How to Make the Smoked Beef Tacos of Your Dreams
A buddy of mine—Dallas-based food and travel writer extraordinaire Mike Hiller—recently posted a photo on Facebook of a taco that stopped me in my tracks: It was composed of tender shards of chorizo-spiced beef plate ribs and flame-roasted salsa verde and topped with crunchy chicharrones (fried pork rinds). He encountered this sexy taco while judging an event called Chefs for Farmers. The taco’s creator was talented chef Cody Sharp of Dallas’ Wheelhouse restaurant.
Mike made online introductions, and within a day, Chef Cody generously sent a working recipe to my inbox.
The most challenging ingredient to find is bone-in beef plate ribs, NAMP number 123A. The fact is, I couldn’t find them, and because I was traveling, couldn’t special-order them. Good substitutions for this beefy-tasting, gelatinous cut are bone-in chuck ribs. But I couldn’t find those, either. So I used boneless blade steaks, which are cut from the chuck—the same muscle as flat-iron steaks. Believe me, I will be seeking out this cut again as the meat was rich and tender with minimum waste. (And a bargain at $4.99 a pound. The NAMP number is 114D.)
If you are lucky enough to get your hands on beef plate ribs, follow Steven’s smoking instructions here.
I admit I tweaked Cody’s recipe to make it easier for home-based pit masters. You may want to make your own tweaks.
CHORIZO-SPICED SMOKED BEEF TACOS WITH FLAME-ROASTED SALSA VERDE
Source: Recipe adapted from Chef Cody Sharp of Wheelhouse, Dallas, Texas
Method: Smoking/indirect grilling, braising, grilling in the embers
Makes: 12 tacos
For the rub:
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup coarsely, freshly ground black pepper
1/8 cup smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
For the salsa verde:
6 Anaheim or Hatch chile peppers
2 to 3 jalapeno peppers
8 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 medium onion, unpeeled
4 pickled pepperoncini, stemmed
1/4 cup juice from pepperoncini
3 cloves garlic wrapped in aluminum foil
Juice of 1/2 lime, or more to taste
1 bunch cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons of rub (see above), or more to taste
For the meat:
4 pounds boneless beef chuck blade steaks, or the equivalent (see above)
2 cups low-salt beef broth, preferably homemade
12 8-inch flour tortillas
8 ounces queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese), crumbled
4 ears sweet corn, husked, boiled or grilled, sliced from the cob (optional)
1 1/2 cups chicharrones, coarsely crushed
You’ll also need: Wood chips, preferably hickory (though you could use mesquite), soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes, then drained; a large disposable aluminum foil pan; heavy-duty aluminum foil
1. Combine the ingredients for the rub. (You’ll likely have more than you’ll need; store any leftovers in a covered jar away from heat and light for up to 3 months.) Place the meat in a disposable foil pan and generously season all sides with the rub. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from the pan; wash and reserve the pan.
2. Set up your grill for indirect grilling or your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Heat to 250 degrees. Add a handful of soaked, drained wood chips to the coals.
3. Smoke the ribs for 2 to 3 hours, adding fuel and wood chips as needed. Return the ribs to the aluminum foil pan and pour in the beef broth. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
4. Remove the grill grate and roast the Anaheim chile peppers and jalapenos, tomatillos, onion, and garlic directly in the coals until the skins are blistered or blackened, 5 to 10 minutes. (Watch the tomatillos carefully as you don’t want them to collapse. They will need 5 minutes or less.)
5. Replace the grill grate and place the ribs in their foil pan on the grate. Grill indirectly until the meat is very tender, another 2 to 3 hours, or until the internal temperature is at least 195 degrees. (If desired, you can do this step in an oven preheated to 250 degrees.)
6. In the meantime, peel, stem, and seed the chile peppers and jalapenos. Remove the blackened skin from the onion and cut into wedges. In a blender jar, combine the chile peppers, jalapenos, tomatillos (no need to peel), pepperoncini and juice, garlic cloves (remove from the foil), lime juice, and cilantro and blend to a puree. If the puree seems thick, add a spoonful of water. Add the rub and taste for seasoning, adding more rub or lime juice as needed. The salsa should be very flavorful.
7. Let the meat cool slightly in its juices. Break or slice into coarse pieces.
8. To assemble the tacos, warm the tortillas on the grill or in a frying pan on the stovetop. Top with the meat, corn (if using), the salsa verde, and crumbled queso fresco. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired, and chicharrones. Serve immediately with additional salsa verde on the side.