Monday, 16 November 2009

Beef Machaca and Pico de Gallo

Something happened recently that made me start reading up on Mexican food, but I can't remember what it was. All I know, is that my delicious bookmarks have been overrun with fabulous Mexican (and Tex-Mex) recipes that I want to try, I've been investigating the authentic Mexican restaurants in Brisbane and watching any Mexican related cooking show I could get my hands on.

I really wish I could remember what started it all off?

Anyway, making Mexican food at home is a little difficult as I have no idea where I can get some of the ingredients like canned chillis and even different types of chilli. Most of the stores I frequent only classify them as being red or green. Helpful. Also, I'm a bit of a chilli wuss but I am willing to experiment. So, what is one to do when she really wants to cook Mexican but is unable to leave the house and even if she was able to leave wouldn't know where to get what she needed anyway? Wow, that was a poorly constructed sentence. Well, she improvises. I haven't got a lot of patience when it comes to cooking at the moment, simply because I can't stand up very well and it's quite hard to do things in the kitchen. It turns out that when it came to these dishes, that was a blessing as the dish became far more organic and was catered to our tastes as I couldn't be bothered measuring and just threw things in.

The guide I followed came from this recipe for Beef Machaca posted on Recipezaar. I loved the idea of slow cooking the meat and I knew it would make it much easier to shred. We used about 600g of chuck steak. It was a little fattier than I think it was meant to be - the meat attached to the fine veins of fat was a little more difficult to shred and I did have to remove some. I tossed it into the slow cooker with a sliced onion and 3/4 cup of water. I didn't have any canned chillis, so I guessed at the water content. To add some heat, I added a couple of splashes of sriracha sauce. I didn't have any adobo seasoning, so I used this recipe for Dry Adobe Seasoning (also on Recipezaar) as a guide. I didn't add any salt, I figured I could season it later if necessary. I added 2 beef stock cubes, the dry mustard powder and the peppercorns (I forgot the minced garlic) and then added approx 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp ground oregano and 1 tsp of cumin. I set the slowcooker to high and cooked it for 5 hours.

Halfway through the cooking time, I turned the meat over and tasted the liquid. It did need a little seasoning, so I added a sprinkle of salt (no more than half a teaspoon). After five hours, it smelled amazing and looked like this:

The meat was already falling apart, so I used a slotted spoon to remove it a bit at a time and shredded it on my chopping board. It was nice and easy. Fun too, because I could just lean against the counter and not move around. I enjoyed it. After shredding the beef, I stirred through a jar of medium-heat chunky salsa. None of the heat came through in the finished dish, so I do have something to work on for next time.

We bought some lovely vine-ripened tomatoes from the local fruit shop yesterday and I decided to make a quick pico de gallo using the recipe from SBS's Food Safari.

This was nice and easy too, except I discovered that all of my knives are in terrible need of sharpening. They massacred the poor tomatoes. Simply dice three tomatoes, add some chopped red onion, a sprinkle of salt and some chopped coriander and mix together. I followed the advice someone fave in the comments and added some lime juice as well. The lime juice lifted the salsa to a whole other level, it was definately a good idea.

We had nachos for dinner last night, serving our beef machaca and pico de gallo with some tortilla chips, sour cream and a little bit of cheese. D said it was awesome and went back for seconds. I have to agree, it was really amazing. We have been guilty of taking the mince/Old El Paso route to nachos previously, but this way is so different from the Old El Paso way that it's almost a different meal. The shredded beef was so much lighter than any mince mixture and it combined so well with the salsa. It wasn't stodgy like the mince versions can be. I have a tendency to add far more sour cream than I should to the mince versions, just to lift it a bit but this was completely unneccessary with the shredded beef. The smallest hint of sour cream was all it needed, just to give it a little finish.

The whole meal was a definate winner.

Beef Machaca
adapted from Sue L's recipe as posted on Recipezaar
and from Dry Adobe Seasoning Recipe posted by cookiedog

600g chuck steak
1 onion, sliced thinly
3/4 cup water
2 tbs sriracha chilli sauce
2 beef stock cubes
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
10 peppercorns
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp of cumin
pinch of kosher salt
1 jar medium heat chunky salsa

Add all ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on high for approx 5 hours or until meat is cooked through and tender. Check halfway through the cooking time to ensure no part of the meat is starting to dry out, turn meat if necessary. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Once meat has cooked, shred the beef and stir through the salsa. Add some of the cooking liquid if the mix looks too dry.

Pico de Gallo
from SBS's Food Safari

3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 cup coriander, chopped
2 tbs lime juice
1 tsp salt

Combine the first three ingredients and add salt and lime juice to taste.

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