Ancho-Braised Beef Cheek Tacos

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Before there were Las Adelitas, you could not get real Mexican food in Praha. Yes, there was the odd Tex-Mex-Czech-Mex joint, but nothing that came close to the real thing. It is still relatively rare to find the right ingredients for Mexican food in most shops, although La Costena brand sauces/beans pop up here and there in some supermarkets (which is fine, in a pinch).  Díky bohu for the internet: this site has links to some local, Mexican e-shops, and for today’s ancho-braised beef tacos I visited Mexicali Hot Shop. You can order online and have it delivered, or pick up your order at their Českomoravská location- just meters away from the metro station. They have a nice selection of dried chilies, salsas, and canned goods like beans, pozole, and nopales, and service is very friendly. On to the recipe! Olé!

You will need:

2 ½  pounds beef cheeks

3 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Ancho chili

1 tsp smoked sweet paprika

bunch of fresh coriander and/or parsley

1 tsp salt

1 cup broth

Serve with:

corn tortillas, fresh cilantro, mango salsa*, avocado salsa*, refried beans*, pickled onions*, a jar of pickled jalapenos….

*see recipe below…

1.  Clean and trim the beef cheeks. Put them in a bowl that you can marinate them in.

2. Remove the stem and seeds from the ancho chillio, cut it up into chunks and rehydrate in a little warm water

3.  Peel and chop the garlic. Put everything from garlic to the salt into a mixer including the water from the chili and blend into a paste. Toss the paste with the cheeks and marinate for several hours/overnight.

4. At minimum, 3-4 hours prior to serving time heat the oven to 140 degrees celsius, and heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy pot. Brown the cheeks on all sides. Use the broth to rinse the rest of the marinade into pot, then squeeze the juice of 2 limes in. (the longer this marinades, cooks, rests..the better it gets)

5. Bake at 140 degrees for 3 1/2 hours – turn the cheeks over once or twice while they cook and if the liquid dries up add a bit more broth

6. When the cheeks are fall-apart tender, take the pot out of the oven. Using two forks, pull the meat apart in the pan so that it mixes with all of the saucy juices

7. Heat tortillas on a cast iron pan, top with a thin layer of refried beans, beef cheeks, avocado salsa/mango salsa, some of pickled onions/pickled jalapenos and fresh cilantro. Have a few margaritas and eat everything!

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Pickled Onions

1 large red onion

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup warm water

1 Tbsp sugar

pinch of salt

  1. Thinly slice onion and put in a bowl.
  2. Add vinegar, water, salt, and sugar and refrigerate (up to 2 days before using)

Refried Beans:

(the lazy way)- you can always forgo canned beans and soak/cook beans the regular way as this is much better.

1 can of black beans

1 tbsp lard

1 onion

1 tbsp cumin

pinch chilli flakes

¼ cup water

  1. Melt lard in a heavy pan. Add chopped onion, and sauté until translucent. Add a pinch of salt.
  2. Add beans, cumin, and chili and sauté for a minute or so
  3. Pour in water, and constantly stirring, start to mash beans (with a potato masher) and stir some more, until you reach a creamy consistency (add water if beans dry out too much)
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Mango Salsa:

1 fresh (yellow/red) mango, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 big bunch of coriander/cilantro, finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

1/3 cucumber, diced

1/3 jalapeno, diced

salt and pepper

Avocado Salsa:

This isn’t quite guacamole… it’s much better.

1-2 avocados roughly mashed with a fork

3 diced cherry tomatoes

½ diced red onion

a big bunch of chopped cilantro/coriander

½ diced jalapeno

juice of ½ lime

½ clove garlic, mashed

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Roughly mash avocado with fork.
  2. To a mixer, add tomatoes, coriander, garlic, jalapeno, lime, salt and pepper and just barely mix together
  3. Add to finely chopped onion, mashed avocado, and mix together
  4. Taste, and add anything that’s missing.
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Making Margaritas in Praha:

Not only is it near to impossible to get decent (but inexpensive) 100% agave tequila in Praha, but I have not been able to find a drop of triple sec/cointreau either. Maybe I am very bad at looking, but in a pinch, this makes a perfectly fine praha-rita:

(for 2 margaritas)

2 limes

2 shots of tequila (silver/bianco)

2 x 3/4 shot agave nectar (you can get it at DM) or simple syrup (sugar you’ve dissolved in a bit of hot water


a tiny drop of orange blossom essence (optional)- this you can get at M&S

  1. Rub lime on outer edge of glass and roll in a plate of salt, set aside
  2. Into a shaker: add ice, tequila, syrup, lime juice, (triple sec/orange blossom essence) shake well
  3. Add some fresh ice to glass, strain in contents of shaker

*you could infuse your simple syrup with some orange zest for a few hours/overnight to get that triple sec scent- will be trying this next time, stay posted for updates!


3 Replies to “Ancho-Braised Beef Cheek Tacos”

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