The Driftless Foodie: Birria Tacos

By Jessica Woodward

There is nothing more than I love than cooking. All. Day. Long.

I love me a nice long and slow braise of some sort in the oven to warm up the house and fill it with all the yummy smells. Things that cook low and slow sometimes just taste better and are good for the soul!

Growing up, I hated stew nights. This, my mom did cook low and slow. But I absolutely hated it. In fact, my childhood best friend, Sarah, enjoyed the dish; and so, whenever our families got together and ate it, I would shovel my plate onto hers when our parents weren’t looking. Luckily for me, she loved it and still loves it to this day. (Sorry mom!)

So instead of a stew recipe to cook on your next snow day, I have a recipe for braised birria tacos to enjoy! For this, you will thank me. These are so addicting; you may even add them to your meal planning even after winter. I’m pretty sure my husband had eight of these tacos alone this last storm.

It can be put together with common ingredients found at our local stores, so don’t be intimidated by the name. The word “birria” just means a flavorful stew of meat. The meat is served with its braising liquid- in this case a dunking sauce for your tacos. The liquid is seasoned with chilis and gives off a beautiful red hue.

I will admit, this recipe is a bit hands on… but ahhh what else are you going to do when you’re snowed in!? It’s well worth the yummy reward. With this one, I would recommend reading the recipe in its entirety before getting started!

Birria Tacos

Ingredients 

5 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Corn tortillas

2 medium onions, divided – 1 quartered and 1 diced

2 large Roma tomatoes, quartered

5 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 bay leaves

1-2 chilis in adobo sauce (spiciness is up to you!)

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp salt or more to taste

1 cup of chicken broth

Cilantro, chopped

Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

1. Season your chicken thighs an hour or so before starting to cook. And preheat the oven to 325.

2. In a pot, simmer the tomatoes, half of the quartered onion, 2 ½ cups of water, the cinnamon stick, the garlic, the chilis, and the seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it cook for 20 minutes until the onions are tender.

3. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the remaining contents to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add the broth and blend again. This is the braising liquid.

4. In a large Dutch oven, brown the chicken for about 3-5 minutes on each side with the remaining quartered onion. You may need to do this in batches, and that’s okay!

5. Once all your chicken is browned, nestle them all in the Dutch oven and pour your sauce on top. Add the cinnamon stick back in, along with the bay leaves.

6. Add the lid to the Dutch oven and cook at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven to 300 degrees and cook for an additional 2 ½ minutes.

7. Remove the chicken, let it cool for 10 minutes, remove the bone and skin, and shred the chicken. Set aside and get ready for assembly. Keep the braising liquid!

Assemble the tacos 

1. Over medium heat, heat up a cast iron skillet (if you don’t have one, a non-stick will work just fine!)

2. Dip your tortillas in the braising liquid and set them in the skillet. To the tortilla, add some shredded chicken, cheese, chopped onion, and cilantro. Don’t overstuff these!

3. Once the cheese starts to melt, fold the tortilla in half and crisp up both sides.

4. Spoon some braising liquid into a ramekin and dunk away!

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