Flank steak. I have always loved it. The slightly charred outside and the tender pink center is the only way I ever had it growing up. Having it cooked any other way then medium rare seemed sacrilege. After I moved to Chicago, I met an Italian woman who had lived in Venezuela and Argentina and she told me about how she boils and sheds flank steak. Boils. Yes, boils in water. The flank steak was boiled about 1 1/2 hours in water. I was doubtful that this Pabellon Criollo that she described to me was good in anyway. Meat boiled in water? Seriously. She actually made some for me to try and I shockingly loved it. Okay, I was wrong, but no matter how wrong I was I just couldn’t boil my meat, so I make my Pabellon Criollo in the slow cooker. It seems to make less of a mess and makes the sauce a bit richer. Pabellon Criollo is traditionally served with rice, black beans, and fried ripe plantains.
So enter this great restaurant in Chicago called Belly Shack. They serve a spicy tofu sandwich on crispy plantains in place of bread. I love it and it is where I got the inspiration to use the plantains of the traditional dish as sweet salty vehicle to serve the meat on. Next, it needed a little vegetable texture added to the sandwich. My family’s coleslaw recipe was perfect for this sandwich. It is made with whipped cream, sugar and caraway. This slaw was a real favorite of many customers at the restaurant. I think the whip cream instead of mayo is a delightful surprise. This compliments the plantains and shredded beef.
In the end, you have a unique sandwich to serve your friends. Bonus: It’s gluten-free. Now, don’t freak out there are three recipes listed here. I know some people don’t even bother if they think there is too much work to do. This sandwich is unusual and I like to serve to it to guests. I stick the meat in the crock pot in the morning, maybe 10 minutes. I also make the slaw in the morning, also under 10 minutes. About an hour before my guests arrive, I make up the plantains and stick them in a warm oven. That takes about 15 minutes.
So in about 35 minutes spread through out your day, you can have a great little sandwich for your friends. They arrive and all the cooking is done. Just assemble when ready to serve. My kitchen is already cleaned up and we can just enjoy each other’s company.
Serves 4-6 Pabellon Criollo :
1/4 cup vegetable oil 2 pounds flank steak 2 teaspoons creole seasonings 1 cup tomato sauce 1 cup onion, chopped 5 cloves of garlic, chopped 1/2 cup red peppers, chopped 1/2 cup Spanish olives with pimento, chopped 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 2 teaspoons cumin 2 teaspoons smoked paprika salt & pepper
1. Heat up oil in a large sauté pan. Rub flank steak with creole seasonings. Brown flank steak on each side.
2.In the slow cooker, place browned flank steak and all the rest of the ingredients, but do not add salt and pepper until tasting at the end. Cover and set on low for 8 hours.
3.When 8 hours is up, take two forks and shred the meat. Mix with sauce. Taste, then add appropriate amount of salt and pepper. I find that I usually need pepper, but not much salt, if any.
4. The shredded meat keeps great on the warm in the crock pot while I make the crispy plantains. The meat also tastes great on a soft potato dinner roll.
2 green plantains 2 cups vegetable oil 2 cups water 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus some for seasoning
1. Peel the plantains and cut in half. Cut each half down the middle, making a oblong shape.
2.Set up a bowl with water and salt in it by the stove. Heat up oil in a large sauté pan to 325F. Drop cut plantains into oil until slightly golden. About a minute. It may need to be turned to ensure all sides are golden brown.
3. Pull plantains from oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel lined cookie sheet. When cool enough to touch, place on counter and flatten with bottom side of a plate until 1/2 inch thick. It should be in an oval like rectangle shape. Drop into salted water. Repeat with all of the plantains. Soak for 1 minute.
4. Make sure that oil is heated back up to 325F. Pat dry plantains, then drop in oil for a final fry. It will take about 2 minutes a side. Drain on paper towel and season with salt. Ask a question about this step.
5. Assemble crispy plantains with Pabellon Criollo and cole slaw. Serve immediately.
Schuler’s Cole Slaw
4 cups shredded green cabbage 1 cup heavy whipping cream 4 tablespoons sugar 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds 1/2 teaspoon celery seed salt & pepper, to taste.
1. In large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks form.
2. Add sugar, vinegar, caraway seeds, and celery seeds. Mix with whipped creme.
3. Add shredded cabbage and toss in creamy mixture.
4. Taste, then add salt and pepper to your taste. I usually like just a little pepper, but others in my family like a little salt added. Taste and make your own decision.
Okay, people. This sandwich is different and flavor packed. Funky enough that people think the Pabellon Criollo sandwich came off one of the new trendy food trucks. I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Pull up a chair, Elizabeth