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jess mebane

Carne Guisada

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Lord, Lord, have I seen the light! I used to avoid this dish based on the truly awful, grey gelatinous stuff I saw going by on hotplatehotplate in restaurants, but I had it at a picnic yesterday made by someone's adorable abuelita, and damn that was good! Trouble is, I asked her for a recipe and she smiled enigmatically at me while the rest of the family giggled into their plates. Any help out there?

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This is the time for Jaymes to jump in. She helped me get started on the road to wonderful beef and pork guisadas. Perhaps she will post her tips here when she is available.

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There are many wonderful cooks on eGullet, and I'm hopeful they will offer their thoughts, tips, methods.

But to start things off, here are mine:

Carne Guisada

This means "meat stew" but most Anglos use the term to refer specifically to green chile stew, made with pork (or beef) and green chiles, among other things.

I've lived in every single one of the U.S./Mexico Border States, and traveled extensively throughout Mexico and the first thing I'd tell you is that each area has their own traditional method of preparing it. The Mexicans call it "Carne Guisada" or "Chile Verde" or some combination thereof. "Guisar," in Spanish, means "to stew" so, Carne Guisada means basically, meat stew. (It's different from Carne Asada.)

In most of Mexico and the border states, green chiles are traditionally used with pork, chicken, etc., because of the milder flavor of green chiles; and the stronger red chiles are usually used to prepare beef dishes. My family liked both, but it was just so easy to grab a pound of beef stew meat, already cubed, that that is what I usually used. I have seen people cut up some sausage, or add some chorizo, but for the most part, they don't. I often used up leftover turkey this way, as well.

The main thing to remember when you are preparing this dish is that it's just your mama's beef stew, only as interpreted by Mexican moms. It's hard to find recipes for it in Mexican cookbooks because it is so basic. You pretty much just take some meat, brown it, then stew it with water or broth and whatever flavorings and vegetables you like. In the States, that's usually beef with onions, celery, carrots and sometimes tomatoes, flavored with parsley and bay leaves. In Mexico, it's either pork or beef with onions, garlic, tomatoes and chiles (red or green), flavored with cumin, cilantro, oregano, etc.

And after the meat is tender, you add whatever other vegetables you like. Both cultures usually add potatoes. Mexicans love squash, and often add it as well.

My basic recipe was to dump a package of stew meat (or cubed round steak, or chuck, or a pork shoulder) into a Dutch oven and brown in a little oil. I'd sprinkle cumin seeds and some oregano, a bit of red chile powder and a little black pepper on it. Sometimes, I'd dust the meat with a little flour beforehand. Then, remove the meat and put two large cloves of garlic (smashed & minced), one minced jalapeno, and three or four onions, white or yellow, quartered, into the oil, and sauté till onions are clear. Put the meat back into the pot and add a can or two of stewed tomatoes, and a can of broth. If you're in the mood, roast, peel and seed five or six (or more depending on taste) fresh long green chiles, or Anaheim, or whatever you like. Cut them into nice-sized chunks and add (if you're not in the mood to roast fresh chiles, then use three or four small cans of whole green chiles). Cover your pot and simmer till meat is tender. That's the basic recipe. You can either add more water or broth and serve it very soupy or, after the meat is tender, take the lid off and cook down until the stew has the consistency of meat and gravy. Then, you can serve it rolled up in flour tortillas, or over rice.

Now - The versions of this are absolutely endless, just like Mom's Beef Stew. Most of the Mexicans add potatoes. They just peel and cube potatoes and add them toward the end of the cooking. Also the Mexicans love squash and grow many varieties. You can add yellow, zucchini, whatever. As with the potatoes, you don't want the squash to cook too long. You can cut up and boil the squash separately and just stir it in right before serving. Many Mexicans also add either a small can of peas (or corn, but not both) right before serving, just long enough to heat through. I've seen the peas added more than the corn and that's what I usually do. (I don't know why, but I have literally never seen a Mexican mom add frozen or fresh peas and let them cook in the stew. They just like to toss in a can of drained, cooked peas immediately before serving. I have often wondered what they did before canned peas were available but, as that was a very long time ago, suspect all those old cooks are dead now, so guess I'll never know.) Lots of people add a little chopped celery when they add the onions, and an occasional bay leaf or some cilantro, or a little chile powder to spice it up. A tsp of Adobo seasoning is nice if you can find it in your stores. Sliced jalapeños are usually served alongside, so that folks who like more heat can add them. But the thing to remember is that this is not chili. It is meat stew, and the flavor of the meat and vegetables should take center stage.

Other things people add: a tablespoon or so of vinegar; 1/2 cup or so of beer and a tablespoon of brown sugar (brown sugar cuts the bitterness of the beer), and some people brown their stew meat with bacon or sausage but most do not.

When I was having company, or wanted to make dinner particularly special, I'd put a nice 2-3lb pork shoulder in a pan and roast it at 300-350 degrees for several hours until it shredded easily. Then, I'd shred & chop it coarsely, and put it into the stew pot with the sautéed onions and garlic, and a can or two of chicken or beef broth, the stewed tomatoes, etc., and proceed as directed above.

You can also get all of your ingredients together in your Dutch oven, and put a lid on it and then put the whole thing in a moderate oven to cook until the meat is tender. In Alaska, I would do it in my crockpot, so that when I got home from work, I'd just add the cubed potatoes and the ubiquitous canned peas, and we'd be ready for supper.

Here's a simple recipe for a Carne Guisada where the featured ingredients are pork and squash.

Carne Guisada con Calabasas

Twice around the pan with a neutral vegetable oil

2 lbs pork shoulder, cubed

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 tsp ground cumin

2 cups chopped tomatoes - you can use fresh or canned, depending on season - fresh in summer

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/4 C chopped bell pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

1-2 small cans whole green chiles, torn into chunks

1 Cup corn - you can use corn kernels from fresh corn, or frozen, or canned

1 1/2 lbs squash - zucchini, or yellow, or pretty-much any summer squash, cubed

salt, hot sauce (like Tapatio) to taste

When oil is hot, add garlic and meat. Dust with cumin. Brown meat, then remove meat from pan and set aside. To the pan, add the tomatoes, onions and bell peppers and saute until onions are clear. Return meat to pan and add green chiles. Cover and stew until meat is tender.

Stir in corn, squash and salt. Cover and simmer until squash is done, but not overdone (about 15-20 minutes).

Taste for seasonings - salt and hot sauce.

Summer is drawing to a close. Autumn is almost upon us. Soon the first cold front will be blowing in with its low and threatening skies.

And in the warm kitchen, there's nothing quite like the aroma of carne guisada - redolent with meat, broth, chiles and cumin.

I can hardly wait.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

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oooooh, jaymes, THANK YOU for that redolent, succulent description and recipe....i could smell it cooking, but sadly, could not force the illusion far enough to get it into my mouth,so i'll have to make a batch mas pronto. tell me, would tomatillos be out of place? muchas gracias!

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This lady that made the carne guisada, was she Mexican? Because any country in Latin and South America will have a different version of their beef stew, just as a British stew will differ from an American stew...

If it was a green tomatillo and pork concoction made by a Mexican, here is my recipe for Chile Verde:

2 tablespoons lard

3 pounds lean, fresh boneless pork butt, cut into 1 1/2" cubes

2 medium white onions, thinly sliced lengthwise

3 cloves garlic, pressed

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoons ground oregano

8 small tomatillos, husked and finely chopped or 1 cup canned

4 fresh Anaheim chiles, seeded, deveined and finely chopped

1 large tomato, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

3/4 cup chicken stock

2 teaspoons lime juice

Heat the lard in a 6 quart dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Add about 1/3 of the pork in a single layer. Cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes, remove to a plate. Repeat until

all the pork has been browned.

Remove and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings from the pan. Add onions and garlic and saute over medium heat until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in salt, cumin and oregano.

Add the tomatillos, chiles, tomato and cilantro leaves to the pan and stir in the stock. Heat over high heat and bring to boiling.

Return the pork to the pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, until pork is tender 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Uncover pan, increase heat to medium. Cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 20-30 minutes longer. Stir in lime juice.

To serve, spoon pork over rice and sprinkle with sliced almonds, cilantro leaves, radishes and lime slices.

Serves 6

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Jaymes - This would be a good one to add to the recipe archive if you have not already done so. I have done three or four versions, and they have all been delcioso. Thanks again.

And yes...I know it's still summer. I just really like stews.

Edited by Richard Kilgore (log)

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Sandra - the lime, radish and sliced almonds in addition to cilantro is a nice touch. I'll try it.

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This lady that made the carne guisada, was she Mexican? Because any country in Latin and South America will have a different version of their beef stew, just as a British stew will differ from an American stew...

Yes, Jess - was the lady Mexican?

Because that's exactly right. When I lived in Panama, they made their meat stews much differently from the Mexican versions I was accustomed to.

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Oh Jaymes, now you're really making me homesick, my two countries in one little post!!!

How did you make your stews in Panama?

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This lady that made the carne guisada, was she Mexican? 

Yes, Jess - was the lady Mexican?

Because that's exactly right. When I lived in Panama, they made their meat stews much differently from the Mexican versions I was accustomed to.

No se. Empiezo que ella es de El Salvador, porque su guisada tiene color muy, muy roja. Y tiene <chitlins>, tambien. I begin to think this is not guisada at all, based upon the responses here, but some sort of soulfood stew. I mean, there were definitely gelatinous pork pieces like chicharrones, or someting.

I was also ruminating over the sheer "redolent" quality of this dish, and then you said the same thing. Que bueno!

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OOOhhhhh sounds like you may have been eating a variant of Menudo - tripe stew, great for hangovers! It is most definitely red and gelatinous!

What are chitlins?

I will post a rec for menudo a bit later...a Salvadoran recipe would be a bit different from a Mexican, but you could get the basics and work your way back to her ingredients maybe, my rec includes 2.5 pounds of tripe and 1/2 a calf's foot, vinegar, onion, garlic, hominy and red chiles puree... sound familiar?

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totally. the consistency is slurpy, almost granular and seedy. Is that the potato reduction effect or more to do with the tripa?

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jess, here is my version of menudo - sorry it took so long...

Menudo for 10

2.5 lb tripe

1/2 calf's foot

1/3 cup vinegar

cold water

2 garlic cloves

1/2 small onion

3 quarts water

1.5 cups hominy (can)

red chile puree (see below)

green onions, finely chopped

cilantro, chopped

lemon wedges

corn tortillas

Cut tripe into 1" squares - place tripe and calf's foot in large bowl and add vinegar and cold water to cover. Let stand 3 hours. Drain and rinse tripe and foot then place in a large pot. Add garlic and onion-pour in water to cover ingredients plus 1-2 inches (about 3 quarts) Add salt to taste. Boil and reduce heat, cover and simmer about 6 hours until tripe is tender - after about 1 hour, and as needed after, skim the foam. Add more water if liquid evaporates. Prepare the red chile puree. During the last hour of cooking, add the puree and the hominy - serve in large bowls with the green onions, cilantro, lime wedges and tortillas.

Red Chile Puree

8 california chiles

2/3 cup water

remove stems from chiles, break open and rinse out seeds - place in saucepan with water to cover and boil until chiles are soft, about 5 mins. Drain and discard water. Puree the chile, adding enough water to make a thick sauce - pass through sieve - you should have about 1 cup.

Does this sound like what you had at the picnic??

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seems like. But, the tripa parts were more accents in a dish that had recognizable, savory pork chunks and the red chile puree, for sure. Thank you for the recipe; I'm going to try it on a leisurely weekend veddy, veddy soon, because as a hugely pregnant person, this dish sounds pretty good about now.

Just finished some hatch pepper 'n cheese chicken sausage from Central Mkt, by the way--very good with the heirloom tomatoes and some fontina cheese.

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Thank you for the recipe; I'm going to try it on a leisurely weekend veddy, veddy soon, because as a hugely pregnant person, this dish sounds pretty good about now. 

Sorry Jess, that I missed this part. Congratulations! Will this be a girl? (I seem to recall you talking about the toilet seat problems...drives me crazy).

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