Top Chef it Yourself: Gauchos

20 01 2010

There’s a new kid in town…Forgive me, please…I’ve got a sinus infection, and I can’t get two brain cells to get on the same page at the same time. Ish.  So, I’m full of clichés today…therefore I beg your forgiveness in advance…and for any extra “m” letters that jump in. Tis my letter of the day, it seems (was meems….).

Back to business…There’s a new challenge afoot…Top Chef it Yourself.  This is her inaugural challenge, and I’m always game…if I can just fit it in!  Henceforth there will be 3 ingredients; one spice, 1 uncommon, and 1 wild card.  This month…prepare a dish that’s all about you!  So, I selected a recipe I created and call Gauchos.

Gauchos was born one night in a coffee shop.  One of those worrisome nights, when a loved one has been hospitalized too long, the news isn’t good, and time is passing ever so slowly.  There’s no appetite, no energy, but you know you need to eat.  I looked up and saw the special of the day was roast beef stuffed with green chiles and cheddar cheese. That actually sounded good.  I thought it was odd that the server asked me if I wanted baked or mashed with that, but had other things on my mind.  My husband and I chatted another couple of minutes that seemed to pass like hours, as many did in our lives just then, when dinner arrived.  I don’t know what I was anticipating exactly…but roast beef, stuffed with green chiles and cheddar cheese never brought to mind…(hollow, cavernous voice) Brown Gravy.  Yes, that took a minute to get past.  I commented at the time, you know…this wouldn’t be half bad if….it were something other than brown gravy…and on we went.  But the thing stuck in my head…and several months later it occurred to me to pair the rolled and stuffed roast beef with sopa seca de fideo, and perhaps put picante sauce on the beef rather than gravy and top it with more shredded cheese.  Since the rolled and stuffed beef vaguely resembles a leg in chaps, they were promptly dubbed “gauchos.”   I’ve never run across anything quite like them anywhere I’ve been, not that I’ve been all that many places, but I’ve never heard of them either.  Here we go…

Gather together our produce: onion, garlic, bell pepper, and tomato. A can of chicken broth, a can of diced green chiles and a jar of your favorite salsa or picante sauce, 8 full-face slices of deli roast beef, freshly cut, and about 1/2 pound of medium cheddar, grated.  Oh, and a 7-8 oz. bag of vermicelli.  I used to buy angel hair and break it up, until I realized the Mexican market has just what I want already in small pieces.  You see…white girls don’t know from sopa seca for the most part.  Nothing racial about it, we just aren’t brought up thinking of Rice A Roni as a dry soup.  Which is what it is.  So…back to preparing our first layer…Sopa Seca de Fidea, which translates into Dry Soup of Spaghetti.  I love this stuff.  Hubby too.  We have this instead of rice when I fix enchiladas, and always with gauchos!

Start with a medium, nonstick skillet, and add 2 Tbsp. oil or if you have lard handy, this is a good time to use it.  There’s not much being used, and it will impart a nice flavor, but don’t go out and buy lard just for this dish.  2 Tbsp. and brown the pasta over medium-low heat until it starts to brown.  Add 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1 Tbsp. minced garlic, and 2 Tbsp. green bell pepper and stir well.  Then add 1 seeded tomato, chopped, and stir.  Finally, add enough chicken broth so that everything is barely covered.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until next step is completed.

While that’s simmering, we’re going to roll up some beef.  First lay out your beef slices with the narrow end farthest from you.  The meat never quite wants to hold together nicely as turkey would, but coax the pieces, and it will all hold after it’s rolled in the end.  Spread 1 Tbsp. of diced green chiles across the wide end of the roast beef slice, and top that with 1-2 Tbsp. of shredded cheddar.  It’s harder to measure the cheddar.  It depends how it’s been shredded.  You want enough in there to fill the roll up nicely, so don’t be afraid to put some cheese in there.  I think it’s only going to take 1/4 pound of cheese, but I say 1/2 pound so you have plenty!

I put the chiles down first, then the cheese on top of them, but I couldn’t hold the cheese and show you the measurement of the chiles AND take the picture all at the same time…but I tried.   So, spread the chiles out, put the cheese over the top of the chiles and roll the wide end up to the narrow end.

And a couple of minutes later you’ll have a bunch of rolls like this and a pan of sopa seca de fideo that’s nice and dry like this:

At this point, it gets really easy…mound the sopa seca into a 7 x 12 inch baking dish, and top with beef rolls.  Spoon the sauce of your choice…salsa or picante, but NOT enchilada sauce, it’s too intense, over the ends of the beef rolls to keep them moist.  Then top the whole thing with shredded cheese and pop it into the oven for about 20 minutes at 350°.  Just until the cheese melts, and no more.   A serving is two rolls topped with a dollop of sour cream and garnished accordingly.  Have fun!

So…how is Gauchos all about me?  One, I created it.  Two…it’s typical of me to take something I like a part of and retrofit, redact, twist, turn, and play with it until I’m happier with it.   Three, Gauchos is about combining foods to make something new.  I don’t have any ethnic base to work my cooking magic from, I don’t have any “learned from my grandma’s knee” recipes… I just have a passion for good food…all of it!