I haven’t posted a recipe for quite some time. It’s long past time for another southwestern dish, methinks.
Machaca is basically shredded beef. While the original recipe calls for dried or jerked beef, the more modern ones use boiled and shredded beef. It is used as the basic meat in tacos, burritos, and tamales. It can also be made from pork.
Most machaca dishes now are made from beef that has been well-cooked, shredded then cooked in its juices until the desired consistency is achieved, which in Phoenix, Arizona can be soupy, dry or medio. In Tucson and south, the preparation is almost always dry, and approximates more closely the taste and texture of the original dish prepared from dried meat. – From Wikipedia
I don’t like the Arizona form, I like it moist and spicy and that is what I’ll make here.
- 600g of lean roasting beef – do NOT get this pre-cut into stewing beef. Do NOT get stewing beef.
- 1 tin (199g) of La Consteña brand Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce.
- 1 large onion
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
- Black Pepper
- Garlic powder
- Olive Oil
- I may have forgotten something but it is in the text below.
Machaca can be used directly as the meat filling in a Taco. I can also be used as the filling for Tamales. It can also be a part of the filling for a Burrito. There are many other recipes where Machaca can be and is often used.
I started out with a very nice and lean side of roast beef, of about 600g, from the Migros. I stuck this in a large pot of boiling water. I threw in some salt and cumin. The key ingredient that everyone misses here in Europe is cumin. You got to have the cumin and you have to have enough of it. In this case a tablespoon of the powdered stuff (All the TV Chefs talk about using whole grained spices for more flavor. That may work in production kitchens cooking large quantities but for home cooking, you need to use powdered spices. Yeah, they go flat faster but you also don’t buy as much at a time. Importantly, powders blend in to your dishes better) .
One of the things that most do wrong is to sear the meat. Stop it! Searing seals in the juices and also prevents it from cooking through enough to tenderize quickly enough to become shred-able. Searing simply slows an already slow process down. I cut it into four large chunks along the grain. and toss them into the pot. As the water evaporates, add more and keep boiling until the meat shreds easily. It usually takes a few hours. Then let it cool enough to handle comfortably. Do not discard the broth!
It helps to do this while the meat is still warm. There are many methods of shredding the meat. The traditional one is to use a pair of forks and pull the meat apart with them. However, the tines clog easily and you don’t get a proper shred. My method is to use a very sharp knife.
The most dangerous tool in a kitchen is a dull knife. When a knife gets dull then it will exact a blood sacrifice from the cook by slipping and cutting what isn’t intended, like the cook’s fingers or other parts of the cook’s anatomy. How sharp does it have to be? Sharp enough to cut air and then a smidge sharper! Get them sharp with a good whetstone and keep them sharp with a good steel. Use a steel before cooking every meal. A sharp knife will only cut what is intended. This applies to all the cook’s knives, even the paring knives!
You scrape the meat along the grain instead of cutting it. It should shred very nicely and very efficiently. Remove and discard any gristle and fat that you run into during this process. You will wind up with 600g of shredded lean meat. If long strands of meat fiber come off too, that’s alright. You actually want that.
Cook the onion and prepare the spices
You will need a large onion. I used to like Vidalia’s but I can’t get them here. Course cut it and start it on a slow cook, in olive oil, in a very large, deep-dish, skillet. You need to get them translucent.
Pop open a tin of Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce ( I can actually get that here from the American Market, which should probably be called the Latin American Market. The brand is La Costeña. ) . You will need two chipotle peppers and some of the adobo sauce as well. They will need to be diced finely (Remember those sharp knives? I used a large Chef’s Knife for this job) Be careful not to get any sauce on your hands. The capsicum doesn’t wash off well, even with soap. That’s why they use it in pepper spray, non?
Re-introduce the stock
Once the onion is ready then turn up the heat and toss in the shredded meat. Remember that water that you boiled the meat in? This is where you reintroduce it to the meat. The idea is to bring back that beefy taste. I also added a teaspoon of Bovril , some garlic powder, rosemary, salt, black pepper, a dash of sugar, a dash of lemon juice, a dash of lime juice, and a dash of soy sauce. This should now be a soupy mess of meat fiber and spices. This is also where you add in that Chipotle that you diced fine in its adobo sauce. Stir it all up really well.
Once it comes to a boil you are on the most sensitive part of this dish. From now until it’s done, you cannot leave it. It has to be reduced to where the meat is just barely moist and at this point, it is really easy to scorch. Even a slight scorch will turn it horrible. You can’t hurry this part. Set it on the lowest sustainable simmer and stir as required to keep from scorching. Watch it like a hawk. Step away and it’ll scorch and all your efforts to this moment will have been wasted. It’s finished when there is no more liquid but the meat is still moist. Take it off the fire immediately.
Use it or Store it
For freezing, we use small freezer bags for about 130g of machaca per bag and rolled flat. We call these shingles and you’ll see why after they are frozen . Get as much of the air out of the bag as you can and put them on a flat freezer shelf to freeze. Afterwards, we stack them in the normal freezer bins with our other shingles of stuff (labeled and dated, of course). For our first meal with this batch we made corn tacos and tostadas and froze the rest.
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