I spent many of my summers in Caracas as a child, and later I moved to Valencia with my parents and brother for my last two years of high school. I love this country--it is a spectacularly beautiful place. Most of my family is still there, as are many friends and their families.
It is currently in crisis.
The situation there has been deteriorating for years--pretty much since right after we moved away-- and over the last few weeks the situation has come to a head with massive peaceful protests all over the country that have been met with violence. I'm not going to go into the details here--I've been doing that on my various social network feeds. However, needless to say, I'm extremely worried for my family and friends there.
What I would like to do here is very simply to celebrate this country and culture I love. Food and drink are a big part of what inspires me, and I also feel that one way to quickly start to get to know a culture is through the food. I would very much like you to get to know mine--especially at this difficult time--so for the next few days I will be reposting recipes and posts that I've written in the past about or inspired by Venezuelan food.
Pabellón Criollo is our traditional national dish. It's really more like a collection of dishes, as it's made up of many components that can be varied--meat, rice, beans, plantains, avocado, and arepas are some of the basics. It can be eaten for pretty much any meal. Throw an egg on it and it's breakfast or brunch.
This recipe is for Carne Mechada, which is usually the centerpiece of the meal. It was originally posted in Cooking with Mom: Pabellón Part 1 - Carne Mechada on April 1, 2011.
If you are so moved and would like to find out more about the situation in Venezuela, here are a few links:
What's going on in Venezuela in a nutshell (English version)
The 8 Things You Need To Know About The Venezuelan Protests
29 Heartbreaking Images From The Protests In Venezuela
As well, I will be continuing to share articles in English and Spanish on my Twitter Feed: @NibblingGypsy.
You can also search #SOSVenezuela
(Venezuelan Style Shredded Beef)
Here is the recipe pretty much as my mom gave it to me. I’ve added pesky little details such as cooking times. As with many skilled home cooks, Mary has little use for these and usually directs to “cook until done.”
1 to 11/2 lbs flank or skirt steak
3 to 4 onions
4 to 6 tomatoes
6 to 7 garlic cloves
4 celery stalks
4 bouillon cubes
salt (to taste)
1 to 2 tsp cumin
Place the flank or skirt steak in a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot and pour enough water on top to cover.
Roughly chop and add 1 onion, 1 to 2 tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves, 4 celery stalks and 2 bouillon cubes.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer until beef is tender (1.5 -2 hours.) Allow the meat to cool and shred. Discard boiled vegetables and reserve liquid.
Meanwhile sauté 2 to 3 diced onions and 3 to 4 chopped garlic cloves until tender. Add 3 to 4 diced tomatoes and let cook until saucy.
Add shredded meat, mix well and add 2 cups of the beef liquid. Add 2 bouillon cubes simmer until it's done. (At least another hour, but it’s even better if you leave it on low heat for several hours to allow the flavors to blend.) Test for salt and add 1 to 2 tsps of cumin powder. If you need to, add more of the liquid.
Slow Cooker Method:
This is a great dish to make on a lazy weekend day. However, I don’t always have endless hours to hang out about the house while the meat cooks and then stews together with the veggies. I’ve gotten around this by preparing it in my slow cooker. The great thing is that both the recipe and the slow cooker are really flexible. You can’t over-cook it and the flavors only benefit from leaving them alone for a few hours.
You can do either or both phases in the slow cooker. For the meat's initial cooking phase, you’ll want to leave it on for at least a couple of hours. Cook it on the high setting for the first hour, and then switch to low for the rest of the time. For the second phase when the meat stews with the veggies, I sauté the veggies on the stovetop, and once cooked, return them with the shredded beef to the slow cooker for another couple of hours.
During either phase, you can feel free to leave the beef in the slow cooker overnight or while you’re at work during the day, just keep it on low.
The liquid leftover from phase one makes an excellent broth to use for soups later. I particularly like it as a base for onion soup. Store in Tupperware and freeze for later use.
This dish is easy, but it does take time. Luckily it freezes really well. I often make double batches and store it in the freezer for a certain demanding hubby.
Serve this dish with the rest of the Pabellón feast, or serve it simply with rice to soak up all the sauce and a side salad.