Doctor Frankenstein’s Festival of Fried Cow

Cow!I rarely follow a recipe. This is possibly because my grandmother never followed a recipe; everything was a handful of this, a shrug of that, and somehow, dinner was born. It’s also possibly because I’m lazy, or that I’ve convinced myself of the value of creativity in the kitchen. It hasn’t killed us so far.

What I will do, however, is take elements from three or four different recipes, and cobble them together until they resemble some Frankenstein experiment, some stumbling — yet scrumptious — food golem. He staggers around the room, knocking things over, and we hurry behind, gently biting hunks of tastiness from his backfat.

I’ll give you a second to recover from that, and offer my apologies. Moving on.

Tonight’s lesson in Frankenstein recipes:

Vaca Frita.

That’s right. “Fried Cow.”

My wife ordered this dish at Alma de Cuba in Philly, and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever allowed into my body. Seemed like high time to try it.

This is what I did.

I took 1.5 lbs of flank steak, and I laid it in a pot with 7 cups of water, a liberal scattering of salt, two bay leaves, another liberal scattering of black peppercorns (whole), and two small sweet onions, cut up. The steak mooed at me, and I said, “Shut your mouth, animal,” and I set the pot to boil. Once at a boil, I simmered it for… probably close to an hour-and-a-half. Till the beef was getting tender. Not quite fall-apart; this is flank steak.

The steak hit the cutting board.

Then I let the steak calm down. It was surly. Hot under the collar. It needed to rest.

Once rested (and cooled), I picked it apart with a fork and tongs — shredding that bad little sumbitch. I didn’t get crazy with this.

Into a bag, it went.

Oh, the heady broth from the pot? You do what you want with that. I saved it. Not sure where it’ll go. (I’m taking suggestions.) Maybe I’ll bathe the dog in it so she always gives off the lovely smell of hot beef. Plus, when she licks her feet (which she’s gonna do anyway) — what a treat for her!

Uhhh. Where was I?

Right! Into a big bag goes the shredded beefiness. Also into that bag? Three garlic cloves, minced. And the juice of two limes and one orange. Oh! And more salt.

Boom. Marinate that bag of goodness for… well, as long as you can manage. I managed about seven hours. If I coulda gone longer, I woulda gone longer. The more time it sits in its own mouth-watering guilt — the more time it has to think about what it’s done — the better.

When you’re ready, get out your frying pan.

A splash of olive oil. Medium-high heat. Let it get good and hot. Hot as you can manage it.

Then, ease in a single layer of the shredded, marinated cow. Sparsely portioned. You need it to stay hot; the more you put in that pan, the less heat each beefy bit gets. Leave it in there for five minutes. Don’t turn it. Don’t mess with it. It’ll fry on that one side. (EDIT: It’ll be crispy on that side. That’s totally the point.)

Take it out. Put it on a plate. Do the rest in batches.

Don’t forget to eat it, because it’s going to be a shotgun blast of fatty, citrusy flavor geysering up through your brainpan. Boom. Splurt. Mmmmm.

And yes, that cow is supposed to be sideways. Shaddup.