David Berkowitz is one of the best home cooks I know. He’s inquisitive, inventive, and fearless in the kitchen. When he asks for recipes or advice, I give it, and when he’s offering, I listen carefully. When he put out the call to Texas friends for a Carne Guisada recipe, I knew I had to throw mine into the mix.
My answer was as follows – ‘Waaalllll, ah’ll tell yoo whut. I lived and cooked in Cowtown for 12 years, so I consider myself a Texas Friend – Besides, I got a bitchin’ recipe.’
I’m no longer a Texan by location, but I certainly still am by way of a deep love for the people, the food, and the amazing land. Spend any significant time in Texas and it gets into your blood and does not let go. M and I both know that returning there to some degree is absolutely in our future.
Carne guisada, literally translates as stewed beef – It’s the Mexican or Tex-Mex take on this worldwide favorite comfort food. It is widely claimed as a Tex Mex dish, and it is – by assimilation, but not by origin – that definitely comes from farther south. Carne guisada is a low and slow stove top or oven cooked beef stew, some version of which has been made since fire and hunting crossed paths.
Frankly, the Euro version of beef stew, with root vegetables and little to no kick onboard seems pretty pedestrian along side guisada. Powered by chiles and warm herbs and spices, guisada seriously hits the spot on a nasty winter night.
The wheelhouse of this stew is traditional – cubes of meat, dusted with flour, cooked until a nice char develops – that yields the right flavor and a seriously rich body. The flour dusting, combined with tomatillos, makes for a delicious, thick gravy.
The essence of carne guisada is the chiles and spices, but it is a dish that is fundamentally meant to use what you have on hand don’t get too caught up in the ‘right’ combinations – there is no wrong. For peppers, anything from bell to nuclear is fine, if that’s what you like – that said, it’s proper to have a couple different chiles in the mix for depth of flavor. Of course the liquid content should be Texas tinged, which is why I make mine with Shiner Bock.
Carne guisada is beef, but this dish can be made with poultry, or pork, or extra firm tofu, and it will be equally fabulous – it’s a marvelous springboard for invention and exploration. Fact is, everybody’s Mamma or Abuela makes their own version, and you will too.
Fresh is best for the veggies, but if it’s mid-winter, and canned or frozen is what you’ve got, that’s what you’ll use. The cumin really should be from seeds you grind, but if pre-ground is what you’ve got, use that too. Mexican, not Turkish, oregano is a must – nothing else has the right flavor.
I call for ground New Mexican red chile, but any that you like will do – That’s where you can introduce a little heat if you use mild chiles, as well as another layer of chile complexity – a must for this dish.
Urban’s Cowtown Carne Guisada
2 Pounds Stew Beef, (chuck or shoulder roast)
1 large Yellow onion2 fresh Hatch Chiles (Anaheims are fine)
2 fresh Pasilla Chiles (or Poblano)
3-4 fat cloves Garlic
3-4 Roma Tomatoes
1 Bottle Shiner Bock Beer
2 Tablespoons Lard (Avocado oil is fine)
4 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Mexican Oregano
1 Tablespoon ground New Mexican Red Chile
2 teaspoons ground Cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
Pop the top on the Shiner and let it breath while you prep.
Cut beef into roughly 3/4” cubes.
In a bag or bowl, combine beef, flour, a teaspoon of salt, and 5 or 6 grinds of pepper – Toss to thoroughly coat the beef.
Trim and dice onion, chiles, tomatoes, and tomatillos.
Smash, peel, trim and mince garlic.
In a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat, add the cubed beef.
Cook beef on one side, undisturbed, until a deep brown crust is formed, about 3-4 minutes
Turn the beef and repeat the browning step until they’re all got a nice deep brown char layer.
Transfer beef to a mixing bowl.
Deglaze the pan with the Shiner Bock – Scrape all the naughty bits from the bottom of the pan into suspension.
When that’s done, pour the results into the bowl with the beef.
Add lard to the Dutch oven and heat until shimmering.
Add onion and chiles, and season lightly with salt and pepper – sauté until onion starts to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté, blending in with other veggies, until the raw garlic smell dissipates, about 2 minutes.
Add tomato and tomatillo and blend in, and cook for about 3-4 minutes until everything is simmering.
Return the beef and beer and scrapings to the pan and stir to thoroughly incorporate.
Once you get to a brisk simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
If things get too thick, add a little stock and whisk in to incorporate, but note that carne guisada should be notably thicker than beef stew – you want a dish you can scoop into flour tortillas without a bunch of it running off the sides.
Add oregano, cumin, and chile powder, whisk to incorporate.
Taste and adjust salt balance as needed.
Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with fresh flour tortillas, crumbled queso fresco or Monterey Jack, lime wedges, fresh pico de gallo, chopped cilantro, and mas Shiner.