My Texas Desebrada for Shredded Beef Tacos

Every time we go to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant, I order their desebrada, a shredded beef stewed in tomatoes and spices. Well, it tastes and looks like tomato. I order this for dinner as well as breakfast (Texas is the land of breakfast tacos). The beef tastes amazing cradled in soft tacos. I keep saying I will try to make this at home. Why put off today for another day and another day, etc.? Desebrada is traditionally made with goat meat. I’ve opted for chuck beef, which is shoulder meat.

chuck roast
Searing the chuck roast in a cast-iron skillet with oil

Before I get to the ingredients and recipe steps, I want to stress the importance of the right equipment. For this recipe, I have a cast-iron skillet and a crock pot slow cooker. In lieu of a skillet, I recommend a Dutch oven to sear the meat. While you’re cooking, you can sing out “Desebrada” to the tune of “Desperado!” (my boyfriend’s idea).

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 pound chuck roast
  • vegetable oil

    desebrada
    All the ingredients assembled in the slow cooker, including red wine and Rotel
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 jalapeños
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 Texas sweet onion
  • chili power, cumin, salt and pepper
  • freshly chopped cilantro
  • Optional garnishes/sides: homemade coleslaw (just mix mayo, lime juice and Rice wine vinegar and toss in a bag of shredded cabbage); avocado; shredded cheese; sour cream, jalapeños (freshly sliced or pickled) and hot sauce

Directions: Heat vegetable oil in big skillet over medium-high heat. Start prepping non-meat ingredients. Peel and smash garlic on cutting board with French chef knife. Place in slow cooker. Peel, slice and chop onion and place in cooker. Drop in a bay leaf or two. Put on gloves and cut, core, slice and dice the jalapeños. Place diced pepper in the cooker. Added a teaspoon each of chili pepper and cumin. Freshly grind salt and pepper over the rest of the ingredients in the cooker. Now, remove meat from package and place in hot skillet with oil. Brown it all the way around. You might have to cut it into two or three pieces to easily move it around in the skillet and prepare to fit with the other ingredients in the slow cooker. When browned, place it in the cooker and pour over it the wine and Rotel. Sprinkle a hearty handful of chopped cilantro over it and cover the cooker.

Cumin and chili powder atop garlic, onion and chopped jalapeño
Cumin and chili powder atop garlic, onion and chopped jalapeño

Turn to high heat. Once it is hot, lower to the low setting and let it slow cook for about 8 hours. Check on it every few hours and after 8 or so hours, see if it pulls apart with a fork. If so, turn off heat and let temperature drop to a level you can stand while shredding the meat into the sauce. I used a dinner fork and a spatula. Now, you can serve it all at once or freeze some portions for a savory and satisfying weeknight dinner. This shredded meat is perfect for tacos. You’ll want to serve it with more fresh chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeños, fresh lime, shredded Mexican cheese, perhaps a dollop of sour cream, hot sauce, etc. Maybe some sliced bell peppers and rice.

shredded beef slow cooker
Shredded beef after several hours in the slow cooker

The list goes on. Get creative. There is a lot you can do with this meat, including putting it in a casserole or mac-n-cheese. For us, tacos are in order, maybe even for breakfast.

Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

Create Your Own Tacos Night

If you live in Texas, you are well aware of increasing tension in cultural tacos wars about the origins of breakfast tacos and claims over which city has the best tacos. I’m not going to touch that debate with a 10-foot cooking tong. I’m simply going to relate the satisfaction of home cooking your own tacos, as well as share a tip for cooking the soft tortillas.

Tacos make for a colorful dinner
Tacos make for a colorful dinner

We happen to have a crepe maker, which happens to be a great device for heating through store-bought tortillas.

Cooking a tortilla on a crepe maker
Cooking a tortilla on a crepe maker

(Next, I will attempt to make homemade tortillas this way, but that’s a blog for another day.) When it comes to store-bought tortillas, another good way to heat and brown them is toasting them in a non-stick skillet. Don’t microwave. Nuked tortillas are just hot, but not quite cooked. The Velata crepe maker is really well-suited to warming through and toasting the tortilla. The advantage compared to a skillet is this crepe maker is electric and automatically shuts off so you don’t need to deal with a stovetop flame or burner controls.

Another personal take on tacos night in this household is we use ground venison instead of ground beef. The meat is from deer harvested in a management hunt (a hunt held to address overpopulation in a particular area). We hunted and cleaned the deer (meticulously), and took the meat to a local processor, or butcher.

Ground venison simmering with taco seasoning and sweet onion
Ground venison simmering with taco seasoning and sweet onion

The result is a freezer full of freshly prepared meats that are locally sourced (the hunt was not far here in Texas) and free of hormones or whatever else cattle may have in them. To be sure, there is really, really high-quality boutique cattle out there and it is very expensive. Our venison supply is relatively cost-effective and versatile. Plus, venison is very lean. Moreover, venison takes well to seasoning and works well with a variety of flavors, such as tacos.

Tacos night is a fun do-it-yourself dinner tradition
Tacos night is a fun do-it-yourself dinner tradition

The rest of the ingredients are easy to assemble and set up a serving station: salsa, cheese, salsa, beans and lettuce.

The beauty of tacos is you can make them in so many different ways, just like you can make a variety of crepes with savory fillings. Thus, my idea of cooking tortillas on a crepe maker isn’t wacky at all. My favorite taco toppings include freshly chopped cilantro, lime juice, chopped onion, jalapeños, hot sauce and salsa verde.

My preference for beans are black beans, hands down. Charro beans are a classic option. Refried beans can bind other ingredients to the tortilla.

Another meat option is desebrada (or deshebrada) which is beef or pork braised and slow-roasted in tomatoes. The meat then pulls apart. There is a Mexican restaurant near the house that has such good desebrada, I order tacos with it no matter if I am having breakfast, lunch or dinner. Sometimes I feel bound and determined to make my own desebrada, but then I think I won’t be able to emulate the restaurant’s version and I slink over there for some tacos.

Of course, Texans are obsessed with breakfast tacos and they are the best way to eat eggs. Eggs and cheese, eggs and sausage, eggs and bacon, eggs and beans, etc. Habanero sauce goes very well with the eggs in this most delightful breakfast food. At the risk of entering the great Texas breakfast tacos debate, I will just say that I have had the privilege of enjoying them in different parts of the state and they are all very good. Some of my first breakfast tacos experiences were at a restaurant in Kerrville and a tacos truck at an event in Nacogdoches.

The beauty of the taco is the endless variety and that you can make them anyway you want. Finally, tacos are easy on a weeknight or anytime you want comfort food with your favorite toppings.

The Sage Leopard