Or….Mexican Style Comfort Food.
During my recent visit to Mi Lindo Apatzingan with Sacramento Epicureans dining group, I sampled Viste Ranchero. This flavorful, tender blend of beef, tomatoes, onions and potatoes was slow simmered heaven. Maybe it’s my partial Irish ancestry, but I’ve never met a version of meat and potatoes I haven’t liked.
And Viste Ranchero was no different. So one evening, when I found myself under-scheduled and hungry, I went to my local Mexican market. One of the benefits of my neighborhood- besides the low cost of entry- is the prevalence of ethnic markets. I stopped at the local bodega on my way home and procured the simple ingredients that would magically brew together a comfort food feast.
Now, Mi Lindo Apatzingan listed their menu item as Viste Ranchero, or Country View, almost no recipes used this spelling. I had quite a few hits for Bistek Ranchero or Country Beef, so I chose the ones with ingredients closest to what I could identify from the restaurant.
Frankly, I was surprised that ingredients so simple could yield a dish so complex. I sailed around the store picking up onion, tomato, a jalapeno, a yellow jalapeno, some tomato sauce, bullion and potatoes. I wound my way back to the meat counter and marveled at all the options. This Mexican market is a veritable carniceria. There are more cuts of meat at Viva than I’ve ever seen at Raleys.
Now, a word to the wise. I love my Viva market. I started shopping there a few winters ago when I ventured to make my own Posole. I’m not a very experienced cook- and I’m an even more inept shopper. I don’t know a tri-tip from a rump roast unless they’re clearly marked, so I’m very much at the mercy of the butcher counter staff or food labels. On that very first visit I encountered pork cut up specifically for Pozole, a hominy stew often served around Christmas, and a loyal customer was born.
Not sure which of the 11 or so cuts of bistek would be best for my Ranchero, I asked the attendant. He immediately directed me away from the plain cuts of beef to the red-tinged marinated varieties. He recommended some thinly sliced, heart shaped cuts that he assured me were intended for Viste (or Bistek) Ranchero.
Ingredients in hand I went through the check out. $18 in all- including 50 fresh made corn tortillas, a whole container of bullion and 5 pounds of potatoes. I wouldn’t need all of the items, but better to be safe than sorry. A full recipe follows, but here’s the play-by-play.
I started by slicing 1 pound of beef into medium strips, which I placed in the pan.
Then I diced the tomato and onion, cut the jalapeno and the yellow pepper, placing these vegetables in a bowl. I added two minced cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and four small white potatoes, cut into quarters.
While I was chopping and slicing vegetables, I started browning the meat.
The marinade instantly filled my house with a fragrant aroma. Once the meat was browned, I added the vegetables and stirred together in the pan. I then crumbled up a bullion cube, added a can of tomato sauce and 1/2 a cup of water.
Realizing I had crowded my pan with all the vegetables and seasoning, I VERY carefully stirred to combine, then covered to simmer for 20 minutes. I stirred at 5 minute increments to compensate for the crowding.
That was it. The potatoes were cooked through, the liquid was flavorful and I spooned liberal portions of Viste Ranchero onto plates prepped with fresh corn tortillas, refried beans and Mexican rice (thanks again to the deli section of Viva Market- I’ll never attempt Mexican rice again!)
The result was richly flavorful, filling and “stick to your ribs” comfort food. The flavor wasn’t exactly that of Mi Lindo Apatzingan, but it was a big hit at home and at work. Next time I’ll use more jalapeno and less potato. However this simple, satisfying dish is sure to make it into the regular rotation in mi cocina.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
1 pound Beef steak, sliced thinly, marinated
1 large white Onion
1 large Tomato
1 medium Jalapeno
1 medium yellow Pepper
1 can Tomato sauce
2 cloves Garlic
1 cube Chicken bullion
4 small Potatoes
Salt + Pepper to taste
1. Slice beef into thin strips or cubes. Brown in pan.
2. While beef is browning, slice onion, jalapeno and pepper. Dice tomato and mince the garlic. Quarter the potatoes.
3. Add vegetables and garlic to browned beef and stir to combine.
4. Add tomato sauce, 1/2 cup water, bullion, salt and pepper. Stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Serve with tortillas, beans and Mexican rice.