Monday, January 22, 2007

BL Tease

We, the North American Mexpats must keep in touch with our roots. So it is important that we take care of our native needs, one of which is to make and eat the fond foods of home.
The 3 R's
Yesterday, Geni and Larry, our next door neighbors, brought us a red, ripe round tomato. These are rare here, where we have a Roma-rama of pale plummy tomatoes all year. Abundant, and relatively cheap, verdad, but quite lacking in flavor. As an American boy, born and bred , I immediately realized where my duty lay: BLT's.
(Tomato Sandwich Photo by Geni Certain)

These are the necessary elements.

The only items lacking were lettuce (which James Beard, in his seminal work, American Cookery, claimed was unnecessary to a proper BLT. With all respect to the Master, I must disagree. Lettuce must be part of the manifold textures and savors of the sandwich.)

It was Beard, perhaps, or our bearded friend, Ned Kehde, who said that a well made BLT sandwich is equal to the finest Peking Duck. Think about it. The soft, bland bread, the crisp lettuce, juicy, ripe tomato; the salty fat and smoky savor of the bacon. The Peking Duck features crispy, fatty duck skin in a soft, white po-ping. a tortilla-like flour pancake, crisp scallions and the tang of a Hoisin based sauce.

Homemade White Bread
But most importantly, freshly homemade white bread must be at hand. I set to work making a large loaf of Buttermilk White Bread in the Cuisinart Food Processor. About 4 cups of bread flour (Sello Rojo brand), 2 teaspoons of instant active dry yeast, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon white sugar (a little more to taste) 3 tablespoons of SACO Buttermilk Powder, and 2 teaspoons of salt.

Whirl the dry ingredients for a moment, then add approximately 2 cups of cool water. Process the dough steadily for 45 seconds, then stop. Test the dough consistency and moisture with your hands. Mine was a bit wet, so I threw it on the work table and kneaded it by hand for 2 or 3 minutes, then placed it in a lightly oiled 1 gallon ziplock back. Setting it out in the mild sun helped ferment it to a workable stage in about 1 1/2 hours.

I then shaped it into a loaf of about 1 pound, 12 ounces, placed in a pan sprayed with non-stick veg oil spray, stuck it back in the ziploc, and let it rise another hour.

Set oven to 375º Farenheit.

When the bread dough is about 1 inch over the edge of the pan, put it in the preheated oven. Bake about 35 minutes, or until well tanned on top. Test for doneness: remove the loaf from the pan and tap with your knuckles on the bottom. It should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.
Proper mayonnaise. I will settle for purchased mayo, although I still fondly remember my experiences at

Sam 'n Ella's Ho-made EATS Café

The essential element is really good bacon. For this, realistically speaking, since we can't get Coursey's Smokehouse Bacon nor Ozark Mountain Smokehouse Bacon, we use Wright's Thick-Sliced, Hickory Smoked Bacon, a terrific product. We get it at a premium price at Sam's Club in Morelia, but it's worth it.

The bacon: we figure on 2 1/2 slices per person, which we slowly fry in a large, cast iron skillet.
Meanwhile, we are washing and disinfecting our lettuce and tomatoes.

The bread is best sliced medium thick and very lightly toasted, spread with mayo or pickle relish sandwich spread, then a layer of carefully dried lettuce leaf, a couple of slices of red, ripe, round tomato, and the crisp, but not burnt bacon, still retaining a few areas of bubbled fat.

You may serve the pickles of your choice with it as you like.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

El Refranero del Pan

Several years ago, while researching a trip to Spain, I came across this collection of sayings about bread, all in Spanish. The website was a site for professional bakers and the baking industry in Spain. Today, however, I couldn't pull it up.
So, for the sake of perpetuity, I am reprising these sayings here.


A buen hambre no hay pan duro.
A gana de comer, no hay mal pan ni agua mala a gran sed.
A pan duro, diente agudo.
Aceitunas, pan y queso, eso tiene la corte en peso.
Al pan caliente metelle el diente.
Al pan de quince días, hambre de tres semanas.
Al pan, vino; y al vino pan.
Amigo por amigo, el buen pan y el buen vino.
Bien estoy con amigo, que come pan conmigo.
Buen pan y mucha leña, en invierno nunca enferma.
Buen vino y buen pan, ellos se pregonarán.
Cada día pan blanco, hace apetitoso el bazo.
Carne de hoy, pan de ayer y vino de antaño y viviras sano.
Casa sin mujer es como mesa sin pan.
Come pan y bebe agua y vivirás vida larga.
Con carne nueva, vino viejo y pan candeal, no se vive mal.
Con pan caliente y leche añojal, medra el pastor como un perujal.
Con pan hasta las sopas.
Con pan y vino se anda el camino.
Con tres "pes" te abrirás camino: pan, paciencia y padrino.
Con vino añejo y pan tierno, se pasa pronto el invierno.
Cuando comieras pan caliente, no bebas de la fuente.
Cuando el hambriento lo pilla, el pan duro le sabe a rosquillas.
Cuando fueres al mercado, pan liviano, queso pesado, buey combo y caballo pando.
Cuando la cuchara es de pan, ella remata el manjar.
Dame pan y dime tonto.
De buen mantener, huevos de hoy y pan de ayer.
De la harina el pan; del habla, el refrán.
De los olores, el pan; de los sabores, la sal.
De tal harina tal pan.
Donde no hay harina todo es mohína.
El ayuno del cristianillo, no deja el pan en el cestillo.
El holgazán no come pan.
El pan tostado, ni luce al amo ni al criado.
El pan, por el color; y el vino, por el sabor.
El vino por el calor, y el pan por el olor, y todo por el sabor.
El vino que salte, el queso que llore y el pan que cante.
El vino y el pan a las veces se dan.
En chica aldea, no hay pan duro ni mujer fea.
Fruta de hoy, y pan de ayer, carne de antier.
Harto come de mal pan, el que lo hace con afán.
Harto estoy de Juan como del mal pan.
Hecho a provecho, como pan casero.
La carne engorda, el vino esfuerza, el pan sustenta.
La comida sin pan, ni en el infierno lo dan.
Leña de romero y pan de panadera, la bordonería entera.
Más vale comer pan que gastar en botica.
Más vale pan y nueces que amor mil veces.
Mayor loco, fiestas muchas y pan poco.
Media vida es la candela, pan y vino la otra media.
Necio es pasar afa´n quien de sobra tiene vino y pan.
Ni mesa sin pan , ni mocita sin galán.
Ni mesa sin pan, ni ejercito sin capitán.
No da Dios pan sino en el ero sembrado.
Nunca buen pan de mala harina.
Pan a hartura y vino a mesura.
Pan acabado quita cuidado.
Pan candeal, pan celestial.
Pan con ojos, queso sin ojos y vino de Godojos.
Pan de centeno, mejor en tu vientre que en el ajeno.
Pan de trigo, aceite de olivo y de parra el vino.
Pan de trigo, de ese sí que soy amigo.
Pan de trigo, pero prieto, es de mucho alimento.
Pan duro duro, más vale duro que ninguno.
Pan para el hambriento es faisán un pan prieto.
Pan tierno, pan de mal gobierno; pan asentado, en hogar bien gobernado.
Pan, vino y carne crían buena sangre.
Para viuda y hambriento no hay pan duro.
Por carne, vino y pan, deja cuantos manjares hay.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

South East (Asia) by West Central (Mexico)

Another South East Asian Dinner in Michoacán

Yesterday afternoon, we had some guests for a semi-outside dinner. The day was sunny and pleasantly warm, so we set up the tables in the shade of the entryway.
While we waited for some delayed arrivals, I whipped a quick appetizer to tide the rest of us over. I mashed up a small brick of Philly Cream Cheese, added some sweetened, dried cranberries and a little diced Chiles Chipotles en Adobo, then sprinkled the resulting ball with sliced green onions. I served that with sliced, hot Vietnamese type Rice Flour Baguettes and Fiibran Crackers.

When the tardy party arrived, we launched into the opening courses; a salad of charcoal grilled/bbq's eggplants dressed with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sambal oelek, fish sauce and a little lime juice.

I'd bought some impressively large and long rábanos largos, which Geni cut into disks to garnish the Green Mango and Shrimp Salad. She did a beautiful job composing a colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables.
To the right you'll see a larger, more complex composed salad of green mango shred, carrots, giant red radish slices, and more, surrounded by shrimp and topped by strips of slightly chewy queso de puerco (head cheese).
The very tangy Thai or Vietnamese style dressing was made of fresh lime juice, fish sauce, piloncillo (crushed brown sugar cone), sliced green onions, cilantro, sliced Serrano chilis, and a bit of sambal oelek.

After the the salads, we had bowls of Tom Yum Goong, with medium thick rice noodles. There was just exactly enough to serve 8 persons, although I had a lot of surplus cooked noodles, some of which I am breakfasting on with eggplant salad.

During all this, we offered a variety of tequilas and mescals, as well as Agua de Papaya, and water. We also had some Chardonnay brought by our neighbors.
After a pause, we had brewed dark roasted Mexican coffee and two Coconut Cream Pies, made with a buttery, cookie crumb crust further enriched with coconut flakes and toasted almonds in the crust.

Many jokes were told, and then our friend Luis surprised us by borrowing my guitar and singing "old favorites" Mexican songs of the past, in a beautiful voice with great projection. It was a bravura performance.

About 8 PM, the last guests departed, then Susan and I tackled the mountain of dirty dishes. An hour later, we were done, and collapsed into bed. It had been some work, yet great fun.

View Album: click the picture.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Eve Dinner—LangosTiko's, Morelia

I know, I know: this blog is supposed to be about my Mexican Kitchen, but sometimes we eat out, and yesterday was a special occasion, so, there it is.

There are numerous excellent seafood restaurants in the Morelia-Pátzcuaro area, but when you want something a bit out of the ordinary, something with a little creative flair, I recommend LangosTiko's Restaurant in Morelia.

We spent New Year's Eve Day with our neighbors, Geni and Larry, in a shopping cycle of 4 or 5 big stores in Morelia.
Actually, we'd intended to go to Restaurante Amazonia, on Camelinas, a few blocks east of Star Médica, for "Carnes a la Espadas", but when we got there, it was closed for the New Year's weekend. Fortunately, our other top choice, LangosTiko's, was nearby, on Avenida Santamaría, about 2 blocks south of Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas, and a short distance north of the lateral that houses Amazonia. (The trick is to know which streets are one way, and where a left turn is allowed.) There was plenty of street parking, but for peace of mind, we parked in the estacionamiento next door, for 5 pesos an hour.

The restaurant was open, yet the afternoon rush had not begun. That gave us plenty of time to torture ourselves deliciously with the very tempting menu specialties. (Almost everthing is listed under "Especialidades".)
Three of us wanted to have the Sopa de Ostiones , Susan ordered the Pulpos LangosTikos, which she'd enjoyed on a previous visit; but first we ordered our drinks. There is a nice selection of national beers, although I had "Tequila Bandera". In keeping with the colorful, casual creativity of this restaurant, there is also a specialty drink, "Michelada LangosTikos", which is a red beer in a salt-rimmed goblet with a generous portion of boiled shrimp and raw oysters. I'd had that on a previous visit, although I got it without the oysters, which I avoid eating raw in México. While we sipped and read the menu, we nibbled on tostadas spread with the "Ceviche Hawaiiana", not really a ceviche, but a tangy spread of seafood bits in a spicy mayonnaise reminiscient of a remoulade sauce.

The Sopa de Ostiones is prepared tableside, a gimmick which normally doesn't attract me, but in the casual, palapa thatch covered; gravel- or deck-floored ambiance of LangosTikos, dried puffer fish hanging over the table, whiskers from an indigenous mask tickling the back of my neck, while I sat perched close to a 3 foot drop behind my chair, it enhanced the experience. We all three enjoyed the soup, although I found it to be somewhat different in overall sabor this time; perhaps the "Toque de Pernod" had been applied with a lighter hand.

We made our choices, and as the restaurant began to fill with large groups of customers, we placed our orders:
Larry, the Camarones Rellenos; plump shrimp, split and filled with queso asadero, then wrapped in bacon and fried; Geni, Filete Comonfort, a filet of delicate fish in a white wine cream sauce, further enriched with melted cheese atop; Susan, a brocheta of large, grilled shrimp and sweet peppers; I, Camarones a la Cazuela. This dish involves no casserole, but is described as shrimp sauteed with garlic and slivered onion, in a Spanish Sauce with red wine; bacon and slivers of chile serrano on a bed of spaghetti. It sounded a bit "busy" in the menu description, but was a delicious combination, notable for the generous quantity of shrimp, the crunch of fresh chiles, and especially the vivid green spaghetti, greener than any spinach pasta I'd ever seen. Maybe it was cilantro spaghetti.

All were pleased with their selections, although perhaps the cheese on the Filete was a bit over the top, and the bacon, although delicious, detracted somewhat from the shrimp on the brocheta. My only quibble is that the bread in the basket is a truly ordinary pseudo-baguette. But I can overlook that. We would go back again.
Drinks were 4 beers, one tequila bandera, 3 aguas minerales.

Our bill, tax and tip included, was $1000 MXP for the four of us.

We had no room for dessert, but we walked 8 blocks or so north, across the "Río", to Hornos Ortiz, to see the Christmas display, all made from bread dough, and the magnificent Roscas de Reyes (Three Kings Cakes) being decorated with candied fruits, in floral and other designs. The bakery has been beautifully enhanced by a new, central checkout bar and new display shelves. We lamented not having brought our cameras, a sore point further emphasized by the blazing sunset igniting the clouds in the western sky as we drove home.

¡Feliz y Próspero Año Nuevo 2007!