This is a thin but flavorful red sauce with finely chopped onion, tomato, and (at the Niña Delia in El Valle) red bell pepper. My version is a little richer due to the amount of onion and tomato and the stock reduction technique I like to use.
In Panama, the color of the sauce probably comes from frying annatto seed in oil, but at my local supermarket, I couldn’t find annatto seed so I got achiote paste (an annatto seed seasoning) and used a Mayan technique to good effect here. You can add almost any protein to this sauce; this time I used boneless beef country-style spareribs. If doing seafood, simply omit the long braise and use seafood or chicken base instead of beef. Serves 4.
- 1 lb boneless beef country-style spareribs
- 1 oz achiote paste
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp beef base (or 1 bullion cube)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 plum (roma) tomatoes, chopped
- Chilli powder to taste (I used 2 tsp)
1) Cut beef into approximately 1″ cubes (smaller if desired), discarding pure fat or tough connective tissue.
2) Dissolve achiote paste in the lemon juice, mashing and stirring with a large spoon until smooth.
3) Toss meat with the paste and refrigerate overnight in an airtight container.
4) Place meat in a saucepan and cover with water (about 3 cups). Bring to a boil, add a beef base or cube, stir to dissolve, cover, lower heat to medium or medium-low, and simmer until meat is tender (at least 1 hour). Strain, reserving meat, and broth separately.
5) In a separate pan, heat oil and fry the onion until softened (about 5 minutes).
6) Add tomato and chili powder and fry a minute more.
7) Add the broth from the meat to the pan and increase heat to high. Reduce liquid by about half (about 10 minutes).
8) Lower heat and add the meat to the sauce until heated through. Serve with habanero hot sauce on the table.