When events are around as long as the Oklahoma City Arts Council's Festival of the Arts, change tends to occur slowly.
When Linda Whittington was tapped to join the organizing committee, she came with a big idea: Make the culinary arts portion of the event a showcase for the culinary artists beyond International Food Row and the many concession stands around the grounds.
The result is the Culinary Arts Demonstration Stage on which local chefs will demonstrate various dishes and techniques in a tent, just south of the Stage Center building, with capacity for an audience of 75.
Local chefs will demonstrate a variety of recipes and offer samples to those in the crowd. The 45-minute demos are scheduled for 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. through Saturday, and 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.
The highlight of the week comes at 11 a.m. Saturday, when the Festival Cook-off is planned. Chef Tabb Singleton, an Idabel native who recently left Emeril's NOLA in New Orleans and was a $10,000 winner on Food Network's “Chopped” last fall, will take on Saturn Grill's Joseph Royer.
While Singleton might appear to be the favorite, he might be running into a buzz saw. The competition is sponsored by the Pork Council and pork will be the featured ingredient. Royer is a two-time national champion in the Pork Council's Taste of Elegance competition. Royer won the national cook-off in consecutive years, which triggered the Pork Council into changing its rules. Basically, Royer was so good, they had to exclude him from competing any further. So watch out, Tabb.
The lowlight of the event might be at 1 p.m. Friday, when yours truly demonstrates carne guisada. I will tell you the recipe is excellent and the samples will be great, but I can't vouch for the performance.
During a career day in high school, I hung out with a bunch of radio guys from Austin newsradio station KLBJ-AM. They took me to lunch for Mexican food and we began talking about how we judge good versus bad. One of the guys said he judged Mexican restaurants by the carne guisada they served.
He said because its a common dish it will tell the story of the person who conceived the menu and give a good overview of their potential or lack thereof.
Carne guisada, which translates to stewed meat, is a staple of home kitchens throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Also called guiso, it's rarely done properly in restaurants, as the extended cooking time needed to soften the beef is rarely engaged.
Look up “carne guisada recipe” and you'll find as many versions as there are households from San Antonio to the Guatemalan border. It's as mom-centric in Mexico as fried chicken is in this country.
There is no one way to make it — I have half a dozen different versions myself. Today, I'll share the quick-and-dirty version and the version I make when I have a little more time. Neither is an all-day affair, and like Texas chili, it's even better the next day — especially for breakfast with a fried egg on top and warm tortillas with which to scoop it.
Hope to see you out at the festival on Friday.
Quick carne guisada
2 pounds stew meat or any roast cut, sliced into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups beef stock or broth, you may also use chicken or vegetable stock or a mix
1 small white onion, diced small
4 to 5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cans Mexican-style tomato sauce
2 fresh tomatillos, husked and scrubbed
¼ cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
Few drops Worcestershire sauce
1½ tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground (instructions follow)
Fresh ground pepper
Combine tomato sauce, tomatillos, garlic and salt in a food processor and blend to a smooth sauce.
Dry the beef using paper towels.
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil and brown the beef in batches. Store browned pieces in a large mixing bowl.
Toss the flour in the bowl with the beef and until pieces are thoroughly coated.
Deglaze the bottom of the skillet with a little Worcestershire sauce or a little of the broth until fond is loosened, then put the beef back in the pot. Add remaining broth and tomato sauce.
Reduce temperature and simmer until meat is softened, at least 45 minutes, but for best results no less than an hour. As long as the temperature is low enough, it's practically impossible to overcook. Guiso, like all stews and chilis, is even better the next day.
Serve with warm tortillas and/or over white rice.
Toasting cumin seeds
Heat a cast-iron skillet for at least 2 minutes over high heat. Add seeds and toss until they become fragrant. Be careful not to burn. Use the pestle to grind the seeds to powder.
2 pounds tri-tip roast, sliced in 1-inch cubes
4 cups beef stock
4 fresh tomatoes, sliced in half
2 fresh tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and cut in half
1 small white onion, cut in half
2 jalapenos cut in half, optional
¼ cup flour
Half head garlic
1 tablespoon ancho chile
1½ teaspoons toasted, ground cumin seeds
½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
Salt and fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoon rendered pork fat or vegetable oil
Few drops Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place halved tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic on a rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast until vegetables start to blacken. The peppers will turn first in about 15 minutes. The tomatoes might take 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown the cubes of beef, in batches if necessary, over medium heat. Remove to a large mixing bowl and toss with the flour.
Deglaze skillet with a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce and stock, loosening bits from bottom of the skillet and stirring. Return beef to skillet and add broth, ancho, cumin and oregano. Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to medium-low.
By now your vegetables are caramelized, put them all in the blender with any juices at the bottom of the sheet pan. Blend until smooth.
Increase heat to medium high, and add vegetable mixture and a liberal amount of salt and pepper.
Once guiso comes to a low boil, cover partially and decrease heat to medium-low until beef is soft, about 30 minutes.
Serve over white rice with warm tortillas, radish slices, green onions and queso fresco.
SOURCE: DAVE CATHEY