Barbacoa is a traditional method of cooking meat over fire – the early origins of our modern day barbecuing. It originated in the Caribbean and in Mexico, where whole sheep or goats, and sometimes a cow’s head were cooked low and slow in holes dug in the ground and covered in thick layers of leaves. This closed-environment method of cooking created a gentle, moist heat that can be closely replicated by using a slow cooker. Barbacoa eventually spread north into the United States where it evolved into our much beloved Southern BBQ.
Tough cuts of meat are often the most flavorful, but the meat needs a slow cooking time to dissolve the connective tissues and to meld and marry with the spices, becoming so tender and soft it can be cut with a fork. These burritos are one of my go-to recipes on busy days. It’s really a no-fuss meal, starting with the meat. I cook it for 8 – 10 hours on low. I use canned beans, flavoured with spices, fresh onion and garlic. Of course, if you have time you can use dry beans – cook them until soft and then continue with the recipe. Otherwise, it’s just a matter slicing the radishes and onions, grating some cheese, and opening a bottle of bold red wine. The whole meal comes together in a snap.
A few weeks ago, my daughter was with me at the wine shop when she spotted this 2018 Argentine Malbec. I’m convinced her eyes are drawn to any thing that says “Llama” like a magnet – it’s her very favourite animal. She didn’t have to try too hard to convince me to buy it. I ended up liking it so much I went back and bought a few more bottles to serve with the Barbacoa burritos.
The old vine Malbec grapes are grown in rugged vineyards stretching along the foothills of the Andes mountains where vines, some as old as 100 years, thrive in the challenging environment. The wine is a deep, opaque purple in the glass. It features flavours of black plum and berries, along with notes of clove and vanilla. It presents with medium tannins and bright, well-balanced acidity. A perfect match to the deep richness of the the spiced meat.
Fill your tortillas with your favourite burrito fillings. Listed below are what I use to create these Barbacoa burritos.
- flour tortillas, warmed
- shredded Mexican cheeses (Monterey Jack, Queso Quesadilla, Queso Asadero and/or Cheddar)
- sour cream
- sliced radishes
- chopped lettuce
- sliced red onion
- chopped fresh cilantro
- prepared pinto beans (see recipe below)
- Slow Cooker Barbacoa (see recipe below)
Slow Cooker Barbacoa
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1 (approx. 2.5 lbs) boneless, bottom round beef roast, cut into 4 large pieces
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 TBSP fresh lime juice
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 TBSP chili powder
- 2 1/2 tsp dry oregano
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
- 2 bay leaves
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Brown the meat on all sides. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Mix together the chicken broth, vinegar and lime juice and pour over meat in the slow cooker. Add the onion, garlic, spices, salt and pepper, and bay leaves. Stir to evenly distribute the spices. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
When ready to eat, remove the meat and shred with two forks. Add back to the cooking juices in the pot. The meat will absorb the remaining juices. Cover and cook for 10 – 15 minutes longer while you prepare the remaining burrito ingredients.
Quick Pinto Beans for Burritos (using canned beans)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 cup chicken broth
- salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the rinsed beans, chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne and chicken broth. Simmer for 5 minutes, until thick. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.