Recipe courtesy of Norman Van Aken

Vaca Frita with a Tropical Tuber Hash Cake and Caramelized Onions

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  • Level: Advanced
  • Total: 2 hr 45 min
  • Prep: 45 min
  • Cook: 2 hr
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Steak and Broth:

2 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 4 to 5-inch wide pieces with the grain

3 tablespoons freshly toasted and ground cumin

1 tablespoon freshly toasted and ground black pepper

Canola oil

2 quarts meat broth, (or beef stock), warmed

2 ounces smoked bacon, rind removed, medium dice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly

1 large red onion, peeled and medium dice

1 large carrot, peeled and medium dice

2 stalks celery, washed and medium dice

1 bay leaf, broken

For the Marinade:

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly toasted and ground cumin

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Hash Cake, recipe follows

Caramelized Red Onions, recipe follows

Hash Cake:

3 large sweet potatoes

3 large boniato

3 large yucca

1/4 cup butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces smoky bacon

1 tablespoon butter

1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced small

1 red pepper, stems and seeds discarded, diced small

1 poblano, stems and seeds discarded, diced small

4 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1 red onion, diced small

1/2 cup roasted garlic

1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Caramelized Red Onions:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 red onions, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. For the Marinade:
  2. Season the meat with cumin and black pepper. Sear it in high heat until nicely browned on all sides in a hot skillet with a touch of canola oil. Reserve.
  3. Heat the meat broth in a saucepan over low heat.
  4. Heat a large soup pot on medium heat with the bacon in it. Stir. When the bacon is almost cooked, add the butter. Allow the buttter to melt. Now add the garlic, red onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf. Turn up the heat to fairly high. Cook about 10 minutes or until the point where some caramelization has occurred. Now add the broth and the skirt steak. Bring to a boil. Skim off any impurities and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Strain off the broth through a fine strainer and reserve the meat in a bowl to cool slightly. Discard the vegetables.
  6. Reduce the cooking broth to a fairly intense consistency and reserve.
  7. Place each piece of meat on a cutting board and cover it with plastic wrap. Pound the meat with a hammer to cause the meat to separate into strands. Pull the meat apart and put it in a bowl.
  8. Mix the marinade ingredients together well and add them to the shredded meat. Allow the marinade to season the meat overnight in the refrigerator. The next day: Discard the marinade and allow the meat to warm up a little before cooking it for the second time.
  9. Heat a large skillet. Add a little light cooking oil and fry the meat in it, stirring well, until crispy and brown. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve the meat in a bowl. "Dress" the shredded cooked strands of meat in a ratio of 17 ounces of meat to 5 ounces of the reduced broth. (Reserve the extra broth to spoon around the hash cake.) Reserve.
  10. Form the hash cake in the bottom of each serving dish. Top with the Caramelized Onions and the cooked meat. Serve with more of the broth.

Hash Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel, dice, and blanch the sweet potato, bonito, and yucca. Toss with the butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Oven roast until all are easily pierced with a small knife. Place them in a bowl.
  2. Saute the bacon until it starts to crisp. Add the butter and vegetables and saute. Remove from the heat while still al dente.
  3. Mix together the roasted garlic, vinegar, parsley, and cilantro. Toss with the roasted potatoes and the sauteed vegetables. Reheat in the oven to order.

Caramelized Red Onions:

  1. Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When it begins to foam, add the onions and stir well once to coat. Now let it caramelize nicely, stirring and pushing the onions around only a little bit from time to time. When the onions are nicely colored, about 8 to 10 minutes, turn the heat down to medium and cook another 10 minutes.
  2. Now sprinkle the sugar over them. Stir gently again and let cook for 1 minute. Now add the vinegar and stir 1 last time. Let reduce until almost no liquid remains, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season the onions and remove them to a bowl until needed. Keep warm.