Carne Guisada (stewed beef) is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather. Versions of this dish can be found in countries throughout Latin America, but if you really think about it, most countries throughout the world will have a similar dish. There’s just something about tender pieces of meat and large chunks of vegetables in a brown sauce that has wide appeal. Served with salad and beans, plus rice and tortillas to soak up every last bite, this meal will leave everyone at the table completely satisfied.
Carne Guisada – Salvadoran-style
2 lbs. beef (chuck roast)
2 tablespoons Canola oil
¼ cup red cooking wine
¾ cup water, plus water to cover
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon achiote
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ cup diced onion
1 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 large carrots, cut in large chunks
1 to 1.5 lbs. potatoes (or yucca), cut in large chunks
Optional: a few tablespoons of flour
1. Pat the chuck roast with a clean, dry paper towel to remove any excess moisture. In a stainless steel pan, heat 2 tablespoons Canola oil over high heat. Season the chuck roast with salt and pepper. When the oil is very hot and begins to smoke a little, carefully place the chuck roast in the pot. Do not move or attempt to lift the chuck roast while it’s searing. Shake the pan a little once in awhile to see if it’ll come loose on its own. When it easily comes loose on its own, that means it’s finished searing, (about 1 to 2 minutes.) There should be a nice crust on the meat. Carefully flip it over and sear the other side.
2. Remove the chuck roast to a plate while you deglaze the pan. How to deglaze the pan: Add ¾ cup water and ¼ cup red cooking wine to the pan immediately after you remove the meat. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to remove any bits that are stuck to it. Stir boiling 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. This “base” liquid will add a lot of flavor and we’re going to add it to the pot where we cook the meat the rest of the way.
3. Cut the meat into large chunks and put into a large pot with the “base” liquid. Add enough water to cover (for me it was 4 cups.) Add the bay leaves and achiote. Bring to a slow simmer and cover. Cook slowly on low heat for tender meat. If you cook it faster on higher heat the dish won’t be completely ruined or anything, but the meat will be much less tender, so avoid boiling. If the liquid comes to a boil, lower the heat. I cooked mine for about 2 hours and the burner was around the “2” setting on my stove. After 30 minutes to an hour, you may see that the meat is already cooked through but if you try to pull it apart with a fork, you won’t be able to – This means the meat has not cooked long enough. Trust me, cook it to around 2 hours and you will see how tender it becomes.
4. In a blender, combine tomato sauce, garlic, onion, basil, and Worcestershire sauce. Blend until combined. Add to the pot. (Don’t do this until the meat is done cooking or nearly done cooking.) Also add the carrots and potatoes to the pot. Simmer covered until vegetables are fork tender. Remove from heat. Do not cook too long after adding the vegetables as you don’t want them to get mushy. Add salt to taste.
Optional: If you prefer to thicken the sauce (I do), you can remove one cup of the liquid and whisk in a few tablespoons of flour, then add the thickened liquid back to the pot. Tip: Do not add flour directly to the pot. It must be whisked to combine properly and you can’t do that with the meat and vegetables in the way.
5. Serve with rice, beans, salad and tortillas. Serves 4.