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This hearty beef stew, adapted from Sandra A. Gutierrez’s new book Latinísimo: Home Recipes From the Twenty-One Countries of Latin America is part of the Guatemalan culinary canon, shaped by both colonial and Mayan traditions. The stewed short ribs are bathed in a pepián, the Guatemalan equivalent of a mole sauce, which is thickened with charred bread, tomatillos, tomatoes, dried chiles, and spices. (As the sauce is processed in a blender, make sure to use Mexican or Ceylon cinnamon, as harder cassia cinnamon might damage its motor.) Serve the finished dish over steamed rice or tamales, and freeze any leftovers for up to three months.
Though many Mesoamerican homes use a comal, a flat pan made of steel or heat-resistant clay, to char vegetables, Gutierrez uses a cast-iron skillet to get the job done. (You can also char the bread and vegetables in the broiler as a shortcut, though the result won’t be exactly the same. Working in batches, broil the bread and vegetables at high heat on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides, about 30 minutes. Remove to a cutting board, peel the onions and garlic, and cut into bite-sized pieces.) Though it takes some time, the vegetables should be as charred as possible, in order to deepen the smoky umami intensity of the stew.
- 3 lb. short ribs (preferably a combination of boneless and bone-in)
- 2 white bread slices (1½ oz.)
- 2 lb. plum tomatoes (about 6 large)
- 1 lb. tomatillos (about 16 medium), husked and washed
- 1 unpeeled medium white onion, halved
- 4 unpeeled garlic cloves
- One 2-in. cinnamon stick (see headnote), or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp. raw hulled pumpkin seeds (1 oz.)
- 3 Tbsp. raw sesame seeds (1 oz.)
- ½ tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 guajillo chile, seeded
- 1 pasilla chile, seeded
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 lb. white potatoes (3–4 large), peeled and cut into ½-in. pieces
- 1¼ lb. chayotes (2 medium), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-in. pieces
- 1 lb. green beans (3 cups), trimmed and coarsely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. fine salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
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