Monday, March 4, 2013

Tacos de Pabellon Criollo with Jicama Slaw

Pabellon is the national dish of Venezuela, so putting it on a taco is probably sacrilege to many, but I like to live dangerously. This version comes from Gran Cocina Latina, and is a bit different than what I’ve had before. The Venezuelan food truck down the street from my office was where I first had this dish, with long stringy strands of tangy braised beef. I don’t know their recipe, but I assume they do a typical braise; this recipe uses flank steak, which is boiled and then shredded before being “quick-braised” (if that’s a word). Since that thing about pabellon that really struck me was the tangy flavor imparted with the beef, I decided to double down on that characteristic and serve it with a Jicama slaw, which is adapted from

A note on oil: This recipe calls for achiote-infused corn oil. This can be made by adding annatto seeds (they look like little red rocks and can be found at Mexican groceries) to corn oil in a small saucepan and heating for a few minutes until infused. Strain out the solid seeds and discard. The book calls for ¾ cup to be added to the pan before frying the beef, and doesn’t mention discarding excess oil after this step. This seemed off to me, so I reduced the oil by a good bit, but still added more than I normally would (I guess on the off chance that there was some reason I was missing for using this much oil). The result ended up on the greasy side, so in the future I’ll just be adding a bit of oil and sautéing the beef.

Jicama Slaw:
1 Jicama, Grated
½ head of napa cabbage, grated
2 carrots, grated
¼ lemon juice
¼ cup lime juice
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tbsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Pinch cayenne
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup canola oil
Salt and pepper

Grate the jicama, napa cabbage and carrots and add to a bowl. I used a food processor to save time. In a separate bowl/pyrex measuring cup, add the lemon juice, lime juice, cider vinegar, brown sugar, ancho chili powder, cumin and cayenne (phew). Slowly pour in the olive and canola oil, whisking to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper, and pour over veggies. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Pabellon Criollo
2 lbs flank steak
1 large yellow onion
1 red bell pepper, deseeded
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Cut the flank steak into sections approx. 2 inches wide. Add 2 quarts of water to a dutch oven, along with steak, onion, pepper, black peppercorns, cumin, oregano and red wine vinegar. Season with salt as needed. Bring to simmer and cook for 2 hours. Remove meat, strain broth and reserve. Shred the meat with 2 forks into thin pieces.

Achiote infused corn oil (see note in introduction)
1.5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
8 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (1.5 cups)
1 red bell pepper cut into ¼” strips
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Heat a 12” pan and add about a 1tbsp of oil until whisps of smoke appear. Add the shredded beef and cook until crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to plate. Add garlic to the pan, and cook for about 40 seconds until golden. Add onion and bell pepper along with black pepper, cumin and oregano, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add meat back in the pan, and cook 2 minutes more. Add 1 cup of reserved broth (save the rest for another use) and 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Heat corn tortillas on a cast iron skillet. Top with pabellon and jicama slaw.


  1. This is a really great idea, it looks amazing!
    I thought I'd comment about the amount of oil used. Actually the meat is supposed to be fried once it's shredded, I guess that's why you are supposed to use so much oil. It can be a bit greasy, but since it is usually done with a very dry piece of meat that can be good.
    On another note: shred it with forks! My grandmother would be scandalized! You wait until it's cold enough to shred it by hand! ^^

  2. Thanks for the heads up! I wasn't expecting it to end up on the greasy side, so I was a little thrown. And I'll leave the forks in the utensil drawer when I make this again.