Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos

Where the heck did March go?  It’s been a busy month at AlbuKirky Seasonings. We’ve done two big events, a corporate demo and we’re getting ready for another show tomorrow.  As hectic as it has been I have not forgotten about my blog.  I actually have a fantastic recipe for you all today, Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos!  Trust me, these tacos are the bomb!

Every time I go to Sam’s club to pick up briskets and pork butts theres always a big package of beef cheeks in the meat case.  For years this package of beef has taunted me but I had no clue how to cook beef cheeks.  This year I really want to break out of my comfort zone and try different cuts and experiment with new flavors, so I finally pulled the trigger and bought it.  Now, I’ve got a 7 pound package of beef cheeks that I need to cook luckily, I found a great Barbacoa Beef Cheek Taco Recipe on Food52.  I’ve got a pack beef cheeks and a recipe, let’s get cooking!

Barbacoa Tacos

Once of my favorite items on the salsa bars at the taco shacks is the pickled red onions.  They add a nice pickley onion flavor yet I never knew what made them so red, until now.  The secret is adding a quarter of a red beet to the picking juice and you get a beautiful bright red pickled onion.  The recipe is really easy and the onions are great on burgers and sandwiches too.

Pickled Red Onion
1 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon of Salt
2 Tablespoons of Sugar
1/4 a Beet
2 Cups Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Water
1 Handfull of Chopped Cilantro (Optional)

I used a mandolin to get my onions really thin.  Once they onions were sliced I added them and all the  remaining ingredients in a microwave friendly bowl and nuked it on high for 1 minute, stirred and nuked it for another minute.  Allow the onions to cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning the onions will be a beautiful red color.

This mise en place thing really works

Barbacoa Marinade
4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Ancho Chile
1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee or Espresso
1 Tablespoon of Honey
2 Teaspoons of Cumin
1 Teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon of Salt
2 Cup of Beef Stock, can use chicken broth

Start by cutting the top off the ancho chile and removing the seeds. Then chop the chile in to chunks and rehydrate about 1/4 cup of warm water.  Now through everything, including the water with the anchos, in the food processor and blend to a paste.  


Beef Cheek in Barbacoa Marinade

Now I didn’t know this, but the beef cheek I bought was not cleaned.  There is a lot of fat and silver skin on the meat that needed to be clean before I could cook it.   The package was 7 pounds and when I was done cleaning there was maybe 4 pounds of actual meat.  Next time I’m just going to buy the cheek from the butcher already cleaned.  Now add the barbacoa marinade to the cheeks and thoroughly coat each piece.  Place the cheeks in the fridge and allow them to marinate over night. 

Barbacoa with Beef Stock

To cook the barbacoa, I was supposed to brown the meat on each side and then braise it in the a dutch oven with the beef stock.  I was a little anxious and I skipped this step, I just put all the beef cheek to the dutch over and added 1 cup of beef stock and cooked uncovered in the Big Green Egg, for about 1 1/2 hours at 350º.  This allow the meat to brown and pick up some smoke.  Then I added another cup of beef stock, covered, and cooked for another 2 hours.  The meat really needs to be fall apart tender, when it was done the internal temp of the bigger chunks was 200º-205º, but if you can easily pull it apart with a fork it’s done. I shredded all the meat with a couple of forks then gave it all a good stir to get each piece covered in the rich barbacoa sauce.

Barbacoa on the Big Green Egg

For the tacos I like to use 2 white corn tortillas, a single corn tortilla will tear too easily and everything will end up on your lap.  I filled the tortillas with the rich and delicious barbacoa and then topped it with the tangy pickled red onions, a few slices of fresh radish, a good squeeze of lime juice and lil bit of flat leaf parsley. (I’m not a cilantro fan).    The barbacoa has a really deep rich flavor from the ancho, garlic and beef stock with just a hint of mesquite smoke.  The pickled onion, radish and lime add a bit of tang that cuts through all the richness of the meat.  I was really surprised how good these tacos turned out, they were just as good if not better than other barbacoa tacos I’ve eaten over the years.

Barbacoa Taco Ready to Eat!

That was a great culinary experience.  I broke out of my comfort zone and cooked something some completely new and de-freaking-cious!.  Cheryl said it was definitely in the top five of things I’ve ever cooked, and she don’t just hand out compliments like that.  I already have a big head and she doesn’t really want it to get any bigger. This definitely a great recipe, so give it try, I’ll definitely be making them again!

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One thought on “Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos

  1. This is definitely going on my list to try. I will most certainly take your learning lesson and get a cleaned cheek. That sounds like a LOT of meticulous work.

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