This Ramadan I’ve chosen to make a bunch of Latin dishes, mainly because of the hot, steamy weather we’ve been experiencing here in Chicago. It’s ironically not dissimilar to the weather in the Caribbean when it rains for 30 minutes and then the sun comes out and that goes on all week. It reminds me of weather in Florida, Puerto Rico and other hot, humid climates I’ve visited. When I experience that weather, I crave the foods that come from those places. More specifically, I crave the foods I also grew up with, rooted in Puerto Rican fare. I wrote about this extensively in my most recent cookbook, but it bears repeating in that the smell and taste of things like mangos, plantains, guava and even the spice mixtures of adobo and sofrito will always remind me of my maternal grandparents who were very intent on sharing those flavors with me as a child. I’m so glad they did. I wouldn’t be the cook I am today without that experience.
That said, I was craving a really good Carne Guisada, also known as a Caribbean Beef Stew, due to the flavors and ingredients being a blend of the Spanish, Indigenous and African flavors. It’s a classic dish on the island of Puerto Rico and I’m so happy to be able to share the recipe with you.
For example, to get started with this dish, I marinate the beef for a short amount of time in a blend of garlic, oregano, vinegar and olive oil (also known as the adobo). The small will forever remind me of how my abuela (grandmother) cooked her meat. You can marinate this overnight, but if you’re in a crunch for time, 20 minutes should do the trick.
The meat is then sautéed with potatoes, onion, green pepper and olive oil in preparation for all the other goodness to come.
I also add sofrito to give it hat extra special very Puerto Rican taste: a puree of cilantro, tomatoes, yellow onion, serrano pepper, garlic.
The stew should cook, covered, for a good amount of time- to thoroughly soften the meat and the potato. During the last leg of cooking, add the Manzanilla olives and capers. That’s what really tops this dish off and takes it to new heights, adding slightly vinegary taste.
Once thoroughly cooked, it’s ready to serve.
I prefer to go classic- serve with white rice, pink beans (habichuelas), and baked plantains (which are typically fried).
As they say in Spanish to describe how delicious it is… que saboroso!
- Ingredients for the Stew
- 2-1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
- 1-1/2 cups adobo (see recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
- 2 cups halved or quartered Yukon gold potatoes
- 1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
- 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cups canned tomato sauce
- 3 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups water
- 1 Knorr Halal beef bouillon cube
- 2 cups sofrito (see recipe below)
- 1 cup manzanillo olives
- 1/2 cup capers
- Ingredients for Adobo
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- Ingredients for the Sofrito
- 1 green bell pepper, cored and roughly chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 serrano pepper, seeds and stem removed
- 1 tomato, roughly chopped
- Directions for the Sofrito
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade or a blender, combine all the ingredients. Pulse or puree until they are combined and fully chopped and the sofrito is very smooth.
- Directions for Adobo
- Mix all ingredients together and rub vigorously into the meat before cooking.
- Directions for Stew
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat and adobo. Mix well, rubbing the spices into the meat. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- In a large, deep-bottomed pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, gently warm the oil. Add the meat to the pan and cook on one side for five minutes until browned. Turn the cubes and repeat until all sides are browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate lined with paper towels.
- Add the potatoes to the pan and sauté for five minutes until well-browned (and add more oil if necessary). Add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic and sauté, stirring constantly for three to five minutes until the peppers have softened.
- Add the tomato sauce, salt, and black pepper to the pan and cook, stirring often to prevent sticking for five minutes.
- Add the water, the Knorr Halal beef bouillon, and the Sofrito to the pan and stir until combined. Reduce the heat to medium-low and return meat to the pan. Cover and cook for 45 minutes.
- Cook, covered for one to one and half hours. Add the olives and capers to the pan and stir. Cook for an additional 10 minutes then remove from the heat and set aside to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- Serve with white rice, pink beans and fried plantains for a truly authentic Caribbean meal.