At the dinner last night, a young woman was asking me how my cooking changes as time goes on, a sort of “what’s your process?” conversation. The subject comes up time and again, both with guests, and just chatting with friends and colleagues. For me, I often discover a new ingredient, or a technique, and then, as many of you know, sort of beat it to death in trying out different dishes, until I find something new and move on. I’ve posted less and less of that here on the blog as the years have passed (can you believe it’s been eleven years I’ve been doing this?), because those posts seem to be less interesting to readers – or at least that’s the impression I get. But hey, it’s my blog, and also, writing about it helps with the “process”. So I’m going to try to find a happy balance and do a bit more of that again.
Now, specifically, it’s come up over the last month or two, is whether and/or how much all that mucking about in Mexico is having an influence on what we’re serving in Casa S. I wrote the post about Salsa Negra a couple of weeks ago, and that’s become a favorite around the house – even if we don’t use it in the week’s dinners, we have a squeeze bottle of it at the ready for ourselves. But what about some of the other things I learned in Guadalajara?
Similar in some ways to ceviche, most traditionally, at least in Guadalajara, a raw prawn or shrimp dish bathed in a mix of lime juice, cucumber, cilantro, onion, and green chili.
As I was shown how to make it in Guadalajara, the way they present it in the Gentlemen’s Club.
A version my brother and I sampled in the Mercado del Mar in Guadalajara.
A strange, albeit pretty version, at Quintonil in Mexico City.
Basically an adobo sauce – dried, toasted chilies, onion, garlic, tomato, cloves, and allspice, simmered together in a little water until soft enough to blend smoothly. In the traditional adobo, they’re blended with a little of the cooking water, in the salsa borracha (“drunken sauce”), it’s strained and then pureed with beer. In both cases, the resulting puree is then cooked down, traditionally, in lard, until it becomes thick and dark.
In “class”, we made the sauce, but the only place we used it was on tacos de barbacoa.
At the same lunch as trying out the aguachile with friends, we made rabbit in salsa barbacoa, with arroz rojo – red rice – on the side. This is rice that’s been cooked with a mixture of pureed tomato, onion and garlic.
For one of the April dinner menus I whipped up slow cooked bondiola, pork shoulder, with salsa borracha, accompanied by mujedrah, a middle eastern mix of rice, lentils, and caramelized onions, and some sauteed greens.
There are more mole sauces than I think anyone has probably ever counted. I’ve seen “definitive” lists posted online, invariably followed by reader commentary adding in others that they know about. So far, since coming back, the only one I’ve played around with is mole verde, one day when I spotted some green tomatoes in the market (not a common thing here, there seems to be a general consensus that eating green tomatoes will poison you or destroy your liver, or something), which filled in for the usual tomatillos. More moles to come down the line, here and there.
So far, we’ve just had it for dinner ourselves – chicken with mole verde, accompanied by white beans with onions and cilantro. We just don’t have a regular enough supply of green tomatoes, and tomatillos are hard to get and not currently in season, to put this on the menu, much as we liked it.
Pan de Elote
This is a sweet cornbread, sometimes with fruit, that’s traditional in the Guadalajara area. We sampled it one day alongside tamales on our day trip to Tequila. It basically seemed like a pineapple upside down cake made with cornmeal. I spent a bit of time experimenting with it and came up with a new dessert that’s been a runaway hit when we’ve served it.
So overall, not a huge change in what I’m cooking, just some influences. At the Mexican street festival this last weekend I found someone selling fresh nopales, cactus pads, and whipped up a soup that’s not traditionally Mexican at all, but just something I came up with for this week’s menu – a mildly spicy cream soup of sand perch, shrimp, Andean potatoes, nopales, and jalapeños. It seems to be a hit so far!
Last note, for those who haven’t noticed, I’ve added a widget to the sidebar to the right here with a scrolling listing of upcoming local food and drink events that I know about. One of my regular readers asked if there was a way to let readers know about them beforehand rather than after the fact when I write them up. It’s not an overly adaptable widget, so I may change it down the line – it operates on a “LIFO” basis, last in, first out, in terms of as I add things – I’d rather it be the reverse order, “FIFO”, but so be it.