Machaca is something that you don’t see a lot of in New York, which is sad, because it’s one of my favorite things ever. I haven’t even met that many people who know what it is, but when they try it, they fall in love. You can put it in tacos, burritos, on a salad, or even served simply with eggs and salsa for breakfast or dinner. It’s versatile and delicious, and I hope that it will become more prevalent in the US over the coming years; maybe it will even become as popular as its barbacoa counterpart.
Machaca is nothing fancy, but it has a unique preparation that gives it a ton of flavor with a lovely crispy texture. While the dish was originally made from dried or spiced meat, rehydrated and cooked down again, this was due to necessity – you couldn’t always have fresh meat, so you made it into jerky, and when you were sick of eating dried meat, you could make machaca. It’s now most commonly made by cooking meat in a spice mixture, usually something with coffee and chile peppers, then braised slowly with red wine or dark beer, citrus juice, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. I used blood orange juice for my machaca, which I think really added a beautiful flavor, but you can use anything from regular orange juice to grapefruit juice. The mixture is then cooked down for hours, until the meat has completely absorbed every last drop of liquid, leaving behind shredded beef that is slightly crispy, slightly sweet and spicy, and extremely tasty. Kramer and I used to get it in breakfast burritos in Phoenix whenever we could; the texture is just perfect for eggs, and the spice really wakes you up in the morning. Machaca is probably the food that we miss most from Phoenix. One time we saw it on the menu at La Esquina and couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. Now, however, we can make it at home, and I even froze about half of the cooked machaca to eat over the next few months; as it’s been cooked down so much, it freezes beautifully, so we can have machaca tacos whenever we want, and there’s nothing better than that.
Before we get to the recipe, I wanted to share a few photos from the other night, including this one of my blueberry cobbler.
Morgan enjoying a buttermilk biscuit.
Gather up your ingredients and combine your ground coffee, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
Cook your shallots, dried peppers, and garlic in the fat from the meat, then juice your blood oranges and add the juice to the pot, along with the lime juice, vinegar, wine, water, coffee, cinnamon, and cocoa. Add the meat back to the pan, cover, and cook for 3 1/2 hours in a 275 degree F oven.
- 4 pounds beef (rump roast or something similar works best), cut into 4 equal sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 3 dried chile peppers, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ cups blood orange juice
- ¾ cup red wine
- ½ cup lime juice
- ½ cup water
- ⅓ cup freshly brewed coffee
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- tortillas, for serving
- diced red onions, for serving
- salsa or diced tomatoes, for serving
- cilantro, for serving
- queso blanco, for serving
- Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F. Combine your ground coffee, salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin in a small dish and rub the equally sliced pieces of beef with it. Heat your olive oil over high heat in a large, high-sided pan, and add the meat, one or two pieces at a time, browning evenly on all sides for 1-2 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
- Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan, and add in the shallots. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, until translucent, then add in the chile peppers. Cook for another 2 minutes, then add in the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the blood orange juice, red wine, lime juice, water, coffee, and vinegar to the pan, along with the cocoa powder and cinnamon. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Add the meat back to the pan – make sure that the liquid only comes about ⅔ of the way up the side of the pan; if it comes higher than that, spoon some of it out or else it will bubble over in your oven. Cover the pan and place the meat in the oven for 3½ hours.
- After 3½ hours, remove the pan from the oven, uncover, and place it over medium-high heat. Break down the meat with a wooden spoon (it should shred very easily), then stir occasionally for another 30-45 minutes or so, until all of the liquid has evaporated/absorbed. The mixture shouldn’t be boiling too much, so turn down the heat to medium if it starts to. Be sure to stir every so often so nothing burns to the bottom of the pan.
- When the meat is ready, heat your tortillas by placing them in the oven or over a burner until toasted. Place a spoonful of meat in the tortilla, followed by your preferred toppings, and serve. This will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.