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This recipe for EASY barbacoa beef (yep, easy!) with ZenBelly's plantain tortillas is less a “recipe” than a collection of “strategies.” (That's what Good Food for Bad Cooks is all about! Strategery.)
Strategy number one: whoever you are, whether good cook, bad cook, or incomprehensibly kitchen-challenged (aka me) you NEED a pressure cooker. While this recipe is adaptable to the slow cooker, I'm tellin' ya. Pressure cooker. Click here for the one I have, which uses the stovetop. You can get electric ones too.
They are affordable. They are incredibly simple to use. And they make you a better person. What else do you need to know? I've had mine for 2 weeks, and it has changed my life. Changed. My. Life. I have not cried in the kitchen once this week. Not once.
The pressure cooker makes perfectly shreddable meat from even the thickest, leanest roast in an hour. AN HOUR, people. Every time you cook with it, you will feel like this:
No more opening the crock pot after “12 hours on low” only to find your
beef roast hockey puck still hasn't reached shreddable perfection. (“Sorry, honey. We'll eat dinner tomorrow instead.”)
Strategy number two: find a “clean” pre-made sauce and buy in bulk.
I know, this might keep you from being able to make this recipe tonight. But one day, you'll come across a clean, pre-made sauce and you'll say to yourself, “self? I'm going to make a variation on that recipe Liz posted, using strategy number two from her recent blog post.” And I will give you a mental high-five.
I found this Frontera Barbacoa sauce at Whole Foods and bought several. It's totally free of wonky oils, which is rare. No gluten ingredients. Just Apple Cider Vinegar and spices.
Yes, I could have made my own barbacoa sauce. But most contain Adobo sauce, and most pre-made Adobo has wonky industrial oils, like Canola or Soybean. See the dilemma? Sure, I could make my own Adobo, but 1: I've never handled chiles and NOT accidentally touched my eye and 2: that would probably bring me to the 12-hour mark and this whole gig is about saving time.
Anyway. You don't have to use the same sauce as I did. Any “clean” BBQ will do. Look for a gluten-free sauce composed of apple cider vinegar; “clean” oils (olive, avocado, sunflower and macadamia are the most common and all generally acceptable); and spices you recognize. Make sure it's free of canola, soybean, cottonseed or corn oil and unpronounceable ingredients.
I like PaleoChef sauces, and I've heard good things about Tessemae's. Here's a recipe for homemade Barbacoa, which you can make in the slow cooker. If you have your own recipe, be sure to post it to the comments.
The barbacoa goes incredibly well with chopped avocado and the insanely delicious, simple plantain tortillas from ZenBelly, which require only a few basic ingredients. If you don't like plantain or are watching your carbs, try these cauliflower wraps.
Serves 2. (For several days. Amazing for breakfast topped with pried eggs.)
Time to table: 1 hour, or more if you're unreasonably slow like me
To adapt for slow cooker: follow all steps, but put in crock pot/slow cooker for 8-10 hours on low.
What you'll need
(All ingredients are available at Whole Foods or Natural Grocers/health sections; internet sources listed where applicable.)
For the cooking sauce (used for 3.5lb. chuck roast. Adjust accordingly.)
- 1 cup “clean” barbacoa sauce (I use this one, found at Whole Foods, but any “clean” sauce will do)
- 1 Tbs. sea salt, or more to taste (I use Redmond)
- 1 cup water or broth
For the roast:
- one 3-4 lb. roast, brought to room temp, cut into 4 even chunks and coated with a generous sprinkle of extra salt & pepper.
- 2-3 Tbs. lard, coconut oil or other stable cooking fat
For the tortillas: visit ZenBelly's site for the easy recipe. All y' need is eggs, plantain, lime juice, salt & fat.
What to do
- Heat the cooking fat over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet (or directly in your pressure cooker pot, if it's the stovetop kind).
- Sear each chunk of roast on all sides, for about 30 seconds per side. This helps “lock in” the juices and flavor. Don't crowd the skillet – I did 2 chunks at a time in a large skillet. Your kitchen will fill with smoke. I have no idea if this is normal.
- Set each seared piece aside in a separate dish whilst you finish the others.
- Once all meat is seared, here's what you do:
–if you seared the meat in your pressure cooker pot, simply pour the cooking sauce in to the heated pot, add the seared chunks of roast, close the pressure cooker and cook according to manufacturer's directions (mine took approximately 45 minutes, plus 15 to cool down.)
–if you seared the meat in a different pot, simply combine cooking sauce and meat in pressure cooker and cook according to manufacturer's directions.
–if you are using a slow cooker, combine cooking sauce and meat in slow cooker and cook 8-10 hours on low, or until meat is fork-tender.
- Tortillas will take approximately 20 minutes, start to finish, so plan accordingly.
Meat is done when it can be easily shredded with a fork.
You'll have some cooking liquid left over, which you can either thicken by boiling for about 5 minutes, or pour over the shredded meat as-is (which is what we did).
See? Barbacoa-related strategery. It makes life better.
Be sure to let me know in the comments if you've got your own barbacoa recipe, what I missed, or what I could have done better.
Thanks for reading!
Liz Wolfe, NTP
Author of Eat the Yolks
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