Guatemalan Hilachas

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Hilachas, Guatemalan spicy beef and potato stew, beef, potatoes, stew, guiso de res y papasSpicy Shredded Beef and Potato Stew

Serves 4 people

1 pound flank steak
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium beef stock
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1 cup quartered Roma tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)

1/2 cup husked, quartered tomatillos (3 to 4 large tomatillos)
2 bay leaves
1 cup seeded, chopped red bell pepper
1 small yellow onion, cut into thick slices
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 guaque (guajillo) chili, seeded
1 pasa (ancho) chili, seeded
1 corn tortilla, torn into small pieces (or 1/4 cup
bread crumbs)
1 1/2 cups fat-free, low-sodium beef stock

Sazón (Seasonings)
1 tablespoon achiote oil; 1 bay leaf; 1/2 teaspoon thyme; 1 teaspoon kosher salt; Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups sliced small russet potatoes, cooked al dente

Adorno (Garnish): Thyme, oregano, or red bell pepper strips, sautéed (optional)

Season the steak with salt and pepper. In a hot, deep medium skillet, sear the meat on both sides in a little oil until medium brown (about 4 minutes per side). Add the stock, onion and bay leaves and bring to a quick boil. Lower the heat, cover and braise until the meat fibers separate easily when pulled (about 1-1/2 hours). Check the meat while it cooks and make sure the liquid stays at about 1 1/2 cups at all times (adding 1/2 cup of stock or water at a time as needed). When the meat is done, transfer it to a cutting board and let it cool. Cut it in half against the grain and
shred it. Reserve the stock and onion. Set aside. In a medium pot, combine the tomatoes, tomatillos, pepper and onion, add garlic, chiles, tortilla and stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer covered until soft (15 to 20 minutes).

Using an immersion or regular blender, purée the cooked vegetables and the reserved onion and stock to a fine consistency.  Heat the achiote oil in the pot used to cook the beef.  Add the purée, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the shredded beef and potatoes. Simmer to let the flavors blend (20 to 25 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

The sauce should be about the consistency of beef stew. If it’s too thin, cook it a bit longer. If it’s too thick, add some stock or water.

Amalia’s Notes:
To make achiote oil, heat 1/2 cup of canola oil in a small skillet until small bubbles start to form. Turn the heat off and add 1 tablespoon of achiote seeds. Allow the seeds to color the oil for 5 to 10 minutes or longer, strain the oil, and discard the seeds. The oil should be deep orange, not brown. Keep leftover achiote oil in the refrigerator for up to a month. Peel tomatillos under running water if you find the husks hard to remove.