Bistec Caraqueño – A Thin Steak Caracas Style
I was born in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. The Caracas that exists now may not be the same I remember. I treasure my memories of the loud, smoky city, with over 5 million inhabitants, where my alarm clock was the increasing noise from car horns, and ambulances every morning. I stood by my window, 17 floors up in the air, and looked down to observe how the “concrete jungle” started to move along with the rising sun. Once I got down there , everyone walked really fast to reach their destination that morning, you had to keep their pace, or you’d be walked over, literally! My goal every morning was to try to catch an empty space in the subway, where my body could perfectly fit parallel to the doors, and get ready for all the bumps I’d get from people coming in and out of each station. Other than the rush to get places, and the hours of long traffic jams; Caracas is a beautiful valley full of traditions.
The reason I bring all this up, is because of the name of this Venezuelan staple meal: Bistec Caraqueño! Caraqueño means you were born in Caracas, like me. I am assuming given the name, this thin steak that appears in the menu of all local restaurants in Caracas was born there as well. It is a very simple recipe, that cooks in minutes, and it’s full of flavor. Flavors that to me scream food made at home with love. I use what I find at the store as sandwich steak, which is a very thin cut of round. An inexpensive cut of meat that could be tough, but I promise after you pound it few times, it will cook very quickly, and will end up tender. A quick marinade, and lots of onions and tomatoes make this traditional dish a favorite, commonly served with white rice or French fries.
My very good friend Irene used this recipe to persuade me every time she needed company in her apartment. She knew that if she made this Bistec Caraqueño for dinner, I couldn’t possibly say no. 🙂 It is also common to find this recipe with a fried egg on top, which is called “a caballo” (on a horse) – I have no idea where that term comes from, maybe I’ll leave that for homework. Let’s get cooking!
4 sandwich steaks
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons canola oil, separated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large Spanish onion, or 2 medium
2 Roma tomatoes
Salt & pepper to taste
Cooked white rice, to serve (optional)
In a large cutting board, place the steaks, cover with clear plastic wrap. Using a meat tenderizer, or a rolling pin, pound the steaks to make them thinner (it should not be too thin that it has holes), this process will help break some of the hard tissue and will reduce the cooking time. In a shallow bowl add minced garlic, 1 tablespoon oil, mustard, vinegar, and Worcestershire, whisk to combine, and season to taste. Place the pounded steaks in the marinade and set aside.
Slice the onion and tomatoes. In a medium sauté pan, heat the remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add two steaks at one time, it will bubble, that’s ok. Cook until the outer part starts to brown, about 4 minutes, flip over to the other side, and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan into a serving plate, cover to keep warm. Repeat with the other two steaks. Add 1 tablespoon water to the pan, and add the onion, season with salt and pepper, cook stirring occasionally until tender, and it starts to caramelize, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato slices, gently stir to combine. Cook to warm them up, but you want them to keep their shape, about 2 minutes. Top the steaks with the onion-tomato mixture, accompany with rice, serve immediately. Enjoy!