Sunday, November 29, 2009

Huevos Poblanos "Hacienda Don Cuevas"

While writing about our Zihuatanejo breakfast experiences, I decided to make what I consider a proper version of Huevos Poblanos.
Several points:
• I have no idea if this is an "authentic" recipe. I don't care; it's simple and it's good.
• I realize that making a dish in the leisure of one's one kitchen is a different thing than trying to get the orders out in a busy restaurant.
• This is the most basic version of the dish that I could make. I've added some options for those who who prefer to embellish.

Ingredients and method.
Time: 15-20 minutes, not including preparing the chile.
Serves 4
1 chile Poblano, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced. Do this first; in fact, it can be done a day in advance, and refrigerated.

2 Tbsps butter
4 Tbsps chopped white onion
Cook together, just until onion becomes transparent.

2 Tbsps flour. Add to butter and onion; cook on low heat until bubbly but not brown.

2 cups of cold milk
1 1/2 tsps Knorr-Suiza Caldo de Pollo en Polvo
1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Whisk over low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens.
Taste for seasoning. Salt as needed; a dash of White Wine Worcestershire Sauce (optional)

Add the diced chile Poblano. (Thanks to observant reader "Anonymous")

Off heat, add:
1 heaping Tbsps sour cream (optional)
(Sauce may be pureed with a stick blender, but it's an unnecessary refinement.)
Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat 4 large tostadas or tortillas de maíz, OR toast English muffins, if you want to Anglicize this dish.

Poach eggs, 2 per serving, or as desired. We prefer the eggs with soft yolks.

Plating: place two tostadas, or tortillas, or two halves of toasted English muffin on each plate. Coat breadstuff with Salsa Poblana.
Place eggs on sauce. Lightly nap eggs with remaining sauce.
Cilantro, finely chopped (optional), as a garnish.
Suggested serving with avocado and tomato slices.

¡Aquí tienes!

Zi-Wha Eats? Part 1

Zihuatanejo offers visitors eating options from very cheap to very high end. Call me codo if you wish, but I prefer not to risk my retirement income pesos on high cost, resort area restaurants with a fusion cuisine and a view. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that prices in Zihua tends to be more expensive than for similar fare elsewhere. This is especially true in the well trodden tourist corridors.

The evening of our arrival, we walked a few blocks to Rufo's Grill, on Calle Adelita at the corner of Calle Remedios.

It's a pleasant little place, under a palapa roof. The focus of attention is the charcoal grill in the backyard kitchen, which gives off enticing aromas. Fresh fish, either mahi-mahi or tuna was the catches of the day, but since BBQ ribs were on the menu as well as Chuleta (pork chop) al Pastor, we chose those.

The trio of three table salsas and a dish of chiles was pretty good. The flour tortillas were o.k. (Noted that almost every place we samples (well, not that many, it's true.) had flour tortillas, not corn.) There was a dab of passable guacamole and a dab of ordinary frijoles on the plate. I asked to have my frijoles swapped out for French Fries, which were good.

The ribs were succulent but few in number, although the pork chop was large and meaty. The grilled vegetables on the side were good, although the carrot chunks were still raw.

We had a beer and a couple of limonadas. Overall, a pleasant meal, but needing a bit more attention to the sides. I don't have a note on cost, but I do recall that the chuleta was $95 and the costillas perhaps $70 (all costs in pesos.) The total may have been under $350.
Rufo's Grill is open only in the evening. In the morning, it's the simple Patio Mexica, whose breakfasts we did not try.

We went a second time to Rufo's on Thursday night. I had a decent cheeseburger and fries for $40 and Doña Cuevas a Grilled Vegetable Plate. I should say that we make that at home fairly often, so our standards are high. The Rufo's version, in our opinion, is overpriced at $85. It's a few slices of grilled zucchini (the best part), some sweet red pepper (o.k.), a slice of undercooked eggplant, and no seasoning whatsoever. It's a dish that cries out for some pesto, or aiolí. We got olive oil and vinegar at the table.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pátzcuaro's Best Eats?


While playing around with
Google Maps, I started a custom map. On it, I added locations and descriptions of some of my favorite places to eat in the Pátzcuaro area. The list is short, but I hope to add more places worth of attention. Maybe later, I will highlight them in some detail.

See the embedded map for my picks.

View Pátzcuaro's Best Eats in a larger map.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Other Blog???

Yes! I have another blog! Actually, there is yet a third blog, supposedly on travel, but it hasn't been updated in over three years. It might be merged with Surviving La Vida Buena, as soon as I figure out how to do that.

I'm gratified to have 27 registered Followers of My Mexican Kitchen.
However, my other blog, Surviving La Vida Buena, has only 2.

So in the interest of raising awareness of my other blog, which has occasional musings on the expat life in Mexico, a few posts on technology from an avid user's viewpoint, and any other topics which might interest me, I commend you to have a look at Surviving La Vida Buena.

I just posted on Google Earth's amazing Street View capabilities, coming soon to a major city near you.

 Don Cuevas

Black Magic Radish

The Black Radishes arrived in stealth by night, then at daybreak, sought cover in a nest of verduras to the side of the puesto de Los Padilla in the mercado de Pátzcuaro.

These rarely seen, dark and mysterious vegetables are a special delight for some of us whose heritage is from the eastern side of Europe. They look something like an anarchist's bomb from the reign of the Tsars.

We were shopping for vegetables and fruits in the mercado yesterday and I was surprised to find two large black radish roots other than at Los Padilla. When I asked the Señora how much, she pointed  to the larger and said, "Cincuenta pesos", and the smaller, "Treinta." I felt that was a little high, so we passed them up.

As we were winding up our marketing, we stopped by los Padilla to see what special items they might have.

From El Mercado de Pátzcuaro 6/5/09 4:28 PM
Los Padilla, Arturo y Sra. Rosa.

Whle I waited as they served other customers, my eye caught the two black radishes hidden to the side of the stand, under a cover of acelgas  (chard) or some similar verduras.
Arturo asked only $20 MXN for a substantial black radish, a very good price. It weighed perhaps 500 grams.

Soon after we arrived home, I started to prepare a version of my Mom's Black Radish Salad.

Given the unusual size of the specimen, I hard cooked 4 eggs, 2 more than usual. When they were cool, I first washed, peeled and disinfected the radish. The skin was unusually coarse and almost scaly, evoking mental images of black iguanas.


I then cut it into pieces that would fit down the feed tube of our Cuisinart food processor. I set up a coarse shredding disk in the processor.

I cleaned one small onion and peeled the hardcooked eggs. It's an easy task to run the sections of black radish, the eggs and the onion through the shredding disk. The contents were then transferred to a large mixing bowl. (On reflection, it might have been somewhat better to first shred he eggs, the onion, then the radish; which would serve to better clean the shredding plate. Also, the hardcooked eggs shred better when chilled.)
Salt and freshly ground pepper were applied to taste.

Now, we come to a fork in the culinary road. Traditionally, rendered chicken fat cooked down slowly with onions is lightly applied to the salad and tossed in. As we don't have schmaltz und grebenes on hand, I used olive oil. It's less interesting but healthier. One could use toasted Oriental sesame oil to good effect, I think.

It seemed lacking in pungency, so I took the radical step of reconstituting some wasabi in a little water, letting it repose 5 minutes to develop "heat", then blended it into the salad.

Taste again: a few drops of lime juice or white wine vinegar, perhaps, and it's ready to eat. We served it to ourselves on romaine leaves flanked by strips of sweet orange pepper.

Here's another blog's essay on Black Radish: Weird Vegetables.

And this Black Radish Beer is a German style dark beer, but I hope that it doesn't really contain black radish. That would be too weird.

(There's also a Jewish-Eastern European conserve of black radish and ¿honey? which I must investigate. It's not this recipe by Mimi Sheraton, for a long keeping conserve. It definitely has honey in it.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Southern Comfort: Country Sausage Gravy

The recipe for this is open to many variations, depending on custom and individual taste. What I'm saying, is don't expect much in the way of precise amounts or hand-holding.

For enough gravy to serve 4 to 6 people, you'll need about 8 tablespoons of meat drippings, either from cooking off a pound of Country Sausage, augmented, if necessary, with some bacon fat or butter. Lately I've been using a little butter, with good results. Set the crumbled, cooked Country Sausage aside while you do the roux.

Heat the fat in a large skillet (iron if possible) while slowly heating a quart/liter of milk in a separate pot.

Sprinkle in the flour and mash it around to get a nice paste. Cook slowly until it's bubbly, about 5 minutes, and remove from the heat. (It won't look too nice.)

Add the roux to the pot of heated milk by tablespoonsful, whisking continually. Use all the roux. Keep some milk on hand in case this gets too thick.

You must stir or whisk nearly constantly.(You can do this while the biscuits are baking.) Keep the heat fairly low, just under medium, and it will gradually thicken. Do not allow it to boil.

Add the cooked, crumbled sausage meat, stir and heat a few minutes.
Taste for seasoning. Now, after the highly seasoned sausage has been added to the gravy, is the right time to adjust for salt and pepper. Customarily, it's well peppered.

Serve hot, in a gravy bowl, and let your guests dip their own to ladle onto split, hot biscuits. If serving just for yourself, skip the gravy bowl and just dish it up as you like.

Here's an image from another website.
It's the best B & G image I've found in my brief search. May yours look as good.

Southern Comfort: Angel Biscuits

I admit, I really hate writing out recipes on the blog. But since I more or less promised recipes for Angel Biscuits and Country Sausage Gravy, I'm going to try to get this over in one long and one short post, so I can return to my more typical fanciful food flights.

Angel Biscuits (Adapted from The Complete Book of Breads, by Bernard Clayton.)

A really great thing about these biscuits is that you make up the dough in advance and refrigerate it. The author claims you can do so up to 4 or 5 days, but I've never taken it past 3. The tangy buttermilk plus yeast fermentation increases its sour power with each hour. I believe that there would be a point of diminished leavening potential after 3 days.

• 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (Mexican equivalent; Celestial or Sello Rojo Tradicional)
• 1 package dry yeast (about 2 teaspoons)
• 1 tablespoon baking powder (Royal)
• 1 teaspoon baking soda (Bicarbonato de sodio)
• 3 tablespoons of sugar (I've cut that sometimes to only 2. The fll quantity is needed, in my opinion, for a prolonged, cold fermentation.)
• 1 teaspoon salt (May be increased to 1 1/2 tsps)
Blend the above ingredients well.
Cut in with a pastry blender, two table knives or finger tips:
• 3/4 cup shortening. Bernard Clayton says "lard preferred", but I typically use a half cup of "Cristal Manteca vegetal" and a 1/3 cup of Kirkland butter. I avoid hard, semi-crystalline shortenings such as "Inka". The particles should be about the size of grains of rice. But if you have a few slightly larger, don't worry.

•• Two cups of buttermilk, slightly warmed.
Here's the catch. Buttermilk is almost impossible to find in Mexico, so substitutions must be found. Various have been tried: a little vinegar in milk works fairly well; Activia Natural might do, but you'll need to reduce the sugar in the dry ingredients.
Yoghurt natural, sin azúcar could work if thinned out a bit.
I haven't tried Jocoque Libanés. It's also very expensive.

The best liquid buttermilk replacer is SACO dry cultured buttermilk. Pack some into your luggage when coming to Mexico from El Norte, or ask your friends to bring some. (Once the canister is opened, store the remainder in a tightly enclosed container to keep out moisture and to prevent lumping.)

Let's say you lucked out and got some SACO.
Use 4 tablespoons for every cup of water in the dough. SACO must be well mixed with very warm water to combine without lumps. An alternate way is to blend it well with the dry ingredients, then use somewhat warm water to combine the dry ingredients into a rather wet dough. The warm water is also useful in activating the yeast.

Mix the ingredients just until blended. Place in a Pam-sprayed bowl or better, a Pam-sprayed large plastic bag. Close, leaving some room for expansion, and refrigerate, at least overnight. Twenty-four to thirty-six hours is about optimum, IMO.

Baking Day
Preheat oven to 400º F or 205º C.
Get a couple of ungreased cookie sheets, a rolling pin and a small (2 inch or so) biscuit cutter. Mine is an old Vienna Sausage can with one end removed and a few vent holes punched into the other side. (My kinfolk brought it on their mule drawn wagon when they crossed the Cumberland Gap on their way to the State of Arkansaw.)

Flour your work surface well, and take the damp dough out of the bag or bowl. Flatten it to a rough rectagle, and pat or roll out, then fold in thirds. Repeat this at least once, up to three times. (This is why the dough was mixed wet.)

With the rolling pin, roll out the dough sheet to 1/2 inch thick. Lift it and give it a little shake to allow it to shrink back. Reroll if necessary to 1/2 inch. These biscuits will rise mightily.

With a lightly floured cutter, cut straight down, without twisting, and place each biscuit on the cookie sheet with about 2 inch spacing. (Unlike regular biscuits, these bake better if not too close together.)

You may, if you like, lightly brush the tops with melted butter, but it's not really necessary.

Place in the oven for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until the tops are nicely browned. (Here's where a good oven thermometer pays its way. Your kilometraje wil vary with your oven and your elevation above sea level)

Pull one open to be sure the interior is fully baked.
Serve warm with butter, syrup, molasses, honey, jam or Country Sausage Gravy. (Recipe up next.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Southern Comfort: Spicy Country Sausage

One of my favorite food books is the long out-of-print, Better Than Store-Bought, by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie. More than a cookbook, it's a collection of recipes for specialty foods that are not only better than store bought, but for many of us living in México, unobtainable in any store. Thus, it's the first source to which I turn when I need a recipe for special jams, mustards, English Muffins, and in this instance, sausages.

I have adapted their excellent recipe for Spicy Country Sausage (page 6) to local conditions and our tastes. I've also increased the quantity to a kilogram of meat. If you are going to the effort to do this, you might as well make enough to freeze some. You may do so as well, as you wish.

First of all, speak with your butcher and ask for un kilo de carne de cerdo molida, con grasa. The fat is necessary to make juicy and savory sausage. About 20% fat is about a good starting point. Get the pork ground freshly to your order, as you watch. If your butcher won't do that, get another butcher.

If you have a meatgrinder, you may buy the meat in chunks, cut into pieces that will fit your grinder. Apply the seasoning and leave in the fridge overnight, well-covered. Next day, grind and mix. (It's always best to be very conservative when seasoning. You can always add more later.)

Now, the recipe. Make this as soon as possible upon arriving at your kitchen. In other words, don't stash the ground pork in the fridge for 3 days, then start making the sausage.

I'm highlighting Mexican substitutions in red.
Place the ground pork in a large mixing bowl.

In a spice grinder or a molcajete, grind the following:
• 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (more to taste later) Sal fina del Mar.
• 2 teaspoons leaf sage, crumbled. Salvia
• I usually add some crumbled thyme. Tomillo.
• 1/3 teaspoon whole black pepper. Pimienta Negra.
1 to 3 small hot dried chiles, or chile flakes. Chile Piquín or similar.
Grind these spices to a medium grain, and sprinkle over the ground pork.

(I always add about 2 teaspoons of granuated sugar to a kilo of pork, to give it that good ol' Tennessee Pride kind of taste.)

Mix well with cleanwashed hands until the seasonings are thoroughly blended.
Now, you must sample this to check for seasoning. Please, don't eat this raw. It not only could be very bad for your health, it won't taste right, either.

Make a very small patty and slowly fry it in a small skillet. When it's fully cooked, taste it. It may need more salt or other seasoning. If so, go back to the mixing bowl and add more seasoning in very small amounts, then cook another tiny patty.
Note that the flavor will change once the sausage meat is refrigerated over night. I think it becomes milder.

Now, for Don Cueva's Secret Tip: The mixture may seem dryish, in spite of its fat content. To remedy that, I often add apple juice, just enough to loosen up the sausage a bit. The apple juice also tends to smooth out some of the more picante highlights and wed all into a state of blissful harmony.

We pack the sausage meat into small Zip-Loc bags, about 5-6 ounces each, close well, and freeze them. If you plan on cooking some within a day, keep it in the fridge. You can, of course, form breakfast-sized patties, and freeze them with plastic film or waxed paper between.

My next recipe will tell how to make the ethereal Angel Biscuits. They need to be mixed one to two days before baking. This is very convenient  as most of the work is already done before the day of baking.

Stay Tuned.

(I was just browsing Google for this recipe, and, BEHOLD! an uncredited copy on CD Kitchen. I'm not too surprised, as this sort of rampant copying is rife on the Web. If you decide to use their servings quantity widget, beware that increasing the spice proportionately to the meat may result in an inedibly overspiced sausage meat.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Southern Comfort: Biscuits and Gravy

Although I am not a son of the South, I spent 44 years in the border state of Missouri and in the deeper South state of Arkansas. Those years shaped my taste for Southern comfort foods, such as grits, country ham and especially, biscuits and sausage gravy.

                      Photo courtesy of Geni Certain

The first time biscuits and gravy and I met was in a cheap cafe in Waynesville, Missouri, near Fort Leonard Wood. My buddy, a true son of the rural South, and I were between activities on an extended caving weekend. We stopped in the early morning hours (in my opinion, 4 to 7 a.m. is the time to experience small town cafes  and truck stops at their best. Guys in gimme caps are being served endless cups of coffee from bottomless pots while fine greasy aromas of hash brown potatoes and bacon waft from the kitchen pass-through.

At that time, I'd no idea what biscuits and gravy (hereafter, "B&G") was. To me, a son of the South side of Brooklyn, "gravy" was a brown sauce that went on pot roast or roast beef.

At the urging of my caving buddy, I ordered the B&G. When it arrived, I was somewhat startled by the gravy. It was a thick, not very attractive white sauce, studded with bits of country sausage. The biscuits, (a "drop" version of which my Mom used to make from Bisquick, here were of lower profile, and when split open, revealed a more open textured crumb. The taste was tangy with buttermilk. It was all a bit odd, but palatable, and certainly a lot easier to eat than my first bowl of menudo, years later, in a trackside cafe in Lordsburg, NM. (Note the sneaky reference to Mexican food, thus validating my blog's title.)

Over the years, and many caving trips later, my taste for B&G grew fitfully. Some restaurants make the worst imaginable grease-based wallpaper paste gravy and leaden biscuits. That usually occurred around midnight, when B&G are unofficially out of season.

Eventually, I learned how to make this true Southern delicacy at home. B&G has become a favorite dish for when we have guests to breakfast. Although it's a simple dish, my interpretation depends greatly on high quality ingredients. There are three principal components:
• Homemade Country Sausage
• Angel Biscuits (AKA Double Leavened Biscuits)
• A proper gravy, based on a flour and meat drippings roux, properly cooked.

First, I'll issue the usual Disclaimer:
This Is Not Health Food. It contains mostly carbohydrates and  fat, with a reasonably healthful diluent of milk. It will meet all your cholesterol needs for the near future. You really don't need bacon, ham or additional sausage with this meal. But some have had those additions, and lived, at least for a few more years.

I'll be giving detailed recipes in the next installment, God willing.
Watch for updates.

 Don Cuevas