Cuban Beef Stew (Carne Guisado)

Fall leaves are starting to cover the ground, and temperatures have cooled. Well, night time temperatures have cooled into the 30’s, but today the high will be 73. It’s hard to believe Christmas is 48 days away, but I know that’s true because yesterday Dean started hanging the outdoor Christmas lights and garland.

Soups and stews are a staple in our home during fall and winter. Not only do I stick with the dishes that are loved, but I also like to experiment with new recipes. For the first stew of the season I’m going to stick with the Dean’s favorite, Carne Guisado.

My husband, Dean, is half Cuban; his mother, Blanca, is from Morón, a city in the Ciego de Ávila Province. She has been in the United States for many decades, but the family’s roots and cuisine are a big part of their culture.

When we first married it was seriously upsetting trying to make dishes from Dean’s childhood. Blanca would write out the recipes and mail them to me, but they never turned out right. Years later, when recipes became available online, and I started reading cookbooks, I understood why I could never make Cuban food. It wasn’t that I couldn’t cook, it was that she changed the recipes. Yes, my mother-in-law would leave something out of the recipe, or give incorrect ingredients and amounts. I like to think this wasn’t done to hurt me, but rather she wanted to be the one woman in Dean’s life who could cook his favorite foods.

Needless to say I haven’t taken cooking tips from her in a very long time. Through online, cookbooks, and just experimenting on my own I have taught myself how to make delicious Cuban dishes.

Here’s the Recipe!

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
1 large white onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
7 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds sirloin tip, cut into cubes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup pinot noir
1 can tomato sauce, 15 ounces
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/3 cup pimento stuffed Spanish green olives
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks (can use potatoes if you want)
Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large saute’ pan. Add onions, peppers, salt, pepper and cook until transparent. Do not let them brown. Add the minced garlic and saute’ for two more minutes.

While the vegetables cook spread the meat cubes out into a single layer and lightly salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Shake off any excess flour. Remove the vegetables from the pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil into the pan. Place some of the seasoned meat cubes into the hot saute’ pan and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and repeat this step until all the meat is browned. Tip: it is important to do the meat in batches or it will not brown and an entire layer of flavor will be lost.

Put the vegetables and meat back into the pan, add oregano, cumin and cook for two minutes. Add tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, olives, raisins and bay leaves. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the meat, add just enough water or beef broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down to low. Allow to simmer for 1 hour. After an hour stir the stew, put the cover back on and simmer 30 minutes. Check the stew and stir again. Make sure it isn’t getting too thick, if it is add a touch of water or beef broth. Cook another 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and parsnips, cover the pan, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Notes: If carrots and parsnips aren’t your thing then use peeled potatoes cut into large chunks. I use a variety of vegetables in this stew, but the one I did today is our favorite. We eat it with white rice, and leftovers are super yummy.

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