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Whether you're looking for the perfect gift for your dad, grandfather, or a father figure in your life, we have something special just for you. Save 15% off selected items until 6/16/24. Use code DAD. ⮞

Beef Birria & Cheese Wontons

Image of Beef Birria & Cheese Wontons


This month’s featured recipe, a unique Asian-Mexican dish, was submitted by Melissa’s own corporate chef, Tom Fraker. The history of Birria, a traditional stew from the Mexican state of Jalisco, began when goats were first brought from Spain to Mexico. The Spaniards, thinking themselves too superior, allowed the natives to consume goat believing that it was an inferior, tough meat only for peasants or conquered “pagan” natives. Except that these natives were savvy to ancient cooking techniques to marinate and tenderize meats. Spain’s loss was Mexico’s gain as Birria, a rich stew steeped in chilies and warming spices like cinnamon and ginger, developed over the centuries and is now served throughout the country. While the original Birria was made with goat, beef birria has become popular. Ha, could be those Spanish goats can be quite spry and hard to catch on the dead run at the sight of a stew pot!

Chef Tom has taken the hearty, fragrant, pepper-infused beef out of the modern Birria and mixed it with two types of creamy cheeses to make a scrumptious wonton filling. Sounds tasty on its own, right? Tom went one step further with a rich dipping sauce using Melissa’s 4-cheese Sauce!

“Early spring was the inspiration for this dish. I thought about the weather starting to warm up in April, so people gathering socially again.” Chef Tom explained. “This Asian-Mexican Fusion dish is a perfect appetizer for the first outdoors party of the year! Besides, who doesn’t like finger food that you can dip in a cheesy sauce???”

Correction, Tom, who doesn’t like a beer-infused cheesy sauce! The Birria-stuffed wontons were delicious standalone, of course, but adding some flavorful beer to our 4-cheese sauce paired wonderfully with the deep flavors of the Birria’s shredded beef! That’s “flavors” with a capital “S” that Tom creates by first dry-roasting three types of dried peppers for a few minutes before the same pot gets filled with an assortment of support components – veggies and seasonings - that have the singular purpose of spending three hours transferring all their unique essences into the beef.

That three-hour simmer is one of the joys of Chef Tom’s dish. The kitchen will be slowly overwhelmed as the aroma of the pot develops; in a way, it was kind of disappointing when the simmer was finished! Then, armed with a long-handle slotted spoon, it’s a bit of a hunt to separate out the meat from the rest for the shredding. Of course, the shredding is delightfully messy, as gloved hands are the only way to do this task right! This is then followed by the construct of 40 or so wontons, which can be a culinary/Zen experience of its own, best accomplished accompanied by some tunes and libation of choice! Tom quick-fried his wontons in oil for just a few minutes; air-frying is also a good option.

BTW, Tom’s recipe text suggests, “Strain the pot’s contents and reserve the broth for future use.” The pot’s remnants have all sorts of potential; it’s a pot full of flavors that should not be wasted. I strained out a jar of thick, rich birria sauce and I have since used it to perk up omelets as well as flavor a few veggie-rice bowls. So, Tom’s dish kept on giving for several more days after that first (but not last) batch of Birria wontons had mysteriously vanished off the kitchen counter overnight!

Image of Chef Tom
To read more about Tom and how he came to be a part of Melissa’s state-of-the-art test kitchen and studio, please read Tom’s profile found in the Meet Our Corporate Chefs section on this site.

Tom and Debbie have been married 35 years come June and have 4 kids. Per Tom: “Three beautiful ladies and a very handsome man…and recently, a 1-year-old granddaughter.” Tom is a huge fan of L.A. Kings and NASCAR; he also enjoys target shooting. What does a professional chef cook at home?

“I love to grill! Living in Southern California, I can grill all year long. So, most of my cooking at home is done on the grill. In fact, that would include the meal I would prepare, or rather grill, in answer to your question asking who I would invite to my own table if I could. I would love to sit at the table with the beautiful Giada De Laurentiis (my personal crush), along with the not so pretty Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri and Emeril. I’m a huge fan of each of their unique cooking styles as well as their individual personalities. And all have a great sense of humor, especially Chef Guy. A dinner party for my favorite chefs!”

No doubt Chef Tom would grill up a creative and delectable feast for this esteemed group, though for starters a chef I know once said “who doesn’t like finger food that you can dip in a cheesy sauce.” Beer-infused cheesy!

Beef Birria & Cheese Wontons
Yield: about 40 wontons

Image of Ingredients
For the filling:
6 Melissa’s Dried Oaxaca Peppers - stemmed & seeded
4 Melissa’s Dried De Arbol Peppers - stemmed & seeded
6 Melissa’s Dried Guajillo Peppers - stemmed & seeded
2 pounds Boneless Beef Chuck Roast - cut into large chunks
1 Melissa’s Perfect Sweet Onion - peeled & quartered
1 large carrot - rough chopped
12 cloves Melissa’s Peeled Garlic
1 (1-inch) piece Melissa’s Fresh Ginger - peeled & chopped
6 cups Water
5 Dried Bay Leaves
3 tablespoons Chicken Flavored Bouillon
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican Oregano
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 package Melissa’s Wonton Wrappers

For the sauce:
4 pouches Melissa’s 4 Cheese Sauce
1/2 cup Beer
1 teaspoon Whole Grain Mustard
A splash of Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons Cold Water
2 teaspoons Corn Starch

Preparation - Filling
Image of dried peppers
Place a large pot over a high flame on the stove. Place all of the peppers into the pot and dry roast them, stirring often, for 2 minutes to release the flavors.
Image of ingredients in saucepan
Add the beef and the next 9 ingredients to the pot, give it a stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Image of dried peppers sauce
Remove the peppers and carefully blend them until smooth. You probably will have to add some of the broth to the blender so that they can break down to a smooth paste. Stir the blended peppers back into the pot contents. Cover and simmer for about 3 hours or until the meat is very tender.
Image of filling mix
Filling: Remove the meat from the pot and shred it. Strain the pot contents and reserve the broth for future use. In a mixing bowl, add the shredded beef and blend in the ricotta and cheddar cheese.
Image of Wontons
To make the wontons: place a tablespoon of the filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with water and fold the wrapper from corner to corner, forming a triangle. Moisten the 2 bottom corners of the triangle and pull them together, pressing them to connect and form a nurse cap shape. Repeat for the remaining wonton wrappers.
Image of fried wontons
Heat the canola oil in a high-sided pan to 350ºF about 3 minutes or air-fry until golden.

To serve: Bring beer to a boil, reduce to a simmer and whisk in the mustard, Worcestershire and cheese sauce packages. Simmer for 5 minutes. Combine the water and corn starch then add to the sauce. Cook for 2 minutes to thicken. Serve with the wontons.
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