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Meat and Potatoes - South American Style

Beef from South America, and Brazil in particular is very different from what we can generally find in our supermarkets. I do not buy a lot of meat. Indeed, I can't even remember when I last bought a steak. Chicken is a super rare find in my kitchen. Just search this blog to see how much of it you can find.  Perhaps it is because , having grown up in a very small town where Tuesdays was the day the butcher would slay a small cow, and Wednesday was the day you would walk up to his storefront and pick up a few pounds of very fresh Mediterranean veal. Perhaps, it is because of the taste and quality of Brazilian beef that  the fan club was used to,  something that here is not just

Today, however, its is meat that is for dinner:: "imported" Carne Seca from Brazil. Don't ask me how I got my hands on it. It must have washed up on my kitchen island.   Never heard of Carne Seca ? Well it is dried meat, often salted for preservation.  Drying meat is a great way to preserve it , especially in places where refrigeration is hard to come by.

To get an better idea, think of beef jerky . That is dried seasoned meat.. Also think of Italian  Bresaola, a dried , cured meet. You have seen it before as part of my antipasto spreads.  Drying and salting is common ., time tested technique, and can be used on any kind of flesh. For example, think of dried or its cousin smoked fish.

What the drying process does to the meat is that it ages the beef so that its flavor truly intensifies.  The meat develops a very a pleasant aroma, nothing like the scent - if we are brave enough to call it that - that raw meat emanates at your local butcher shop. This is something that calls out for a glass of aged Cabernet, and some crusty bread.

I split the few pounds of carne seca into two batches and used the first batch for today's creation .Meat and Potatoes. Correction Carne Seca  and Pappas Criollas.  

You can find Papas Criollas at your local Latin food specialty store. I went to La Placita. a small - yet fully stocked - Pan-Latin super market in Port Chester, NY. I always makes sure to stock a few bags frozen potatoes in my freezer.

Carne Seca Com Papas Criollas
Carne Seca and Papas Criollas

Carne Seca in its natural state. Note the color and the marbling of the cross section.

Carne Seca - Uncut Slab


Preparation Notes 

Phase 1
Soak the meat  to remove salt. Soak for 1-2 hours, change the water frequently
Carne Seca - Soaking
In parallel , cook the Papas Criollas in a pan with EVOO, two gloves of cracked garlic, a small red bell pepper, season with salt and herbs such as oregano and thyme.  Add about a pint of chicken stock or water to the pan. Cook  until the papas become creamy when cracked open.  Once the papas are in the pan, do not stir them around much. If you do, do so very gently so that they remain intact. Use a toothpick to determine if they are cooked through.

Papas Criollas Cooking 

Phase 2
After Soaking , boil (not shown) and then fry the Carne Seca. You got it right., boil the meat to soften it up until it is tender.  Usually this takes 40-60 minuter depending on how long soaking lasted. The objective is to reduce the salinity to the point where the meat can be eaten. Soaking and boiling , is a technique that accelerate the removal of salt faster than soaking alone. After boiling the meat., and sampling for tenderness., drain it and toss into a  toss into a pan.  Do reserve some of the water in which the beef was boiled. No oil  required in the pan.   A small amount of beef fat will naturally come out of the meat and keep . Toss in some of the reserved water to ensure that the beef does not crisp up , and eventually dry up.

Carne Seca  - Cooking Phase 2 
Phase 3
Combine Papas with portions of the fired carne seca

Plate. Bring out some napkins, a few toothpicks. Wash down with a cold beer. Close your eyes, and I will bet it will be easy to image being a Guacho in Southern Brazil or somewhere in the Argentinian Pampas.

Salud !

Links 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bresaola
http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carne_seca   (In Portuguese)

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