My Mom walked over to visit today. She stays with my sister who lives about a block away from Casa Catastrophe so we see each other all the time. After lunch, we were sitting watching TV when Mom says, “I feel like eating ice cream. Wouldn’t you like some ice cream?” Well, as it was hot and sunny outside, it actually was a good day for ice cream…. but we didn’t have any.
ME: “Old Goat, could you drive down to the grocery store and pick us up some ice cream?”
OLD GOAT: “Make Number 1 do it.”
NUMBER 1: “Sure, I’ll go.”
ME: “Aw….. thanks, honey. What would you like for dinner? I’ll fix whatever you want.”
NUMBER 1 (immediately and without any hesitation): “Mechado!”
Mechado is Number 1’s all-time favorite dish. It’s one of those Filipino dishes whose origins stem from Spain. “Mecha” is the Spanish word for “wick.” Traditionally, cooks would take a log of beef, stab through the center of it with a thin knife and insert a long, about 3/4-inch diameter strip of fat through the hole and down the center of the meat like a wick. In the Philippines, you can actually buy mechado beef already larded with a strip of fat down the center. The meat is stewed whole and then sliced after cooking displaying a little round button of fat right in the center of each slice. Since you can’t buy mechado beef in our part of Northern California, you have to lard the beef yourself. Or you could save yourself all that work and just do it the lazy cook’s way, like I do — buy a well-marbled cut of beef and cut it into chunks for the stew without trimming any of the fat off.
MECHADO (FILIPINO BEEF STEW)
- 3½-4 lbs. stewing beef (I like boneless chuck roast)
- 4 tbsp. cooking oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 large can tomato sauce (if it doesn’t seem enough, add a small can of tomato sauce)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 bay leaf (use 2 if the bay leaves are small)
- 1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
- 5 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 6 potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 large green or red bell pepper, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small bag frozen peas
- In a large pot, heat the oil and fry the beef whole on all sides until browned.
- When brown, remove the beef from the pot and set aside.
- In the same pot, fry the onions and garlic until tender.
- Add the tomato sauce, soy sauce, bay leaf and onion soup mix to the pot and stir together well.
- Put the browned beef back into the tomato sauce mixture and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer for 1½ hours or until beef is tender.
- Add the carrots and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and bell pepper and cook until the potatoes are tender.
- Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
- Add the peas and continue cooking just until the peas are heated through.
NOTE: Don’t forget to pick out and discard the bay leaf before serving.