Please welcome our good friend and fellow food blogger, Erika, from The Ivory Hut! If you’re not reading her blog, you should be – delicious recipes, incredible photography and great posts on the stuffs of life. She’s as close to her mom as we are with ours and today she’s sharing a great family food tradition. We’re really honored to have her guest blogging on Three Many Cooks. Enjoy!
Growing up in the Philippines, morcon always meant it was a major holiday. I remember our long kitchen table and all these women seated around it, some chopping onions and garlic, some grating queso de bola, some peeling eggs or sewing up rolls of meat. It seemed like the entire village was in our kitchen preparing this thing. It took more than 24 hours to make, and my lola (grandmother) always made tons so she could send some to her sisters and various relatives. “For as long as I can remember,” says my Mom, “your Auntie Myr and I always helped prepare the morcon every year.”
Morcon, a braised stuffed flank steak, was reserved for special occasions for good reason—it’s involved. Back then, they didn’t have food processors. They often had to work with ripped pieces of beef, which meant they needed to sew up all the openings to seal them. My grandmother would lay banana leaves on the work table and she marinated the beef wrapped in more banana leaves, claiming that it added flavor. There’s major umami going on here too because, without a pinch of the regular stuff, all the saltiness in this dish comes from sauteing the chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic in fish sauce, something my Mom calls sangkucha.
Braising the beef in the tomato sauce makes it very tender, and the beef in turn gives the sauce a complex, deep flavor. You can serve this with rice or over egg noodles. It freezes well, too.
As a child, I loved scooping up the sauce that, after a few reheatings, held shreds of beef, almost like a Bolognese. I’ve included both my great grandmother’s traditional recipe and an updated version, so you won’t have to summon all the neighbors to help you make this.
We ended up spending almost ten hours in the kitchen making morcon, mostly because my Mom shopped for ingredients from memory. Which meant she bought enough food to feed almost a hundred people. And though we were exhausted at day’s end, we never laughed as much as we did those ten hours.
When we finally lifted the pot lid to check on the simmering morcon, one whiff of that sauce brought wistful smiles to our faces. For a brief moment, we were both kids again: I was a child watching the women work in our kitchen; Mom was a little girl sitting next to her sister, carefully sewing the beef together. And both of us were thinking of my lola—her mother—who never let a holiday go by without sharing this labor of love with her beloved family.