Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stuffing Meat a la Catcher in the Rye

Last night I planned to treat my husband to a Puerto Rican favorite dish - Carne Mechada "stuffed meat".  Fortunately I had today off from work and the only obligation for the day was to take the big white dog for her afternoon walk.  I knew that the dish required at least 5 hours of prep and cooking time.  I drew up my shopping list and reserved the car for a morning shopping spree before my beloved took the van off for the day.

As always, improvisation was necessary not only with the cut of meat but also with the process.  The recipe called for a 4 lb. beef eye round (which I imagine is kind of like a tenderloin - long and fairly narrow.)  And the recipe said that the beef loin should be in one piece and before cooking I should tie it to make sure it stayed together.  I couldn't find beef loin but I did find a 4 lb. beef bottom round that was already tied.  It was that or another chunk of beef that had all sorts of fat and was not tied.  Beef  round it was even though it was more rectangular than cylinder in shape.  Little did I know that my choice would haunt me.
The first step was to create a hole down the middle of the beef and stuff it with Spanish chorizo meat.  The Librarian gagged - this was way too close to certain meat passages of  "Catcher in the Rye".  I was supposed to crumble the chorizo and stuff it into the meat hole.  Instead I created a hole in the meat and stuffed the whole chorizo thru.  It was a bit longer than the meat so I cut off the ends.  This created painful images!

Back to cooking, I browned the roast, sauteed the onion, garlic, sofrito (a mixture of onion, garlic, 2 kinds of peppers (not hot), cilantro and oregano), added the sherry, the tomato sauce, and began adding the 5 quarts of beef stock.  The recipe said that the liquid should at least come up to 3/4 the beef to ensure proper braising.  I was using a big pot and even if I stood the roast on end I would not have needed 5 quarts of beef stock.  I think that the recipe really meant 5 cups of stock.  But I realized the error after adding 2 of the 5 boxes of beef broth that I had purchased.  No problem.  Fortunately I had chosen the quart boxes with 50% less salt and I knew I had plenty of time to boil away excess liquid.

Smells from the boiling beef sent the big white dog crazy.  She wanted to be downstairs, then upstairs, then outside.  Finally when I put everything on the stove to simmer (uncovered) for 2.5 hours I took the dog for an hour walk - all the time worrying about having the pot cooking over a gas flame.  Yes it was set at the lowest setting.  But what if...  And the recipe said to add water if the liquid got too low.  We had a leisurely walk in the woods and returned to savory smells and a nicely boiling pot.  But I do not recommend leaving a boiling pot alone.  Upon returning from our walk, I turned the meat on advice from the recipe to turn the meat occasionally.  The beef had shrunk in size but the chorizo had not.  So the beef had about 1/2 inch of chorizo sticking out at both ends.  Analogies?  You do not want to know where my mind went!

For once, I timed a long cooking dish perfectly.  It was ready by the time my beloved likes to eat dinner.  Was he ready?  No - he who likes to eat while watching the world news report had to shower, wash the windows and clean his favorite paint brush first (dinner in front of the TV is new since our children left home - it is an adults only lifestyle!).  Thank goodness I wasn't serving souffle!  But beloved husband enjoyed the dinner so much that I think I may have to fight him for leftovers!

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