Puerto Rican Beef Stew


This weather is tailor made for Carne Guisada, or beef stew Puerto Rican style. Carne guisada is prominent in what we call criollo cooking. That is, traditional Puerto Rican cooking derived from native Caribbean influences. As such, we Nuyoricans (New York Puerto Ricans, whether born or raised in New York City) love the dish; although it has countless variants. I've seen recipes where raisins and sweet peas, carrots and even squash are added. My cousin Yvonne used to boil the meat first then add the remaining ingredients. Some cooks add beef bones to the stew. Others cook the potatoes separately. Whatever method is used, the results are uniformly good.

This dish is not the standard beef stew found in the U.S. mainland and other parts of the world. It has more seasoning than the usual salt and pepper. It also includes achiote, that is, annatto seeds cooked in a little olive oil. The oil then acquires a deep red color that is added to the dish. If you don't have the patience to prepare achiote, you get get a store bought variety in any Asian or Caribbean market (or, for that matter, most supermarkets these days). Or you can substitute sazón accent (Goya products makes a good version). Carne guisada is usually served with rice and tostones (deep fried plantains). Recipes for tostones and achiote can be found in my first cookbook,Puertio Rican Cuisine in America Perseus Books - Running Press).

CARNE GUISADA
     (Beef Stew)

2 pounds beef round steak, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tomato sauce
1 tablespoon achiote
10-12 pimento stuffed olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 bay lead
1/2 cup water
1 pound Maine or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed 

1. Wash meat and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a Dutch oven or heavy kettle, heat the oil, add beef chunks, onion, bell pepper, oregano, garlic and stir-fry over moderate heat until meat is brown.
3. Add salt, tomato sauce, achiote, olives, capers and bay leaf. Mix and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add water, bring to a rapid boil, cover and simmer over low hear for 30 minutes.
5. Add potatoes, stir to combine, and bring to a rapid boil. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes.
6. Serve over steamed white or yellow rice.
    Yield: 5 servings.

Photo: courtesy of YELP - José Enrique: Photos