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, arepas and cachapas.
The name shredded or pulled beef comes from the long strands you get when you pull the boiled meat apart. The secret to this dish is in the beef and the best cut to buy is skirt which will give you the right kind of strands.
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.
I usually make a big batch of this and then portion it up into single freezer portions so I always have some to hand. It is then really simple to add whatever you like to it depending on what you are making. Look out for my Venezuelan cachapas recipe. They are corn pancakes that are the perfect tasty vessel for carne mechada and melted salty cheese!
- Half a kilo of beef skirt
- 1 small onion
- Half a red pepper
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A pinch of cumin
- 2 tablespoons 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 two forks until all the beef is shredded.
Make the sofrito:
6. Chop and dice the onion and bell pepper.
7. Crush or grate the garlic.
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, plantain and beans or stuff into arepas, cachapas or tortillas.
Enjoy your meal or, as they say in Venezuela, Buen Provecho!