Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Venezuela: Pabellon Criollo

La Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela, or Venezuela as we know it, is a very bio diverse and historically culturally diverse country located in South America. The people of Venezuela are a mixture of Native American, Spaniard, and African. Although most of the country is monolingual and speak only Spanish, you can find hints of the ancestry of the Venezuelan people in their cooking.

 The national dish is called pabellon criollo, or Creole pavilion. Made up of three components with various accompaniments, this dish is said to represent the mixture of races that make up Venezuela. The brown carne mechada represents the indigenous people, the white arroz blanco is the Europeans, and the black caraotas negras are the African peoples. I hope you enjoy this Venezuelan melting pot!
The meat for the carne mechada turned out perfectly. It was tender because of the long simmering time, and the sofrito of peppers and onions gave it some color and flavor. Yummy!
Carne Mechada
2 pounds flank steak
4 tbsp oil
2 onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup reserved broth
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add in one of the chopped onions and cook until it’s translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Place the steak in the pan. Brown each side for about 5 minutes. Remove the steak and onions to a pot, cover with water, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2-4 hours.
Remove the steak from the broth and let it cool. Reserve a cup of the broth for later. (Reserve more if you want some for the beans.) Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, shred it up with your fingers. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in the large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. Cook for 8 minutes until the onion and pepper are tender. Mix in the steak, tomatoes, and broth. Bring it to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer another 5 minutes. Season to taste and serve in between caraotas negras and arroz blanco, and top with fried plantains and a fried egg.

Caraotas is the word for beans in Venezuela. I thought this was cool as I say frijoles. Either way you say it, these beans are good.

Caraotas Negras
1- 15 ounce can black beans
½ cup beef broth (or reserved broth from the mechada meat)
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
½ tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is tender, about 7 minutes. Add in the beef broth, beans, and bean liquid. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 7-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. (Cook for less time if you want your beans soupier. Be sure not to overcook, though, because there needs to be some liquid left.)



Arroz blanco is simple white rice. It goes great with the meat and beans as a nice base.

Arroz Blanco
1 cup white rice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a small pot. Once the oil is shiny, add in the garlic. Cook for about a minute, or until golden brown. Add the water, salt, and pepper into the pot. Bring to a boil, pour in the rice, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Let the rice sit covered for 5 minutes after it has cooked. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Adding a fried egg to the top turns the dish into pabellon a caballo. Caballo means horse in Spanish. The egg is riding the meal.

Fried Egg “A Caballo”
1 tbsp oil
1 egg

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a skillet. Crack the egg into a bowl and lightly pour it into the pan, being careful not to break the yolk. Cook until the egg whites have set. Flip the egg over, breaking the yolk. Cook for another 45 seconds until the yolk has set. Serve immediately.

Often tajadas (fried plantains) are added alongside the meal as an accompaniment. This variation is called pabellon con baranda. This literally means handrail, representing how the plantain usually is sliced into long strips before frying. They are said to hold the rest of the dishes in like a hand rail.

Arepa is another good side to serve with your pabellon criollo. Venezuelans make their arepas very similarly to the Colombians, and they are their typical bread served with meals. You can stuff the arepas with the beef or beans to make a yummy sandwich.

My family LOVED Venezuela. I think my mom ate four plates of the beef, and my dad said it was his favorite so far. Carson enjoyed the rice, and both Harp and Carson loved the fried egg. Mixing all the components together is delicious. I was shocked that my mom ate the beans and even more shocked that my dad ate the rice even though it had garlic in it. I hope you enjoy Venezuela like we did!

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