Carne Mechada, A guest post from Toasty Joe

This weekend Mrs. Notafoodie and I had our friends Danny and Colleen over for dinner. We braised a piece of beef in red wine for four hours, and Danny commented that we should have used a pressure cooker instead. That lead to a heated discussion (not really), and me insisting that he write a guest post  on one of the two dishes that he knows how to cook. If anyone else out there has one dish that they make that is pure awesomeness, please feel free to contact me. I’m always up for a good guest post.

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Greetings, foodies (and not-a-foodies)! Your humble host has graciously allowed me, his good friend and fellow pork enthusiast, to share with you all one of my all-time favorite dishes, to both make and consume. Why this dish? Because it’s one of the few dishes that I can make very well (the other being turkey chili, which will kick all of y’alls’ arses, but that’s a story for another day). But first, a disclaimer: This dish does not involve pork products of any kind. Hopefully, I didn’t just lose half of Tom’s readership already.

Now, to the matter at hand. Being from Venezuela, my mom picked up an incredible South American meat/potato/egg concoction known to you Spanish-speakers out there as “carne mechada,” which, of course, can be loosely translated as”whale’s vagina.” What follows is a step-by-step recitation of how you, too, can fry up a batch of this heavenly manna in no time flat. Enjoy.

WHAT DO I NEED?

Basically, everything in the picture at left: About 1 and 1/2 lbs. of flank steak, an onion, an orange pepper (or green, if that’s your thing), a potato, an egg, and – most importantly – a pressure cooker (at left in that picture). For years, the lack of this bizarre cooking implement was the reason I never attempted this dish. However, getting married gives one a perfect excuse to stock up on some free cooking junk via this whole registry scam, so I jumped at the chance. Fortunately, my aunt ponied up for it, and I became the proud owner of a Fagor (no jokes, please) Pressure Cooker.

OK, I’VE GOT ALL THAT SHIT. NOW WHAT?

First of all, watch your mouth. Second of all, trim away any noticeable fat deposits on the steak. Then, dump around 2 cups of water into the pressure cooker (if you’re feeling fancy, you can try beef stock, but I always use water), and add the steak. Seal it up and cook that bad boy for exactly 40 minutes. Oh, and be sure you follow the directions on the cooker so that it doesn’t explode in your face. (Side note: my Mrs. is afraid to use the cooker for this very reason).

OK, THE STUPID STEAK’S COOKING. NOW WHAT SHOULD I DO WHILE I WAIT?

Well, there’s lots of things you could do that aren’t recipe-related, but this is the perfect time to cut up your veggies. A mini-prep works great for the onion, but I would do the pepper by hand, as it tends to turn into liquid in the mini-prep. Just note that when you cut that pepper open, you may find a freakish little green pepper embryo growing inside, as I did one time (see picture).

Anyway, put your cut-up onion, pepper, and potato in a bowl, cover with saran wrap, and stick it in the fridge. It’s now time to check your, um, meat.

OH, BOY! IT’S BEEN 40 MINUTES! NOW WHAT?

Woo hoo! It’s time for some hot shredding action. Get yourself two forks and a big plate or cutting board. Then basically just tear this sucker apart (my technique is pictured at left). The more long, thin threads of steak you create, the better. Picture a big pile of angel hair pasta, but made entirely of beef.

Now, very important note here: While this shredding process is taking place, any hungry dogs that might be in your vicinity will most definitely come a-callin’, as mine does every time I cook this dish. I would suggest giving her a few small samples. Your dog probably needs a little more joy in her life.

OK, I’M THE PROUD OWNER OF A BIG PILE OF BEEF THREADS. NOW WHAT?

Good for you! Set that meat aside, heat up a non-stick frying pan, and add some olive oil. It’s time to fry up your veggies. Do just potato pieces by themselves first since they take longer – then add the others and cook until tender.

HEY, MY MEAT’S GETTING COLD!

Well, fortunately, it’s time to add it to the pan! Get a good pair of tongs, and work those veggies into the beef, equally distributing it to the extent possible. Sure, your concoction may look a little bit strange at this point, but just wait – it’s about to get really, really good. Add some salt and pepper at this point, and away you go!

From here on out, the tongs are your best friend. Just keeping turning and tangling this mess in the pan under a medium flame, and watch it get crispier and crispier by the minute. Try not to drool into the pan at this point.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MY EGG?

Ahh, excellent question. When your meat mixture is looking nice and crispified, put the tongs down for a moment, scramble that chicken embryo up real nice, and pour it into the pan. Pick those tongs back up and turn, baby, turn, until that egg is evenly distributed and well-cooked. Keep on turning until your dish has re-crispified.

And, well, you know what, folks? You’re done! Your finished product should look roughly like this (click to enlarge):

Oh, LORD yes. I like it so crispy you can practically eat it like popcorn, but feel free to cook it to your own liking. Stick a wad of this stuff on a plate along with your favorite side dish (we typically make it with bulgar wheat on the side), and proceed to revel in the greatest meat dish ever created on God’s green earth.

Let me know how your batch turns out!

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Thanks, Dan! I can’t wait to try this at home. I’ll probably end up slow braising the meat just to add a little more flavor… but I’m fancy like that đŸ™‚

Like I said, if anyone else out there has an awesome dish that they want to share, let me know!

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