I do my best to utilize the local produce from farmers’ markets as much as possible. The groceries in the Hudson Valley are stocked with a wonderful selection of meats processed by our local butchers.
One of the fall dishes I like to prepare is called Mechado, a beef ’n’potato stew fortified with veggies galore:
2 lb. (900 g) chuck roast, preferably bone-in with good fatty marbling
6 beef short ribs
3 tsp. (18 g) salt plus a pinch, divided
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
8 tbsp. (120 ml) veggie oil, divided
1 large Spanish onion, sliced 1/3 inch (8 mm.) thick, divided
8 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 (15-oz. [425-g]) can tomato sauce
1 (15-oz. [444-ml]) can low sodium beef broth
2 bay leaves (pinch and crack them for good luck!)
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce, plus more to taste
4 large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
2 green peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. (32 g) tomato paste
2 cups (400 g) jasmine rice
This is a family favorite, terrific any time of year. I remember when I was little and was told we were having it for dinner, a gigantic smile always came across my face. But who am I kidding? I still react the same way.
Mechado is similar to a pot roast-style stew. It’s hearty, and has a rich gravy with a mix of beef, potatoes, and veggies. I tweak it by creating a base of rich tomato sauce, beef stock, and soy sauce. I add a side of green peppers and onions, sautéed with a bit of heat from my favorite spice, red pepper flakes, along with chunks of crispy fried potatoes. You will love this one!
Let’s get this stew brewing. Cut the chuck roast into 2-inch (5-cm) cubes. No need to worry about cutting all the meat around the bone, you’ll be cooking that, too. If you buy the short ribs that are already packaged into 4-inch (10-cm) cuts, leave it this size. Lightly season both meats with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.
In a pressure cooker or pot, heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil over medium-high heat. I prefer to use a pressure cooker for this dish. Add the meat in batches to sear it, cooking 2 to 3 minutes at a time. Sear in three batches, using 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of oil per batch. After it’s browned, set the meat and its juices aside in a separate bowl.
In the emptied pot, heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of oil on low heat and sauté half the sliced onion and 7 of the minced cloves of garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
Now return the meat and juices back into the pot. Add the tomato sauce, beef broth, bay leaves, and soy sauce. Mix and cover. Heat on high until your pressure cooker indicates it’s reached its high pressure, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. If using a regular pot, simmer for 1 hour.
While this cauldron of deliciousness is brewing, place the potatoes in a deep pot filled with cold water that covers them completely. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain and allow them to continue to steam out, dry and cool for 2 minutes.
While the potatoes are simmering, let’s get going on the veggies. In a small sauté pan, heat up 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of oil on medium heat. Add in the other half of the onion, the green peppers, and the remaining clove of garlic. You can’t forget the red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes, then transfer to a serving dish.
Clean the pan by simply wiping it out with a paper towel, and keep it handy for use in a bit.
Let’s check on our beef. The 20 minutes has come and gone. Go ahead and release the pressure from the cooker gradually. Once the pressure is out, it’s safe to open. Fish out the bay leaves with a utensil. Add the tomato paste, and gently mix it into the sauce and beef. This adds a little needed extra flavor, and it helps thicken the sauce too. Cover and set aside.
Using the sauté pan you wiped down, add the remaining 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of oil over medium heat. Spread the oil to coat the pan. Add the potatoes and lightly pan-fry them for 5 to 7 minutes, turning them periodically to brown all sides. Scoop them out and drain them on a paper towel, lightly seasoning with a pinch of salt to taste.
Oh, geez, I guess I need to give you steps for Rice 101. One batch of rice for four peeps is about 2 cups (400 g) of uncooked long-grain white rice. Start by getting some of the starchiness out by rinsing and straining it a couple of times. For those of you who own a rice cooker, the ratio of rice to water for this recipe is 2 cups (400 g) of rinsed rice to 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) water.
Stovetop cooking requires additional water. In a small pot or saucepan, combine 3 cups (720 ml) of water and 2 cups (400 g) of rice. Bring to a boil and add the last 1/2 teaspoon of salt, mix, and cover. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest, covered, for 4 minutes. Fork fluff the rice before serving.
To serve, scoop a heaping ladle of beef and sauce over a fluffy bowl of fragrant jasmine rice, and top it off with the sautéed green peppers and onions and your crispy golden fried potatoes.
This is exactly how my momma served it up for me when I was little.
Another delicious way to enjoy mechado is to tear off a piece of beautifully crusted bread, slather it with butter, dunk it in the beefy tomato sauce, shovel it up, and munch away.