It’s been a while since I posted. Graduate school has this tendency to take over your life. Luckily, though, you still have to feed yourself (gotta keep those brain cells fueled!) so cooking great food is an entirely legitimate use of precious time.
Graduate school also lends itself to attempts to save money so that you don’t find yourself broke come summertime. As such, I invested in a cheap crockpot. Crockpots are the holy grail of kitchen devices for extremely busy budget minded people. Throw some cheap stuff in, let it cook on low overnight or while you’re at work, reap the benefits. I was pretty stoked to start using mine and feeling adventurous, so I headed to the local market.
There’s one key piece of demographic information about my neighborhood that shapes the availability of just about everything– it’s mostly populated by Latino families. This results in an abundance of cheap meat and delicious popsicles, among other things. Grabbing myself a paleta, a pound of mixto de res (beef stew meat), and various spices, I headed back home with the intent to cook some molé inspired stewed beef.
As far as I know, molé typically involves chicken. For some reason I was craving some spicy rich beef, so I decided to riff on the classic in my own crazy gringa way.
The ingredients were, I think, as follows:
- 1 lb beef stew chunks
- salt & pepper
- 1 onion
- a few cloves of garlic
- chili powder
- unsweetened chocolate
- sesame seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- dried chipotle peppers
- vegetable oil
- palm sugar
- 1 carrot
- water (should’ve used beef stock, but I didn’t have any)
First I mixed the beef chunks with the flour, salt, and pepper and let that sit.
(The next step should’ve been to brown the beef quickly on all sides in some oil in a hot pan, but I didn’t. It still came out good, but this would’ve made it even better.)
Then I sauteed the onions and garlic with all the spices and chipotle peppers, and after they were nice and caramelized I turned off the heat and mixed in the cocoa powder. The crock pot had already been heating up for a bit while I was sauteeing the onions. I put some oil in there and let that warm up.
Once the crock pot was heated up on high, I added the beef, then the onion mixture, and finally some carrots for some added nutritional value and color.
Added some water and threw in the palm sugar and topped it off with some pumpkin seeds for good measure. I let that come to a simmer on high, then turned it down to low and let it cook all night while I was sleeping.
Let me tell you, though…cooking in a crockpot in a studio is a sure fire way to make everything in your entire abode smell like whatever you’re cooking. I woke up and was socked in the face by molé. After a bit of a “wtf?” moment, I realized that the reason my nostrils were burning was because I’d put too many chipotle peppers in there. Hoo boy. That’s one way to wake up. It smelled good, but there was no denying that it was spicy. Probably too spicy to eat alone.
So after letting that sit in the fridge for about a day while pondering how exactly I’d eat my face-searing beef, I decided going taco-style might help mellow out some of the spiciness. It was perfect. The beef was so tender that I was able to shred it, topped with some fresh cilantro and some perfectly ripe tomatoes and a squeeze of lime, it was a perfect meal. The beef was also quite good in a big ol’ burrito. Confusingly inauthentic and potentially baffling to native eaters, but deliciously so.
So in the end, I’d say beef molé is actually pretty tasty as a concept, but to improve upon my recipe I’d sear the beef, use less chipotles, and then use beef broth instead of water. It should be pretty satisfying.