I was going to write about the Balls of Suriname today, but I was so pleased with last night’s dinner that I’m putting the balls off until tomorrow. I think that’s what’s called a teaser. I am a little uncomfortable with the juxtaposition of heat, spice, balls and teasing…it’s definitely time to move on to talking about meat.
Last night was supposed to have been the last meal this week from The Bad Cookbook. It was to have been a Cajun Potroast, for which I had purchased 2 smallish chuck roasts because I couldn’t find one that was 3-4 pounds as called for by the recipe. They looked a lot like thick steaks, and I knew they were tough, and would require low and slow cooking if they were to be edible. I also knew that none of us had received nearly enough counselling yet to eat another Bad recipe. I rummaged in the fridge and found a bag of fresh Serrano peppers, a bag of corn tortillas and some shredded cheese, and an idea formed in the vast empty landscape that is my mind. It was a veritable tumbling tumbleweed of a thought. It wasn’t really all that novel; I have slow-cooked and shredded many a beast. There was just something about the flavor of this particular version that was satisfying and wonderful.
I removed the two hunks o’ meat from their packages, and rubbed all four sides with Chipotle chile powder and brown sugar. There was not much measuring involved; I just sprinkled an attractive zig-zag pattern of chile powder, and then used a 1/4 cup measure to scoop out brown sugar and pour that over the chile powder. I massaged the seasonings into one side, flipped the Hunk and repeated the process on the other side. Using my beautiful, new 2-ton square cast iron pan (and no oil of any kind) I seared the meat on both sides until it was brown, and while it was searing I sliced two medium yellow onions and diced 3 of the Serrano chiles. Once the meat was nice and brown (and the house smelled like a cross between Heaven and Amarillo) I put it in the slow cooker, covered it with onions and peppers, turned it to “low,” and went about my business.
About 8 hours later, the meat was tender enough to shred with two forks; I did this, and then left it for another half an hour so that the shreds could absorb as much juice as possible. The onions and peppers had melted into the juice, and there were beautiful, dark, flavorful pieces of meat from the earlier searing. I heated oil for the tortillas, tasted the meat again and decided it could use a little more kick (although it was plenty kicky for many folks) and added about 3 tablespoons of Rooster Sauce. I fried the tortillas, and we spooned the meat onto them and topped them with cheese and (in Rob’s case) more diced Serranos. A little Queso Fresco or Crema, and some chopped Cilantro would have made what was very good into something involving a chorus of angels.
That’s it; that’s the recipe. I think two chunks of meat worked better than one larger roast, because it provided more surface area for many flavor boosters including the seasonings and the searing. You could certainly use any kind of chile powder you had in the house, Jalapenos instead or Serranos (or no fresh peppers if you like things milder), more onion, sweet onion, flour tortillas…it’s pretty adaptable. You could also make this in your oven instead of a slow cooker, if you covered it tightly, had the oven on VERY low heat and checked in every couple of hours to be sure that the meat was not drying out.
Finally, I will address the regrettable issue of calories. As I prepared it, this dish was lethal. You could use leaner cuts of meat, but the slow cooking with the fat is part of where both flavor and tenderness come from. It’s a hassle, but you could prepare it a day ahead, refrigerate it, remove the solidified fat, and reheat it before serving. You could also save lots of calories by baking your tortillas, or frying them in “Pam” instead of frying them in oil, and using 2% cheese. This “recipe” may also work well with leaner proteins like pork tenderloins or chicken breasts; try it out and let me know what you think.
P.S. Did I mention that this was also really, really economical if one already has chile powder, cheese and onions in the house (which one should)? Cheap cuts of meat, cheap tortillas, cheap peppers….lots of hot, spicy meat and, in our case, enough leftovers to make a batch of beef nachos.