Pabellón Criollo (Carne Mechada)

When I was a kid, my family moved to Caracas, Venezuela. It was quite an experience, living three years of my youth in a foreign country. I learned the language, absorbed some of the culture, and acquired a taste for the food!

Now, as an adult, one of our favorite meals to make is pabellón criollo—the Venezuelan national dish!

I don’t always make the full meal, in fact, I almost never include the platanos [plantains]. (That’s just a personal preference.) But even when we just make parts, it’s fantastic! I will post each part of the meal separately here, starting with the recipe I use for the carne mechada [shredded beef].

(Note: I found this recipe posted to an internet forum several years ago now. I translated it, and of course, I modify it slightly every now and then. Usually we use a bit more meat (3lbs or so), and roughly double the rest of the ingredients. I also usually add a teaspoon and a half of Adobo once I add the meat to the vegetables.)

Carne Mechada:
1/2 kilo (about a pound) Flank Steak (any beef for roasting will do)
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 Pepper (Green and/or Red) finely chopped
2 sticks of Celery, chopped
1 Bunch of Cilantro – finely chopped
1 Can of Stewed Tomatoes
Garlic, Salt & Beef Bullion if you want

Place the meat crockpot with about a cup of water, medium onion, and a little salt. I add adobo and olive oil as well. Cook on low for many hours until tender, pulls apart easily.

Turn crockpot off, remove the meat and let it cool so you can shred it with your hands. Do not dispose of the liquid.

In a large pot, put just enough oil to cover the bottom. Heat up the oil and begin sauteing the garlic, onions, cilantro, pepper(s), and celery. Let it cook till all smells great, but do not burn the onion and garlic. After these have simmered for a bit, add the tomatoes and simmer a bit longer. Add the shredded meat and let it simmer a while longer. Now add the beef bullion, and the liquid from the crockpot. You can add a couple cups of water as well.

Stir this up and let it simmer for as long as you can, as this will let the flavors cook together. Making it delicious!

Serve when ready with rice, black beans, and arepas y platanos if you can. (More ideas for those to come!)

¡Buen provecho!

Greg’s Famous (Spicy!) Chili

Another fall favorite is a big pot of chili simmering on the stove, then filling your belly! Served with mild cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and/or crackers (plus your favorite hot sauce, of course!) and you can’t go wrong!

Ingredients
3 lbs ground beef
1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
2 tsps (or two cloves) of garlic (more to taste)
3-4 cans of diced tomatoes
1 6oz can of tomato paste
3 Cups water
5-6 Tbps Chili Powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper (if available)
1/2 cup corn starch (approximate, diluted in water with salad dressing shaker)
(other ingredients to taste…)

Brown beef (along with half of the onion and all of the garlic) and then drain the excess fat/grease. Add tomatoes, water, and spices (but not corn starch) and continue to cook on medium-high temperature. (Feel free to add more of any or all of the peppers, depending on your tolerance for spicy foods!)

Stir frequently, until all comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for a couple hours. (Stirring occasionally.)

Once it’s almost time to serve, add the corn starch to thicken slightly. (Add a little at a time to desired thickness.) If you are adventurous, other ingredients you can add include: brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, any sort of peppers (including sweet peppers), and whatever else you think might taste good. I frequently add a “secret ingredient” … almost every time I make it! :-)

Serve as above, and enjoy! (Goes great with homemade bread!)