Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mitsado or Mechado, Minus the Mitsa

There are things that we have to give up sometimes when cooking Filipino foods in America. One of them is cooking a classic mitsado or mechado the way our mothers used to prepare it back home years ago. When we talk about mitsado, the key is getting the mitsa (wick) from the market and getting the tindera to poke a hole on your beef and insert a long 1/2-inch thick piece of pork fat in that hole, and you were halfway done to a classic mitsado. You then took it home along with the other ingredients, including tomatoes, garlic, onions, and mushrooms. I like to use dried shiitake, which is inexpensive and available in Asian markets here in Los Angeles. A 5-ounce (142 gram) bag costs less than four bucks at California Market on Western Avenue in the Mid-Wilshire district.

This morning, I cut a 2.5-lb piece off of a 6-pound cut of chuck ($1.29 a pound at Ralphs and at Vons this week) to make my own version of mitsado, minus the mitsa. This recipe hews to what I came to know as pot roast, common in mainstream American kitchens, but I add my own touch -- for instance -- the use of shiitake mushrooms. I love these mushroom variety for its sweet, delicious flavor and slightly chewy texture after they are cooked. It adds a layer of flavor to my mitsado. The other ingredients that I considers musts in this recipe are:

(2) bay leaves
(2) medium size onions, sliced
(3) closes of garlic, minced
(1/4) teaspoon ground black pepper
(1/4) teaspoon salt
(1/4) cup soy sauce
(1/4) cup Japanese rice vinegar, or palm vinegar
(2) medium size red potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes
(2) medium size tomatoes
(10) or more pieces of shiitake mushrooms, soaked in lukewarm water
(3) cups of water for stewing
(3) tablespoons cooking oil for searing the meat and for sauteing
(1) teaspoon cornstarch
(1/4) cup red wine


Sear all sides of the chuck (beef round is also O.K.) in very hot oil in a wok or a non-stick pan. Transfer the meat to a large stockpot or a non-stick saucepan. Add the garlic, then the onions, and saute until golden brown. Add (3) cups of water, the tomatoes, ground black pepper, salt, vinegar and soy sauce. Boil covered on low fire until meat is tender (around 30 to 45 minutes). I like mine to fall off the bone. When tender, remove from pot, and gather the remaining stock and all the ingredients (except the bay leaves) and transfer to a blender for processing.

After the ingredients are rendered, put the mixture back in the stockpot, together with the meat, and add the shiitake mushrooms and simmer until they are tender. Add the one-inch potato cubes, season to taste with more salt if needed; thicken the sauce with 1 teaspoon corn starch, and finish off with 1/4 cup of red wine. Slice into thin cross-grain pieces and serve while warm. I still miss the sight of the melting mitsa when slicing my mitsado. But what the heck, I can live with that.

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