As Mamás Latinas writer Vicglamar Torres, a proud Venezolana, says: pabellón criollo is second only to the Venezuelan arepas in terms of tradition in this Latin American country.
For today's Hispanic Heritage Month recipe, that's what we'll be making! The pabellón criollo is one special dish: made with traditional Venezuelan fried plantains (called tajadas), black beans (called caraotas negras), and a spiced white rice, the best part of this dish, of course, is the amazing shredded beef called carne mechada. Trust me, you and your family will absolutely ADORE this recipe!
Pabellón Criollo (recipe courtesy of VenezuelanCooking.com)
Ingredients (for the Venezuelan Shredded Beef):
2 lb. flank steak
8 cups of water (or enough to cover the beef)
Salt (to taste)
1 stick green onion
1 peppermint or spearmint leaf
1 or 2 sprigs of parsley
1 or 2 sticks of celery
1/ red bell pepper
Ingredients (for the Beef's Sofrito):
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 onions
1 1/2 bell peppers
1 garlic clove
3 1/2 "ajíes dulces" (Sweet Habanero or Yellow Lantern Chili Pepper)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 or 2 sprigs of cilantro
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
Ingredients (for the Venezuelan Black Beans):
5 cups of water
1 cup of black beans (washed and strained)
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of oil
1 1/2 "ajíes dulces" (Sweet Habanero or Yellow Lantern Chilli)
1/2 garlic head
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Ingredients (for the Venezuelan White Rice):
1 cup white rice
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oil
1 garlic clove (minced)
1/2 medium onion diced in two
1/8 green bell pepper in strips
1/8 red bell pepper in strips
Ingredients (for the Venezuelan Fried Plantains):
1 Ripe/yellow plantain
1 Cup vegetable oil – or as needed (for frying)
1. Venezuelan Shredded Beef: Cut the Flank Steak in 2 or 4 pieces so they fit in your pot. In a large enough pot, place the Flank Steak and cover with enough water. Add the salt, green onion, peppermint, parsley, celery, onion and bell pepper. Cover and cook for about 4 hours at medium heat until the steak softens. Remove from heat, take the steak out of the pot, place in a baking sheet and let it cool for a little bit (you can use the remaining beef stock for other preparations). Once the beef is cool enough to handle, start shredding or pulling it. Be sure to pick out the fat and hard parts of the beef at this point. In a large enough pot, add the oil, and sauté the rest of the onion, the bell pepper the garlic and ajíes cut in Juliennes, for about 5 minutes. Add the beef to this sauté mixture and continue to sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, the pepper, the cilantro, and the soy sauce. Taste everything to make sure you don't need more salt or soy sauce. Cook at low heat for about 15 minutes. You may also add a bit of the beef stock and cook at medium heat until the liquid is reduced.
2. Venezuelan Black Beans: Make sure to pick out "bad" Black Beans and little rocks or other impurities from your cup of Black Beans and wash them as well. In a large enough pot, add the cup of Black Beans and add the water to them. Let them soak for a maximum of 12 hours and a minimum of 5 hours. In a pot, add the bell pepper and cook at a medium heat, covered, for about an hour and a half or until they become soft. Add the salt. In a different pan make the "sofrito" by frying the onion, the ajíes and the garlic with the oil until they turn brown (about 5 minutes). Add the cumin, stir, and remove from the heat. Add the "sofrito" to the pot where the Black Beans are cooking and reduce the heat. Let this cook for another 10 minutes, or until the liquid has almost completely evaporated (depending if you will be serving them as a side or as a soup). However, it is recommended to leave a bit of the liquid so they taste better.
3. Venezuelan White Rice: Add the salt, oil, garlic, onion, bell peppers and rice into a large enough pot. Stir-fry all the ingredients on high heat, and then as they brown, add the water. Bring to a boil, and then cook until the water has almost completely evaporated. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the rice is soft, dry and loose/fluffy. Remove the pot from the heat, and remove all the big pieces of onion and bell peppers. Serve with butter on top and enjoy.
4. Venezuelan Fried Plantains: Pour the vegetable oil in a large enough pan and turn on the stove to medium heat, so the oil starts heating up while you prepare the plantains. Cut the two ends of the plantain and make an incision with a knife along the side. Remove the skin. Cut the plantain in half. You can make a straight/down the middle kind of cut, like I did here, or a slanted cut to have more oval like tajadas instead of what I did, which are more rectangular Tajadas. If you cut them in the slanted way, they look better, but the flavor is the same. Now make about 4 slices out of each side of the plantain by slicing them sideways, to form slices of about 0.25 – 0.75 inches. Don't make them thicker than that. Lay the plantains on the frying pan and begin to fry them until they are golden brown, turning them if necessary, to fry both sides equally. It took me about 2 minutes per side. Remove the tajadas from the pan one by one and lay on top of a paper towel to remove the excess oil. Serve and enjoy!
5. Putting it all together for the Pabellón Criollo: Make sure you soak the black beans overnight! Prepare the shredded/pulled beef first, as this will take the longest to cook (4 hours). When the beef has been cooking for about 1½ to 2 hours already, begin to cook the black beans (this will take 2 hours). Proceed to remove the beef from the boiling water. Shred/pull the beef and continue cooking as directed on the recipe (adding the sofrito and stir frying it). Proceed to finish the black beans recipe as well. Set the beef and beans aside, and begin cooking the rice. Make the plantains while the rice is cooking. Finish the rice and the plantains. Serve all together.
Image via wEnDaLicious/flickr