Saturday, October 11, 2008

Carne Con Papas (Meat and Potatoes)

This is my grandmothers "Carne Con Papas" it is a fat, juicy, greasy, tender beef chuck steak simmered in a rich tomato based sauce with strong meaty smokey flavor with starchy potatoes and carrot. A very comforting food.

My grandmother's Cuban cooking can be very rustic, simple, in your face cooking. She does everything care free with few basic ingredients and the food comes out awesome. I on the other hand sometimes add some additional stuff to her dishes, like I may add a bit of oregano, or a little pepper sometimes but her reaction sometimes is, "Ay chico que es eso, no le tienes que meter tanto garabato a la comdia, le quitas el sabor natural a la comida solo nesicitas la moyeria del tiempo comino y sal, un buen sofrito y san se acabo" (it's be long to translate that but the main message of what she say's is you don't always need a bunch of spices, sometimes you just need to just let the natural flavors come through and appreciate them), oh boy and sugar in savory Cuban dishes is usually a big no no for her, she won't eat black beans with sugar she say's, "Eso es locura" (translates to something that's just wacky) I've looked at other Cuban bloggers "Carne Con Papas" it seems everyone does it slightly different and adds a different combination or proportion of Cuban spices or use different techniques.

But let me tell you that my grandmother's Carne Con Papa is my favorite, it is how she say's "echo a lo Gallego/ bruto" old school, rustic, simple and hardy yet delicious. The way she browns the steak in super high thundering heat then simmers in low heat for hours is what makes this dish special I think. Not covered in a bunch of spices just bold it is what it is. Today the weather was more chill as compared to yesterday so I decided to have this dish to warm me up and put some meat on my bones.

-2 1/2 pounds of whole well cleaned boneless beef chuck steak (diesmillo de res sin hueso)
-1 green bell pepper finely chopped (or 1/2 red and 1/2 green)
-1 yellow onion finely chopped (it doesn't have to be yellow)
-1/2 head of garlic finely minced (mashed to a paste/ garlic press)
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-1 cup water
-1 cup red wine (the cheaper the better for Cuban food)
-1 teaspoonful ground cumin
-1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
-2 bay leaves (optional)
-Extra-virgin olive oil
-4 russet potatoes (peeled and wedged)
-2 large carrots chopped into chunks or 2 large handfuls of baby carrots

Heat a large metal pot WITHOUT ANY OIL until it's really hot on very high heat, to see if it's hot just sprinkle some water and if the water dances or instantly disappears it's ready, add the meat it should make like a screaming noise from the high heat, not a sizzle but a thunder like sound, do not move the meat let it brown for 5 minutes un-touched in one side, then flip it quickly to brown on other side. Set aside
(2)You want the pan should have a blackish browning on the pan, this is gonna lend the dish great strong beefy smokey flavor.
(3)Lower heat to medium high and wait a little, add your extra-virgin olive oil and immediately add your onions and bell pepper diced up, sautee for about 6 minutes until translucent scrape with a wooden spoon to pick up drippings, add garlic sautee 1 minute until you can smell the garlic.
(4)Add 1 cup of red wine, bring heat back to high and scrape to deglaze with further with a wooden spoon, add tomato sauce, 1 cup water, cumin, and 2 bay leaves.
(5)Bring to a bubbling boil, add the meat back spoon some of the sauce over and cover then lower heat to medium low to simmer.
(6)Let the meat cook 1 hour then flip it and boil another 1 hour, add the potatoes and carrot afterwards and cook maybe another 30 minutes or more to get the potatoes tender as well as the carrots, the potatoes will thicken the sauce.
(7)Now turn of heat, take out steak real quick and cut against the grain into thick strips, and add back to the sauce, you can also cut it into large chunks against the grain, and return to sauce.
(8)Serve with plenty rice and black beans, if you want a salad, but you don't need it you already have potatoes and carrot.