Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Plateada – Chilean pot roast

With the changing seasons—Santiago does have seasons, you know--my wife puts away my shorts and tee-shirts and brings out the corduroy jeans, long sleeved shirts and sweaters.  And wants winter food; this time it was plateada a la caserola with puré de porotos, Chilean pot roast with bean puree.

Roberto Marín’s plateada - La Cocina de Lolo’s version

Plateada is among the 10 most popular home cooked dishes in Chile [1] and appears of the menu of every restaurant serving traditional Chilean Creole cuisine.  It is usually served as pictured, sliced with a little “of its own juice.”  

Plateada, literally “silver plated,” is a cut of beef, uncommon in English speaking countries where it is called “rib cap.” It is a flat muscle (the Spinalis dorsi if you really want to know) that is above the rib eye. The “silver” refers to the silvery skin on the rib side of the cut; on the other side is a thick layer of fat.

The rib cap is labeled “2” and shown in cross section in the rib-eye steak photo below. Of course most Chilean meat cuts are boneless following the lines of the muscles instead of being cut across the grain, so it comes as a flat, irregularly shaped piece of meat weighing a kg. or so. 

Photos:  plateada or rib cap in cross section          ….and whole, trimmed square.

Cooking plateada a la cacerola

“A tremendous national dish of great substance and marked meaty taste,” says Chef Roberto Marín Vivado in Chileans Cooking Chilean Style, plateada a la cacerola is “very tender and flavorful when prepared according to the rules.  It’s offered in all corners of the country with the announcement "Here's the best dish of Chile," ……which in vast majority of the time is a fallacy”.  He continues:

The errors that they always make in preparing plateada are:

1.      Removing all the covering of fat, leaving it thin and naked;
2.      Not marinating it long enough;
3.      Not browning it well enough;
4.      Not browning the onion and carrot with witch it is cooked;
5.      Adding water which gives the plateada the appearance, consistency and flavor of boiled meat and makes it watery besides.

His instructions are to get a “big thick and fat” plateada and if necessary remove some of the fat yourself, “don’t let the butcher do it.”  Rub it with four cloves of pureed garlic, salt and abundant freshly ground pepper—“at least two of three teaspoons.”  Put it in a sealable plastic bag with three tablespoons each of olive oil and red wine vinegar, expel the air, and put it in the vegetable section of the refrigerator for one or two days.

Heat three tablespoons of oil until almost smoking in a shallow wide pot with a lid.  Remove the meat from the bag, drain thoroughly, reserving the marinade, and put in the hot oil, fat side down.  Brown over high heat to a deep brown color, “I insist, an intense brown color.” If the meat is too big for the pan, cut it and brown in two batches, then remove.

In the abundant fat in the pan, brown four big onions, cut into eighths, and two big carrots cut into thick rounds until they are a nice golden color.  Add the meat, any meat juices that have collected, and the remaining marinade.  Cover the pan tightly and simmer for an hour, turning the meat from time to time. “Remember, don’t add water!”

Transfer the contents of the pan to a pressure cooker and cook for 30 minutes.  Then check for tenderness and if necessary, cook longer. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, continue to simmer in the original coverer pan for another two hours.  In this case, add a little water if necessary to replace the liquid lost in cooking—but in small quantities “to avoid producing boiled meat.”

When the meat is tender, remove from the pan and cut into ¾ inch thick slices across the grain of the meat.  Return the slices to the pan and simmer again until you take it to the table in a deep serving plate with all its juices.

 My plateada a la cacerola with spicy bean purée

In winter serve with the traditional Chilean stewed beans, or spicy bean purée; the rest of the year with rice and mashed potatoes and in summer, with porotos granados (shell beans) or salads.

For once I followed the recipe religiously (more or less---I sieved the juices and left the sad brown veggies behind) and the photo above is what I got. No pressure cooker, but I didn’t have to add water since the vegetables created plenty of liquid and my pan has a tightly sealing lid.  The meat was tender but not falling apart with a very meaty flavor and the juices were rich and slightly sweet from the onions and carrots.  And in classic Chilean style, there was just enough ‘juice’ to moisten the meat… abundant gravy is not Chilean and does not go over the mashed potatoes. 

Or in this case, over the puré picante de porotos, the spicy bean puree, which in Chile is made from “peeled beans.”   They need only 30 to 40 minutes cooking (the package says 20) before being pureed with an emersion blender or food mill. To season the puré, sauté abundant minced bacon with merkén (Chilean ground smoked chili) and paprika for heat and color. When rendered, add minced onion to brown in the fat, and then garlic.  Mix with the bean puré and, to make it muy chileno, add Chilean aliño completo to taste.  It’s Chile’s own masala (complete seasoning) composed of cumin, paprika, oregano, garlic, chili, and pepper).  

It’s a good pot roast, and of course can be made with other braising cuts: chuck/sobrecostilla, brisket/tapapecho, eye of round/pollo ganso, etc.

But why is Chile’s favorite pot roast the plateada, a cut most of us have never heard of? 

Prior to the 20th century (and during a good portion of it) most Chilean beef came from free ranging Criollo cattle, descendants of stock brought by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Four hundred years of natural selection to life in the Chilean central valley produced a strong, vigorous and tough (in all senses of the word) breed of cattle.  The 1882 New Kitchen Manual recommends this: 
Method for tenderizing meat before preparing it – Before putting on to roast or stew, beat or pound very forcefully for a minute with a wooden rolling pin;  this simple operation is the secret for tender and delicate meat. [2]

And although I found no discussion of plateada  in any historic Chilean cookbook explaining its popularity, I think it's because it turns out to be among the tenderest cuts of beef, ranking 3rd in tenderness after the tenderloin and the flat iron steak.[3]  In the USA it appears occasionally as “rib cap steak” or rolled, as:

Midwestern Rib Cap

“Buckle your seat belts Ladies and Gents; this one is going to knock your socks off.  A little known cut that will amaze you in taste and texture.  The flavor is so intense that almost any description will fall short. A very rich cut so 8 ozs would be a safe serving size. This is a very unique piece of meat, and equally difficult to find, so remember where you saw it.”  Bryans Fine Foods

And here’s a report on rib cap steak from Chowhond, a North American food site:

"Okay, then -- you wanna know how it tasted. Let me tell you, folks, it did not disappoint. It was every bit as tender as a filet mignon, but with all the beefy flavor a filet never has. Ridiculously juicy, magnificently meaty. The best of all possible words."

Hummm….   Maybe I’ll grill the next one.

[1] Terra, Blog  El Terremoto se quedó con el premio Bicentenario.  2010-03-26.  On line at
[2] Anonymous. 1882.  Nuevo manual de cocina: conteniendo 377 recetas de guisos escojidos de las cocinas francesas, española, chilena, inglesa e italiana: arregladas para el uso de las familias del país. p. 40. Valparaíso : Libr. del Mercurio de Orestes L. Tornero  On line at
[3] Calkins, Chris R. and Gary Sullivan. n.d. Ranking of Beef Muscles for Tenderness. Calkins, Chris R. and Gary Sullivan..  BEEF FACTS  Product Enhancement.  On line at