Monday, April 30, 2012

Carne de Res (Beef) en Salsa Verde: General Guidelines for the Intuitive Cook

This dish was inspired by the amazing pork in salsa verde that we had for breakfast at Fonda Margarita in Mexico City. I wanted to try and capture that elusive blend of tart and tangy and spicy heat that hit my tongue with each revelatory slurp of sauce. In other words, I had my work cut out for me.

Now, I am not going to try and tell you that my version is just like the dish that inspired it. I think you can only hope to achieve that depth of flavor if you're willing to get up at 1 a.m. to cook bubbling cazuelas of the stuff every single day. And it probably doesn't hurt to have a Mexican mother, grandmother or auntie (or father, grandfather or uncle!) to pass along some family secrets, either. Alas, the extent of my family culinary secrets begins and ends with a cheese sandwich (albeit a really good one).

That said, while different from its spiritual progenitor, this dish is good in its own right. In fact, it's kind of awesome (if I do say so myself). I think I managed to coax a lovely - dare I say complex? - balance of flavors from the broth, if Poppa's licked-clean bowl is any indication.

I originally planned to make the my version with pork rather than beef, but I was foiled by the Whole Foods animal welfare rating system. It ranges from 1 - presumably animals that have at least been treated marginally better than those in a factory farm - to 5, perhaps for animals who have enjoyed regular pedicures, trips to the spa, and massages. The day I went to the market, all of the suitable pork was rated a lowly and sad number 1, so I decided to go with a grass fed, pasture-raised beef top round with a rating of 4, the same cut I usually use for goulash. (Using beef rather than pork is why, I believe, the broth became darker than the typical bright green of salsa verde.)

The ingredients for this sauce are fairly standard for salsa verde, with a few tweaks. As I believe this is the sort of thing you should feel your way through, I am not going to give fiddly measurements just to show up higher on a Google recipe search, but rather a guideline, because that makes more sense.

Carne de Res En Salsa Verde
In a stockpot, place 10-12 tomatillos (about a pound, give or take), 2 jalapenos, 3 serrano peppers, one large onion, quartered, as many garlic cloves as you like, and a dash of salt. Whether or not you choose to leave the seeds of the peppers in depends on your tolerance for hot foods. I left them in! Cover with half chicken broth and half water and simmer until the tomatillos begin to split. Remove from broth, reserving broth for later. Meanwhile, roast one large poblano pepper over your burner flame until the skin is charred (alternatively, if you have electric burners you should run out buy a gas stove right away. Oh, sorry, I mean you can broil the poblano.) Wait until cool, and peel it. Reserve just enough of the poblano for garnish. Toss everything, along with a healthy squeeze of lime, into a food processor or blender, along with a healthy handful of cilantro, and blend until smooth(ish). Taste and adjust the salt; add more cilantro if you like, and if the salsa verde needs more liquid use the reserved broth.

Cube the beef (a 1 1/2 pound top round roast should do the trick) into cubes and shake them in a plastic bag that contains a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. Fry in a sautoir in canola oil over medium high heat until browned. Pour the salsa verde over the beef, scraping up the fond, and turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the beef is meltingly soft.

To serve, garnish with red onion, cilantro, and the reserved poblano. And do I have to tell you to squeeze liberal amounts of lime over everything? I hope not!

And of course, everything - and I mean everything - is better in a corn tortilla, and that's how we enjoyed this dish:


Not bad for my first time making this. I'll have my own fonda before you know it!





33 comments:

  1. Wow. I nearly fell off my cazuelas when I read this. This type of eating is my favorite and I do wish I could do it in your kitchen! And yes, I do think the only appropriate alternative to charing peppers over a gas burner is to go out and buy an gas burner. That made me laugh. I have refused amazing apartments for this many MANY times.

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    1. Cooking without gas is not cooking.

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  2. Foiled by the beef! Not a bad thing to be foiled by, eh? Turned out beautifully!

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    1. Yes, being foiled by the beef is definitely delicious! : )

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  3. These look amazing! I totally wanted to know what the animal rating was from Whole Foods as I just recently bought some meat there and had no idea what the 4 stood for. I feel so much better knowing that I unknowingly bought meat with a 4.

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    1. Good!!! Though I can't understand why I have never seen a 5. I would totally get it.

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  4. Wonderfully delicious looking! I sure would love to try this flavorful specialty!

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    1. Well, I would love to make it for you someday!

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  5. Love your story about the meat choices. I do the same thing. It is pricier but misery meat has a much higher karmic cost, if you ask me. Great little dish you made... I think you nailed it and it looks healthy to boot.

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    1. Totally. I will happily eat a vegetarian meal rather than one made from misery meat.

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  6. This does look authentic and I think straying from the Tex-Mex fare around here to real Mexican food is a healthy move. This does look delicious-no cheese, no chili sauce..I doubt if it would be missed. Well done!

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    1. Yes, the real deal Mexican food is quite healthy - fresh ingredients, everything in balance. I could eat it every day!

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  7. Looks amazing! (As always)...I've been away from here far too long! Theresa

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    1. Don't feel bad ... I have been awful at keeping up with things. Thanks for stopping by : )

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  8. looks great just in time for Cinco de mayo!

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  9. This looks just perfect. Mouth. Watering.

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  10. Will you come cook for me????? I promise to have 4 gas burners ready for you! This looks incredible!!

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  11. Beef cooked in the salsa verde? love it, got to bookmark this one.

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    1. The beef definitely infuses the salsa verde with a richness. I am getting hungry! (What else is new)

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  12. Yum! I'll have to remember this for Cinco de Mayo.

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    1. Yes, let me know if you make it!

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  13. Just reading through your recipe and looking at all these wonderful photos made my mouth water quite suddenly...and I'm not kidding you when I say that! Oh the heat, oh the meat, and the sublime lime (unintentional rhyme there). I'd be licking my plate - and yours too - if I sat down and ate something this delicious!

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    1. Haha, that happens to me all the time when I look at your blog : )

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  14. I think you are trying to torture me with all your yummy Mexican food, photos and now this recipe. Lol: ) You did a fantastic job. I remember when I was starting to learn and I would ask my family for recipes. No one gave me exact measurements. Mexican food is all about feel and personal taste. Now I'm super hungry and need to go make something before I pass out. Congrats on a scrumptiouliscious (I know that's not a real word) recipes.

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    1. Thank you!! That means a lot coming from you.

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  15. This looks delicious and I'm so happy to have found your blog! - Miriam

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  16. So many unusual flavours here for me that just draw me more and more into this dish. I've bookmarked it as a must-try.

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  17. First...I just wanted to say that I am happy to have found your blog. Nice recipes and great photos make your site a standout. Second...I don't have a Whole Foods near me and didn't realize meats were rated each time new products came it. It does let the consumer decide what they choose to buy. Third...this recipe sounds terrific.

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  18. complex indeed and so worth every step - so glad you understand the effect of layering ingredients to achieve such a brilliant savory taste, but then you understand another of my favorite foods as well, Creole and Cajun... so enjoying your trip posts and thank you for taking us along

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  19. Looks delicious and definitely my cup of tea... i mean dish :)

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