When it comes to individual foods, Venezuela is likely best known for its arepas. When it comes to composed dishes, it’s pabellón criollo. This dish in its purest form is made up of four components: pulled beef, black beans, plantains and rice. You can supplement with seared queso duro (hard cheese), eggs, avocado slices and, of course, arepas. It is without question my favorite meal as well as the meal that reminds me most of home. Additionally, this is the recipe that my mom taught me to make and it includes my grandmother’s spice blend, which means that there’s three generations' worth of warmth and comfort to be found in this meal. I sincerely hope you love it.
Put the flank steak in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot®. Season both sides with 1 tablespoon of the adobo seasoning, then wedge the garlic and onions around the beef. Add enough water to cover.
Follow the manufacturer's guide for locking the lid and preparing to cook. Set to pressure cook on high for 15 minutes, or, if using an Instant Pot®, set to pressure cook on high/more for 13 minutes. After the pressure-cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer's guide for natural release and wait until the natural-release cycle is complete.
Meanwhile, blend the diced tomatoes slightly in a blender until the tomato pieces are no longer visible, then pour into a medium saucepan. Add the tomato sauce, bay leaf and a small pinch of salt; whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened, whisking occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
Remove the beef from the pressure cooker and shred into large chunks with two forks. Don’t shred too finely or the pieces will fall apart when cooked in the sauce. Discard what is left in the pressure cooker.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine Abuela Chabe’s seasoning with the remaining 1 teaspoon adobo, then add to the oil and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shredded beef and toss to evenly coat with the oil and spice mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the beef starts to turn a darker brown and get slightly crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the final tablespoon of oil when the skillet becomes too dry (although it will be dryer than with most frying). Add the tomato sauce, stir to combine, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick you prefer the sauce. Stir in the ketchup, taste for seasoning and add more salt, if necessary.
Meanwhile, make the beans: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Combine the cumin, curry and adobo seasoning in a small bowl. Add the garlic to the saucepan, stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spice blend and cook, stirring, until the aromas are released, about 1 minute. Add the beans and their liquid, cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes, depending on your desired consistency. Taste and add salt, if necessary.
Meanwhile, make the rice: Combine 1 3/4 cups water with the oil, garlic and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the rice and stir a couple of times, reduce the heat to medium high. Continue to boil until you see small holes start to form on the surface, 8 to 10 minutes. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep covered until ready to serve.
Serve equal portions of the beef, rice, beans and maduros on individual plates.
Abuela Chabe’s Seasoning:
Stir to combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Makes about 1 tablespoon. Use on chicken, beef, pork, rice or vegetables and grains.
You can find adobo and adobo with sazón in the Latin section of most supermarkets, packaged in large spice jars or little packets. The adobo with sazón usually has red or orange packaging.