Carne Guisada

(Guiso de Carne de Res, the easy way)

My love affair with Carne Guisada began in Dallas.  Oak Cliff, to be precise.  I was working with a small sheetrock repair crew, renovating a small house in Oak Cliff.  Growing up in a relatively comfortable suburb of Dallas made me apprehensive about the “big city life” in parts of Dallas and Oak Cliff was notoriously the most dangerous part of the big city. 

I worked at the site for a few days, replacing sheetrock walls, when one day, we decided to go out for lunch.  None of us were familiar with Oak Cliff, but we drove around until we stumbled upon a strip of storefronts on a busy street and saw what appeared to be a taquería, nestled in the midst.  

As it turned out, the place was more like a soup kitchen than a restaurant and there wasn’t any room for tables or chairs.  A long counter filled with chafing trays stretched from one end of the storefront to the other and three Hispanic men stood behind the counter, serving customers.  I stood in front of the counter and stared at trays of steaming soups and stews, none of which were labeled in any way.  It became clear that this wasn’t a place where I could order tacos or burritos and I felt lost as I gazed at the mysterious food in the trays.  I caught the eye of one of the servers and asked, in my broken, pitiful, Spanish, “What is that?”, pointing to a steaming brown stew.  The server gave me a quizzical look and replied, “Carne guisada.”  I had heard of carne guisada but I didn’t remember ever having it, so I nodded my head and he ladled some into a large styrofoam take out cup.  We paid for our lunches and headed back to the job site to eat.

The carne guisada was decadently rich and smooth.  The beef was full of flavor and soft.  Carne guisda remains one of my favorite comfort foods and this recipe makes use of left over roast beef, which cuts the cooking time down drastically.

About Oak Cliff…

Oak Cliff is a neighborhood of Dallas and is home to hundreds of thousands of people.   Oak Cliff has a long, storied history, including racial prejudice, forced desegregation of schools and poverty.  The neighborhood experienced “white-flight”, as white residents fled to neighboring suburbs during the Great Depression, and low income housing was introduced to the area, to provide housing for the many black residents who had lost their jobs.  During the latter half of 20th century, the area transitioned into a predominantly black neighborhood and has now become a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. 

Despite the economic challenges and cultural shifts, a sense of unity and pride can still be found within the community.  An odd symbiotic, yet strained relationship exists amongst residents and business owners that is unique to the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.

The spirit of a community lives in its food and its music.  The cuisine of Oak Cliff is a reflection of many different cultures.  You can find soul food, Tex-Mex and good ol’ American classics at every turn.  As for the music, I suggest listening to one of Oak Cliff’s greatest musical prodigies, Stevie Ray Vaughn.  Stevie Ray Vaughn’s music unleashes the very heart and soul of Texas.

Ingredients:

1 lb left over roast beef

1 Tbs rendered beef fat (reserved from the roast)

½ onion, diced

2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped

1 tomato, chopped (I used a frozen tomato, from this year’s garden)

2 Tbs flour

1 cup chicken (or beef) stock

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cumin powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup additional stock or water

Fried or mashed potatoes

Flour tortillas

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Cilantro leaves for garnish

Directions:

Assemble ingredients and prepare vegetables.  Rinse the frozen tomato under warm water for a few seconds.  Peel and discard the tomato skin.  Chop the tomato, onions and jalapeño and set aside.

In a large skillet, add the rendered beef fat.  Vegetable oil may be substituted.  Set heat to medium and add the onions and chiles. 

Stir occasionally, until the onions begin to brown and become soft. 

Add the chopped tomatoes.  Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. 

Make a slurry from the flour and about 3 tablespoons of the chicken or beef stock. 

Add the slurry to the skillet and whisk for a few minutes.

Add the remaining stock.  Add garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Stir and simmer for five minutes. 

Turn the heat up to medium high and simmer for another two minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Add chopped roast beef and mix. 

Add additional water or stock and simmer for ten minutes.

Serve with fried potatoes (or traditional mashed potatoes), flour tortillas, cheese and cilantro.

A Recipe for Disaster

I know this is a food blog, hence “recipe” in the title of this post, but I can’t shake off the bad feelings I have been having since the recent death of George Floyd.  Police brutality has become more common and black people are receiving most of it.  Sadly, George Floyd was the most recent victim.  We have witnessed so many similar atrocities over the last few years and there is a cloud of despair hanging over us. 

I am an American.  America has proudly boasted to be a country that accepts everyone.  Fear is the only thing that keeps us from living up to that dream.  People are often afraid of the unknown, afraid of things that are different and strange. 

I encourage everyone to embrace new things.  Embrace new cultures.  Learn how to understand each other and offer your service to anyone in need.  This is our country.  It is a country built by the hands of immigrants.  We are all foreigners…just ask the indigenous people of our land. 

When we work together, we bond.  When we bond, we unite.  United we stand, divided we fall.

I wish for peace.  I wish for love.  I wish for understanding.

And now, I will go back to my normal routine…expanding my cuisine, through exploring other cultures and embracing the new and the strange.