The first time I tasted Peru’s seco de carne, I thought I was in the wrong country. This beef and cilantro dish could have been served at a market fonda in Mexico. It had all the right flavors—beef, cilantro, onion, garlic and green chiles.
Add rice, beans and tortillas, and you would have a totally Mexican meal. But I was eating this in Lima. Not so strange, though, because foods from Mexico trickled down to Peru during the Spanish colonial era.
Seco means dry, and seco de carne has little sauce. What makes the flavor so bright is a last minute squeeze of lime juice. This, too, is a practice in Mexico, where lime wedges accompany soups, meats and even tacos, all of which taste better with a tangy splash of citrus.
SECO DE CARNE
Peruvian Beef with Cilantro
1 1/4 cups cilantro leaves, loosely packed
1 cup beef or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, minced
1 ¾ pounds lean beef stew meat, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
Generous amount freshly ground black pepper
2 small limes, preferably Mexican limes, halved
Combine the cilantro and broth in a blender and blend until the cilantro is finely ground. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, preferably nonstick. Add the onion, garlic and chile and cook over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 7 minutes.
Raise the heat, add the beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until no longer pink and any liquid cooks away, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the cilantro mixture. Reduce the heat. Cover and simmer 1 ½ hours. The liquid should be reduced to a thick sauce. If not, uncover and boil until reduced, 3 to 4 minutes.
Serve with rice. Accompany each serving with a lime half to squeeze over the beef.
Makes 4 servings