Rita’s Falso Conejo or Bolivian Beef Cutlets

Falso conejo Bolivia

Submitted by Rita Jimenez

Falso conejo is one of the traditional Bolivian recipes Rita Jimenez makes sure to eat every time she travels home to Cochabamba, in the central Andes valley. The dish’s name means—delighfully—“fake rabbit” and it is on Rita’s shortlist of forever favorites.

How did this savory meal with its rich tomato-onion-peas sauce get its name? Rita smiles and shrugs. ”Viene de siempre y no se sabe porque.” It’s been called that forever and no one really knows how it came to be, she explains. “There are many names in Bolivian cuisine that you wonder how they came about. This is one of them. We make jokes about it all the time—is it rabbit? Is it lamb? And no one truly knows.”

The star ingredient of falso conejo is thinly sliced beef, which is tenderized and dredged in bread crumbs. The cutlets are then shallow-fried and cooked in a delicioso sauce of tomatoes, onions, Bolivian yellow or red ajies or peppers, carrots, and bright green peas. The resulting dish is traditionally served with white rice and boiled potatoes—that’s right, both. Carb-on-carb double treat.

It comes together pretty quickly, making falso conejo ”an everyday meal in Bolivian homes. It’s the kind of thing you eat often, perhaps every two weeks. It’s very popular. I grew up watching my grandmother and aunts make it all the time,” says Rita, who met her husband, Jim, while attending college in the States. Since 1972, the couple has lived in the same Wellesley, Mass. home where they raised their children and now live near their grandchildren.

Falso conejo plate Bolivia
Falso conejo—its name means, delightfully: “fake rabbit”—is a favorite dish in Bolivian homecooking.

Key to the signature flavor of this traditional recipe is the medium-spicy, earthy Bolivian yellow or red ajies. You might be able to find these peppers in your local Latino market, says Rita. If you can’t, she recommends substituting with Mexican chile guajillo.

”It’s not just because I’m a Bolivian,” says Rita, ”but in Bolivia you eat the best food. There is so much variety and you can find everything. We have an endless variety. Nothing is ever lacking.”

“I was recently in Bolivia, and I was so impressed at how well you eat there,” says Rita. “There is such a great variety of dishes. We didn’t eat the same food two days in a row.” Including this one? Definitely, she says. Falso conejo is a recipe you find in most restaurants, and one of the ones she and her husband Tim make a point to eat at least once when they travel to her homeland.

For more of her must-try Bolivian dishes, check out Rita’s family recipe for quinoa with aji colorados—quinoa with Bolivia’s signature red peppers. It’s yet another Bolivian recipe that may just find its way into your homecooking weeknight rotation. It certainly has for us here at Familia Kitchen. Gracias, Rita.

Ready to try Rita’s Falso Conejo Beef Cutlets?

Rita’s Falso Conejo or Bolivian Beef Cutlets in Sauce

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Rita Jimenez Cuisine: Bolivian
Servings

5

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

35

minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb beef, thinly sliced into 5 cutlets

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

  • 2 onions, finely chopped

  • 1 tomato, finely chopped

  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced

  • 1 Tbsp allspice

  • 1 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped

  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste

  • 1/2 tsp sugar

  • 1 to 2 aji colorado or amarillo, small

  • 2 cups water or broth

  • 1/2 cup peas

  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  • Slice the beef into thin filets, about 4 to 5 pieces. Tenderize with a meat mallet or heavy object wrapped in plastic wrap, until the pieces are evenly thin.
  • Season the beef slices with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the bread crumbs into a wide bowl or plate. Press each beef cutlet in the bread crumbs, coasting both sides evenly. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat. Steep the dried yellow or red aji peppers in the hot water.
  • After 15 minutes., strain the peppers. Remove the seeds and stems.
  • Place the peppers in a blender, with 1 or 2 Tbsp of the aji water from the saucepan. Blend the chiles into a paste. Set aside.
  • Warm 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Shallow fry the beef for about 3 minutes until the first side browns. Turn over and shallow fry the second side. Set aside on a plate.
  • Finely chop the tomato and the onion.
  • Peel and slice the carrot into rounds.
  • In the same saucepan with the brown bits from the beef, warm the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil on low heat.
  • Sauté the onion, tomato and carrots, allspice, parsley and sugar until the onions are soft and translucent.
  • Add the aji paste and the water. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Add the peas and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Add the golden-brown, shallow-fried culets to the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes, so that the beef takes on the flavor of the sauce.
  • Serve 1 beef cutlet per person, with a large spoonful or two of sauce, over steamed white rice, with a side of boiled potatoes.

Notes

  • Red and yellow ajies are a defining ingredient in Bolivian cuisine. If you can’t find these peppers at your local Latino market, Rita recommends using Mexican guajillo chiles instead. Some Bolivian homecooks think New Mexican dried-red peppers more closely approximate the traditional taste of this dish.
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