”Asado negro is one of the most typical dishes in Venezuela,” says Liliana Hernández, one of our favorite Venezuelan homecooks. The Chicago area-based home cook makes this festive beef for special occasions.
This is her mother’s recipe for asado negro . ”I first learned to make this about 25 years ago when I was still living in my native Venezuela. I remember calling her and she gave it to me over the phone, from her memory. It was not very detailed in terms of quantities—I still have the piece of paper where I wrote down the ingredients she dictated to me . So I had to make it many times over the years, adjusting how much of this, of that, and tasting as I went until I arrived at this version. This is exactly how I remember it tasting when I was growing up. This is the recipe for my mother’s asado negro—a true blessing.”
It is made made from what they call in Venezuela a “muchacho redondo” or eye of round, a lean cut that benefits from low and slow cooking. In this case, it is seared and caramelized with pilloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar that is liquified and poured into molds). Piloncillo is also called: papelón, piloncillo, panela and rapadura.
The so-tender-it-falls-apart-in-your-mouth beef is then sliced and served with a caramelized brown sauce that is very, very dark—but not burnt, although it looks like it is, says Liliana. ”Honestly, you can’t tell from the way it looks how delicious it is. But it is!
“Everyone in Venezuela loves asado negro.”
Traditionally, asado negro is served with a side of Venezuelan-style white rice and sweet tajadas or ripe plantains sliced on the diagonal and shallow fried, says Liliana. ”My mother also served this with ensalada rusa or russian potato and beets salad, to which she adds whatever vegetables she has in her refrigerator.” But rice and plantains are the must-haves.
So Festive, It’s Even Made During Christmas
Asado negro is not a plato típico navideño—a typical Christmas dish, explains Liliana, but many familias decide to make this festive dish during the season, to celebrate being together.
The traditionally Christmas dinner to make in Venezuela is hallacas (the Venezuelan version of tamales)—first and foremostly. (If you have never heard of hallacas, they are made with the same type of toasted corn flour as arepas, stuffed with a filling made with beef, hen or pork, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed. They take a couple days to make—so are a family affair, as stuffed corn masa dishes across so many Latino countries tend to be—whether you call them hallacas, tamales, pasteles, humitas or something else. Keep an eye out for Liliana’s family recipe for Venezuelan hallacas, coming soon to Familia Kitchen and definitely before Christmas!)
Other Venezuelan holiday table go-tos are: pernil; pavo or turkey; pan de jamón—a type of bread stuffed with ham, olives and raisins; and Christmas chicken salad with diced carrots and peas.
But this asado negro is so delicious, it has snuck its way into the celebratory menu options, says Liliana.
High praise for this rich dish that is a traditional favorite.
”My family gets very happy when I make asado negro. They love it,” says Liliana. She loves making it too. It tastes like childhood for her, her mother’s cooking. And now she is imprinting it onto her sons’ food memories and palate as a dish they too will forever associate with growing up. This asado negro will remind them of home, too.
For more of Liliana’s traditional Venezuelan dishes, try her amazing coconuty-delicious bienmesabe cake, handmade arepas, and her arepas filled with reina pepiada or carne mechada. Plus, coming soon: ensalada Rusa, put-on-everything bright-green guasacaca sauce for meat and chicken dishes, and Christmas hallacas with pork.
Ready to try Liliana’s asado negro for your next family feast?
Photo: Michelle Ezratty MurphyMore