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Morcon, a Dish From My Childhood, Reinvented

March 18, 2017, Spencer, Indiana

Morcon is a dish I loved to eat when I was growing up in the Philippines. It is typically reserved for special occasions or fiestas when the maternal head of family would showcase her cooking expertise for her large extended family and friends. A tough cut of beef, typically skirt, is butterflied and layered with boiled eggs, chorizo or sausage, and vegetables. It is marinated in soy sauce and calamansi, Philippine lime. The meat is rolled and secured in place by a string; then browned for color and simmered in tomato sauce until tender. Oh, the presentation is absolute perfection when the meat is sliced showing the colorful filling inside.

But beef,  in any form,  is expensive in the Philippines so it is not a dish that shows up in food courts or even in some restaurants. I had been to several Filipino restaurants there this year and I do not think that I had seen it on the menu.

I have been making beef stew for a long time and the idea came to me that I could combine the techniques of my dish with my favorite morcon.  The cooking project is now in motion.

Here is the recipe:

1    2-to-21/2 lb. flank or skirt steak

6 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced

½ large red onion, sliced

1/2 cup celery, chopped       (corrected, 03/20/17)

1/2 cup carrots, chopped     (corrected, 03/20/17)

¼ cup fresh Italian parsley

½ cup red wine

¼ cup dried tomatoes, opt

1 cup beef broth

1 large can (380g), crushed or peeled Italian tomatoes (I use Cento brand as it is not too acidic).

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. dried basil, fresh is better

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. peppercorns, opt

Butterfly the meat to widen its size, allowing the addition of the filling. Mix ¼ cup soy sauce and 2 tbsp. lemon juice. Drizzle over meat and leave it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

In the meantime, prepare the following filling:

2 boiled eggs, quartered

4 long strips of carrots and celery

4 long strips of pepperoni, if not available, ham can be substituted

2 long strips of hard cheese, opt

Layer the filling as shown in the pictures. Wrap a piece of string, or even strips of fabric, around the meat, tightly trussing it.

When ready to cook, dredge the meat on a mixture of ¼ cup flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper. Heat a large pan. Brown in a tablespoon of olive oil. Drizzle a bit more oil if the meat is sticking to the pan. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the onions, then chopped carrots and celery until halfway cooked.   Add the garlic and parsley. Stir until garlic is lightly brown. Add the red wine and stir. Add the broth, tomatoes and spices. Stir. Add the meat and simmer for about 1 ½ hours.

As in beef stew, I include vegetables in the dish. All I worry now is whether to serve the dish with steamed rice or bread.

Peel and cut 4 small potatoes, 2 carrots, 2 celery sticks into 1” cubes. After 1 ½ hours of simmering, add the potatoes and carrots. Add celery sticks after 2 hours. Simmer for 10 minute and the dish is ready.  It can be eaten with bread or steamed rice.  Kain na!


Nelia Hostetter

Nel Hostetter was born in the Philippines and came to the United States in 1977. She spent over 20 years in the information technology field but left a management job in California in 2006 to go to culinary school in New York city. She owned Sweet Claire Bakery in downtown Bloomington for five years but moved her commercial kitchen to Spencer in 2015. She specializes in international bread and pastries and sells her baked goods at the Farmers’ Market in Bloomington. Nel’s recipes are influenced by her travels to other countries and a childhood filled with memories of food and cooking.

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