Chosen Bites: Savory braised beef

Chef Laura Frankel gives this classic Mexican dish a modern twist.

February 10, 2014 11:40
3 minute read.
Braised beef

Braised beef. (photo credit: LAURA FRANKEL)


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This full flavored sauce is called Shepherd’s style. The meat is typically marinated and then grilled.

This sauce is complex with dark and earthy chilies, bright lime juice and a surprising addition of coca cola. Most Mexican households and restaurants have closely guarded family recipes.

For my winter and housebound version, I am cooking meat in a bit of the sauce and braising the meat long and slow. Then I toss the beef with the earthy and full flavored sauce and pile it on to tortillas or a roll.

I have added the pineapple directly to the sauce instead of the usual method of grilling the pineapple separately and then serving it on the side. My version is delicious and sweet, sour, savory and spicy all at once.

Because I added the pineapple to the sauce, you cannot marinate the meat for long periods in the sauce as the enzymes in pineapple will break down the meat fibers and you will have a mushy texture. The sauce is however delicious on the tacos or sandwiches and equally amazing on vegetables and chicken.

Savory Braised Beef, Al Pastor-Shepherd’s Style


4 dried guajillo chiles (about 1 ounce)
1 dried ancho chile
2 dried chipotle chiles or
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup Coca-Cola (I use the cola made with sugar and not corn syrup)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon annatto seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 whole clove
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 pounds chuck roast or boneless lamb shoulder roast
2 cups chicken stock or water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Garnish: Pico de Gallo (see below)

Preheat oven to 176


1. Stem and seed all of the dried chiles and place them in small sauté pan. Cover with water and simmer until softened (about 2 minutes). Let cool slightly, then drain and transfer to a blender. Add the orange juice, lime juice, soda, vinegar, pineapple and garlic. Blend until smooth.

2. In a spice grinder, grind the annatto with the oregano, cumin, clove, and sugar until fine. Add the spice mixture to the blender and blend until smooth.

3. Transfer the marinade to a saucepan. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until very thick, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

4. Heat a large Dutch oven or sauté pan over medium high heat. Season the roast generously with salt and pepper. Sear the roast on all sides until caramelized and dark brown.

5. Place the roast and stock or water in a braising pan with a tight fitting cover. Add ½ cup of the sauce to the pan and stir to combine.

6. Braise the roast until it is fork tender, about 2 ½ hours.

7. Shred the roast and toss with remaining sauce. Serve on tortillas, rolls or grilled vegetables.

Pineapple Pico de Gallo

The addition of pineapple complements the savory ingredients and makes this a brightly flavored addition to the braised beef.

1 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons micro diced jalapenos
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Toss all of the ingredients together. Serve on top of beef with Al Pastor.

Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.

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