If you, like me, are Dominican, trust me, I do not do say this with any intention to offend, but truth be told: beef is not our forte.
There, it’s out in the open.
We tend to overcook beef (there is a reason for that, read on). And as a result we end up with dry, stringy meat. Fortunately our braised beef (guisada) saves our reputation as it is to die for. We start with a cheap cut and end with a melt-in-your-mouth meat. But when it comes to other methods of cooking, we often blow it. One thing we do very well though is this bistec encebollado (beef with onions).
If you think it is all bad news, then let me set you straight.
Unlike the industrial complex that keeps cows in small stalls, fed with corn and pumped with medication, our cows usually graze, live contently under shaded trees, and feed from grass until it’s time to go meet their makers. Exercise means stronger muscles, which translates into tougher meat. It is healthier, more organic, but tougher. Which is why most specialty beef restaurants serve imported beef.
We Dominicans, generally speaking, also don’t like our meat half cooked, or seeing any trace of blood (strange for people who love a mondongo). If you ask most home cooks how they cook meat it usually start with “scrub vigorously with lime or bitter orange and rinse until there is no trace of blood”. That means that most people are squeamish about eating rare meat, and many prefer their beef well made, or even cooked beyond repair.
Things are changing, mostly from the top down. If you think that cooking your beef briefly is not something you’d like, give it a try, the reward is a juicier meat, and less strain on your chewers.
I don't know how many recipes for filete encebollado (beef with onions) I have found in my life. In the end I went ahead and created my own, with guidance from my carnivorous husband.
- 1 1/2 lb beef top round steak, sliced crosswise (1/4"-thick aprox.)
- 1 large purple onion cut into thin strips
- 1/2 teaspoon of dry oregano leaves, ground
- 1//4 teaspoon of freshly-ground pepper
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
- Place the beef in a zippy bag and add onion, oregano, pepper, vinegar, sugar, 1/2 cup of water and 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Marinate for an hour at room temperature.
- Separate the meat and onions from the marinade liquid. Reserve the liquid and the onions separately.
- Lightly pat dry the beef slices using a paper towel.
- Heat the oil over high heat in a large non-stick pan.
- Add the beef slices (careful with splatters), Cook for half a minute, turn and cook the other side for another 30 seconds. Remove from the pan.
- Add the onions to the pan and lower the heat to low. Cook and stir until the onions become transparent.
- Once the onions are cooked, increase the heat to medium and add the liquid from the marinade and simmer until the liquid has reduced to half. Remove from the heat.
- Return the beef to the pan, mix and serve immediately.
- Serve with cassava (yuca mash), or like me, you can serve with arroz con maíz and plátanos al caldero.
If your family or guests are enthusiastic carnivores, you might need to double the ingredients, this one serves about 2 thin slices per guests. You will also need a very large pan, or cook the meat in two stages. Don't let it linger in the pan or it will get very dry and hard.