Grassfed Barbacoa Shawarma
Greetings! It appears we’re on a Beefy kick lately, which I blame partly on cold weather/snow, and partly on the extra strength training sessions we’ve both been logging.
Slow roasts and braises are honestly perfect for lazy afternoons inside when its too awful to go out. And when the body is in recovery, it sure benefits from the extra protein, iron and B12 you get from high-quality animal meat.
Today and tomorrow, I will be posting my at-home version of our two favorite meat fillings from THE beloved taco joint here in Portland: Por Que No. Those favorites are the Pollo Asado, and the Beef Barbacoa.
This particular recipe emulates their Barbacoa pretty closely. We recently had Lebanese friends visiting and took them to Por Que No. They couldn’t believe how much the Mexican Barbacoa tasted like their favorite Shawarma in Beirut. It just served to remind me how good food is good food around the world, and how much in common our various cultures really have.
In honor of the beloved Shawarma, I have amped up the warming carminitive spices in this Barbacoa blend. Feel free to make it as-is the first time around and then play with ratios to your preference the second time around. Your tastebuds may be particularly sensitive to the flavors of cloves and cumin.
As usual, I start my large meat braise with LOADS of alliums (garlic, leeks, onions, shallot). There are two basic reasons for this:
- Alliums make everything taste better. They soften, caramelize, and have this absolutely lovely umami and slightly sulphuric flavor when cooked and roasted. Plus they make the house smell amazing.
- Alliums are a potent anti-disease vegetable family. Studies too numerous to list by name here have proven them effective against certain types of cancers, bacteria, viruses, and heart disease. They’re just little medicinal wonders.
I also make sure that my beef is 100% grassfed. Pastured animals that are allowed to graze naturally have healthier body tissues and are under less stress. They taste better and they are better for our bodies and the planet. And grass-fed beef is not even more expensive than industrially-farmed cattle anymore. Unlike chicken, pastured/grassfed beef is getting far more common to find. There’s literally no reason not to switch over! Find a grocery store that sells it and just start buying it (if your family eats red meat, and I assume they do since you’re reading this recipe). Red meat is incredibly nutrient-dense, when eaten in moderation with a balanced and diverse diet.
I cut my big 3 to 3.5 lb chuck roast into large chunks so they are easier to work with when searing:
You can see I’ve got my Avocado Oil there too (thanks Costco) which I put a small glug in my shallow dutch oven to sear the meat. I sear them over medium-high heat a good 3 minutes on all 4 sides, and chop the alliums up while that’s happening. At the end of the process I deglaze the pan with some veggie broth, turn the heat down to medium and put all the alliums in to simmer and reduce a bit, like so:
When everything is all said and done, the “ready to get braised for hours” dish looks something like this (you’ll notice some tomatoes and red miso have snuck in there, and I’ve added some herbs as well. You don’t have to do that for the shawarma – the carminative spices are enough. Consider it optional! I had them on hand and threw them in (there’s some thyme and tarragon leaves in there, not a lot).
From there, you’ll only be slow-braising this for about an hour per pound of meat, so 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Once you remove from the heat, shred it, remove any remaining fat/cartilage chunks and return it to the pot, it’ll look and smell delectable:
From there, this meat can be happily added to tacos with any topping of choice, or to wraps a la true shawarma. You can also add it into rice or grain bowls, or top roasted root veggies with it. So versatile and an easy way to get a week’s worth of meat for mostly hands-off time! This makes a great dinner party dish also, since it makes 12-14 servings. Enjoy!