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Kinda-Mex Jalapeno Beef With Cheesy Polenta

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“This is a favorite in our house -- spicy, filling, comforting and quick (I know, the recipe makes this look long and involved, but it really only takes about 45 minutes start to finish, and there's very little chop-work). Reheats well, too. Kind of a Mexican take on the Italian classic of polenta with meat sauce. Adapted from a much-loved Cuisine at Home special edition. Ingredients listed more than once are not typos, but are amounts needed for each part of the dish. Because there's not really any significant passive walk-away time for this, prep time covers prep-work stuff, cooking time is the actual cooking part.”

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 29.58 ml vegetable oil
  • 236.59 ml onion, sliced
  • 4-6 dried chilies, stemmed, seeded, and torn into pieces (see note 1 below)
  • 2 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 473.18 ml chicken broth
  • 236.59 ml canned crushed tomatoes (I've subbed diced tomatoes and or or tomato passata with good results)
  • 29.58 ml fresh lemon juice
  • salt, to taste
  • 29.58 ml vegetable oil
  • 907.18 g steak, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes (top sirloin is suggested, but I typically use flap meat)
  • 4 red jalapenos, sliced (see note 2 below)
  • 14.79 ml sugar
  • 19.71 ml chili powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 828.06 ml water
  • 236.59 ml polenta (coarse or fine ground, your choice)
  • 4.92 ml kosher salt
  • 236.59 ml shredded monterey jack cheese (I use Mexican Four Cheese Blend instead)


  1. CHILE SAUCE: can be made up to 2 days ahead, if desired.
  2. Heat 2 tbs oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook onions, chiles, tortillas and garlic until onion softens, stirring often to prevent tortillas from sticking and chiles from scorching (scorched chiles can make the sauce bitter).
  3. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer sauce for two minutes. Allow sauce to cool a bit, then transfer to a blender. Add lemon juice. Covering blender lid with a folded kitchen towel and holding down tightly, puree sauce until smooth, then season with the salt. I have a 6-cup capacity blender jar, and I can puree the whole batch of sauce at once without the cover popping off. If you have a smaller capacity blender jar, I would highly recommend pureeing the sauce in batches to ensure that you have enough head space to prevent excess pressure build-up while pureeing the hot sauce. Cleanup of widely splattered red chile sauce is not fun, and neither are the burns (I speak from experience!).
  4. If you are making everything at the same time, pour the pureed sauce into a saucepan and keep warm over low heat while you prepare the polenta and beef. If you are making the sauce ahead of time, refrigerate until needed, then reheat sauce while you make the polenta.
  6. Heat 2 tbs oil in a large skillet or saute pan over high heat. If you prefer more rare beef, add the beef and sliced peppers at the same time, and saute for about 5 to 7 minutes. If you prefer your beef more cooked, saute the meat for about 5 minutes, then add the sliced peppers (this keeps the peppers more attractive in the finished dish, because they don't get cooked to death while you get the beef cooked how you want it). Continue cooking the beef until it is cooked to your liking. Add the sugar, chili powder, and salt to taste. Stir to coat beef, meanwhile cooking for about one more minute. Cover and remove from heat, but keep warm.
  8. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in polenta so lumps don't form, then add 1 tsp kosher salt. Reduce heat to low. Stirring frequently, cook polenta for 5 minutes. Fold in cheese until evenly distributed. Remove from heat.
  9. When all the components are prepared, assemble for serving in the following order: ladle some of the warm sauce in the bottom of a pasta bowl, top with the cheesy polenta, then add the beef. If you prefer, you can also ladle more sauce over the beef (you should have plenty of sauce even if all your eaters want sauce over and under).
  10. NOTE 1:.
  11. You can use whatever type of dried chiles you prefer. The amounts listed reflect what I add when I use chiles like New Mexico, Guajillo, Anaheim or Pasilla, depending on whatever I have available. Whatever kind of chile you decide upon, be sure to wash your hands well after tearing the chiles, because the residue can irritate skin and eyes (inevitably, where it ends up if you forget to wash it off your fingers ).
  12. NOTE 2:
  13. Although this recipe calls for red jalapenos, I have yet to come across anything labeled as such when shopping for fresh chile peppers. Typically I will buy red Fresno peppers, which are similar to jalapenos in size and heat, but are shaped more like an ice cream cone. If Fresnos aren't available, I've been known to use jalapenos, serranos, or even some unspecified red chile peppers with varying degrees of heat that my garden-loving landlord supplies me with. If you are more heat-sensitive, feel free to reduce the number of chile peppers in the beef (of course, most heat-sensitive people are probably going to breeze right by any recipe with "jalapeno" in the recipe title anyway, huh?) ;).

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