My father was a wonderful cook. He was more than a cook–he was a true blue foodie. What was so great about his cooking was that he not only knew how to combine ingredients, he was also very particular about the cut and quality of meat. I would never have known about the cut called “batok” if it weren’t for him. For those who don’t speak Filipino, “batok” means the back of the neck. I don’t know what the proper name for that beef cut would be in English but, in the Philippines, we call it “batok”. It is meat marbled with fat. That is why, when cooked, beef “batok” is very tender and very juicy.
About my father’s sarciado… of course, I had enjoyed this dish countless of times when I was growing up. But the day my husband ate my father’s sarciado, it became his standard for sarciado. I had just given birth to our firstborn, Sam, and on a visit, my father cooked his sarciado and a clam soup with malunggay. My husband couldn’t stop talking about the sarciado for days. And he reminisces about it still. I hope I did justice to my father’s recipe. hehehe
“Sarciado” means “with sauce”. In Philippine cuisine, it is the generic term, often used interchangeably with afritada and mechado–all legacies from the Spanish colonization of the country–used to describe meat stewed in tomatoes. Actually, I do not really know how sarciado is different from afritada. But while mechado has the same basic sauce, mechado really refers to the preparation of the meat rather than the stewing. Mechado is cooked with rolled beef with a strip of fat at the center so that the fat looks like a mitsa or the wick of a candle. Of course, I’m no historian of Filipino cuisine. But that was what I had been told growing up.
Anyway, below is a photo of cooked mechado. The rolled beef is cooked whole then sliced before serving. If you slice the beef before cooking, the fat will fall off and ruin the presentation.
Anyway, back to my father’s sarciado. For best results, use beef “batok”. Of course, if you’re watching your fat intake, that would be impossible. Too bad. Kidding. Thing is, you can substitute any cut of stewing beef that you prefer but, really, my father’s sarciado was that good because he used the perfect cut for the dish. Batok ng baka.
When you buy “batok”, ask the butcher to cut the beef a la pork chops. That means half-inch thick slices. Now, a good butcher will cut the meat across the grain. And that is crucial. If you’re suspicious about the abilities of the butcher, just buy the “batok” and slice it at home. Chill it until firm to make slicing easier.
What does cutting “across the grain” mean? Look at the meat closely and see which direction the fibers go. Cut perpendicular to the direction of the fibers, not parallel to them. Now, the recipe.
1 kilo of beef “batok” or whatever your less fatty choice, cut across the grain in half-inch slices
1 whole garlic
2 large white onions
1 kilo of fresh plump tomatoes (if unavailable, substitute canned whole tomatoes)
2 tbsps. of tomato paste
1 bay leaf
cracked black pepper
5 tbsps. of cooking oil
1 can of garbanzos (chick peas)
1 can of green peas
half a kilo of potatoes
Cooking procedure :
Peel and crush the garlic. Peel and slice the onions thinly. Dice the tomatoes.
Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan. Over high heat, pan fry the beef slices in batches, flipping them over to brown both sides.
Transfer the browned beef to a thick-bottomed cooking pot. Add the garlic, onions, tomatoes, bay leaf and about two cups of water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for two to three hours (depends on the quality of the beef) or until tender. The sauce will thicken as the beef cooks so stir occasionally to prevent scorching at the bottom of the cooking pot.
When the beef is almost done, peel the potatoes and cut into wedges. Fry in the cooking oil just until the edges are lightly browned. About 20 minutes before the beef is done, add the potatoes, peas and garbanzos. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.
That’s it. Nothing really complicated. In fact, you practically just throw everything into the pot. Just remember that there are three secrets to this dish: 1) good quality of the meat; 2) correct way of cutting the meat; and 3) slow cooking.
UPDATE on October 14, 2006
I didn’t know that A la Espanyola is this month’s or, rather, last month’s, theme for Lasang Pinoy until Purplegirl posted a comment in this thread. I’m delinquent with my mail-reading again. Plus, there was a typhoon and, just a couple of weeks before that, I lost my DSL connection for a week.
Anyway, late is still late. But late is better than no entry. Thanks for hosting this round, Purplegirl.