viernes, 25 de noviembre de 2011

Crystalized Pumpkin

Northern Mexico is probably best known for its beef, but there's obviously a lot more to our food than that. Roughly 30% of Sonora's surface is desert, which means traditional dishes are simple and calorie-dense. So this being November, Mexican Cuisine Pride Month, I decided to try and make one of the most traditional sonoran desserts: Crystalized Pumpkin.

Pumpkins last for months without much need for special attention, and chances are you'll find them dirt-cheap just about anywhere around this date. It's the perfect occasion to step the fuck away from the canned shit and prove to yourself you have a moderate measure of usefulness.

Start with a large pumpkin. A good way to tell if the pumpkin was vine-ripened is taking a good look at its overall shape and state of the stem. Vine-ripened pumpkins are somewhat flatter, since they're left on the ground longer. The skin is thick and irregular, but has no blemishes or scraped spots. The stems are thorougly dry and tough, much tougher than the skin, and the whole thing feels heavy for its size.

This is a 16lb pumpkin I got from my grandfather. Clean the surface and split it open using a meat cleaver and a hammer.

Scrape all the shit from inside and throw it away, then rinse the pumpkin and cut it up into manageable sections.
Peel it with a knife, then chop it to evenly sized chunks, about 2 cubic inches each. You need them to be uniform so they'll cook evenly. We're left with rougly 14 lbs of flesh.

This is calcium hydroxide, otherwise known as lime. Yeap, the same shit you'll find in construction sites. Don't be a fucking pussy, it's perfectly safe. We're soaking the pumpkin in a very alkaline solution before cooking, a process akin to the nixtamalization of corn.


Plant cell walls are soluble in alkaline solutions, which changes their structure. The cells take up massive ammounts of calcium, which increases the pumpkin's nutritional value. The alkaline solution denaturizes most of the protein found in the pumpkin and breaks up its sugars, essentially starting a chemical caramelization process. This means the pumkpin will change its consistency and resist the long-ass cooking time without disintegrating into a paste, which is good.

If you're too much of a pussy to use lime, you could use red limestone from South Asian markets and pay dearly in both time and money; or you could use baking powder and risk a bitter taste... ooooor you could just grow a pair, it's up to you.

Place the pumpkin chunks in a very large pot and fill with enough water to cover it, then add 1 Tbsp lime for every pound of fruit. Give it a good stir and let it soak for 24 hours. BE FUCKING CAREFUL, don't fuck around, don't breathe it in, try not to get too much on your skin. If you do, rinse it off with vinegar or you'll be nixtamalizing your skin off.

The next day, take it outside and rinse it thoroughly with clean tap water a few times to get rid of the excess lime. Wash the pot and fill it with 2 cups of water for every pound of fruit. Add 1 lb of piloncillo for every 2 lbs of fruit, the peel from a few oranges, some cinamon sticks and a fistful of cloves to make a thin syrup.

Once the sugar dissolves, add the pumpkin, lower the flame to medium and just fucking forget about it until the syrup is thick and sticky. This being 16 fucking pounds, it took me 8 hours to cook the damn thing.

 As with all crystalized fruits, you can take it out of the syrup, roll it un sugar and let it dry over night. We keep it in the syrup and store it in air-tight jars. It will last up to 6 months in your fridge.

Serve warm with some strong coffee, or pour it over vanilla ice cream. Be fucking awesome.

Printer-friendly version:
Cubierto de Calabaza (Crystalized Pumpkin)
Yields a fucking lot, adjust quantities following proportion

14lbs of cubed raw pumpkin
14 Tbsps lime

7 lbs piloncillo
3 Oz cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup whole cloves
Peel from 4 oranges.

  1. Once you've dealt with the pain in the ass that is prepping the pumpkin, soak it in a solution of water and lime for 24 hours. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Make a syrup using 2 cups of water and 1/2lb of piloncillo for every lb of pumpkin. Add cinnamon, cloves and orange peel (entirely up to you) and boil.
  3. As soon as the syrup boils, turn the heat down to medium, add the pumpkin and cook until the syrup is reduced by half.
  4. Be fucking awesome, mexican grampa style.

jueves, 3 de noviembre de 2011

Grilled Whole Prime Rib and Warm German Potato Salad

I'm making a parenthesis from the promised mexican recipes to go international. This kind of beef deserves it. Turns out I got my carnivore paws on 36 (yes, thirty-six) lbs of some premium quality Prime Rib. Sonoran beef is recognized worldwide as some of the best, with the US importing over 1.8 million heads in 2009 alone. We take our meat seriously.
So it is, technically, mexican food
So seriously, in fact, that I'm going full Sheldon mode on this post before actually getting to the cooking. Scroll down if you're the kind of ignorant slob that doesn't care about enlightment.
See there, where it conveniently says "rib"?

Prime rib is one of the 8 primal cuts of beef. It's name stems from the fact that a number of other cuts derive from it, not from its quality. Semantics notwithstanding, however, even the shittiest cow will give great meat from this area. Here's why: it has the perfect ratio of meat:fat:bone to impart flavor and texture. The muscles involved are not regularly excersized, so they then to be a lot more tender than other parts. And fuck it, it just looks fucking awesome to hold it, Fred Flintstone-style.
So we're starting with a primal cut. This particular portion comes with a section of another cut: the brisket. We'll cover brisket in future posts, but sufice it to say the flat of the brisket covers a part of the ribs, so that will need to come off, along with most of the fat., Save the fat for cleaning the grill.
Lok at the SIZE of these fuckers
See that EPIC MARBLING right there!? and it was slaughtered 24hrs prior. Carnivore Nirvana right there
This is the brisket flat. Pull it off slowly and carefully, then save it for some pot roast
The fat has been trimmed and saved. Some retouching is needed near the vertebral processes, though
Now take a cup of olive oil and blend the leaves form 4 fresh rosemary sprigs. Place 2 cups of kosher salt in a bowl and mix it with the rosemary oil. Now rub this on the meat and think sexy thoughts eating like a fucking man while your woman stares in awe.
Rosmarinus officinallis
Yeap, cheap-ass olive oil. No need to splurge the benjamins here
Sort of rosemary pesto

Place the meat in a big-ass bag and let it rest, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours. The salt will break up the collagen surrounding the ribs, tenderizing the meat further. The oil will help to infuse the rosemary into the meat. Kiss it good-bye and concentrate on the potato salad.

Alternatively, if you're about to cook, you can leave the meat to air-dry with the salt rub on for 30 minutes, unrefrigerated.
These are a mix of waxy and starchy potatoes, in this case, Round White and Yukon Gold. I like them because they hold their shape regardless of the application. I took 5 lbs of spuds and boiled them over a medium flame in salted water until tender. This can take about a whole hour. Don't test them for doneness with a knife, coz they're sharp and will mislead you. Instead, take one out and pinch the skin. If it comes off easily, you're all set.

You need to boil them slowly, otherwise they'll cook unevenly. This actually reminds me of a song:
Anyways, after you potatoes are peeled, cube them and place them in a big-ass bowl. While the potatoes boil, You need to get your hands on about 2 lbs of bacon. Chop it up into little pieces and fry it over a very low flame to get all of the fat from it. Drain the bacon and save as much fat as you can.

While the bacon fries (we're fucking multitasking, bro!!!), roughly chop 4 very large onions, then put them in a pot with 500 ml of white vinegar and 500 ml of chicken stock, 1 cup of sugar, and salt and pepper. No need to reduce it, just heat it until the onions are cooked through.

Now, as the onions cook, add enough vegetable oil to the bacon fat to measure 2 cups, reheat and dissolve a whole jar of dijon mustard in it. Add that to the simmering onions.

I like it french, sue me. I also like it "A L'Ancienne" because it's got whole mustard seeds and they pop in your mouth like little spheres of deliciousness

Once it's homogenous, dump it all (while still hot) on your potatoes. They will look soupy. It's ok. After a while, the spuds will absorb the dressing. Sprinkle chopped chives or scallions for garnish and let it sit for a few hours.

Now back to the meat. Start your grill and set the meat, bone side-down, about 3 inches from white-hot coals. Keep some water handy to put out the flames, coz the fat will catch fire like a motherfucker. Leave it like this for 40 minutes, then flip and cook for another 20.

See that? Like a Motherfucker
This will yield medium-rare to medium, provided you let the meat rest for 10 - 15 minutes before carving. Any more done, and you don't deserve it. You can slice it with the bone and get rib steaks, or dismantle the cap, tail and eye to make individual portions. Either way, you will fucking rule.

Pictured: a BITCHING Rib steak

You will forgive the shitty last pic. It was a halloween party and I was near-shitfaced
This is grass-fed beef, it has a very unique, strong flavor that needs something deep and assertive. Strong tanins and notes of wood and berries, like an Argentine or Mexican Merlot, should do the trick.

Blackbird Vineyards produces consistently excelent Merlots every year. If you got the $90, by all means, try it. If, like me, you depend on birthday gifts to drink like that, L. A. Cetto's Nebbiolo Reserva Privada is an excellent and affordable choice.

Printer-friendly version:
Grilled Whole Prime Rib and Warm German Potato Salad
Serves 14 - 18 (there's calculators in every cellphone if you need to trim it down, hater)

For the meat:
2 whole (18lbs each) Prime Ribs, trimmed. Anywhere from 6 to 8 bones in each one.
Fresh rosemary, olive oil and sea salt

For the Salad
5 lbs potatoes, boiled, peeled and cubed
2 lbs bacon, fried, fat reserved
4 large onions, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 jar (210g) Stone-ground Dijon mustard
500ml vinegar (white or cider)
500ml chicken stock
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Chives or scallions, chopped

  1. Blend the oil and rosemary, mix with sea salt to make a green paste and cover the meat. Let it rest for at least 1 hour.
  2. Place the vinegar, chicken stock, sugar and onions in a pot and simmer until the onions are cooked through.
  3. Reheat the bacon fat and add enough oil to measure 2 cups, then dissolve the mustard in this fat.
  4. Mix the fat and mustard with the vinegar and onions, then dump that shit over your potatoes.
  5. Sprinkle with chives and bacon and let rest
  6. Grill the meat bone side down over white-hot coals for 40 mins, then flip and cook for another 20 mins for meduim-rare to medium. Let it rest 15 mins before carving. Keep the flames down or you'll fuck it up.
  7. Carve, serve, stay fucking awesome
  8. Prove your awesomeness even further and leave a fucking comment.