Carne mechada is the national dish of Venezuela (and similar iterations can be found around Latin America) it’s inexpensive, versatile and flavorful. It is essentially a hearty, pulled beef and it is delicious in served over rice with black beans, in quesadillas (in place of boring, store bought ham) or, more especially, as a compliment to arepas, another cornerstone of Venezuelan cuisine. See the recipe for areas here.
The most traditional way of making pulled beef, is to boil a roast and use a fork to string the beef and then cook the pulled beef in flavorful sauce. The recipe I’m going to give you here, however, is a bit of a long cut. I make my beef in a crock pot let it fall apart on its own. The flavor is incredible and the meat is tender and juicy.
Two quick notes before we get started: embrace cheap beef. Carne mechada is a poor man’s food— the chuck steak can be tough and sometimes a little fatty—keep in mind this will cook for several hours and buy the cheapest cut of beef you can find.
Adobo is literally the spice blend created by God. It is salt, pepper, garlic, celery salt and a bunch of other secret ingredients. Adobo is delicious on beef, pork and chicken, in black beans and a few other vegetables—keep in your kitchen and you’ll find yourself reaching for it as often as you do salt. Which, n.b., keep in mind that adobo is salty, you frequently do not need to add any additional salt. Any brand will do and you can find it in the “international” or Hispanic section of the market. If Goya is all they have, that will do.
What you’ll need:
4lbs of chuck steak at least an inch thick, cut into large squares
2 large red peppers, cut into smaller squares (Or one red/one green)
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno (optional), thinly sliced
6-10 cloves of garlic, crushed or sliced
Dark Red wine (look for “good with meats”)
Note: Crock Pot
Plug in your crock pot and put it on high. Add the red peppers to hot pan with a little olive oil. I let them turn a little black around the edges – that char brings out a sweet, smokey flavor. Once the red peppers are cooked through, dump them into the crock pot. In the same frying pan, add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Season with a bit of adobo and cook until the onion is soft and yellowy, but not cooked all the way through. While that’s cooking, cut up the beef into large cubes. Generously rub adobo all over the beef and set aside. Now that the onions and garlic are done, dump them into the crock pot with the peppers and add the beef to the pan. You might have to do it in shifts, but get a nice sear on the beef cubes. Once they are brown, add some Worchester and scrape the frying pan, letting it simmer for about a minute. Add to the crock pot and repeat as necessary.
Once the beef and all the other ingredients are in the crock pot, pour red wine all over the entire concoction until it is all barely covered. A strong red wine like a Malbec or Montepulcciano works well (no more than $7-$10 at Trader Joes). Now comes the easy part: wait. The beef will need to cook for a minimum of 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally. Check that your beef stays pretty well hydrated, you may need to add more red wine as the beef cooks. The beef will start to fall apart and fill your house will a delicious smell. Once the beef is starting to fall apart into strands, (usually around the 3-4 hour mark), uncover the cock pot to allow some of the liquid to burn off. I usually start the process on a Saturday morning (after waffles) and by dinner it’s ready to eat! When it’s finished, it will have the consistency of bbq pulled pork. The carne mechada freezes really wonderfully, so feel free to make lots—you’ll want to keep eating it!