About a month and a half ago, we introduced you to Birria – basically, Pulled Pork, but made with Beef – and since then, the Resto and Foodie worlds have gone nuts on it. Let’s take a look at some of the Birria dishes folks have come up with, including one I found this morning, surfing my usual sources…
El Pollo Loco’s new Birria Quesadilla: Springboard to greatness?
A ‘Sloppy José’?
The good old Sloppy Joe – a perennial fave among kids young and old – has been around since the early part of the last century. According to Wikipedia:
“Early and mid-20th century American cookbooks offer plenty of sloppy joe-type recipes, though they go by different names: Toasted Deviled Hamburgers, Chopped Meat Sandwiches, Spanish Hamburgers, Hamburg a la Creole, Beef Mironton, and Minced Beef Spanish Style. […] Marilyn Brown, Director of the Consumer Test Kitchen at H.J. Heinz in Pittsburgh, says their research at the Carnegie Library suggests that the sloppy joe’s origins lie with the ‘loose meat sandwiches’ sold in Sioux City, Iowa, in the 1930s and were the creation of a cook named Joe.”
That’s a good story in itself. And I’ll save it for another day, when we’ll discover what ‘loose meat’ is. Anyway..
The first reference I came across to Birria was a super-simple recipe for the stuff itself – a stew of pulled beef, onions and all the usual spices. That was some time ago. The dish pictured in that post was a goo-on-a-bun portrait (see photo, top of page), and I do remember thinking it looked like a Sloppy Joe. I don’t remember why I set it aside in my consciousness. Maybe it was too much like a Sloppy Joe to register as something different. Anyway…
Then along comes El Polo Loco
Compiling a Fast Food Week post along about the end of March, I tripped over an announcement that EL Polo Loco was launching a new Birria line: burritos, tacos and quesadillias. The photo tagged to that one was much more appealing than the Sloppy José I first encountered. Since then, a whole slew of well-known resto chains have followed along with their own menu items in homage to Birria.
A little research revealed that Birria has been around since time immemorial. Wikipedia describes it succinctly as, “a Mexican dish from the state of Jalisco. It is a traditional ancestral soup or stew made from a combination of chili pepper-based goat meat adobo, garlic, cumin, bay leaves, and thyme,” simmered low and slow until the meat becomes fall-apart tender. Most of the ‘modern’ references I’ve found to Birria call for Beef, rather than Goat. But if you have access to Goat, you can try it. Just remember, Goat will take somewhat longer to simmer down to the fall-apart stage than Beef.
Probably because it comes from central Mexico and not the northern border region, Birria escaped the attention of the Tex-Mex crowd and the Foodies for a long time.
Birria hits the big time
This morning I found a post announcing that Disney Land’s Food machine has taken Birria to its mammoth, commercial breast, and added a Birria Toasted Cheese Sandwich, which comes with a side of Consommé, to its menu. Figures the Disney people would apply their magic wand and try to transform something as simple, basic and traditional as Birria into something special – maybe even magical.
But for Birria-as-a-concept, the Disney appropriation marks the stuff’s arrival on the mainstream Tex-Mex scene, and ensures it will be enshrined in the mass consciousness in the same place of honour as Pulled Pork, Chili and the venerable Sloppy Joe.
Elevate your Birria awareness
Surprise and amaze yourself with just one Google search: ‘Birria recipes’. As simple as Birria, itself!
~ Maggie J.