Red Chile Braised Beef

We find ourselves eating in, rather than going out, more than not. For one thing, the food is often better, or just simpler. Maybe I’m getting grouchy, but after a recipe trip where I ate out at every meal, all I wanted was a plate of grilled fish or roasted chicken, and some vegetables. Or just a simple salad with some bread and cheese.

Another is that I’m fairly picky about ingredients and my partner has learned to take my advice when selecting fruits and vegetables as I don’t like to bring anything home that isn’t the best of the market. Which means I often go around and around and around, until I’m absolutely satisfied that I’ve got the best of the bunch.

One thing I don’t cook very often, though, is beef. It’s not that I don’t like it, but when I eat at home, I bow to requests by my other half to make things more vegetable-centric.

Vegetables require more work, which I don’t mind. But when people ask me why restaurants in France don’t feature more vegetables, I tell them that it takes a lot more time to select, and prepare, a nice plate of vegetables, much more so than adding a mound of rice or mashed potatoes to a plate

Another reason I like to cook at home is that I can eat whatever I want. Often I just want a big salad for dinner, and other times I crave something like Pasta Puttanesca, Harissa-spiced Chicken, or Onion Rings, which aren’t on local menus.

Mexican food is something that has traditionally been lacking in Paris. And while those who don’t live here wonder why anyone would want Mexican food in Paris, a number of places have opened over the past few years that are pretty good, except for one place we tried recently that was awful – my chicken taco had cubes of unseasoned boiled chicken piled on it and another way runny black bean liquid with stringy mushrooms on it.

But you don’t find long-simmered Mexican dishes, like mole or enchiladas. (Although occasionally you score when a friend from Oaxaca comes over to cook for you.)

Back on the home front, I’m pretty well-stocked with dried chiles from friends and guests who arrive with packages of foodstuffs, which often includes bags of various dried red pepper. I’ve used them to make chili, but when I was leafing through Repertoire by Jessica Battilana, subtitled “All the recipes you need,” the red chile braised beef sounded like something I needed.

The beauty of this book isn’t just the vibrant salads, like The Greenest Green Salad bathed in Green Goddess Dressing, or Vietnamese Noodles with Pork Meatballs, or Cocoa Oat Cookies, or S’mores Tart, it’s that almost all the recipes are things that I truly want to make, and eat. Oh, and there’s a recipe for Candy Pork in the book, that’s also bookmarked.

This Red Chile Braised Beef is one of those dishes that takes a little bit of effort to put together, but there’s no fancy techniques or equipment necessary. (Although if you have one of those Insta Pots, which I’ve been mulling over getting*, you could probably have it on the table in less time.)

You simmer dried red chiles until soft, then puree them. While that’s happening, you can brown off the chunks of beef. Once both are ready, you add everything together and cook it up until you’ve got a big, rich pot of meltingly tender chunks of beef in a slightly spicy sauce that slicks the meat. When I opened the lid to the pot…I was impressed!

Everyone loves leftovers and the braised beef is even better the next day. We enjoyed them as tacos one day for lunch, with pickled red onions and a sprinkle of cilantro. I did find adding a dash of chipotle sauce on the tacos gave them an extra boost of smoky flavor. They’d also be good with pickled jalapeños and carrots, the kind I used to fill up on at taquerias in San Francisco, with all the fresh radishes they’d put out, too. I sometimes amaze even myself with how many radishes I can eat.

Tacos are another story and I limit myself to three, although I really loaded these ones up with braised beef so two was enough. Thankfully we had more for the next day, and the next…

Red Chile Braised Beef
Print Recipe
6 to 8 servings
From Repertoire: All the Recipes You Need, by Jessica Battilana Jessica's original recipe called for 4 dried ancho chiles and 4 New Mexico chiles, but I used Guijillos, in place of the New Mexico chiles, since that's what I had. Any medium to mild dried chile would work. (Although if you like things extra-spicy, you could certainly try another dried chile.) I made notes at the end of the recipe for the ingredients, and where to find them if you live in France. Beef chuck can be found in supermarkets in the U.S. or from your butcher. Make sure to trim away any excess fat, vessels, or silverskin, before searing and braising. Jessica also has you make a paste with 1/4 cup masa harina and 1/4 cup water, then stir it into the beef during the last ten minutes of cooking. Perhaps that was to thicken the sauce, although mine was plenty thick when it was done, so I didn't do it.
3 1/2 pounds (1,5kg) beef chuck roast, cut into 3 to 4-inch (8-10cm) chunks
coarse or kosher salt
freshly-ground black pepper
4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 dried New Mexico, pasilla, or Guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 quart (1l) chicken stock
3 tablespoons neutral-flavored vegetable oil, plus more, if necessary
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1. Season the beef well with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
2. To roast the dried chiles (stemmed and seeded), if you have a deep, wide saucepan, you can use that to pan-roast and simmer the chiles in. Otherwise, you can roast them in a skillet (not non-stick), then transfer them to a medium to large saucepan. Heat the saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat, then add the chiles. Roast them, turning them so they don't burn on any side, until they smell fragrant, about 3 minutes.
3. If using a wide saucepan, add the chicken stock. If using a skillet, transfer the chiles to a saucepan and add the chicken stock. Heat until the stock starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the chiles are completely soft, about 20 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and puree the chiles with the liquid using an immersion blender, being careful as the hot liquid can splatter, and stain. If using a standard blender, let the chiles and the liquid cool until room temperature, then puree until smooth. Do not puree the hot liquid in a blender as the top can blow off and cause injury.
5. To cook the beef, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Add as many pieces of beef that will fit in a single layer without crowding them. Depending on the size of your pot, you may have to brown them in batches. Sear the pieces of beef, turning them only as each side turns dark brown, until they're browned on all sides. It'll take between 5 to 10 minutes to brown each batch of beef. Once browned, remove the pieces of beef and put them in a bowl, then sear the next batch, adding more oil if necessary.
6. Once all the beef pieces have browned, and all have been removed from the pot, add the onions and garlic to the pot. (If there is too much oil in the pot after searing the beef, pour most of it out, leaving about a tablespoon in the pot.) Cook the onions and garlic, stirring, until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. (If there is a lot of dark brown fond stuck to the bottom of the pot, add a few tablespoons of water and stir that into the onions. It's a delicious addition.)
7. Add the cumin and coriander to the onions and stir for another minute, then add the chile liquid and brown sugar to the pot. Add the pieces of seared beef back to the pot, along with any liquid, and bring the beef in the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat until the liquid is barely simmering.
8. Cover partially and cook until the beef is very tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Adjust the heat so the liquid is at a low simmer. While the beef is cooking, stir it a few times so the pieces are cooking evenly, and if necessary, add a splash of water or stock if the liquid has thickened and reduced too much before the beef is fully cooked. You can also taste the liquid and add more salt, if necessary.

Serving: Serve the beef over rice or with warm tortillas and any condiments you like, for homemade tacos. Another option is to serve it with homemade cornbread.

Storage: The braised beef is actually better 1 to 2 days after it's made. The beef will keep, refrigerated, for 3 to 4 days. It can be rewarmed in a pot over low heat. If the sauce is too thick when you're rewarming it, add a bit of stock or water to thin it out.

Ingredient Notes: For those outside of the U.S., specifically in France, I use ricotta salata (dried ricotta) for queso fresco, which is available at some Italian food shops. Fresh tortillas may be harder to find. There was a fresh tortilla company in Paris but they've closed. I have found tortillas at Middle Eastern food markets on occasion. If you're a DIY type and want to make your own corn tortillas, BocaMexa sells masa harina, as well as corn tortillas. One mail-order company in France is Casamex.

Beef chuck in France would be stewing meat, which often goes under the name "bœuf bourguignon" at butcher shops. Paléron of beef is a cut that is braised. Plat de côtes is another.

*I have a slow cooker that’s still in the box after 3+ years. So perhaps I don’t need one.

Red Chile Braised Beef

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  • Barbara Zulauf
    July 6, 2018 12:03am

    I do something similar in the crockpot: chuck roast, onion, diced potato and canned pintos (both optional), smear a few canned chipotles in adobo sauce and sprinkle generously with dried oregano, and cook all day.

    • July 6, 2018 2:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      I love chipotles. I added a few shots of chipotle sauce when serving these tacos, which adds a nice smoky flavor.

    • Peg Wolfe
      July 6, 2018 8:57pm

      I’d use Mexican oregano in both this and David’d recipe. Neither Italian nor Greek oregano don’t have quite the correct flavor profile.

  • Helen
    July 6, 2018 3:15am

    I’ll be making this recipe tomorrow for weekend enjoyment with local grass fed Angus beef and some home grown and dried spicy chiles to serve as tacos. Mmm my mouth is watering and I’m usually not a beef fan. I keep a jar of pickled onions in the fridge for snacking. Thanks for two marvelous recipes.

  • July 6, 2018 9:00am

    You’re two days too late with this–I did Mexican (carnitas) for July 4, which I considered the best culinary choice for the day. But I will make this one, too!
    Thanks for the tips for tortillas. When I am being a stickler, I make my own flour tortillas, but masa harina unknown in these parts. I can’t wait to order some real corn tortillas! I used to buy fresh from a tortilleria and just eat a few on the spot, plain. I love them. Maybe because my first job was in a Mexican restaurant.
    Re a mijoteuse: they are excellent for kitchens without air conditioning (like most of France). I am longing for one myself.

    • becky
      July 6, 2018 9:28am

      We had fish tacos (*real* American food) for the 4th, up here in Germany. Luckily the local “Asia Shop” has a small section with Mexican products, including masa harina. Before I discovered that I was ordering it online, and it wasn’t terribly expensive. I traded my hula hoop for a tortilla press (how Berkeley is that?) before we moved here and I don’t regret it for a second – I make fresh corn tortillas at least once a week. Despite my vegetarian tendencies, that photo and the word “carnitas” have inspired me to change my menu plan for the weekend…dang, I’m hungry and it’s not even lunchtime!

    • July 6, 2018 2:05pm
      David Lebovitz

      When I searched for an Instant Pot online, I couldn’t find them available in France. (I thought they were?) But Amazon FR says “Actuellement indisponible,” and said they didn’t know when they’d be back. I heard they make good rice so figured I could replace my rice cooker with one. But I guess I’ll have to wait…

  • July 6, 2018 5:58pm

    What you need is a pressure cooker..the BEST tool for a braise. I really enjoy your website. Cheers, Lisa

  • Sandy Castro
    July 6, 2018 6:05pm

    Hello David,

    Somewhat off subject but fresh and Paris markets are mainstay in your writing yet I recently read an article about how expensive the Paris markets are, if not impertinent, how do you it?

    • July 6, 2018 9:33pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t find the markets in Paris all that expensive, although some of it is relative. I usually buy stuff in season, for example, stone fruits like nectarines and apricots when they are at their peak, can had for around €1,50 per kilo (2.2 pounds), although they are not direct from the farmers (like most of the produce at the markets in Paris) but from negotiants who get their goods from Rungis wholesale market. For that reason, it’s hard to compare the prices to a greenmarket or farmers’ market in the U.S. where the sellers actually grow their own produce and it’s more expensive. Outside of Paris, in the countryside, there’s more produce that is sold by the growers and the prices are (I think) reasonable. I haven’t had many people be rude to me at the markets, but you have to follow certain rules of behavior (like not to touch the produce unless you know its ok with the vendor) and things like that.

  • Marjorie Wax
    July 6, 2018 6:13pm

    This would be the perfect recipe to try in an Instant Pot – Highly recommend!

  • July 6, 2018 6:39pm

    This is something that I do often, but I use arm roast or pork butt because all that tendon and sinew break down into beautiful goodness and the beef arm is especially flavorful braised in this method. I also add a halved lemon to the braising liquid and it’s quite amazing.

    Great recipe, David! Thank you and keep up the great work!

  • Kate
    July 6, 2018 7:02pm

    If anyone tries this in the Instant Pot, please post your method!

  • Michael
    July 6, 2018 7:10pm

    Living in Spain I discovered the frugal housewife uses a pressure cooker for a great many things. For me the prime boon was stock. The Instant Pot is a great improvement and being a freestanding electric/electronic appliance it doesn’t crowd the hob. I would highly recommend it.

  • Mary Ross
    July 6, 2018 8:23pm

    Hello David: I enjoy your blog very much. Thank you for sharing your delightful Parisian life. Regarding thickening with masa harina, that step does give meats and or soup/braises a very pleasing smell and flavour. Something distinctively Mexican that I miss a lot now that I do not travel there anymore.

  • Laura L
    July 6, 2018 9:05pm

    David, this looks delicious, and I can’t wait to try making them. What kind of cheese did you crumble on top? I am fortunate to live in an area with some great Hispanic grocery stores, but I find the selection overwhelming!

  • P Adams
    July 6, 2018 9:08pm

    I’ve been making this as Chile Colorado since the 70’s and it’s one of my favorite recipes. The only difference is I usually add some Mexican oregano but no coriander or brown sugar (alhough I will try next time). I cut the beef into much smaller cubes.
    This recipe is one I often use to compare the difference between a standard braise and the Instant Pot. The standard braise is far superior in my opinion – more intense and flavorful. I find the Instant Pot can produce meat that tastes a bit more steamed than roasted. That said, however, using a pressure cooker allows me to enjoy this recipe in an hour and thus more often.
    My Instant Pot method is to layer the ingredients using one cup stock or water and cook for 35 – 37 minutes. Not as refined but still delicious. On the menu today!

  • July 6, 2018 9:28pm
    David Lebovitz

    Laura L: It’s called queso fresco, a fresh Mexican cheese. Depending on where you live, you can find it in store that sell Mexican foods although many supermarkets in the U.S. also sell it. If not, it’s not difficult to make. In fact, it’s kind of fun! How to make queso fresco (Serious Eats)

    P Adams: I was going to add dried oregano but I only have the kind from Sicily, which, as you mentioned, is different than Mexican oregano. So I didn’t. But it’s a good addition : )

    Mary Ross: Thanks! You’re right on the masa harina for the flavor, although I was concerned people couldn’t get it. (It’s a challenge to find it in Paris…) I was going to try it with very finely ground cornmeal, which isn’t quite the same. But I gave Jessica’s proportions for the addition of masa harina in case people want to try it.

  • Roger Boulet
    July 6, 2018 9:37pm

    I too recommend the Instant Pot, an electric pressure cooker, for dishes like this, including pork ribs.

    Not a fan of the slow cooker or crock pot however….

  • Margaret
    July 6, 2018 10:12pm

    I’m always the last to jump on the band wagon so don’t have and probably won’t get the Intant Pot
    but just acquired a large oval Le Creuset pot that will be perfect for this. I might add jalapeño slices, avocado would be nice too….

  • Paula
    July 6, 2018 10:30pm

    Oh my land, David! I’m on day six of a two week medical fast and have been torturing myself with cookbook and online pictures of food, but those tacos look heavenly!! Don’t know if they were white corn tortillas, but you can always make them with wheat flour. I had to follow your link to the Mexican Dinner with Susana Trilling post and laughed out loud when I read “And if this isn’t grounds for a break-up, I just found out that Romain doesn’t like tortillas.” I like corn torts with my tacos, but my husband prefers flour torts, so that’s what I make for him. But you made me laugh.

    I promise I’m going to try this recipe just as soon as I can eat meat again!

  • Terry
    July 6, 2018 11:02pm

    This looks delicious! If it weren’t 103 in the shade here in SoCal, I would make this in a heart beat. Will definitely try when the weather cools down.

  • Becky
    July 6, 2018 11:09pm

    Thank you, David, for this recipe and review of it. I have been looking at this cookbook for a while, on the fence to see if anyone cooked from it that I regularly read. And you did! I cook at home almost every single day, and I think that leads to definite preferences as well as cooking fatigue. However, if I eat out, I invariably think about how I would have done it differently. This may be due to my age. We old folks (not you!) get set in our ways, I guess, and like you, I enjoy simple home cooking more than elaborate restaurant meals. Thanks again for this!

  • July 7, 2018 1:26am

    I never make any Mexican food because we have the best Mexican taqueria 300 meters from our house. Your recipe looks wonderful and I am tempted. I’ll be in Paris in a couple of weeks and can’t wait to go visit my favorite places.

  • Sara
    July 8, 2018 7:43pm

    I made this in my Instapot and it turned out well. I used 2.5 lbs of beef, and about 2 cups of chicken stock. I followed the recipe instructions through step 6. I programmed the Instapot to cook for 40 min.

  • ron shapley
    July 9, 2018 1:35pm

    COSORI 7-en-1 Autocuiseur Electrique 6L/1000W, Multicuiseur 15 Programmes, 6 Niveux de Pression, Cuiseur Riz, Cocotte Minute, Mijoteuse, Couvercle Verre Trempé, Pot Intérieur Inox, Livre de Recettes
    de COSORI on Amazon FR

  • Miriam
    July 9, 2018 9:20pm

    I made this yesterday and it came out wonderful! It was my first foray into cooking a Mexican dish. The dried chilies have a rich, complex, and almost chocolatey flavor. I’ll be checking Jessica’s book out. Thanks David!

  • July 10, 2018 3:19pm

    Sounds so appetizing, quite a dish for summer weather! I really enjoy your recipes and writing :)

  • Molly
    July 12, 2018 3:46am

    I just made this and it is amazing! Such an easy and excellent recipe. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe with me!

  • Emma
    July 12, 2018 10:56am

    Beware of crockpots and instant pots, as J. Kenji López-Alt has explained, the don’t really give depth and flavors to stews.

    His take on the subject is absolutely brilliant and I will never ever change my Le Creuset.

    • July 12, 2018 1:44pm
      David Lebovitz

      I know people who have slow cookers swear by them (although in my experience, people often swear by things…then a few years later, change their tune…) The problem with the instant pressure cooker, for me, would be that I can’t check inside to see what’s happening. It’s hard to standardize, say, the length of cooking time for green beans or a piece of beef. You can’t say “Cook the green beans for 6 1/2 minutes” since sometimes green beans are more tender, other times bigger and tougher. But I’m told the machine somehow can regulate that. But the Instant Pots are no longer available in France, so I guess I’ll have to wait longer to try one :)

  • July 15, 2018 10:42am

    This looks seriously good, David! Love how you added more information on serving, storage, and ingredients especially for those who live outside the USA. And thank you for providing us spicy lovers with an idea on how we can spice things up more. We are excited to try this this week! It sounds silly but do you think using another type of meat, say chicken, would go well with this recipe? Thanks a bunch!

    • July 15, 2018 3:29pm
      David Lebovitz

      I think pork shoulder would work. Not sure about chicken but you could try turkey thighs which are “meaty” and work well in slow-braised dishes. The cooking time would likely be less; just cook until the meat is very tender. If you do try it with turkey (or pork), let us know how it turns out.

  • July 18, 2018 12:27am

    OMG, thank you. I live in the south and miss Mexican madly, plus rarely know how to cook French beef. This is helpful so many thanks.

  • July 27, 2018 1:38am

    Very interesting to see tacos featured in a Parisian setting. Thank you!

  • Valerie Jackson
    July 27, 2018 5:47pm

    Sounds fantastic, and the photos are beautiful. I’m definitely going to give this a try.