At Moses’ trivia party, I got this question – “Outside of war zones, which city is most dangerous in the world?” In that notorious city, there are 8 homicides per day on average, and the city morgues faces a great challenge handling the influx of dead bodies. Juarez, the infamous US-Mexico border city across from El Paso, TX, is internationally known for the most violent drug traffic crimes. A couple of years ago, I unexpectedly passed through that city on my way to Central Mexico. The heavy snow storm in NYC caused my flight to be canceled, so my options were to either cancel my vacation or fly to the Southwest and catch an overnight bus to Mexico. I chose the latter option. Thankfully, contrary to what I had heard, crossing the US-Mexico border wasn’t scary. Not only was the bus comfortable, but I also got to meet many nice Mexican-Americans from the Southwest. In that “party” bus, a gentleman who sat right next to me, even shared a delicious Southwestern braised beef dish he had brought from home. Southwestern cuisine, a unique mix of Spanish, Mexican and Native American cultural influences, is perfect for serving under a bright Summer sun. The Summer is finally here in the San Francisco Bay Area with both big bays reflecting the bright sun all day long while still cooling off the surrounding cities at night. To celebrate the return of Summer, I am re-creating the bold taste of the Southwest under this intense sun, which I hope can also help melt away the troubles in Juarez.
To start, I first rub 1 ½ lb round steak with some sea salt and lightly dust it with flour. Then I heat some extra virgin olive oil in the fry pan, brown all sides of the steak, slice it into strips and set them aside. Next, I heat some more extra virgin olive oil and sauté 1 chopped red onion, 4 oz chopped green chili peppers (mixture of poblano & jalapeño) & ¾ lb fresh tomatoes (chopped) with 1 Tablespoon fresh mint leaves, ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 Tablespoon sugar & 1 Tablespoon sea salt. Then I add 1 cup Zinfandel, 1 cup water & the sliced beef strips to the mixture and let it simmer until the beef turns tender. Finally, I serve this delicious Southwestern braised steak with some rice & beans.
I am pairing this dish with a 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Zinfandel from Sonoma, California. A Blend of 87% Zinfandel and 13% Petite Sirah, this spicy wine has explosive flavors of blueberries and raspberries with soft tannin and hint of anise and mint. The juicy, jammy character of the wine takes care of the heat and robust flavors of the Southwestern spice extremely well. Zestiness of the wine also brings out flavors of the mint leaves and fennel seeds, while the soft tannin boosts the texture of the braised steak. What an exciting pairing it is. I want my 2nd serving!
Hope you enjoy the taste of the Southwest with a great wine pairing. Have a wonderful Summer with this intense, bold Southwestern dish and zesty, exuberant Zinfandel. Happy cooking!