Pabellón criollo is considered to be the national dish of Venezuela and consists of four parts: tender shredded meat (called carne mechada), fried sweet plantains (called plátanos maduros), black beans (called caraotas negras) and white rice. To create a strictly Paleo version, I have devised not one but two options to replace both the white rice and the black beans. This dish is served as a hearty meal, but you can also take a small portion of each of the four components and stuff them inside an arepa or even inside an empanada.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 2 lb (905 g) flank steak
- 2 onions (1 quartered, 1 diced), divided
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 fresh mint leaf, or ½ tsp dried
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) coconut aminos
- 1 tsp (5 ml) cider vinegar or lime juice
- 1½ tsp (9 g) fine Himalayan salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp (2 g) chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- To prepare the carne mechada, cut the flank steak crosswise into 2 or 3 pieces and place in a large pot. Add the quartered onion, bay leaf and mint and cover everything with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and lower the heat to a moderate simmer. Cook until the steak is falling-apart tender, 2½ to 3 hours. During the last half hour or so of cooking, you can work on preparing the rice, beanless caraotas and plantains.
- When the meat is cooked, remove the steak and shred with 2 forks. Strain the broth and reserve for another use, discarding the cooked onion and leaves.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the diced onion and red pepper and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Add all the remaining carne mechada ingredients and mix well, then stir in the shredded beef. Let it all simmer together for about 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.
- When plating the pabellón criollo, you can divide the plate into 4 equal quarters and fill one with carne mechada, one with rice, one with the beanless caraotas and one with fried plantain slices. Alternatively, you can arrange the 4 components in parallel lines across the plate.