miércoles, 26 de octubre de 2011

Cochinita Pibil (Mayan Pulled Pork)

November 1st marks the first anniversary of the inscription of Mexican Cuisine in the UNESCO, on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Amazingly, the nomination was french, and mainly because of two very specific regions: Michoacán and Yucatán.

I'm dedicating this month to my favorite traditional mexican dishes, starting with the one you may have already heard about: Cochinita Pibil.

This amazing slow-roasted pork recipe comes from the no less amazing state of Yucatán. Here, the cuisine is still heavily mayan, seamlessly incorporating imported spices with local ingredients to make the most unique fusion food you'll ever taste.

Cochinita means suckling pig, but pork shoulder will do. There's still some confusion, even among mexicans, regarding the meaning of "pibil". Most people will tell you it refers to the seasonings involved. Those people are fucking stupid. The mayans had a sort of underground oven, similar to the spits used in hawaii to cook their pork, called a "Pib". So pibil means oven-roasted. There, you can school the shit of some random mexican now.
Here's a Pib, heating up

We've already discussed achiote, so I'm not delving any further there. Ideally we'd make this dish from scratch, grinding our own spices, but time constraints and ingredient availability tend to fuck with my plans, so I'm teaching you how to make it using store-bought achiote paste. Sue me.

These are our stars: OJ, achiote paste, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, all-spice and dried chiles.
Remember that time when I taught you how to make Steamed fish with Achiote Sauce and you only used 1/3 of the paste? Yeah? well, you'll need the remaining 2/3 here. So put about 2 Oz of Achiote paste, 1 cup OJ, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon whole allspice, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and about 3 tablespoons sea salt in the blender. Add as many dried chiles as your pussy-ass digestive tract can tolerate and blend the shit out of it to get a very aromatic paste.

And again, remember: the stains won't come off, ever

Remember you bought a whole bag of banana leaves for that fish recipe and only used 6? Well, take'em out of the freezer, soak'em in hot water and use them to line a large crock pot. I know, this should be oven-roasted, but cut me some slack, its fucking Hermosillo, remember? We're still above 100°F. Shit, fuckers here die, go to Hell and come back for their blankets. Make sure the leaves overlap and hang to the sides so you can fold them over the pot later.
 Place 8 lbs of pork shoulder cut into 2 in cubes into the pot. Empty the contents of the blender over the meat, and fold the leaves over the whole thing. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Crank it up to high and ignore it for at least 3 hours. The meat will be ready when it falls apart on its own.

Leave it the fuck alone. I'm serious. Step away.
Serve it like any other kind of pulled pork. On its own with rice, in sandwiches, make fucking tacos, whatever. Just make sure you top it with an ass load of the Mighty Crohn and prepare to have your mind blown the fuck away.
Look at this beautiful motherfucker. Look at it!
See? LOTS of Crohn
Sorry for the stained plate, I'm evidently not a pro
This one's a tough bitch. The flavors are agressive, and often in contrast to each other. You have the acidity of the vinegar, the mustard-like flavor of the achiote, the sweetness from the oranges, the earthiness and warmth of cinnamon and the testicle-developing heat from the habaneros.

A very neophite-friendly option would be Chardonnay. The grapes themselves are quite neutral, and while most Chardonnays are fruity, with notes of citrus and green apple, much of its flavor comes from the terroir. I'd suggest a Californian Oak Aged Chardonnay, like L.A Cetto Valle de Guadalupe. 

For decades, Chardonnay was confused with Pinot Blanc and Chenin Blanc, so both would also be apropriate. Monte Xanic Chenin Blanc Cosecha Tardía is a very nice, slightly sweet wine that can carry on all the way down to desert.

If Beer ir your poison of choice, there really are no wrong choices. Honestly, the dish is so complex in its flavors, you can either go for harmony or contrast and still win. Just stay away from the light shit and you'll be fine.

Printer Friendly Version:
Cochinita Pibil (Mayan Oven-Roasted Pulled Pork)
Serves 8:

2 Oz Achiote Paste
1 cup Orange Juice
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons sea salt
5 morita chiles.
8 lbs pork shoulder, no fat trimmed, cubed
Banana leaves.
Crohn, lots of delicious Crohn

  1. Blend the first 9 ingredients together into a paste
  2. Line a large crock-pot with banana leaves and place the cubed pork in it
  3. Bathe it with your sauce. Fondle it with pleasure.
  4. Cover tightly with alluminum foil and cook it on high for 3 hours. Check for doneness.
  5. Serve with refried black beans (I cannot stress this enough: BLACK beans, motherfucker), corn tortillas and Crohn.
  6. Fucking stay Awesome, you Magnificent Bastard.
  7. Help a homie out, leave a comment.

martes, 18 de octubre de 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon à la Cardoza (Douchebag French Beef Stew)

It's autumn in most of the northern hemisphere. For most of you, that means a chilly weather, windy days, pumpkins, spices and hot drinks. Not for us, though. Hermosillo has 2 seasons: Baseball and Summer. With temperatures averaging above 100°F year-long, our definition of comfort food is usually ceviche and beer.
Still, this being October, pumpkins, squashes and winter tubers are making their way into the supermarkets, so I decided to cook some quintessential comfort food for the blog, even though I was sweating my nutsack off in the process. Don't say I don't love you, fuckers.

Boeuf bourguignon is considered one of the sacred ancient dishes of french cuisine right now, but that was not always the case. Its origins are lost in time, but it's speculated that peasants devised braising their meats in wine as a way of softening otherwise inedible cuts, such as cheap-ass beef and fresh game. The great Auguste Escoffier, "Emperor of Chefs", elevated the recipe to new heights simply by serving it pretty, and made it globally popular in his last book, "Ma Cuisine" (My Kitchen) in 1934.

I learned how to make this when I was about 13 and got my hands on a copy of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", and as my first official culinary success, it holds a very special place in my cholesterol-encrusted heart. I've tweaked it over the years and I've noticed that, regardless of the changes I make, it yields consistently palatable results. I also made it in France for my french friends and it reminded them of their grandmas, so I guess I got it right,
By the way, she was 6 ft tall and actually worked for the CIA, so there's a chance she might have been an actual fucking spy. How awesome is THAT!?

Start with 5 oz of thick bacon. Traditionally, the meat was larded with pork belly. That is, it was threaded with a needle using long strips of pork fat to substitute for the marbling in better cuts of meat. Pancetta should be ideal, but since we're braising this until it falls apart, no one will notice. Roghly chop the bacon, then put in a pot over a ver low flame and render as much fat as you can from it.

Now add 2 large onions, 5 large carrots and 5 large ribs of celery (a basic mire-poix) to the bacon and sweat'em.

While the vegetables get all sweaty and do the nasty, turn your Crock-pot on high and empty a whole bottle of wine into it. Once the onions become translucent, add them to the wine.

Take 5 lbs of Chuck pot roast and cut into fist-sized chunks. The chunks must be large and evenly sized. Turn the flame up to high on the pot and brown them in whatever fat was left. This starts the now-famous Maillard reaction that will flavor the whole thing.

Once the beef cubes are browned, add them to the wine. Deglaze the pan and add all the burnt bits to the pot as well.

Stir 3 Tbsps sea salt, 3 Oz of tomato paste, 1 tsp ground chipotle pepper (part of the Cardoza touch), 2 bay leaves and lots of black pepper. Cover and ignore for 2 1/2 hours. The original recipe calls for a bouquet garni, which is simply a bunch of your favorite herbs tied up with string, but I've noticed that full-bodied wines don't actually need any seasoning.
Two-and-a-half hours have passed, now sprinkle 5 Tbsps of flour over the meat and stir to dissolve. Cover and ignore for another 30 to 40 minutes.

To serve, pick out the meat cubes from the stew and strain the gravy to discard the vegetables. Serve with whatever blank starch you have at hand. Buttered noodles, white rice, potatoes, mushrooms, whatever.
I actually like to eat the vegetables, but it definitely looks better without'em, I give you that.

Whatever you used to cook the meat will do. Most foodies swear by the "if you won't drink it, don't cook with it" dogma, but I say it's bullshit. Taste is a matter of personal preference, and sommeliers around the world are full of shit, (and, then again, probably so am I...).

L.A. Cetto's Nebbiolo, regardless of the vintage year, is an excelent choice for umami dishes. It has a very pleasant, deep red fruit taste with very well-rounded tannins that bring life to your dead cow.

In this case, I used a young E. & J. Gallo Cabernet Sauvignon. It's fairly inexpensive, well rounded, with notes of cranberries and cassis and very assertive tannins. Also, its acidity offsets the richness of the bacon and fat very well. Any brand of Cabernet will do.

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Boeuf Bourguignon à la Cardoza (Douchebag French Beef Stew)
5 oz bacon, chopped
5 lbs Chuck Pot Roast, cut in large chunks
1 750ml bottle of red wine
5 large carrots, chopped
5 large celery ribs, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
3 oz tomato paste
1 tsp chipotle powder
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
5 Tbsps flour

  1. Fry the bacon over a low flame. Once it's released all of its porky goodness, sauté the carrots, onions and celery.
  2. Start your Crock-pot on high and empty the wine into it.
  3. Add the vegetables and bacon, then brown the meat in the leftover fat.
  4. Add the fat to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients, except the flour. Ignore the pot for 2 1/2 hours.
  5. Add the flour, stir well and ignore for another 30 to 40 minutes, to get a thick, delicious, hip-widening gravy.
  6. Take the meat out of the pot, strain the vegetables out of the sauce and throw them away. Serve with whatever you like.
  7. Fucking rule the table.
  8. Fucking leave a fucking comment, you owe me that much.
  9. Stay fucking awesome.

martes, 11 de octubre de 2011

Asado de Boda Zacatecano (Zacatecan Wedding Roast)

After so many pedantic posts, I decided to put my feet back on the ground and cook some real comfort food. You know, the type of food that'll stick to your ribs and fucking stay there until your coronaries petrify. Many recipes came to mind, but hell, it's Chocolate Week! so I decided to go with something no one had tried before in my house.

The best thing about travelling across Mexico is that not a single fat old lady will deny you her recipes if you ask politely. This one in particular comes from the state of Zacatecas, smack right in the middle of the country. The people there are just as amazing as the sights. Go there on your next vacation.
Remember: BE POLITE. Mexican Grandmas don't fuck around
Zacatecas (from the nahuatl "Where the grass grows tall") has a rich history, both political and gastronomical. It had some of the largest silver mines in the country, and was fought over by both the Spanish and the French, so the food is understandably amazing. Fusion food as it should be, unpretentious and appealing, with a kind of primal charm.

This particular recipe is sort of labor-intensive, if you're the kind of fat lazy fuck that gets every ingredient from a can or a frozen bag, which is why, as the name implies, it's served at weddings. But if you've got a shred of initiative in you, you'll enjoy making it as much as you'll enjoy eating it. Traditionally, this recipe calls for a whopping 3 cups of rendered pork fat, and while there's no denying that all that porky deliciousness is good, I had to tweak it a little and turn down the porcine debauchery to make it heart-friendly.

Start with 4 lbs of boneless pork shoulder cut into large cubes. Trim the largest chunks of fat and reserve them.

Put the meat in a large pot with enough water to cover it completely. Add some aromatics -in this case, celery and onion- and simmer over a medium flame for about 1 hour.

While the meat cooks, get some chiles. These are Anchos and Chilacates, but you can substitute for Pasillas and New Mexicos. Use about 1/2 lb of each. Place them in a pot with enough water to cover them and bring them to a boil. As soon as they boil, turn the heat off and let them sit in the hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and reserve.

Now take the peel form half a Valencia orange. Try to remove as much of the white pith as possible without being overly anal rettentive. Reserve.

These are bolillos, mexican sourdough rolls. Take 2 day-old bolillos and slice them thick. Air them out for a few minutes. Take 3 Tbsps of corn oil and some of the reserved por fat. Heat them over the lowest possible flame to render some pork fat and impart flavor. Once the fat pieces are browned, remove them and fry the bread over a medium low flame.

Drain the meat, discard the celery and onion and reserve the stock. As soon as your bread is fried, dunk it in the stock and let it soak it up.

This is piloncillo. It's the rawest form of sugar you'll find and it usually comes in 200g (7oz) cones. You'll need one cone. Place it in a zip-top bag, cover it with a kitchen towel and gently pound the shit out of it with a hammer. You'll be left with a sort of moist, brownsugary thing. If you can't find piloncillo, substitute with 5 oz brown sugar and 2 oz dark molasses.
This is mexican cinnamon (canela), also known as True Cinnamon, and it has a very distinct flavor, piquant and spicy, extremely pungent and aromatic, yet sweet. You'll need one stick.
Blend the chiles (minus the stalks), the piloncillo, the cinnamon, and some pork stock until you make a thick salsa.

Now add the bread and the rest of the stock and about 3 tablespoons of salt and keep blending. Reserve.
Take another 6 Tbsps of corn oil and gently render some more pork fat. Once you're done, remove the fat pieces and brown the meat evenly. Add a cup of water when you're done and scrape all the delicious, browned, quasibacon particles from the bottom of the pan.
This is mexican chocolate. It's semisweet and very different from the baking chocolates you're used to. Baking chocolates are slowly ground between metal cylinders for days and then slowly emulsified. Mexican chocolate is more artisanal, coarser, sweetened with cane sugar and spiked with cinnamon and sometimes nutmeg. You'll need 2 tablets.
Lower the heat to low. Strain the sauce over the meat, pressing on it and discarding any solids left. Your sauce should be silky and smooth.
Now add the orange peel and break the chocolate over the sauce, stirring vigorously and constantly. Chocolate is added at the very end to prevent burning and fucking up. Keep simmering over a low flame for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Serve with additional bolillos and some mexican red rice.

Pairing (be gentle, it's my first time):
Contrary to french belief, complex mexican sauces do marry well with Champange and sparkling wines, just make sure it's not something too acidic. In my humble opinion, Freixenet's Cava Sala Vivé Brut is an excelent and unexpected choice, regardless of the vintage year. 

Following the long Zacatecan tradition of clinging to their brief contact with the Spanish, a fairly young bottle of El Coto de Rioja Crianza 2007 (again, against all european preconceptions) will compliment the freshness from the orange peel and bring out the earthiness from the chocolate and cinnamon.

Mexican reds are worthy of consideration as well, most specially L.A Cetto's Don Luis Merlot and Boutique Syrah. Just avoid southamerican wines, they tend to be too acidic.

Almost any beer will do, but if you went through all this trouble, you might as well, invest in some good ones. Guiness is a good choice, although it can be a little overpowering. My recommendations would be Cucapá Obscura and Bohemia Weizen.

Printer Friendly Version: Asado de Bodas Zacatecano (Zacatecan Wedding Roast)
Serves 6
Aproximately 3 hours

4lbs boneless pork shoulder
2 ribs celery
1 small onion
1 gallon water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 lb ancho or pasilla peppers
1/2 lb chilacate or dried new mexico peppers
1 stick mexican cinnamon
2 tablets mexican chocolate
1 cone (7oz) of piloncillo, or 5oz brown sugar + 2oz dark molasses
2 stale bolillos, or at least as much artisanal sourdough bread
The peel off 1/2 an orange
  1. Simmer the pork along with the celery and onion for about 1 hour, then drain and reserve the stock
  2. Rehydrate the chiles in hot water and drain
  3. Fry the bolillos in 3 Tbsps vegetable oil + a little pork fat and make big-ass croutons, then dunk'em in the pork stock
  4. Blend the chiles, piloncillo, cinnamon, bread and stock to a thick sauce
  5. Brown the pork in 6 Tbsps vegetable oil + a little pork fat and de glaze the pan with a cup of water.
  6. Strain the sauce over the meat, discard any solids left.
  7. Add the orange peel and chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts.
  8. Simmer over a very low flame for 30 minutes, stirring vigorously to avoid burning
  9. Fucking rule a mexican wedding
  10. Leave a fucking comment