Saturday, October 4, 2008
Recipe: Carne Mechada - Venezuelan Shredded Beef
Shredded beef is a key dish in Latin American cooking, from Cuba's rather unappetizingly named but utterly delicious "ropa vieja" ("old clothes") to Venezuela's national dish Pabellon Criollo, where the beef is typically accompanied by white rice, black beans and slices of fried plantain.
It is also used as a filling for empanadas and arepas.
The name shredded or pulled beef comes from the long strands you get when you pull the boiled meat apart.
In Spanish mechar or desmechar mean literally to separate hair into strands or to pull your hair out in fury.
Hopefully, this recipe is simple enough to avoid any hair pulling and tasty enough to justify the time it takes to boil, shred and fry the meat.
The secret to this dish is in the beef and the best cut to buy is skirt - known as flank in the USA - which will give you the right kind of strands.
I usually boil and shred the beef the day before I make my carne mechada and then leave it overnight in the fridge.
Shredding is easy and can be done with a knife, or two forks or your hands, whatever you find easiest.
The strands do not have to be uniform in size and you can experiment with different thicknesses of strands until you get the consistency you want.
Make sure you keep the water used to boil the meat as it will add extra flavour to the final sauce, which is made in typical Venezuelan style, with a sofrito of onions, bell peppers and garlic that the meat and tomatoes are then added to.
If you are serving as a meal with rice and beans the final simmer should leave some liquid in the sauce but if you want to fill empanadas with your carne mechada, boil until it is nearly dry, stirring regularly to avoid sticking or burning.
For enough carne mechada to serve 4 people you will need:
Half a kilo of beef skirt
1 small onion
Half a red pepper
3 cloves of garlic
Worcestershire sauce (salsa inglesa)
A pinch of cumin
Two spoons of tomato puree
Boil the Beef
1. Place the beef in a large saucepan with enough water to cover it.
2. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 2 hours.
3. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
4. Set aside the water.
5. Shred the beef into strands with a knife or two forks until all the beef is shredded.
Make the Sofrito
6. Chop and dice the onion and bell pepper.
7. Crush garlic in pestle and mortar or in garlic crusher.
8. Heat two spoons of olive oil in a large frying pan.
9. Add onions and when they start to brown add the garlic and the bell peppers, a pinch of salt, some black pepper and a pinch of cumin.
10. Add the shredded beef and stir, allow to brown a little.
11. Add some of the water the beef was boiled in, tomato puree and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
12. Stir frequently as you bring to the boil and then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
13. Serve with rice and beans.
Buen provecho! as they say in Venezuela. Enjoy your meal.
By Russell Maddicks
Recipe: Caraotas Negras - Venezuelan Black Beans
Recipe: How to make Cachapas - Venezuelan corn pancakes
Recipe: How to Make Arepas
Pabellon Criollo - Venezuela's National Dish
Glossary: Eating at an Arepera
Arepa and Co: The only Venezuelan food outlet in the UK