CARNE CON NOPALES Y PAPAS : Beef With Ancho Chiles, Cactus, And Potatoes
This thick, delicious guisado comes from the rugged state of San Luis Potosí, where the ancient and distinctive regional cuisine is based on the local desert plants. Nopales, the paddles from beavertail cactus (also called prickly pear cactus), are readily available at Mexican markets. Buy fresh nopales, which must be boiled before eating, rather than the canned variety. Once cooked, they have a taste and texture much like cooked green beans.
You can substitute pork for the beef, or Mexican calabaza squash for the potatoes, if you like.
6 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 cups hot water
2 Roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lard
2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Caldo de Res or Caldo de Pollo
1 white onion, diced
6 tomatillos, husked, washed, and diced
2 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
½ teaspoon whole dried Mexican oregano
8 ounces cleaned nopales, cut into ½-inch pieces
Warm corn tortillas
Diced white onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chiles and toast on both sides, turning occasionally and pressing down with a spatula, until they soften and blister. Remove from the pan. When the chiles are cool enough to handle, tear them into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the hot water and soak the chiles, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Drain, reserving 1 cup of the soaking liquid.
Line the skillet with a piece of aluminum foil and roast the tomatoes on all sides over medium-high heat, until softened and charred in places. In a blender, combine the tomatoes, ancho chiles and garlic and puree until perfectly smooth, adding a little of the reserved soaking liquid as needed.
Heat the lard in a heavy skillet and brown the beef on all sides until dark brown, working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Place the beef in a 5-quart slow cooker and add the salt and pepper. Add the chile puree to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping, until the puree is thickened and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, stir well to combine, and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the chile mixture over the beef in the slow cooker and add the onion, tomatillos, potatoes, and oregano. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
At least 30 minutes before serving, place the nopales in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 15 minutes, then drain and rinse well with cold water. Fifteen minutes before serving, stir the nopales into the slow cooker to heat through.
Serve hot with the tortillas, with the diced onion and cilantro on the side.