Back in the day, when baggy trousers were a fad, and Mexican health agencies recommended that children ate “milk, meat and eggs, everyday” – “leche, carne y huevos, todos los días” – this pot roast was a regular feature on the weekday-meal rotation, because it was easy to prepare on the stove top, and it called for eye of round roast, a relatively inexpensive cut of beef. The name “cuete” is a colloquial spelling for “cohete” (pronounced co-eh-teh) which means “rocket”, and it originated as a reference to the tapered cylindrical shape of the eye of round cut. Because it comes from the leg, it is tough and lean; adding fat to this type of cuts was a regular practice in the even older days, often done by piercing the meat and incrusting pieces of salted pork in the incisions. If these incisions were superficial, the technique was called “larding”, and if the incisions went all through the length of the meat, it was called “daubing”. In Spanish, daubing is called “mechar” from the word “mecha” – a wick or fuse, used to ignite fireworks. It is funny then, that “cuete mechado” could be literally translated as “wicked rocket”, but it is merely referring to the rocket-shaped meat, and the technique of inserting long pieces of fat that look like wicks. The roast may be cooked in the oven, a slow cooker, or on the stove; my mom always cooked cuete in her pressure cooker.
Substitutions for the meat are mostly forbidden, since the characteristic shape of the cut gives the dish its name, but other than that, nowadays the daubing ingredients, sauce and sides for this roast offer a wide variety, to lure even the pickiest eater to the table. Daubing ingredients may include raw vegetables, such as carrot sticks, as well as nuts, or fruit, and bacon or prosciutto are more common additions than salted pork. The sauce can go from a gravy to a creamy choice, and the sides may be as varied as rice, beans or veggies. My recipe includes bacon, carrots, almonds and prunes for daubing, a classic tomato-based gravy, and potatoes and more carrots on the side, all cooked together in a single pot. I used my Instant Pot™, but any pressure cooker or regular pot with lid on the stove top will work well with this recipe.
Mexican Style Eye of Round Pot Roast – Cuete Mechado
Ingredients (six to eight portions)
2 to 3 lb (1 to 1 ½ kg) eye of round beef roast
6 slices bacon; sliced into 2-inch sections (divided)
¼ cup almonds; peeled and slivered
¼ cup prunes; pitted and sliced
1 lb (454 g) carrots; washed, peeled, and cut into thick sticks (divided)
1 to 1 ½ lb potatoes; washed
1 serrano pepper, or more, to taste; washed
1 cup tomato sauce (homemade, or canned)
1 ¼ cups water, or more, as needed
1 tbsp corn starch (such as Maizena™, corn flour in the UK)
1 tbsp oil, such as olive
½ tsp garlic powder (not salted)
½ tsp onion powder (not salted)
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp salt, or to taste
Reserve two of the sliced bacon strips and all the carrots except one, for later. Set up the daubing ingredients, as shown below, clockwise from top left: sliced prunes, one of the carrots cut into sticks, slivered almonds and four of the sliced bacon strips:
Pat dry the roast with paper towels, and place on working surface. There is a tool, called daubing needle, to pierce the meat and guide the daubing ingredients into the incisions, but if not available, choose a knife that is not too wide, and long enough to go from end to end of the full length of the roast:
Holding the roast firmly with one hand, insert knife lengthwise as far as possible (photo below, left); pull knife out and repeat the operation to create more parallel incisions, about half an inch apart (photo below, centre). Insert prepared daubing ingredients in the incisions, rolling the bacon slices into cylinders; carrot sticks go in easily, but for other ingredients, use fingers or a stick (I used a wooden chopstick) to push them into the incisions (photo below, right):
Do not feel nervy if the ingredients do not reach the end of the incisions; simply turn the cuete roast around and continue stuffing from the other end. If any ingredients are left over, some superficial incisions may be done and filled with them. Mix the powdered onion, garlic, salt and black pepper and rub some all over the roast. Reserve leftover spice mix and prepared roast.
Peel washed potatoes and cut into quarters, as close as cooking time as possible, so they will not turn dark. Set aside.
In a large pot or pressure cooker, warm up oil over medium heat, then add the reserved bacon and cook on both sides. Add leftover spice mix (photo below, left). Stir and cook for one more minute, then add the prepared roast, searing and turning, to brown all sides (photo below, right):
Lift the roast and add reserved carrot sticks and quartered potatoes to the bottom of the pot (photo below, left); place the roast on top on the veggies, then pour one cup of hot water over (photo below, right):
Add tomato sauce and serrano peppers (to taste, I used one, photo below, left). If using pressure cooker, cover and cook for one hour. If using a regular pot, bring the liquid to boil, then reduce heat to a gentle boil, and cook, covered, for about two hours until the meat is tender, adding more water, if needed. In the photo below, right, my cuete roast after cooking for one hour in the Instant Pot™:
Transfer carrots and potatoes to a serving dish with rim, and place roast and serrano peppers on top (photo below, left). Cover to keep warm. Mix the corn starch with one quarter cup of cold water to form a smooth slurry, and add to the sauce left in the pot (photo below, right):
Cooking over low heat, stir until the sauce thickens into a gravy, then pour over roast and veggies:
To serve, slice roast crosswise, to show off all the daubing ingredients; place slices on a plate, add veggies on the side, and tomato gravy on top:
This Cuete Mechado is pure comfort food, a “meat and potatoes” old-fashioned kind of meal, starting with a tough and inexpensive cut of meat which, by daubing and braising, is transformed into a truly “wickedly” tasty, rocket-shaped roast, any day of the week!
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I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #495, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode. Special thanks to Bev for featuring my Moussaka at her party.