Beef Mechado

Beef Mechado is a Filipino dish of tender pieces of beef cooked slowly in a stew of tomato, soy, lemon and bay leaf. Sometimes vegetables such as carrots and bell peppers are added. In our house, we like to add Spanish olives and crispy potatoes.

Serve Beef Mechado with steamed white rice or a warm, crusty loaf of bread.

Mechado with steamed white rice

For some helpful tips before you begin, click here.

Serves 6 to 8 people.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs (1.4 kg) beef chuck (about 1 large roast), cut in large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, for browning
  • 1/2 head garlic, about 5 cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) beef broth
  • 1 15-oz. can (425 g) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup (30 ml) lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (20 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) MSG*
  • 1/2 tablespoon (5 g) garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon (5 g) onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons (4 g) crushed red pepper, or more to taste
  • 3 whole bay leaves

Optional:

  • 3 small potatoes, large-diced
  • 1 cup (180 g) Spanish olives 

OR

  • 3 small potatoes, large-diced
  • 2 medium carrots, thick-sliced
  • bell peppers, large diced
  • Vegetable oil, for sautéing
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Chopped scallions, parsley or cilantro to garnish

*I use MSG because it really enhances flavor. But if you don’t like MSG, it can be omitted.

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven.

– Preheat the oven to 325° F (163°C).

2. Brown the meat well. Set aside.

– Pat the beef chunks dry with paper towels.
– Heat the oil in a big pot, preferably a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, over medium-high heat until glistening, but not smoking. 
– Brown the beef chunks in batches, getting good, deep color on all sides. (Take your time.) 
– Set the browned meat aside.

3. Sauté the garlic and onion.

– Toss the garlic and onion into the pot. Sauté until softened and fragrant.

4. Prepare the braising liquid. Add the beef back into the pot.

– De-glaze the pan with the beef broth, stirring and scraping up all the brown bits that have collected on the bottom of the pot.
– Add in the tomato sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar, MSG, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Give everything a good stir to combine.
– Return the beef and its juices back into the pot. 
– Sprinkle the bay leaves evenly around the pot.

5. Cook the Beef Mechado slowly in the oven.

– Cover the beef and place in the center of the oven. 
– Cook at 325°F (163°C) for about 2 to 3 hours, or until wonderfully soft and tender. (Be patient.)
– Check on your Mechado occasionally. If you find the liquid evaporating quickly, lower the heat a bit and add water to replenish some of the lost liquid. Also, make sure the lid is on securely.
– When the beef is fall-apart tender, remove from the oven and let rest, lid on, for about 10 minutes before serving.

6. Cook the vegetables, if using, while the beef is still stewing in the oven.

– While waiting for the beef to finish stewing, heat about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat.
– Place the potatoes in the skillet in a single-layer and let cook until crispy and brown.
– Turn the potatoes occasionally to evenly crisp all sides. Season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
– Cover with a lid and let cook until the potatoes are fork-tender.
– Remove from the skillet.
– If using the carrots and bell peppers, increase heat to medium-high. Add more oil, if necessary.
– Sauté the carrots and bell peppers until just tender. Season with a little salt and pepper. (If you wish your vegetables to be softer, after sauteing, you may add them into the pot during the last 10 minutes of cooking.)

7. Add in the potatoes and the olives or vegetables, if using, and serve.

– Stir in the potatoes and the olives or vegetables, if using, into the Mechado before serving. 
– Serve with steamed white rice or a warm loaf of crusty bread.

*****
Mechado

ABOUT THIS RECIPE

Beef Mechado is a rich Filipino stew of tender chunks of beef simmered slowly in tomato sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce and bay leaf.

Mechado is usually eaten with steamed white rice. But as a child, I preferred to use slices of white bread to sop up the thick sauce. Today, I like to use Beef Mechado as a filling for Siopao (steamed meat-filled buns) and for filling baked Milkbread Buns (Recipes coming soon). The rich, bold sauce is delicious over tteok (Korean rice cakes) as well as over pappardelle. Oh, and Beef Mechado makes excellent tacos, too.

This is definitely a recipe worth making, even if it takes a little time.

Braises, stews and anything cooked low and slow are a labor of love. So don’t skip all the little steps that will layer in flavors and textures. If you’re willing to wait a few hours for a meal, the little bit of extra time and effort are so worth it.

TIPS:

Here are 5 helpful tips:

1) Brown the beef well.

browning beef

– Don’t skip patting the meat dry. A dryer surface on the meat will brown better and faster.
– Cook the beef chunks in small batches. The pan will stay hotter and you will get much better color on your beef if the pan is not over-crowded.

2) Deglaze the pan.

– If the beef was browned well, there will be a lot of flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. A little broth poured into the pan will release all that flavor into your Mechado.

fond (beef)

3) Allow the Beef Mechado to cook nice and slow.

– Braising is a method of moist cooking in lower heat over a long period of time. Braised meats (and vegetables) come out soft, tender and moist.
Oven-braising is my method of choice. Because the oven uses indirect heat, the cooking is more even and the liquid doesn’t seem to evaporate as quickly as when cooking on the stove top.
– Braising can be done on top of the stove over low heat, but you may need to stir the meat occasionally to ensure even cooking. Be sure to keep an eye on the amount of liquid evaporating as well.
– Lastly, this is a good dish for your slow-cooker. But the cooking may take twice as long, which is fine if you have time.

Note: Stewing and braising is best done between 250°F (121°C) and 325°F (163°C). The lower the heat, the better. Of course, the trade-off is time. The goal is cooking done gently and long enough for the meat to break down until it can fall apart under the light pressure of a fork.

Mechado with beef cooked until soft

4) Rest the Beef Mechado a bit before serving.

– Allow the beef to settle in its juices for a few minutes before serving. Letting the beef sit in the braising liquids after the cooking is done will ensure the meat stays moist and tender. If you remove the meat out of its braising liquid too soon, it may dry out.

Mechado

5) Keep flavor and texture in your vegetables.

– Sauté the vegetables before adding them to the Beef Mechado. They will keep their flavor and texture better. In our house, we like the potatoes to be crispy, too. Very nice.

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*****

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