It makes perfect sense that coming back from nearly a month of traveling in Italy and then in Maine, brimming with recipe inspiration from both locales, I end up cooking…Mexican food. What can I say? I am who I am. This particular dish is my rendition of a dish from one of my favorite local restaurants, Delicia. At restaurants I tend to favor trying new things instead of dishes I have tried before, but this one is so good I find it nearly impossible to resist.

I know this may look involved or seem daunting. True, there is a lot going on here, but all of it is very good and totally manageable. The meat takes several hours to cook but most of that is inactive time. The rest of the pieces come together pretty quickly, and the combination of all the components together is sort of magical…you’ll need to try it to really understand. The meat makes a huge quantity so there will be plenty left over to freeze, meaning that next time around this meal will be pretty quick and easy!

  • Yield about 6 servings


For the beef: 

  • 1 dried New Mexico, costeño or choricero chili, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 dried chile ancho or pasilla, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 dried chile negro, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 quart low sodium chicken stock, divided
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 1 lb. oxtails
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 4 chipotle chilis, roughly chopped, with 2 tbsp. of adobo sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 whole chuck eye roast (about 4 lbs.) or 4 lbs. boneless short ribs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves

For the pico de gallo: 

  • 1½ lbs. ripe tomatoes, diced small
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¾ cup finely diced yellow or white onion
  • 1-2 serrano or jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely diced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

For the corn cakes: 

  • 3 large ears of corn, shucked
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

For the sauce: 

  • 2/3 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Large handful of cilantro (about 1/3-½ cup)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • 01

    With the oven rack in the lower middle position, preheat to 275˚ F. Place a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the dried chiles. Cook, stirring often, until slightly darkened and giving off a roasted aroma, about 2-5 minutes. Remove the chiles to a bowl. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high power until gently simmering, about 5 minutes. Remove from the microwave and set aside.

  • 02

    Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oxtails to the pan and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Remove to a plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan along with the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are deep brown and just starting to burn, about 10 minutes. Add cumin, cloves and oregano and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the chipotles, vinegar, and remaining chicken stock. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to simmer until reduced by half. Transfer the entire mixture from the pot to a blender or food processor. Add in the soaked chiles with their liquid along with the fish sauce. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute.

  • 03

    Place the beef chuck in the Dutch oven. Add in the oxtails, bay leaves, and all of the sauce from the blender. Bring to a boil over high heat. Place the lid on the pot, slightly cracked, then transfer to the oven. Cook, turning occasionally, until the meat is fully cooked through and shows little resistance when poked or shredded, about 4 hours. Discard the bay leaves and the oxtails. Transfer the meat to a large plate and shred. Meanwhile, place the Dutch oven on a burner over medium-high heat and reduce the liquid to about 1½ cups. Combine with the shredded meat for serving.

  • 04

    To make the pico de gallo, toss the tomatoes with the salt in a strainer or colander set over a bowl. Allow to drain for 20-3o minutes. Discard the liquid. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes with the onion, chile, cilantro and lime juice. Toss well to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

  • 05

    Cut the corn kernels off of the cobs and place in a large bowl.  Place 2 cups of the corn kernels in the food processor and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly pureed but still chunky.  Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels.  Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda to the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to mix well.  Add the eggs, buttermilk, and butter, and stir just to combine. Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan and heat until sizzling hot.  Scoop the batter into the skillet a heaping tablespoon at a time, cooking the cakes in batches of 4 or 5 so that they are not touching.  Fry 1-2 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Transfer the cooked cakes to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining batter.


  • 06

    To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Alternatively, puree with a blender or food processor.

  • 07

    Serve warm corn cakes topped with beef, pico de gallo and a drizzle of cilantro lime cream sauce.

  • 08

    Note: If you cannot find these particular dried chiles, guajillo are a good alternatively which are more readily available.