Diary of a Foodie

Oaxacan Beef in Spicy Tomatillo Sauce

Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: Oaxaca: Food of the New World

Serves6 to 8
  • Active Time:1 hr
  • Start to Finish:3 1/2 hr
January 2009
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  • 1/4 oz dried avocado leaves
  • 4 lb beef short ribs or lamb shanks
  • 2 oz dried costeño rojo chiles, wiped clean
  • 2 1/4 lb fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Accompaniment:

    warm corn tortillas
  • Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in middle.
  • Put avocado leaves in bottom of a heavy medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. Sprinkle short ribs all over with 2 tsp salt and arrange in pot (it doesn’t have to be in 1 layer). Roast, covered, until meat is very tender, about 3 hours.
  • Meanwhile, slit chiles lengthwise, then stem, seed, and devein. Tear chiles into roughly 1-inch pieces (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). Heat a comal or large heavy skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until hot, then toast chiles, stirring constantly, until more pliable and slightly changed in color, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. (Chiles will crisp as they cool.)
  • Cover tomatillos with water in a medium saucepan and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well, then purée with chiles, garlic, cilantro, and 1 1/2 tsp salt in a blender (in batches if necessary) until chiles are ground to small flecks.
  • Transfer short ribs to a cutting board to cool. Strain meat juices remaining in pot into a glass measuring cup. Let fat rise to top and skim off. Coarsely chop or shred meat, discarding bones.
  • Heat oil in a heavy medium pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook one fourth of tomatillo sauce (it will spatter), stirring, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add remaining sauce and meat juices and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Add meat. Thin sauce with water if necessary. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 4 minutes.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Meat can be roasted and shredded 3 days ahead and chilled. Chill juices separately; discard solidified fat.
  • Meat in sauce can be made 2 days ahead and chilled (covered once cool).
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