Saturday, October 4, 2008

Recipe: Carne Mechada - Venezuelan Shredded Beef

Shredded beef is a key dish in Latin American cooking, from Cuba's rather unappetizingly named but utterly delicious "ropa vieja" ("old clothes") to Venezuela's national dish Pabellon Criollo, where the beef is typically accompanied by white rice, black beans and slices of fried plantain.

It is also used as a filling for empanadas and arepas.

The name shredded or pulled beef comes from the long strands you get when you pull the boiled meat apart.

In Spanish mechar or desmechar mean literally to separate hair into strands or to pull your hair out in fury.

Hopefully, this recipe is simple enough to avoid any hair pulling and tasty enough to justify the time it takes to boil, shred and fry the meat.

The secret to this dish is in the beef and the best cut to buy is skirt - known as flank in the USA - which will give you the right kind of strands.

I usually boil and shred the beef the day before I make my carne mechada and then leave it overnight in the fridge.

Shredding is easy and can be done with a knife, or two forks or your hands, whatever you find easiest.

The strands do not have to be uniform in size and you can experiment with different thicknesses of strands until you get the consistency you want.

Make sure you keep the water used to boil the meat as it will add extra flavour to the final sauce, which is made in typical Venezuelan style, with a sofrito of onions, bell peppers and garlic that the meat and tomatoes are then added to.

If you are serving as a meal with rice and beans the final simmer should leave some liquid in the sauce but if you want to fill empanadas with your carne mechada, boil until it is nearly dry, stirring regularly to avoid sticking or burning.

For enough carne mechada to serve 4 people you will need:
Half a kilo of beef skirt
1 small onion
Half a red pepper
3 cloves of garlic
Worcestershire sauce (salsa inglesa)
Black pepper
A pinch of cumin
Two spoons of tomato puree
Olive oil


Boil the Beef

1. Place the beef in a large saucepan with enough water to cover it.

2. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 2 hours.

3. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

4. Set aside the water.

5. Shred the beef into strands with a knife or two forks until all the beef is shredded.

Make the Sofrito

6. Chop and dice the onion and bell pepper.

7. Crush garlic in pestle and mortar or in garlic crusher.

8. Heat two spoons of olive oil in a large frying pan.

9. Add onions and when they start to brown add the garlic and the bell peppers, a pinch of salt, some black pepper and a pinch of cumin.

10. Add the shredded beef and stir, allow to brown a little.

11. Add some of the water the beef was boiled in, tomato puree and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

12. Stir frequently as you bring to the boil and then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

13. Serve with rice and beans.

Buen provecho! as they say in Venezuela. Enjoy your meal.

By Russell Maddicks

Recipe: Caraotas Negras - Venezuelan Black Beans

Recipe: How to make Cachapas - Venezuelan corn pancakes

Recipe: How to Make Arepas

Pabellon Criollo - Venezuela's National Dish

Glossary: Eating at an Arepera

Arepa and Co: The only Venezuelan food outlet in the UK


Anonymous said...

Coño Russel,

que hambre me dio nojoda!


Anonymous said...

Hi Russel ... I've just discovered your blog and I love it!!! I'm from Caracas but have been in the UK (Cheltenham, specifically) for three years now! Thanks for all your lovely food posts, panita :)

azulterra23 said...

Que bien que alguien quiera tanto a Venezuela!!! Gracias por todo el tiempo que te haz tomado en llevar este blog. Haz escrito algo reciente? Veo solo blogs de Octubre. Bueno, saludos de unos venezolanos en Suecia que buscando una ensalada de gallina llegaron a tu blog...a la final vi muchas recetas pero no la de gallina, jaja! No importa, me voy con una sonrisa al ver todos los anecdotas que tienes. Keep up the good work!

Larissa said...

Nice Blog. Now I'm gonna have to cook me some of that good stuff!!Greetings from New Orleans...Chevere que chevere!!

Jihan Carrasquero Uzcategui said...

Your pabellón seems better than mine!!!! Looks like a jobe well done.

Ryan said...

Thanks for posting this recipe. I'm an American married to a Venezuelan wife, and both of us live in Seattle. This blog is an invaluable resource for me as I try to make things from her homeland!

Russell Maddicks said...

Thanks for the comments Ryan. I'm going to post some more recipes in the New Year, so keep an eye out.
In the meantime, make sure you try the perico, and I'm sure you won't miss the arepas... what Venezuelan could survive without arepas?
Feliz Navidad!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these detailed recipes! I work with a great girl from Caracas, who's a long way from home in Australia, and we're having her over for lunch tomorrow with her daughter. She misses her mum's cooking, so I'm gonna do my best to be a substitute. Wish me luck. Cooking the whole works: Carne mechada, arepas, caraotas negreas and fried plantain.

Bhavya said...

Hi Russel!

So glad to finally see an authentic Venezuelan recipe that doesn't complicate such a simple dish...

I am an Indian who used to live in Caracas and had forgotten how to make carne mechada and pabellon criollo and am really glad to have come across your blog...thanx again!


tom said...

The only thing you need to add to finish it off right is an ice cold bottle of Malta Polar! Sabrosisimo!

Anonymous said...

Hi Russel - I'm English been married to a Venezuelan for 25 years , we live in Norwich. I cook the food whenever possible for our friends and, I am pleased I came across this blog. We miss Venezuela a lot.


Peter said...

great recipe... any comments on how to make the white garlic sauce that goes with the machada arepas?

trinimama said...

Hi Russel
I loved reading your various recipes and am looking forward to trying the arepas, which I was first introduced to by my great-aunt who lives in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She made them fresh every morning and served with butter and caso blanco, hmmm. I do make hallacas every Christmas the traditional Venezuelan way as taught me by my grandmother. Please keep posting the recipes.

DannySMG said...

Hi Russel, I am a Venezuelan with aspirations to become a chef or worker in the food industry and I'm telling you, your blog is superb. The best explanation on Venezuelan food found on the internet. Thank you for exploring our rich cuisine!

Anonymous said...

Hola! Gracias por añadir esta súper deliciosa receta! Esta es como la décima vez que la preparo siguiendo tus instrucciones & es todo un éxito en mi casa! Gracias por compartir y dejarme disfrutar de un pedacito de mi comida venezolana :). La próxima receta que voy a seguir es la de las caraotas negras. Hoy compre todos los ingredientes! Mañana tendremos pabellón criollo todo hecho por mi, gracias a ti!

Francia 🌺

Jillian said...

We made this last night to stuff in arepas with avocado and hot sauce. It was super tasty! Plus, my friend liked the beef water so much that he was pretty much drinking it straight. We ended up using flap meat because we could not find flank/skirt steak, but it worked out just fine. We cannot wait to make this again!

Renee' said...

I wanted to put this article on Pinterest so I'd have it for reference but your photos won't show up so I can't pin it. Used to live in Venezuela years ago and we loved their Carne Mechada. Is there something you or I can do to make it work with Pinterest?