Peruvian Seco

Olive oil
Sea salt
1 1/2 pound stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 large bunch cilantro, leaves picked and stems discarded
3 serrano peppers, deseeded and chopped
1 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock, divided
1 cup lager (like Heineken or Beck's)
4 small potatoes, cubed
4 small winter squash, cubed

1. Preheat oven to 325F.

1. In a large pot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the meat in one layer, being sure to not overcrowd the pot (you may have to brown the meat in 2 batches - I did!). Cook meat on both sides for about 30 seconds or so. Remove the meat from the pan and transfer it to a bowl. Set aside.

2. To the jar of a blender, add the cilantro leaves, 3 chopped serrano peppers and 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Blend until smooth - the mixture will resemble a pesto. Set aside.

3. In the same pot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions; cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, an additional minute. Stir in the cumin, pepper, paprika and 1 teaspoon of salt. (Note: If you're not using low-sodium chicken broth, I'd recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt.)

4. Pour in the beer and deglaze the bottom of the pot, scraping the brown bits as the beer foams up and steams. Add the meat and its juice back to the pot (it will release some juice as it sits), along with the cilantro mixture and remaining 1 1/4 cup of chicken stock.

5. Cover the pot with its lid and transfer it to the oven. Allow to gently simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the meat is tender. Check on it at the 1 hour mark and add any additional chicken stock if liquid is running low (I added about 1/2 cup over 2 hours). At the 1 1/2 hour mark, check the meat - depending on the quality of meat, it might still be tough. If needed, cook for an additional hour, adding any liquid if necessary. Fold in the potatoes and squash. Cook for an additional 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

6. Before serving, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve over a bed of warm rice, couscous or quinoa. Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro.
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