Lemme guess–you saw the title of this post and immediately wanted to bail, didn’t you? I get it. I do. Who, in these crazy, busy times, wants to spend time making a taco filling that takes two days?
Well, nobody, unless you have good reason to. And believe me, you have reasons.
Let me count ’em for you:
1. Everyone loves tacos
2. Almost the entirety of the 2-day taco process is hands-off and wicked easy
3. The 2-day taco is mind-altering and life-changing and…bonus! so much easier on your backside
4. Easier on your backside = more tacos in your future
5. Did anyone say more tacos?
Can you really argue with that reasoning?
Here’s the deal. Taco filling made in the slow cooker needs a little extra love but the payoff is huge. The cut of beef you use here–well marbled chuck roast–is completely transformed into something unctuous and fall-apart tender when you cook it low and slow. That juicy and flavorful beef beats the daylights out of your Mama’s ground beef tacos of yore. We’re all a little grown up now to be eating those ground meat tacos, don’t you think? Those tacos were great when you were in Toughskins and saddle shoes but we’re a little past that, eh?
The only problem with these slow cooker tacos is, well, guess why the meat is so luxurious and crave-worthy? F-A-T. That pretty marbling on the chuck roast is fat. Fatty cuts of meat are incredibly well-suited to the slow cooker but if you’re at all health conscious, it may give you a little pause before you tuck into a huge plateful.
That’s where the 2-day method comes in.
Day One (morning): Season your beef, sear it off, plop it in the slow cooker with a few other things, set the timer for 6-8 hours and forget it.
Day One (afternoon/evening):Once your beef is fall apart tender, turn off the cooker, cool it down a little, and store the beef and the cooking liquid separately in the refrigerator overnight.
Day Two (whenever): Remove your containers from the refrigerator and be absolutely stunned and perhaps a little horrified at how much solidified fat has risen to the top of the braising liquid. No worries, gentle readers. Just grab a big spoon and remove and discard all of it. You now have a healthy, concentrated, low-fat braising liquid. Scrutinize your beef a little and remove any globs of fat that might be cozying up to it because that fat has done it’s job–thanks for playing!–but now you don’t need it anymore.
Day Two (whenever): Re-introduce your tender beef to that yummy braising liquid and heat it through. Gather up a whole mound of goodies and toppings to serve on the side and Viola! Amazing tacos with just a fraction of the butt damage.
I predict that once you eat these tacos, you are going to want to crown me Queen of All Things.
Who just gave you a recipe for cantina-style tacos that feed a crowd? Who gave you this recipe just before big-game season? And, most importantly, who just gave you a way to do this without having to buy jumbo granny underpants in the near future?
I will be anxiously awaiting my tiara.
Slow Cooker Braised Beef Taco Filling
makes enough taco filling to feed about 6 people
2 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 4 roughly equal pieces
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chile powder
salt and pepper
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup Mexican lager beer
salsa or pico de gallo
Season the beef generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the beef and brown on both sides, working in batches if necessary as to not crowd the pan. This should take about 6 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, add the beef to the slow cooker.
Add the garlic, spices, onion and bay leaf to the meat and stir well. Pour in the beer.
Cover and cook on the low setting for about 6-8 hours or until the meat is fall-apart tender. Cool meat and cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, separate the shreds of beef from any fat/connective tissue that’s clinging to it. Discard the fat and and then refrigerate the beef and cooking liquid separately overnight (you can transfer the beef and liquid to 2 Tupperware containers or just drain the liquid into a container and throw the slow cooker insert with the meat into the refrigerator, covered).
Remove solidified fat from the top of the cooking liquid and remove any chunks of solidified fat from beef. At this point, you can put them back together in the slow cooker and heat it up that way, or do it on a pot on the stovetop if you’re in a hurry.
Discard bay leaves and check for seasoning. Adjust as necessary. Shred beef finely with 2 forks if it’s not already falling to pieces. Remove beef from the cooking liquid and place on a platter.
Serve beef with any accompaniments you wish. But don’t forget the beer!