Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spicy Barbacoa With Chilies For Tacos, Frito Pie And Especially For Chris

If there's one thing I'll consistently order at every Mexican restaurant I visit, it's anything that includes rich, flavorful, beefy barbacoa redolent with earthy chilies and warm spices. It hugs both my soul and my tummy at the very same time.

Speaking of warm and wonderful, my dear, sweet friend, Chris (who suddenly passed recently) adored Frito Pie. Of course she did, she was a Texan through and through! Her recipes reflected her great big Texas heart and her fiery, bright spirit; her messages to each member of the cooking group we belonged to were warm and loving. Chris is terribly missed. We are fortunate her love of food - especially all things spicy - lives on in her favorite recipes.

Just what is Frito Pie? It depends on who you ask. Search the internet and it comes in all varieties. Baked. Cold. Some crush the Fritos to make an actual pie crust. Most recipes use chili. Some use canned, some use homemade. Chili with or without doesn't seem to matter. And that's the beauty of this dish. It is totally versatile, open to interpretation, created each time at the whim of the cook. I love a forgiving recipe, don't you?

Many members of our cooking group made Frito Pie in Chris's memory. Undoubtedly she is smiling down from heaven that, all around the country, we're cooking one of her favorite treats just for her. Chris, this one's for you!

Spicy Barbacoa With Chilies

  • 3 pound chuck roast
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 dried guajillo peppers, broken into small pieces (look for them in the Latin section of the grocery store)
  • 2 dried ancho chilies, broken into small pieces (look for these in the same place as above)
  • 2 t chipotle chile powder
  • 2 t ancho chile powder
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t hot paprika
  • 3 T espresso powder
  • 2 T granulated garlic
  • 2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 T kosher salt
  • 2 t cocoa nibs
  • 3 T dark brown sugar
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and peppers
  • 2 onions, peeled and slivered - I used 1 yellow onion and 1 red onion
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and slivered
  • 2 large jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, slivered
  • 1/2 head garlic, skins removed, sliced thinly
  • 1 envelope ranch dressing mix
  • 1 bottle of beer - use a good Mexican beer if you like - I used gluten free beer to keep this GF
  • 2 T demerara sugar - or light brown sugar

In a spice or coffee grinder - or a blender - put the pieces of dried chilies and dried cocoa nibs. Give them a good whirl until they're broken down into small pieces. Transfer to a small bowl and add the chile powders, paprikas, espresso powder, granulated garlic, onion powder, cinnamon, kosher salt and brown sugar. Mix together well. Rub half of the mixture into both sides of the roast and set the rest aside for the next time you make this - and you WILL.

Heat a skillet large enough to hold the chuck roast and add oil. When the oil is good and hot, carefully add the roast to the skillet and brown it well on both sides. 

While the beef is browning, add half the onions, sweet red pepper, garlic slivers and jalapeno to the slow cooker. Once it's browned place the chuck roast on top and add the rest of the onions, peppers, garlic and jalapenos, the can of RoTel and sprinkle on the demerara (or brown) sugar and the envelope of ranch dressing mix. Pour the beer over all, cover and cook on high for 6-7 hours. Once the roast falls apart easily, it's done. 

You can use it right away or refrigerate for the next day. Flavors are always better the next day, aren't they? Use for tacos, Chris's Frito Pie or any other use you can think of. Quesadillas? Sure! Nachos? Why not? Burritos? You bet! Here's how I used my Barbacoa.

Frito Pie for Chris.

Tacos: Take a couple of soft corn tortillas and lay on the barbacoa and your favorite goodies!

Frito Pie: In a shallow bowl, make a layer of Fritos, then barbacoa, shredded colby jack cheese (or your own fave cheese), diced avocado, thinly sliced green onions, a little chopped tomato and a sprinkling of cilantro. Oh, and a slathering of Hatch Chile salsa...Hatch chilies were Chris's favorite!

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