Arepas con Carne Mechada

September 15- October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month

A few years ago, we sponsored the marriage of Danielito and Elaine L. at a neighboring Catholic church in our area. The groom grew up in Venezuela and wanted to bring something special to share as an appreciative gesture at one of our marriage preparation dinner sessions. What a nice break for us from cooking and what a treat to try a new cultural food. He cooked a typical Venezuelan dish called arepas (corn cakes) filled with carne mechada (pulled beef), which is their version of a hearty sandwich. Before bringing the final food to us, he and his fiancé/now wife had practiced preparing it in his apartment several times until Danielito felt it was just right enough to share his recipe. It is also nice to know that this couple worked as a team to cook together, which bodes well in their married life.

Muchas gracias to Danielito for sharing his recipe with us! Venezuelan-style arepas con carne mechada make a good meal, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Recipe

From Danielito L.

For the carne mechada (pulled beef)

  • 2 ½ – 3 pounds flank or skirt steak
  • 1 white onion, diced + 3 tomatoes, seeded + 1 bulb of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of onion/tomato/garlic mix
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon adobo power
  • 1 tablespoon annatto powder

Directions

Prepare the beef by boiling the steak in water for about an hour or until it is soft enough to be pulled by hand. Use just enough water to cover the steak. Take the beef out, drain and let cool, reserving the beef froth for later. Shred the beef by pulling each individual strand.

In a blender, puree the diced white onions, seeded tomatoes and bulbs of garlic until it is a paste-like consistency. Save this combination when making the beef filling.

In a large pan, stir-fry the second diced onion with minced garlic until lightly brown. Lower the heat and add the shredded beef in the pan. Add the “onion/tomato/garlic” mixture. Stir in the tomato paste.

Sprinkle the meat with cumin, adobo and annatto powders. Mix everything together thoroughly. Add enough beef broth to cover the bottom of the pan. Stir and simmer in low heat, checking periodically to make sure the beef is not dry. Adjust spices to taste. Keep warm while making the arepas.

For the arepas

  • 1 cup arepa flour (precooked corn meal) [see Notes]
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • oil for cooking the arepas
  • shredded cheese (optional garnish)
  • chopped cilantro (optional garnish)

Directions

In a mixing bowl, place the arepa flour and salt (if using). Slowly mix in the water and stir well, making sure everything is absorbed. Let stand for five minutes. Divide into 6-8 pieces and roll into balls. Flatten to no more than ½ inch thick.

Under medium high heat, coat the bottom of a skillet with oil. To avoid splattering, carefully slip in a few pieces of the flattened dough and brown each side (takes at least five minutes). Flip over and continue to brown the arepas. Drain on paper towels.

When ready to serve, slice in the middle but do not cut all the way to the other end. Open and fill with carne mechada. Serve with shredded cheese and chopped cilantro (optional garnish).

Notes

  • Arepa flour (also known as masarepa or harina precocida) is precooked corn meal and should not be confused with masa harina. Find this in the Latin aisle of the grocery store or in Latin markets.
  • Search our blog for other Latin-inspired recipes for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Choco-flan

Chocoflan

September 15-October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month

At a cake club meeting that Islander had attended, one of the members brought in a curious cake called choco-flan. It was a doubly delicious dessert of chocolate and custard. It is also popular among her Mexican friends whose country is known for xocolatl y flan. Islander added Texas’ state nut, pecans, to decorate the top of the cake for a Tex-Mex taste. Thanks to her Mexican friends for introducing this recipe to us. In their honor, and as an homage to all our Hispanic friends, we made this cake in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Muchas gracias, amigas.

Recipe

Inspired by nuestras amigas en San Antonio, Tejas

For the cake

  • 1 bottle or can of dulce de leche or cajeta (caramel), divided use
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix (may use devil’s food, triple chocolate fudge or other favorite chocolate cake mix)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup oil
  • 3 eggs

For the flan

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vainilla (vanilla)

Directions

Grease a 12-cup bundt pan. Then pour about a cup of caramel to coat the sides and bottom. Set aside. Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box by combining the cake mix with water, oil and eggs and blending into a smooth batter. Pour the cake batter over the caramel. Set aside.

Choco-flan

Make the flan by mixing the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs and vanilla.

Choco-flan

Pour the flan mix over the cake. It will sink to the bottom. Place the bundt pan in a larger pan. Pour boiling hot water in the larger pan up to the middle of the sides of the bundt pan to make a “water bath”. Mist a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover the bundt pan with the sprayed side down (this will prevent the risen cake from sticking to the top of the foil). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator to allow the flan to chill and solidify.

Choco-flan

Take out from the refrigerator and carefully invert on a plate. Drizzle more caramel on top of the choco-flan and let it drip down the middle hole and sides. Toast whole pieces of pecans by heating the nuts in a small skillet, being careful not to burn. Cool the nuts then place them decoratively on top of the choco-flan. Refrigerate. Slice and serve.

Choco-flan

Notes

Carlota de Limón

Carlota de limon

September 16: Mexican Independence Day

Although Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) is a popular holiday associated with Mexico, el Dieciséis de Septiembre (16th of September) is seen as more important. Whereas May 5 commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over Napoleon’s French troops/invaders in 1862, September 16 marks Mexico’s declaration of independence from Spain in 1810. Either date is cause for celebration, especially in South Texas where we have many Mexican friends and neighbors. From them we have learned a little bit about their Hispanic heritage as well as some of the foods they prepare for special events.

Carlota de limón (also called postre de limón) is one of the quick and easy recipes they have shared with us. It is like a trifle that consists of alternating layers of cookies and a creamy lime filling. This makes for a delicious dessert for Dieciséis de Septiembre and during other Mexican holidays.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup lime juice (from approximately 6-7 fresh squeezed limes)
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 rolls/packages of Maria Mexican cookies
  • sliced limes (optional garnish)

Directions

Juice the limes. Place the juice with the evaporated and condensed milks in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Carlota de limon

In a large glass casserole dish, layer the cookies. Pour 1/3 of the lime-milk mixture over the cookies and spread to cover them. Arrange more cookies on top. Pour another layer of the lime-milk mixture over it and spread to cover them. Arrange the last layer of cookies and finish spreading the lime-milk mixture over it.

Carlota de limon

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight to allow the cookies to soften, the lime-milk mixture to solidify and the flavors to develop. Before serving, garnish with limes (optional). Cut into 24 squares.

Carlota de limon

Notes

  • Some recipes add a cup of softened whipped cream cheese to make the filling fluffier and thicker.
  • Pipe a pretty border with whipped cream to decorate the edges (optional).
  • Happy Hispanic Heritage Month to all our friends from Latin America!

Fall Fiesta Macs

[Chocolate-Cinnamon Macarons

with Dulce de Leche

(Caramel) Filling]

Fall Fiesta Macarons

September 15-October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month

So long to summer and hello to Hispanic Heritage Month! We are celebrating the change of seasons with a fall fiesta and making macarons with Latino flair and flavors. Living so close to the “South of the Border,” we are trying to learn more about the cultures and cuisines of Central and South America before we move elsewhere again.

Our Mexican-inspired macaron shells are made with chocolate (from the Aztec Nahuatl word xocolātl) and cinnamon* and filled with delicious dulce de leche (literally it is translated in Spanish as “sweet of the milk” or “milk candy” and is popularly known as caramel). These cute cookies can be autumn alternatives (or additions) to cinnamon buns, candy apples, pumpkin pies, spiced ciders and gingerbreads on a harvest table. Make chocolate-cinnamon macarons with dulce de leche filling and have a fabulous fall fiesta during Hispanic Heritage Month!

Fall Fiesta Macarons

Recipe

(Adapted from Macaroons)

For the chocolate-cinnamon macaron shells (Italian meringue method)

  • 1 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (we used C&H brand)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (we used Nestle Toll House brand)
  • 3 egg whites (fresh, unpasteurized and aged overnight at room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white (we used C&H brand)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (we used Mexican vainilla)

Directions

Sift the almond flour/meal with the powdered sugar. Stir in the cocoa powder and cinnamon until well combined. Grind in a food processor in batches to remove any lumps (optional).

Fall Fiesta Macarons

Whip the egg whites until peaks form. Make a simple syrup to stabilize the egg whites by boiling the sugar and water together until it reaches a temperature of 245 degrees F on a candy thermometer (or until it reaches a soft ball stage). Pour into the egg whites and whip again until stiff and glossy.  Mix in the vanilla.

Fall Fiesta Macarons

Fold in the almond flour/meal-sugar-cocoa powder-cinnamon mixture and blend until the consistency “flows like magma.” Pipe one-inch discs on a parchment paper on top of an insulated baking sheet.

Fall Fiesta Macarons

Let the discs air dry to develop a thin skin for at least 30 minutes.Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes. Watch the “feet” develop, but be careful not to burn the macarons. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Peel off the macarons from the parchment paper. Sort by size and match pairs.

Fall Fiesta Macarons

Spread dulce de leche (we used Nestle La Lechera brand) as a filling. Refrigerate the macarons to set. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Fall Fiesta Macarons

Notes