Photography: Courtesy The Wigwam

Braised beef tacos and cast-iron duck breast off a taste of a historic hotel’s farm-to-table cuisine.

Before the iconic adobe Wigwam had a life as a Historic Hotel of America on estatelike grounds in affluent Litchfield, Arizona, 15 miles west of Phoenix, it was a corporate retreat amid cottonfields. During World War I, when tires used a lot of cotton and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company was supplying all the tires on the battlefield, Arizona was the country’s leading producer of cotton. The Akron, Ohio-based company eventually built a permanent place so employees making the trip to oversee the cotton supply could spend the night. Not a waterslide, spa, or golf course in sight.

Over the years since opening as a resort in 1929, The Wigwam lost most of its historical features under drywall, but a recent $16 million makeover has restored many of the landmark’s original details and added modern amenities.

In addition to 331 casita-style rooms and suites, the Wigwam now has American Indian artifacts on loan from the Heard Museum and a lobby that still feels like a 1930s Western getaway for Hollywood elite. There’s the hotel restaurant’s farm-to-table fare. And the indoor-outdoor Wigwam Bar, where you can enjoy Sonoran Desert sunsets and 50 wines by the glass. Can’t make it to the Wigwam? Get a taste of it at home with these street tacos and duck breast recipes below.

Braised Beef

(Makes 24 tacos)

4 boneless beef short ribs
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground chili powder
1 teaspoon ground paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Enough canola or vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan
1 carrot, cut in half lengthwise, then cut across into quarters
1 large yellow onion, cut in half through the stem, with a bit of stem left holding it together
1 celery stalk, cut into thirds
6 garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup red wine
12 cups beef broth, hot

Pico de Gallo

1 large red tomato, diced
½ small red onion, diced
2 small jalapeños, diced (remove seeds to reduce heat)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sriracha Slaw

½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sriracha
3 tablespoons lime juice
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons garlic powder
1½ teaspoons fish sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small package of coleslaw mix (14 – 16 ounces of shredded cabbage and carrots)
24 4-inch corn tortillas

To braise beef (do the day before): Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Trim any excess fat off the exterior of the beef. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and cayenne. Set aside.

Heat a roasting/braising pan over medium heat until hot. Coat pan with canola or vegetable oil, and then add vegetables and cook until golden brown. Remove vegetables from pan, add a little more oil to the pan if needed, and brown the beef on all sides. Add beef to vegetables.

Pour the red wine into the pan (be careful as it will splatter) and scrape the caramelized bits of beef off the bottom. Put the beef and vegetables back in the pan and add the hot beef broth. The broth should come about halfway up the beef. Bring to a simmer, and then remove from heat.

Cover the top of the roasting pan with foil and place in the oven. Check the meat about 3 – 3½ hours after putting it in; turn the beef over and add a little water if more liquid is needed. Check again at the 5-hour mark: The beef should be so tender that if you pulled at it, it would fall apart (but don’t). If it is not that tender yet, return it to the oven for another hour.

Once the beef is very tender, remove from oven, remove foil, and let cool. Once it has cooled down, remove the beef and set aside. Discard vegetables. Strain the broth through a chinois, cool completely, and reserve. Place the beef and broth in the refrigerator overnight. Once completely cool, cut the beef into thin planks about 2½ inches long (about 1½ ounces each).

To make pico de gallo: In a small bowl, mix the tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, lime, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Taste, and then add more of any ingredient as desired. Set aside.

To make sriracha slaw: Mix the mayo, sriracha, lime, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce together. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add more sriracha if you want it spicier. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix ½ cup of slaw with a little sriracha-mayo mix, taste, and re-season. Add a spoonful of the pico and toss together.

To make tacos: In a small sauté pan, heat the desired number of beef slices (1 slice per taco) with a little of the braising liquid you saved. Heat slowly until hot all the way through. Be gentle, as the beef will fall apart.

Heat a few tortillas in a small sauté pan with a touch of oil. To keep the tortillas soft, dip them quickly in water and shake off the excess before heating in the pan. Lay a tortilla down, add a slice of the warm beef, and top with a spoonful of the pico-slaw mix. Repeat and serve.

Cast-Iron Duck Breast

(Serves 4)

1½ cups water
1 cup distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 carrot, ribboned with peeler
1 yellow onion, julienned
1 poblano pepper, seeded, stemmed, and julienned
¼ head of green cabbage, shredded
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 duck breasts (skin scored)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Cooking oil
¼ pound Mexican chorizo
1 cup queso blanco

Place water, vinegar, kosher salt, and sugar in small pot and bring to a boil. Place carrot, onion, and poblano pepper in a plastic or glass container. Once vinegar water is boiling, pour over vegetables and set aside for 10 minutes to allow pickling. Drain liquid from pickled vegetables, and then add shredded cabbage and extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.

Season duck breasts with salt and pepper. Place skin side down in oiled and preheated cast-iron skillet on medium-low heat. Cook duck for 10 – 12 minutes or until skin side has rendered most of the fat. Flip duck over for 1 minute, and then remove duck from pan and allow to rest. Drain fat from skillet, return to medium heat, and then brown chorizo.

To serve: Place vegetable slaw on serving plates. Slice duck breasts and lay over slaw. Sprinkle cooked chorizo and queso blanco over duck and serve.


For more information on The Wigwam or to make reservations, visit the hotel’s website.

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