Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Peruvian Cilantro Beef Stew (Seco de Carne)

Hey cilantro lovers - this dish is for you! Seco de Carne is a popular Peruvian dish that hails from the northern part of that country. The ingredients are incredibly simple: beef chuck, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, ground cumin, potatoes, green peas, a whole bunch of fresh cilantro and, a quintessential and unique flavor component of Peruvian cuisine - Aji amarillo paste. Aji amarillo is an orange-yellow, medium-hot South American chile that has a distinctive sweet-smoky-spicy taste (kinda like a mellower habanero pepper). If you're lucky enough to have a specialty market that carries Aji Amarillo paste, well then, great! Otherwise, you can buy this on Amazon: 


1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 lbs. beef chuck, cut into 2" x 2" pieces
1 cup chopped red or yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bunch cilantro (leaves only), roughly chopped
1 cup water

2 tbsp. Aji Amarillo paste
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6 cups water

4-6 medium potatoes (I like Yukon Golds), peeled and each cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup green peas

1. Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a large pan (an enameled 8-quart cast iron pot works great) over high heat. Saute the beef in batches until browned on all sides - do not overcrowd the pan by adding all of the beef at once or else they will steam rather than brown. Set each batch of browned beef aside on a plate.

2. In the same pan, add another 1/4 cup of oil and saute the chopped onion and minced garlic over medium heat until they are soft and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.

4. In the meantime, place the cilantro leaves and 1 cup of water in a blender or small food processor. Blend/pulse for 5-10 seconds until a smooth mixture has formed.

5. Add the Aji Amarillo paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and reserved beef (including any of their juices).  Stir in the cilantro-water mixture. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 2 hours or until the beef is very tender.

6. Add the potatoes and green peas and simmer another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Skim off as much excess oil as possible from the top of the stew. 

7. Great served as is or with white rice. This is one of those stews that tastes even better the next day.

 Beef chuck.

 Cilantro and water, blended to a smooth mixture.

 Minced garlic, chopped red onion, and Aji Amarillo paste. The flavor of Aji Amarillo is distinctive and quintessential to this dish but, if you must substitute, try a blend of a small habanero and one yellow or red bell pepper. 

 Brown the beef in batches.

 Saute the chopped red onion and garlic until lightly caramelized.

 Add the reserved beef and its juices, Aji Amarillo paste, ground cumin, salt and pepper.

 Stir in the cilantro-water mixture and 6 cups water. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 2 hours or until the beef is very tender.

Add the potatoes and green peas and cook another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are just cooked through. Skim off as much fat as you can from the top.

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