This recipe, which translates to “Beef Roast Braised in Blackened Panela With Smashed Cucumber Salad and White Coconut Rice,” is part of a menu in and adapted from Mariana Velásquez’s cookbook “Colombiana: A Rediscovery of Recipes & Rituals From the Soul of Colombia” (Harper Wave, 2021).
From Velásquez: “I use a top blade roast, also known as top chuck roast. The posta can be made the day prior and cooled before refrigerating. Serving this meat at room temperature works very well. Just warm up the sauce and drizzle it over the meat once you have plated the slices.
“The cucumber salad lightens the menu and balances the rich flavors and creamy textures of the posta with sharp and crisp tones. I prefer using Persian or Kirby cucumbers, which are full of flavor, but you can also use English cucumbers. Simply slice the cucumber in half crosswise and remove the seeds with a melon baller or a teaspoon, since there is too much water in the seeds. Smashing the cucumber opens the membranes to welcome the dressing deep into the flesh, making every bite as refreshing and flavorful as it can be.”
Season the roast with the salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you begin cooking (you want the meat to come close to room temperature). Heat the oven to 300 degrees.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven. Pat the meat dry to ensure a dark mahogany sear, then add the roast to the pot and sear on all sides until a dark golden crust forms, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the roast using tongs and transfer to a rimmed platter.
Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon oil into the Dutch oven. Add the garlic, chiles and onions and cook while scraping up all the flavored bits left from searing the roast at the bottom of the pan. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions soften and begin to brown. Add the panela and Worcestershire sauce and continue stirring to incorporate; the panela will begin to melt in a few seconds and caramelize and envelop the onions nicely. Deglaze with the wine. This is where you will obtain the base and all the flavor that will go into the meat. Allow the liquid to come to a boil, 2 to 3 minutes, so that the alcohol evaporates.
Add the broth and vinegar and stir. Return the seared roast to the braising liquid in the Dutch oven, along with any juices on the platter. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper, then the lid, and carefully transfer to the oven. Set the timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Check the roast, carefully remove the lid and the paper — be careful, the steam will be very hot — and turn the roast over. Make sure there is still plenty of braising liquid. Cover again and return to the oven for another 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, uncover and lift the posta from the braising liquid. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil. Bring the braising liquid — now your sauce — back to a boil and let cook for 5 to 6 minutes, so that the sauce thickens and the flavors concentrate. Taste for salt.
Cut the posta with a sharp knife into thin slices. The meat will tend to fall apart, so don’t worry about getting chunky pieces — this means it is so tender and tasty. Arrange on a platter with enough of a rim to hold a drizzle of the sauce. Serve with extra sauce on the side, along with the smashed cucumber salad and coconut rice.
Ensalada de Pepino Machacao (Smashed Cucumber Salad)
Using a heavy knife, place the blade flat on a cucumber spear and, carefully pressing the heel of your hand down onto the blade, smash the cucumbers. Repeat with the remaining spears. Transfer the smashed cucumbers to a bowl.
Add the vinegar, olive oil, salt, garlic and lime juice and stir to incorporate. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Arroz de Coco Blanco (White Coconut Rice)
Wash the rice under cold water and drain. Repeat until the water runs clear.
Pour the canned coconut milk in a large liquid measuring cup, then add more water to make 6 cups total. Pour the diluted coconut milk (or the freshly made coconut milk; see note below) in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, add the rice and season with salt. Cook the rice, stirring occasionally as it simmers so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom, for 10 to 12 minutes.
When almost all the coconut milk is absorbed, cover the rice and lower the heat to low. Cook the rice, undisturbed, until it puffs up and it is cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. Uncover the pan, fluff the rice with a wooden spoon and serve.
2 Hold the empty coconut in your hand, and you’ll see a “vein” that runs around the shell. This is the breaking point of the coconut. Firmly hold the coconut in your hand, and using a hammer or a metal meat mallet, firmly tap along the vein as you turn it on your hand. A couple rounds of firm blows will crack open the coconut.
3 Extract the flesh from the coconut: Using the hammer, break the opened coconut into smaller pieces, making it easier and safer to handle. Carefully insert the tip of the paring knife between the coconut’s inner shell and the coconut meat and separate them. What you are going for is the white meat of the coconut with its brown lining. This brown lining is what contains the coconut oil, and you want that.
4 Using a box grater, grate the coconut meat through the large holes, or you can use a food processor with the grater attachment. At this point, the grated coconut can be stored in a zip-top plastic bag in the freezer for up to three months.
5 Place the grated coconut in a high-speed blender with just enough warm water to barely cover the coconut and blend for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have milk. Place a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and pour the milk through, making sure you squeeze the pulp and extract all the milk. Return the pulp to the blender, add more water and repeat the process. Strain to extract as much milk as possible until you have 6 cups of liquid total. Refrigerate until ready to use.
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