Wednesday, February 15, 2012
But it often seems that although Brazilians like to grind beef before eating it, they really prefer not to grind it raw, but to shred it once it's cooked and then use it as an ingredient in a casserole or a filling for a sandwich - anything that one might use ground beef for. Shredded meat shares with ground meat the virtue of being completely eatable - no need to cut around the bone or remove the fat. But because it's cooked first, before it's pulled apart, it can stand up to long cooking in sauces without becoming lost in the mix. Shredded beef retains the fibrous structure of the cut from which it comes - it's closer to natural meat than ground beef it - and Brazilians like it that way.
It's not just in Brazilian culture where shredded meat is valued. American pulled pork is an example of the same technique. But Brazilians make use of the technique with a number of meats to create a large repertoire of dishes. Shredded chicken is used in sandwiches, shredded salt-dried beef (carne de sol) is cooked in the oven under a layer of mashed manioc to create something very similar to a shepherd's pie, and large cuts of beef are shredded, seasoned and recooked to create casserole dishes that are perfect for feeding a crowd.
This recipe, called simply carne desfiada (shredded beef) in Portuguese, is an example of this last type of dish. It can be made in larger or smaller quantities depending on the number of people that need to be fed, it can be made more fancy or simpler depending on the mood and the budget and it is perfectly suited to being part of a buffet table - because it can be successfully served from a casserole dish using only a large spoon, and because it can be eaten without needing to use a knife.
The cut of beef called for in the recipe is top round/topside (called coxão mole in Portuguese), but other large cuts of beef can very successfully be substituted. The recipe is in two stages which need not be done one right after the other. You can do stage one, the precooking and shredding, one day and continue the next to finish the dish. This dish can serve up to 10-12 persons as part of a full meal or buffet table, and can be modified for larger or smaller crowds. It can also be served hot or cold as a sandwich filling or can also be used as a sauce for pasta.
RECIPE - Shredded Beef (Carne Desfiada)
7 lbs (3 kgs) top round of beef, or other large cut
1 cup neutral vegetable oil
1 head garlic, finely chopped
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
3 Tbsp dried oregano
2cups white wine or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
6 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup water
2 cups red wine vinegar
First stage: The day before cooking, in a large bowl or large Ziploc bag combine the meat with the garlic, onion, bacon, salt and pepper, oregano and vinegar, mix well to ensure the meat is covered with marinade and let stand for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. The next day remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade, drain it well, then dry it with paper towels.Iin a large Dutch oven heat the oil over medium-high heat, the add the meat and brown it thoroughly on all sides. When it's brown, add the reserved marinade and sufficient water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce heat until the liquid is simmering only. Cook over low heat for 3-4 hours, adding water if needed to keep the meat covered, until the meat is very tender and beginning to fall apart on its own. Remove the pan from the heat, take the meat out of the liquid, reserving the liquid, and let the meat cool completely. When the meat is cool, cut it into large chunks, about 1 1/2 inches on a side, then using your hands shred the meat completely. The shredded meat may be reserved up to 24 hours.
Second stage: In a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven heat the oil until hot but not smoking, add the red and green peppers and the onions and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Add the water and vinegar, increase heat and boil rapidly until the liquid is reduced by about a third. Add the reserved shredded meat and heat it, stirring frequently until the meat is very hot and the liquid has reduced to about half its original volume.