This homecook's version of a traditional Mexican beef machaca combines classic flavors with a new twist. It can be as simple as a breakfast taco, or as elegant as modern Mexican cuisine.
Machaca, or carne seca, refers to spiced dried beef or pork. Authentic machaca was dried, one of the oldest forms of preservation started by the ranchers in northern Mexico. In the modern world of today, there is refrigeration now, but machaca is still prepared and sold for cooking in Mexico as well as larger Hispanic communities throughout the U.S. Growing up, my mom would prepare it at least once a month.
Most times it was prepared for breakfast, sauteed with onions and serranos, eggs and topped with fresh warm salsa. And of course accompanying the machaca were warm, freshly made flour tortillas and refried beans — in my opinion, the perfect Mexican breakfast. On occasion my brothers and myself would sneak the bag of machaca to snack on. It’s very similar to beef jerky, just finer.
As with many authentic Mexican ingredients, machaca is one of those impossible items for me to find where I live. So, for this recipe, I prepared a home cook’s version with my favorite spices and a little added red wine for a rich finish. If you are cooking for a smaller family, just divide the beef in half or into thirds after shredding and freeze for another time.
Mix the first five ingredients (dry spices) and generously rub on both sides of the beef, let sit for 20 minutes or you can refrigerate overnight.
If cooking right away, which I did, preheat 4 tablespoons of olive oil to medium/high heat for a few minutes. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Brown the beef in hot oil for 4 minutes per side. Transfer to roasting pan or oven-safe Dutch oven pot.
In a separate bowl, mix all of the remaining ingredients, minus the chile ancho, taste for salt and adjust seasoning before adding to the beef. Add chile ancho, cover beef with foil and roast in oven for 3 hours.
When ready, remove beef from braising liquid and shred finely. Remove bay leaves from braising liquid and transfer to the blender. Let the hot braising liquid cool before blending and always secure blender lid, holding down tightly with a kitchen towel. Transfer the blended liquid to a saucepan and cook on medium/low heat until the sauce thickens and reduces. I serve this on the side, like a gravy for beef or you can mix a little into the beef for moisture.
For a more traditional machaca, heat a few tablespoons of oil to medium/high heat in a large skillet. I divided the machaca into thirds, since there are only two of us. Stir-fry the beef until it gets crisp and brown in some spots.
You could serve as-is or you could add some onions, chile peppers and tomatoes. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm tortillas and salsa.
Freeze the remaining machaca for use later or just have it for breakfast the next day!
Slice the beef into 3 equal parts for easier searing.
I prefer using chicken broth and chicken base even with beef dishes because the beef can be a bit strong at times. You can mix half and half if you like.
My favorite ways to serve tacos de machaca: add onions, sliced chile peppers and tomatoes once the beef is browned and crisp on most sides. When preparing the tacos, I like to brush some of the braising liquid onto the tortillas as they cook on the comal or griddle.