There are very few foods that feed a large crowd with little effort. Tacos may be the simplest option for feeding a lot of people, and today we are bringing you one of our favorite taco stuffings: Barbacoa beef, tender and full rich, complex flavors. Yes, did you know you can make that tasty stuff you buy at Chipotle in your own kitchen — and in your slow cooker no less?
I have a serious thing for barbacoa. It's a love affair to be written about as in the steamiest of romance novels. (You know, if those were about food, instead of people.) Barbacoa is full of flavor and so simple to make. It's a set-it-and-forget-about-it type meal that can be made with little preparation in your slow cooker.
Barbacoa is a simple dish that can be made into all sorts of meals. You might make tacos, burritos, extreme nachos, even hash for breakfast in the morning. Once it's prepared, the uses are endless and knowing you have some on hand always makes for good eats.
So, even if you're not having thirty football crazed fans over to your house for the Super Bowl, make the full amount anyway. It's a perfect recipe to freeze for later. Use a muffin tin to freeze individual portions. Pour the sauce over the top to help the meat freeze in one solid chunk. When frozen solid, pop out the individual muffin cup portions and toss them in a freezer bag or container for more long-term storage.
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Beef
Makes enough meat to stuff 30 tacos
4 chipotle peppers (from a can) plus all the adobo sauce it sits in
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 head garlic, peeled and cloves smashed
5 dry bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Juice of 4 limes
1/2 cup cider vinegar
5 to 7 pounds beef brisket
4 to 6 cups beef or chicken stock
Stir together chipotle peppers and sauce, cilantro, red onion, garlic, clove, salt, lime juice, and cider vinegar in the insert of a slow cooker (if you have a food processor, pulse till combined first before adding). Place the brisket on top of this mixture. (I like to cut my brisket in two pieces so it fits better in the slow cooker.) Add stock to cover the meat and place bay leaves on top. Use tongs to move the meat around gently to combine everything and put the lid on.
Cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Once finished, turn crock pot to WARM and let sit for 6 to 8 hours.
I like to make mine before bed and then let it sit on WARM overnight. This allows the meat to cook fully and then come to a point where it can be shredded easily and will essentially fall apart when pulled with a fork. If you don't have overnight to accomplish this, another hour of cooking on HIGH will get the job done. The meat will not be as tender, but will still be tasty.
Remove meat from slow cooker and place on rimmed baking sheet. Use two forks to pull the meat apart. Discard the fat, if desired. If you plan on frying it again before use, the small fat bits are extra tasty and should be kept! Place shredded beef in large bowl and ladle cooking liquid over the top a few scoops at a time. You want the meat to hold the liquid but not swim in it.
To keep it warm for guests you can return it to your slow cooker after you have removed the remaining liquid. That liquid is extra tasty and can be frozen into ice cube-sized portions to be used in other dishes later, if you so desire. Serve with fresh tortillas, onion, cilantro, and salsa.
Note: This recipe makes roughly 30 tacos, give or take. You can make two recipes back to back in your slow cooker for the initial 4 hour cooking time (or two slow cookers at the same time) and then add the meat to the same slow cooker to sit overnight since the meat will have reduced in size. This will allow 60 tacos of meat to be finished up at the same time.
(Images: Sarah Rae)