I don’t eat spicy foods. In fact, I have tried spicy foods (both on purpose and by accident), and it doesn’t agree with me. However, I never felt that I was missing out on anything despite so many of my friends counting out loud all the foods I would miss out on: Mexican food, Szechuan cuisine, Thai food, Kimchi, and everything with Sriracha! I shrugged it off since I could never recall feeling like this was a limitation whenever I dined out or traveled abroad.
Then I went to Washington DC for an academic conference. One evening I was out searching for a place to eat and I stumbled upon Oyamel, a Mexican restaurant in Penn Quarter. I waited almost an hour before getting a table, so I wasn’t about to give up! Needless to say, this was the first time the waiter told me that there was nothing non-spicy in the whole restaurant except iced water. So I went for the mildest item on their menu, which turned out to be Chapulines, authentic Mexican tacos with sautéed grasshoppers. I had no problem with the grasshoppers; I just couldn’t handle the spiciness!
That experience was my inspiration for this recipe. Although I am not incorporating grasshoppers in my tacos today, I have to admit that I am cooking outside my comfort zone. These are my very first taco creations! Let me know what you think! Of course, I include an option to spice it up a bit.
3 lbs bone-in beef short ribs, fat trimmed
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 cup dry red wine
12 sprigs thyme
16 hard corn taco shells
1 cup grated aged cheddar
For spicy tacos, replace the bell peppers with the following:
2 dried ancho chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
2 dried New Mexico chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
4 dried cascabel chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
Preheat the oven to 350oF with a rack in the middle. Pat the short ribs dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat the canola oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the short ribs on both sides, about 8 minutes in total. Remove to a plate.
If you are making spicy tacos, combine the stock and dried chiles in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for about 15 minutes.
Discard all but 3 tablespoons oil from the Dutch oven. Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 1 minute.
Pour in red wine and port and simmer, stirring until almost completely reduced, about 12 minutes.
Add the thyme and the chicken stock (or the chile-stock mixture if you are making the spicy version). Bring to a simmer and return the short ribs to the pot. Add the bell peppers. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until tender, about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Remove the short ribs to a bowl. Shred the meat from the bones. Strain the cooking liquid into a degreasing cup and pour off the excess fat. Pour the remaining liquid into a skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the meat and toss to coat. Fill the taco shells with meat and top with grated cheese.