Street style tacos: Braised beef shank


I posted this picture to Instagram & Facebook, and a few folks asked for the recipe. It was ridiculously easy, and a great way to use a cheaper cut of meat. It's a little hard to create a "recipe" out of this, as I did it mostly by feel and what was handy. But for what it's worth, here you go. 

The Beef: 

I used a couple of hefty slabs of beef shank (cross cut right across the lower foreleg or shin of our steer) that I had in the freezer. We have lots of cuts like this - tougher, lankier cuts from the parts of the cow that aren't porterhouse or flank steak.  These can end up in your grocery store isle as "stew meat" or typically minced by your butcher into ground beef. Otherwise, you'll find them left whole as your cheaper pot roast options. If you have a decent butcher department or shop near you, you can ask for shank or other cuts for a fraction of the cost of your more popular cuts. I have one advantage in pulling this from our stash - this came from the dry-aged half of the steer, and was especially flavorful. 

Used: Bone-in shanks (x2) - net weight, about 2 pounds. You could easily subsitute just about any cheap, meaty cut. Look for 'London Broil' on sale at the grocery store (which technically isn't a cut of meat. It's a method of preparation for a tougher portion of beef). 

The Liquid: 

I braised the beef shanks (otherwise, they'd be tough and unenjoyable). Braising is simply a way to cook it long and slow, with moisture, and is really handy when you have cheap, tough meat cuts. Typically, I would sear the meat first. But I was lazy. I just put the two shanks into a small casserole dish, and poured in a quart of plain tomato sauce. I had the luxury of being able to send the Critter down to the basement and pull up a jar my Bride had made and canned last summer. But any decent tomato sauce will do. You want the liquid to be about 2/3 the way up the side of the meat. Not covering. But a pretty healthy amount. 

The spices: 

 I added two packs of McCormick's fajita seasoning. This dirty little secret is my go-to Mexican mix of spices. I could (and have) made my own blend of cumin, garlic, chiles, salt & pepper. But I just as often don't bother. It's good, and cheap and quick. And when I'm lazy, it's the perfect blend. Note: I never use the packet of taco mix this way. I don't know what's the difference between the two. Except this: One is great. One is crap. 

If you want to make it from scratch, I'd use about something like the following for 1 qt of sauce: 

  • 1 or 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 or 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregeno
  • 0.5 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper. (or to taste)

I tend to like my flavors on the strong & spicy side. So feel free to adjust to your pallette.

The cooking: 

I cooked this at a simmer in the oven (about 275-300 degrees) for 4 hours or so. When done, I sliced the meat off the bone, and into 1/4" wide strips (against the grain). Then I put the meat back into the sauce and left it warm on the side of the oven while I quickly finished up the rest of the fixings.

Salsa fresca: 

 There are hundreds of easy recipes here. But it comes down to a few basic ingredients.

  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cilantro
  • Chili
  • Lime

Chop. Stir. By default, I use roughly equal-ish amounts of the first three. And generally one or two diced jalepenos (or a few dashes of tabasco, if I'm out of fresh chiles). Squeeze the juice of one lime over it all. Add a pinch or two of kosher salt, and chill in your fridge for a half hour or so, if you have the time. Make extra. So you can make the next part.


The easiest way to make guacamole is to add a heaping serving spoon of the salsa above to a couple of mashed avacados. Mix together, and boom. Add more lime juice if you like. (and who doesn't?)


At my house, I'm pretty much the only fan of corn tortillas. The ones in the photo above are really small, taco-truck style. I bought them in LA on our last trip and brought them back. They can last quite nicely in the freezer for months. For real taco-truck style, take two small ones like above, warm them over an open flame (or on a dry cast iron skillet) and stack them on top of each other. Then top with your beef, salsa and a dollop of guac, and you're good to go, just like that. You can add a slice or two of jalepeno to the top if you're feeling feisty. 

For the rest of my family, they like flour tortillas. Basically the same treatment: warm over open flame for a few seconds. Fill. Eat. Repeat. 

Boom. Easy tacos: street style.