I’m not sure what got me thinking about it. Maybe it was thinking about having steak for my birthday dinner. It got me thinking about one of the best tasting steaks I’ve had to date, and the most unlikely one for that title.
When we were in Mazatlán 2 years ago, we went down to the main market mid-day with our friend Marj from s/v Kievit. We decided that we should eat in one of the many restaurants in the upstairs part of the mercado. These are really basic restaurants, only a few steps fancier than a streetside taco stand. But they have excellent food and their prices reflect their lack of pretension. One of the things on their menu, and what I decided to try, was Bistc Encebollado or, basically, steak and onions. What I got was a super thin piece of round steak or something similar. It was sliced about 1/4 ” thick. The bistec was then seared on a flat top grill or in a big, hot pan, and then topped with a mess of not-quite-carmelized, slightly charred onions. Beans and rice came on the side. It was outstanding. The steak wasn’t the tenderest cut of meat I ever ate but it wasn’t bad. It had that great seared beef flavor that went so well with the sweetness of the onions.
During the time period that I was obsessing about bistec encebollado, we went out to eat with Jay (s/v Wind Raven) and Jim (Crazy Coyote). We decided on Rancho Viejo since we knew their arrechera beef was always good. I figured, it’s a beef place with a couple of flat top grills, they’re bound to have bistec encebollado on the menu. Man, was I disappointed when they didn’t. Lulu and I ended up ordering camarones al ajo (garlic shrimp) and were both unbelievably disappointed. Oh, the shrimp tasted alright but there was so little of it that I had to cut each one in half just so it’d last as long as my rice did. What a burn!
So, my yen for bistec encebollado still not appeased, I decided that I’d just have to make it myself. Bought some thin-cut round steaks at the store and started hitting the internet for recipes, just in case there was a particular marinade or something I should use. My search turned up the fact that bistec (or bistek) encebollado, aka bistec guisado (stewed steak), is much more common in the Caribbean than in Mexico. And, it’s a completely different beast there. I decided to give one of the recipes a try just to see what it was. The recipe that I developed from mushing several together is down at the bottom of the page.
Although I knew this was not going to be anything like what I ate in Mazatlán, it was still very good and I’d make it again. However, I’m going to make the Mexican version soon as well.
The next day, we weren’t sure what we wanted for dinner. Bought some bacon and figured we’d just have spuds and eggs with bacon. I volunteered to cook it. Since it doesn’t take very long to cook spuds and eggs, I just sat and read my Kindle while Lulu went up to take a shower. I figured I had plenty of time to get started when she returned. Good thing I waited.
When she got back aboard, the first thing she said was “What do you think about having shrimp for dinner?” I responded that it sounded like a great idea, especially if she was cooking. There was a guy up in the boatyard selling very nice fresh shrimp. Our usual response, when asked if we want any camarones is, “Gracias, no.” Just a little leery about shrimp sold in the boatyard. Is it fresh? Has it been kept on ice? And, when asked before she went into the shower, this is exactly how Lulu responded. But she must have had an epiphany or at least a change of heart while showering because, when she came back out she decided to buy 1/2 kilo after all. It wasn’t bargain-priced but it was nice shrimp, kept on ice, and had no off-smells at all. Seemed very fresh.
So, what did she do with it? Well, she decided to keep it simple and make what we’d hoped to get at Rancho Viejo the other night. She peeled the shrimp and then cooked them over medium heat in olive oil and butter with lots of garlic. She served them over rice that had been cooked with celery, corn and carrots for color and interest. It was superb. And there was plenty so that each forkful could contain an entire shrimp. No worries about running out of shrimp before running out of rice. I guess if you want it done right, you just have to do it yourself.
There you have it. Two cooks, two different meals. Last night I made Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy but was not completely satisfied. Going to have to do some refinement before it’s ready for prime time. Tonight we’re going to The Shack for burgers.
Oh yeah! My recipe for Bistec Guisado Encebollado:
2 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 t cumin
1 t black pepper
1 t dried oregano
½ t salt
½ t MSG
juice of 2 limons
¼ C olive oil
Mix all the ingredients together in a large zip-lock bag.
½ kilo thin-sliced beef, trimmed of excess fat.
Knead to make sure all the meat gets coated with the marinade. Put in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-6 hours. Probably could go longer but I didn’t so I don’t know.
1 medium sized onion sliced into thin rings
Put 2 T cooking oil in a large skillet. Add 1 onion, sliced into thin rings. Cook onion over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes until it’s soft. You can add a teaspoon or so of sugar to the pan which seems to help the onion carmelize a little faster. Remove the onion to a bowl and set aside.
Add a little more oil to the pan if it seems too dry. Turn the heat under the pan to High.
Add the meat, a few pieces at a time to brown it. Remove meat as it gets browned and add more until all the meat has been browned.
Put all the meat back in the pan. Add a couple teaspoons of liquid (marinade if you still have some) to the pan to braise the meat. Cover pan. Check under the cover every 5 minutes or so. Add water as needed. You don’t want to boil the meat but you want enough liquid to braise the meat rather than fry it. I used water but something like beef stock or even chicken stock would have been better.
Continue cooking, tossing the meat every so often and adding liquid as needed. After 30-40 minutes the meat should be getting pretty tender. At this point remove the meat and add 3-4 ounces of tomato sauce or chili (enchilada) sauce. I used salsa de chile guajilla because I had it on hand. It was a good choice, but almost any enchilada sauce would do.
Continue cooking to reduce the liquid by about a third. Return the meat and onions to the pan and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes or so.
Remove the meat/onions and serve with rice. Pour the sauce in the pan over the rice.
If there are leftovers, dice the leftover meat, combine with leftover rice, add some sliced, sauteed jalapeños and make some fried rice.