with its distinctive mouthfeel was always delicious.  What distinctive mouthfeel?  I hate that overused word "unctuous" but saying "fatty and sticky" doesn't sound appealing to most people.  But this beef is fatty and slightly sticky, from the slow roasting process that melts down the meat, connective tissue and tendons into a pile of wonderfully slick, sumptously flavorful goodness. 

It all starts with beef cheek...or at least mine does, as the traditional process involves an entire cow head.  I don't know about your house, but mine does not have a refrigerator large enough for that business.  Please ignore that beef cheek meat is not your pretty, clean cut of meat like you normally use.  It is positively primal in appearance, with all manner of fatty bits and stuff.  I clean off most of the fat but leave the other stuff, unless it is an obvious vein, which grosses me out, so I'll practice my knife skills on that.  In other words, remove it without losing a finger.

I cook my barbacoa in the crockpot, using a little seasoning, orange juice, apple cider vinegar and water.  You want the liquid to cover the meat, so chop it in large sections if necessary.  I had a half of an onion and some garlic cloves that needed to be used before they ended up in my compost bin, so I rough chopped them and threw them in, too.  After long and low cooking, you'll end up with what almost looks like pot roast, only it shreds easily with two forks.  I found myself unable to resist eating barbacoa tacos immediately after the meat was done.  I doubt you could resist it, either.  Somewhere in heaven, my Grandpa is smiling, pointing down to me and saying "¡Esa es mi nieta!".

Crockpot Barbacoa

1-2 cups water
juice from half a regular sized orange
2 Tb. apple cider vinegar
3-4lbs beef cheek meat
garlic powder
onion powder
fresh, roughly chopped onion & garlic if you have it on hand

Combine water, juice and apple cider vinegar and pour into bottom of crockpot.  Liberally season meat, add to crockpot along with fresh veggies, if using any.  Cook on low heat for 12 hours.  Remove from liquid, shred with forks.  Serve with warm tortillas and any condiment or toppings desired, such as salsa, chopped cilantro, diced onion.


luckyfatima said...

Beautiful recipe! I loved the back story about your memories of your grandfather. A lot of our barbacoa at taco stands in Austin is under-seasoned. Homemade is always best, though I must confess I love the fatty, salty barbacoa at *ahem* Taco Cabana.

joesblue said...

I love the taco cabana version also