If you want a story of strange family history, I have one for you. I come from an Italian grandmother, who married my Chinese grandfather and then later remarried to my Mexican step-grandfather. My cousins and I are the only people I know who find it completely acceptable to eat spaghetti with chopsticks.
My late grandmother once explained to us as kids that traditional Mexican food is not spicy. Passing down wisdom from her mother-in-law, she told us that people who use too much heat in their food are compensating for lack of flavor — e.g. too much heat is a sign of a bad cook. I think there is a special place in our brains where the advice of our grandparents is stored, whether it’s true or not…
With this in mind, the following braised beef is not spicy. It has a warm, rich and balanced flavor that welcomes high notes of salt, heat and brightness from the Salsa Fresca and avocados with lime. I am using roasted portobello mushroom caps in place of traditional crisp corn tortillas for the tostada. This beef would also make for excellent taco filler in the Coconut Flour Tortillas often used in Paleo cooking as well as some lettuce cups for a quick and light wrap. In fact, I do lettuce cups for leftovers the next day after all the portobellos are gobbled up.
- 2.5 lb beef roast
- 1 – 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Paleo-friendly fat of choice
Roasted Portobello Mushrooms:
- 10 portobello caps
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 chipotle chili powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 5 grinds black pepper
- 2 avocados, sliced and topped with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a pinch of kosher salt
- Lime wedges
- 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
- A batch of Salsa Fresca (recipe is below)
In order to bring this dish together, we’re gonna have to multitask a couple different recipes. I hope that this comes across clearly… Please let me know if I get confusing anywhere.
Braising is one of my favorite ways to prepare meat. You can do it with pretty much anything, but beef and pork are my favorites. Braising develops complex flavors and turns out tender protein. How can that be bad? Well, I suppose the downside is that it is a labor of love and it requires a Dutch Oven. I can tell you how to do this without one, but you would be doing yourself a favor to look around for the real thing.
1. Cut your beef roast into large chunks, about 3-4 inches as square as you can. Prepare the spice blend and coat the beef. Set this aside to rest while the Dutch Oven comes to temp.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and heat your Dutch Oven to medium high.
3. When it’s hot, add a couple tablespoons of lard, ghee, tallow, duck fat or whatever your preferred fat is. Bacon grease would not be wrong here. Drop four pieces of beef into the pan to sear. Turn the beef to get every side browned, then remove from heat. Add add remaining pieces and repeat.
We want a solid crust on the beef and are not concerned about the internal doneness. Step one of braising is getting that outer crust knocked out. Also, it’s important that this is done in batches, since overcrowding the Dutch Oven will drop the temp significantly causing the meat to steam and boil… blech.
4. When all the meat is done, add the first batch back to the pan and immediately pour in the beef stock to deglaze. Then pour in the tomatoes and toss in the crushed garlic cloves. The liquid level should be right to the top of the beef without completely submerging it. Bring this to a boil, then cover and transfer to the preheated oven. This will braise for two hours.
5. I like to check on the meat at the one hour mark and turn it. You don’t have to, but it’s my preference.
6. When the beef is in its last 30 minutes of braising, make the Salsa Fresca below and prepare the portobellos. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the mushrooms, so follow Nom Nom Paleo’s method. It’s perfect–just don’t slice them up at the end, we need these whole.
7. At two hours, remove the beef from the oven and set aside. Increase the temp to 400 degrees and proceed with Nom Nom’s cooking instructions.
8. While the mushrooms are in the oven, shred the beef using two forks. Discard any funky pieces of sinew or fat.
9. Slice the avocado, squeeze a couple lime wedges over them to stave off oxidization and sprinkle on some kosher salt. You can use other salt, but I like coarse grain and flavor of kosher.
10. It’s finally dinner time! Build your Paleo Tostada by place a portobello gill side up, then heap in as much shredded beef as you like, top with shredded iceberg lettuce, Salsa Fresca and a squeeze of lime. Avocados can go on the side or on top, whatever works. We love avocados and tend to see them as the vegetable side!
- 4 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 3-4 TBSP cilantro, chopped
- a half or full serrano or jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
- juice of two lime wedges
- a couple grinds of black pepper
Prepare ingredients and combine. I do not add garlic or salt to this salsa. Raw garlic can be overwhelming and I want this salsa to elevate the flavor of the meat, not dominate every bite. When salt is added to fresh tomatoes, they will begin to break down almost immediately. Depending on the kind of Salsa Fresca I may add it, but not to this one. If salt was added, the tomatoes would be a soggy mess by the time you went back for seconds.