Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Queso Fresco

Has there ever been an ingredient that eludes you, no matter where you search? For me, for a long time, that ingredient was queso fresco - a Latin American cheese that's reminiscent of cottage cheese. I first had it on a trip to Mexico with my mom, where it was sprinkled liberally on, well, lots of things, from huevos rancheros to tacos. That was over four years ago, and after searching supermarkets, Latino food stores and cheese shops from Toronto to Leamington to Florida, I had never been able to find any - until last month, when I discovered a Latino food shop in my own city with a ton of different cheeses for sale, including queso fresco.

When life hands you queso fresco, make tacos. That's not how that saying goes, of course, but maybe it should. Because queso fresco and tacos make one great pairing.

This recipe for slow cooker beef tacos, modified from a Rick Bayless recipe, reminds me of every authentic taco I've ever had at Mexican restaurants - tender, saucy beef sprinkled with mild, fresh cheese. If you can't find queso fresco, you can try other cheeses - feta, goat cheese, even cheddar or mozzarella. It won't have the same flavour or texture, but it will add the cheesiness that, to me anyway, is crucial to any good taco.

Slow Cooker Beef Tacos with Queso Fresco
Serves 8

2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 inch pieces
28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and sliced
1 tbsp. adobo sauce from can of chipotles
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1.5 tsp salt
24 warm corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade
1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other cheese (feta, goat cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, etc.)
Fresh tomatoes, diced (optional)
Iceberg lettuce, shredded or thinly sliced (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

Add the beef to the bowl of a slow cooker. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes (with their juices) with the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, oregano, garlic, onion and salt. Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the beef. Cover and slow-cook on high for 6 hours. It can rest on your slow cooker's warm setting for up to 4 more hours.

When it's time to eat, spoon off the fat that has accumulated on top of the beef mixture - or don't, if you're feeling lazy. Shred the beef using two regular forks - this should be easy. Taste the meat and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with the warm tortillas, crumbled cheese and optional garnishes (tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream). Depending on who you ask, these garnishes aren't authentic - but a lot of the authentic Mexican restaurants I've been to serve them, and the fresh, bright flavour they add is a great contrast to the slow-cooked beef.


Anonymous May 7, 2010 at 2:47:00 PM EDT  

These were the best tacos ever! Next time: Lengua...

Anonymous May 12, 2010 at 9:46:00 AM EDT  

We used this recipe to make Mother's Day dinner and they were excellent! Even as left overs they are excellent! My dad doesn't usually do seconds unless something is good, he had 4ths :) Thanks for the recipe!

Eliana May 13, 2010 at 11:48:00 AM EDT  

Queso fresco is so delicious. I love the big dollop of it on your taco.

Scattered Mom May 21, 2010 at 4:05:00 AM EDT  

Looks delicious! I have to try this. :) Your photos are great too!

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