During a very pleasant visit to Meling Ranch, located in Baja California, Mexico, in September, 2008, I had the pleasure to enjoy a delicious dinner, which the main course was Carne Bistec. I badgered the staff for the recipe, asked many questions, took lots of notes and photos, and this recipe is the result. Thanks to Jicelia, at Rancho Meling for this recipe, and thanks to her for answering all of my many questions, and allowing me to take photos.
tools: Wood burning stove (laugh!) cast iron frying pan, pots, sharp knife, cutting board
pounds steak, any grade; Meling Ranch prefers sirloin steak
Before my September, 2008 visit to Meling Ranch, I'd never had the opportunity to enjoy Carne Bistec, despite my over 50 years of enjoying Mexican cuisine. Meling Ranch cooks everything on a wood-fired range, but if you don't happen to have a wood stove in your kitchen, I'm sure you can adapt this recipe to your range, or for that matter, your outdoor grill.
Start by slicing sirloin steak into very thin slices, about 1/4" thick, then slice each piece to a length of about an inch. Size is not critical. Sprinkle seasoned salt on sliced steak to taste, rub salt into meat, and set seasoned meat aside. Meling Ranch only allows meat to marinate about 15 minutes, as they prepare and cook the vegetables, so the maintain time is your choice. Personally, I prefer four hours or more...
The staff at Meling Ranch prefers not to remove the seeds and stems from the chili peppers before cooking them, but like most Americans, I prefer to remove the seeds and stems from the peppers before placing them in the frying pan. The choice is yours... Place large cast iron frying pan over high heat, and add tomatoes and chili peppers. You don't use any oil, as the idea is to fry the veggies until the outer skins are charred, practically burnt. As the peppers and tomatoes are cooking, dice onion and garlic cloves. Reserve diced onion and garlic.
Meanwhile, place diced steak in a four-quart pot, preferably cast iron, and add about 1/2 cup salad oil to the meat. Add reserved diced onions and garlic. Cook diced steak over medium high heat until it is slightly browned; about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, so cooking oil is distributed evenly and meat doesn't burn. Add additional oil if necessary. When meat is slightly browned, remove pan from heat; reserve.
When skins of vegetables are blackened, remove frying pan from heat and set aside. If you didn't remove the seeds and stems from the chili peppers before you placed them into the frying pan, now is the time to remove them, when they're cool enough to handle safely. Now it's time to remove the skins from the tomatoes and peppers. The staff at Meling Ranch simply place the vegetables, a few at a time, in a colander and run hot water over the vegetables to loosen the skins, and then the skins peel away easily. An alternative method is to place the vegetables in a freezer bag, seal it, and allow them to "sweat" for about 10 minutes. The skins will peel away easily by hand.
Place vegetables in a bowl. Using a potato masher, mash the vegetables into a chunky salsa. Depending upon the consistency of the chili peppers, they may need to be diced with a sharp knife before being mashed.
Add about one half of the salsa to the diced steak; reserve the remainder of the salsa for another use - Meling Ranch uses the extra vegetables as a base for salsa to be used at breakfast the following morning - or add more of the salsa mixture to the pot if desired. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of hot water to steak/salsa mix. Consistency should be like soup; add additional hot water as needed.
Place the pan of the bistec/salsa on high heat and bring mixture to a boil. After allowing mixture to boil for about 1 minute, cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring as needed. The Carne Bistec is finished when the consistency is that of a hearty beef stew. Remove from pot and serve immediately.
OK, if you dare, here's the photo section, with photos that I took of Jicelia preparing one of the most delicious meals that I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy...
Photo: Jicelia stirs the large frying pan of cooking chili peppers and tomatoes over high heat on the wood-fired kitchen range at Meling Ranch. The pot of sirloin steak is cooking over medium heat in the front, center of the photo.
Photo: After the salsa has been added to the diced steak, this is how it should look. It's almost like a veggie/meat stew. Gee, you can't even see the meat, as the vegetables rise to the top.
Photo: Jicelia stirs the pot of Carne Bistec that's cooking on the wood-fired kitchen stove.
Photo: Wow! What a meal! Flanked by other favorites the Carne Bistec is in the 2 O’clock position, and it's the main course of the meal, and absolutely delicious!
I'd like to like to thank the staff at Meling Ranch, particularly very patient Jicelia, for allowing me to intrude into their kitchen, to ask a lot of stupid questions, write a lot of field notes and to take a lot of digital photos. I actually enjoyed Carne Bistec as the main course of an unforgettable dinner on Tuesday, September 23, 2008, during a wonderful visit to Meling Ranch. Carne Bistec is good, very good... so good that it almost should be outlawed. All kidding aside, this seldom-available dish north of the border makes an outstanding main dish to any meal.
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