Not to be confused with carna asada (which is marinated flank or skirt steak) carne guisada (CAR-nay gee-SA-da) is a Mexican-style beef stew that’s braised low and slow with chilies, onions, tomatoes, spices and, in this case, beer for hours until it creates its own “gravy” sauce. While fantastic on its own, carne guisada makes an amazing filling for tacos and one great cure-all for anything that ails you — from a cold to a hangover to a bad mood.
It’s often found in Mexican and Tex-Mex eateries in the Southwestern states, and is also offered as a filling at roadside taco stands and food trucks. Besides making a perfect comfort food (and even better leftovers), carne guisada is inexpensive — cheap stew meat is the most expensive component — and easy to prepare. It’s one of those unfussy, “set it and forget it” type dishes.
The ingredients and methods of preparation vary from cook to cook — some use only dried chili powders, while others swear by fresh green chilies; some add an array of veggies, and others simply simmer the beef in chilies and water. It’s all a matter of personal taste, but no matter the differences in ingredients, I bet you’ll never come across a bad version. (Unless, of course, it’s a burnt batch.)
To pay homage to this Tex-Mex staple, I opted for a true Texas beer, Shiner Bock, as braising liquid in place of water or broth. For preparing it in taco form, as I’ve done below, it’s best to keep the toppings simple as to not lose the flavors of the stew: cilantro, a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of salty cotija cheese.
2-3 pounds beef shoulder or stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable, olive or canola oil (plus more, if needed)
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
1-2 chipotle chilies in adobo, chopped fine
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1 bottle Texas or Mexican lager or dark beer (I used Shiner Bock)
1 can diced tomatoes (don’t drain)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
Tortillas, flour or corn
Crumbled Mexican cotija cheese
Fresh cilantro, chopped
1. Rinse, dry and cut the meat. In a bowl, toss together with the seasoned flour and remove, shaking off the excess.
2. In a large pot or a Dutch oven, heat the cooking oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat on all sides (about half a minute per side). Do this in batches if need be; don’t overcrowd the pot. Remove from pot and set aside.
3. Lower heat to medium. If necessary, add a little more oil to the pot and saute the garlic, onion, bell peppers, jalapenos and spices. Stirring often, cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, then and add the tomato paste, chipotles and adobo sauce, stirring to fully incorporate. Let cook for a few more minutes.
4. Add the browned beef back to the pot and pour in the beer and tomatoes (plus liquid) and add bay leaf. If the liquid doesn’t completely cover the meat, add a little water or broth to the pot to cover it all. Crank up the heat, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 2-4 hours (or longer), until the meat starts to soften and break down into strings and the “gravy” thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Serve with warmed tortillas, cotija cheese, cilantro and lime wedges.