FCI Menu Project - Venezuelan Food Refined: Polished Pabellón

The third course from my FCI Menu Project.

Carne Mechada on Risotto Cake


Pabellón Criollo is a traditional Venezuelan dish which can include any number of components—but usually the basics are carne mechada (shredded beef), black beans, rice, and arepas. 

Rather than present both rice and arepas on the plate, I added some of the texture that would normally be provided by the arepas to the rice by pan-frying risotto cakes.  The black beans and the sauce for the carne mechada were cleaned up a bit and received a boost in flavor in the process.

Wine Pairing:  2008 Domaine Armand Cotes du Rhone Village Cairanne.
The spicy and pronounced black pepper notes of this dry, medium bodied wine worked very well with the strong flavors of the carne mechada.


INGREDIENTS
Yields: 8 Servings

For the Carne Mechada
(Adapted from my Mom’s recipe.)
680 g  (1.5 lbs) skirt or flank steak
500 ml (17 ounces) beef stock
500 ml (17 ounces) veal stock
water as needed
1 onion, quartered
2 tomatoes, quartered
4 celery stalks
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 slices of bacon
1 quantity sofrito (see below)
60 ml (2 oz) cooking oil
½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp tomato paste (optional)
cumin, to taste
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

For the Black Beans
(Adapted from my Mom’s recipe.)
1 quantity sofrito (see below)
1.3 kg (45 oz) organic canned black beans
60 ml  (2 oz) cooking oil
1 Tbsp Chicken demi-glace
1 Tbsp brown (optional)
cumin, to taste
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste


For the Sofrito
(Adapted from my Mom’s recipe.)
1 quantity

283 g (10 oz) onions, diced
227 g (8 oz) tomatoes, diced
60 ml (2 oz) cooking oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp Chicken demi-glace 
Cumin powder 1 to 2 tsp
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

For the Risotto Cakes
(referenced the risotto recipe in the Level 2 course book)
Yields: 8 risotto cakes
227 g (8 oz) onion, fine ciseler
170 g (6 oz) green bell pepper, brunoise
57 g (2 oz) butter
453 g (1 lb) Arborio rice 
180 ml (6 oz) dry white wine
1.5 l (50 oz) chicken stock
113 g (4 oz) Queso Blanco, finely grated
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
cooking oil, as needed for pan-frying

For the Garnish 
3 strips of bacon
30 ml (1 oz) cooking oil 
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
Jarred yellow peppers, cut into thin strips
Cilantro


PROCEDURES

For Carne Mechada

1. Season flank or skirt steak and place in a Dutch oven or other large heavy-bottomed pot and add enough of the stocks to cover by a couple of inches. Add water if necessary.

2. Add the quartered onion, tomato, celery stalks, and garlic cloves.
Bring to boil, then immediately reduce heat and allow meat to simmer until beef is tender and pulls apart easily. (About 1.5 to 2 hours.) 

3. Remove meat from the heat and allow the meat to cool until it is can be handled easily. Shred by hand. Reserve shredded meat for service in enough liquid to cover and reserve the additional liquid.

4. Chop and cook bacon in a heavy pot with a small amount of oil until crispy. Add the sofrito, the Worcestershire sauce, and the tomato paste and sweat together to blend flavors. 

5. Add the reserved cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Allow mixture to reduce until almost nappant.

6. Transfer the sauce to a blender and process until smooth.  

7. Strain sauce through a chinois or fine mesh strainer and return to a pot.

8. Reduce sauce until nappant.  Adjust cumin, salt, and pepper to taste. Hold warm for service.


For the Black Beans
1.  Heat the sofrito in a heavy-bottom pot with a small amount of cooking oil.

2. Add the black beans with their liquid, the demi-glace, and the sugar (if using) to the pot and bring to a simmer. Allow the beans to cook for at least one hour to help soften the beans and allow the flavors to blend.  Continue to cook until the liquid has thickened and the beans are saucy.

3. Transfer the beans to a blender and purée.  

4. Strain off any excess liquid.

5. Return beans to pot and adjust seasonings and hold warm for service, or cool and store in refrigerator until need. (Best if prepared a day in advance)


For the Sofrito
1. Sweat onions with a small amount of cooking oil in a large sauté pan. 

2. Add tomatoes and garlic  and continue to sweat until all the vegetables are soft.

3. Add the chicken demi-glace, cumin, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine well.

4. Transfer to a separate bowl or container and reserve. 

For the Risotto Cakes
1. Heat chicken stock in a pot.

2.  In a wide heavy-bottomed pan, sweat the onions in the butter. Add the green bell pepper and continue to sweat until soft.

3. Add the rice to the pot and stir until covered in butter.

4. Add the white wine and simmer until the majority of liquid has evaporated.

5. Add enough chicken stock to cover the rice, keeping the rice at a simmer and continuing to stir constantly.  As the liquid is absorbed, add stock a little bit at time until the rice absorbs enough liquid to be al dente. 

6. Stir in the grated cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. The consistency of the risotto should be creamy.

7. Transfer to a separate container to cool. Refrigerate overnight to firm up risotto.

8. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.

9. Form the risotto into 8 round cakes.

10. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add risotto cakes in batches and cook until golden brown on one side. Flip and cook second side to golden brown as well. Transfer to a sheet pan and continue cooking risotto cakes until all are done.

11. Transfer the sheet pan of risotto cakes to the oven to allow them to firm up. (Approximately 10 minutes.)

12. Once the risotto cakes are finished, remove from oven or reduce the oven to 300°F/149°C and hold the cakes warm for service.


For the Garnish
1. Heat a sauté pan with a small amount of cooking oil. Add bacon strips and cook until crispy. Transfer to plate lined with paper towels to cool.

2. Once cooled cut or crumble into pieces the size of large crumbs. Set aside.

3. Heat oven to 350°F/180°C. Toast cumin seeds until golden. Remove from oven and set aside.

To Finish
1.  Heat the shredded beef with the sauce in a sauté pan.

2. If cold, heat the black bean purée in a pot.

3. Spoon a generous amount of the black bean purée onto a plate and spread into a thin, round layer.

4. Place one risotto cake on top of the black bean purée, in the center of the plate.

5. Top the cake with shredded beef and spoon a little sauce on top. 

6. Coil one of two thin strips of roasted yellow pepper on top of the meat and top with cilantro leaves. Sprinkle the bacon crumbs and cumin seed around the exterior of the plate to finish.

Carne Mechada on Risotto Cake
We ran into lighting issues when we photographed some dishes. 
With this one the problems were exacerbated by the brown tones in the sauce, 
and I admit the plating needs work.
 It tasted much better than it looks in the photos.



A while back I did a series on pabellón as it is traditionally prepared. 
You can check out the original carne mechada here.
Check out the original black beans here.
And finally, check out arepas here.

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