“They came and asked for a permit, so my dad showed our permits,” Jonny said. “We felt like they were trying to find every little way to bring us down.”
Rather than getting angry or discouraged by their encounters with the sheriff’s department, they aimed higher.
“It inspired us to expand and not have any issues with the law,” Jonny said. “It created a fire in our hearts.”
They moved the truck to a more permanent location on Sebastopol Road in front of the Roseland Gas Mart. One night in December 2020, it caught fire. The truck was a total loss.
At the time, they were using their current restaurant space as a prep kitchen for the truck, so they quickly sprang into action.
“In 24 hours, we opened the restaurant,” Jonny said. “All the employees, we fixed up the place and were in the next day.”
They’ve since replaced the food truck, too, and have grown from just the three people to a business with 13 employees.
Without a food truck limiting what he could serve, Cazares has been able to unleash his creativity and expand his menu. Birria is the focus — he recently added birria macaroni and cheese.
“He had that idea yesterday, and we’re selling it today,” Jonny said. “My dad, if he has an idea, it won’t leave his head until he does it.”
Cazares’ menu offers plenty of inspiration for those who want to make their own birria. While it’s typically served on weekends or special occasions because of the long cooking time, birria is one of those foods that lends itself well to weeknight leftovers — folded into a quesadilla, or a maybe a birria grilled cheese.
Cazares said anyone should give it a try and use their imagination.
“There’s no rules in the kitchen,” he said. “You can create your own flavor.”
This recipe is Gustavo Cazares’ basic recipe and method, although his chile sauce at his restaurant contains a few other “secret ingredients.” Common additions to the sauce are chocolate, a splash of cider vinegar or chipotle en adobo.
Makes 8-10 servings
4-5 pounds boneless beef chuck steak or roast
1 onion, cut into large dice
3-4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
½ teaspoon peppercorns
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cloves of garlic
8-10 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 cinnamon stick
1 white onion, finely diced
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
In a large heavy-bottom stock pot, add beef and onion. Add enough water to come up almost to the top of the beef, but not quite enough to cover it. Add several healthy pinches of salt to the water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back to a simmer, cover and let cook while you make the sauce.
Add all the sauce ingredients to a small saucepan. Add a 1 to 2 cups of water, just enough to cover the chiles, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, until the chiles are softened.
Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick from the pan and pour the remaining contents into a blender. Blend until smooth. For a smoother, more consistent sauce, pour this mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.
After the beef has been cooking for an hour, add the chile sauce to the pot and continue to cook, approximately 3 hours longer or until the meat is falling apart and can be shredded easily with a fork.
Remove the meat from the pot to a large bowl or casserole dish. When cool enough to handle, use your fingers to pull apart the meat. If you prefer it more finely shredded, for tacos, use two forks to pull it apart instead. Once meat is shredded, add a ladle full of the cooking liquid if it needs some moisture, then cover until ready to serve. The meat also can be refrigerated, covered in foil and reheated in the oven the next day at 350 degrees.
Using a large spoon or ladle, scoop as much clear liquid fat off the surface of the meat cooking liquid as you can and remove it to a bowl or large measuring cup. Keep this fat for dipping tortillas for quesabirria or bread for tortas. The liquid left behind after skimming the pot is the consommé.
To serve birria as a stew, place a generous portion of the shredded meat in a serving bowl. Ladle 1 to 2 cups of the consommé over it. Top with diced white onion, cilantro and quartered limes. Serve with a salsa of your choice, though a spicy salsa made with chiles de arbol is most common.
Birria Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 6-8 servings
1 pound elbow macaroni, medium shells, or cellentani (corkscrew) pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon mustard powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups whole milk
5 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces mozzarella, grated
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups birria meat, warmed
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 large pinches of salt (approximately a tablespoon) and add the dried pasta. Cook according to package directions, until just tender, then drain.
Return pot to stove and melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and spices and cook for 1 minute, until flour is well incorporated. Add milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly to keep lumps from forming. Cook, stirring often, until the milk mixture comes just to a boil and begins to thicken. Cook about 30 seconds longer, then remove from heat and stir in the grated cheeses until they’ve melted. Add drained pasta and combine gently. Taste and adjust for seasoning, if necessary.
Put ½ cup of birria meat into a serving bowl and top with pasta. Top with 2 more tablespoons of meat and garnish with chopped cilantro and salsa, if desired.
Note: For a more pronounced birria flavor, try replacing ½ cup of the milk with birria consommé.
Make this dinner on a dime with leftover birria, consommé and a packet of instant ramen. It’s perfect for nights when you’re too tired to cook.
Makes 1 serving
1 packet instant ramen, seasoning packet removed
2-3 ounces leftover birria meat
2-3 cups birria consommé, warmed
2 tablespoons chopped white onion
Small handful of cilantro, chopped
Cook or soak ramen according to package directions.
Put cooked ramen and leftover birria meat in a serving bowl. Ladle over hot consommé and garnish with white onion, cilantro and salsa to taste.
You can reach Staff Writer Jennifer Graue at 707-521-5262 or [email protected]