Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Enchiladas de Pollo

Chintextle Revisited

A few posts ago I discussed chintextle, a paste made using pumpkin seeds and dried chile. I mentioned at the time that there was also a version that used dried shrimp instead of pumpkin seeds.

It sounded strange enough that I decided I should try it. I know this is an odd diversion to take given the hundreds of far more canonical dishes I haven't covered yet, but so what - it's got dried shrimp!

The recipe itself is simple; about a dozen dried shrimp toasted on a lot comal, toasted chile - I used about 8 to 10 chiles cascabel - a clove of garlic, a good splash of vinegar and enough oil to form a paste of it all in the blender.

It tastes exactly like what you imagine a paste made from dried shrimp would taste like. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, it's pretty elemental, you certainly wouldn't eat a lot of it, but there is something about it that keeps bringing you back for another small taste. It's intriguing.

I have absolutely no idea however how it could be used. I think it would be nice stirred into a fish soup but I suspect that's not what it's intended for. Until I think of a use it's winking at me every time I open the fridge, and I take a little pick of it now and again. Though I suspect it'll last a long time so there is no rush in figuring it out.


Another very quick and simple breakfast dish. Migitas (or migas which seems to be a more common name, and also means "crumbs" in Spanish) are simply corn tortillas, fried until golden and then scrambled with eggs.

There is not a lot to describe, the tortillas are cut into strips of about a finger's width and a couple of inches long - but there is no need for any precision - when golden brown the eggs are added and everything is scrambled, seasoned and served, either alone as a light breakfast, or in a tortilla.

For the frying butter is nice as is lard, but vegetable oil is grand, and I find two tortillas per three eggs to be the ideal proportions.

Some versions contain onion, tomato and some chile, much as you would if making Machacado, however I prefer the simpler version with nothing but egg and tortilla, and if I were going to do something more complicated I'd rather make machacado or chileaquiles anyway.

One thing I do notice about Mexican egg dishes, especially these breakfast dishes, is that they are not afraid to cook the egg a lot quicker and faster the I would. I'm used to cooking scrambled eggs very slowly and carefully and generally serve them a lot looser than any Mexcican seems comfortable with. "If they are done in the pan then they are overdone in the plate" isn't the motto here. In fact the normal procedure is to fry the tortilla strips, then crack the eggs directly into the pan and mix until roughly scrambled and tightened.

If you are in a hurry Migitas are perfect, they can be cooked and on the plate in seconds, so are a fantastic quick breakfast. They also have some texture, which I like because personally I find eating plain scrambled eggs in the morning more of a chore than a pleasure.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A couple of different ways with Arrachera

Arrachera is a signature cut of beef in the north of Mexico and especially in Monterrey. The cut is from the underside of the animal, either from the flank or plate. There seems to be no consistency in the definition and you find the cut being indicated as equivalent to hanger steak, which comes from the plate (the animals abdominal muscles near the diaphragm) or as flank steak (again underneath the animal but closer to the hind legs).

What I buy, which is sold as arrachera, is clearly hanger steak. It's a fairly ragged looking cut with a long grain. The restaurants which specialise in arrachera (like here for example) seem to use the thicker flank steak cut.

The steak, when served, is cut perpendicular to the long fibres to make it more tender. The meat has a much more intense taste than steaks from the relatively under worked muscles on the top of the animal. Though the common advice is to serve the meat rare to keep it tender, I don't agree, given the fibrous nature of the cut, unlike a regular steak it is actually more tender when well cooked.

I invested in a new grill an used the opportunity of it's first use to compare three different methods of preparing arrachera. For cooking I used mesquite charcoal, which is traditional, and gives a long even heat and is not as hot as the charcoal bricks I would be used to using at home. (I'd never go back to those pressed briquettes after working with lump charcoal like this!)

Arrachera in 3 Chile Adobo
The first was a cut of arrachera (which you can see in a previously posted picture) marinaded in a 3 Chile Adobo rub. I have covered adobos already, so I won't go into detail. The rub was made from toasted and soaked guajillo, ancho and cascabel chiles, along with garlic, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon clove cumin and salt.

The meat was slathered in the paste and left to marinade for a couple of hours before cooking

Arrachera Marinaded in Pickled Jalapeño and Tequila
This was something I picked up from the internet and you see lots of versions under the same theme. In this case the meat is marinaded using the contents of a can of pickled jalapeños and a slosh of tequila.

The meat, jalapeños, can liquor and the tequila were all dumped into a large zip-lock bag and stashed in the fridge until cooling time. Unlike the adobo the marinade has a lot of acid which should help to tenderise the meat.

Simple Arrachera
The third, and simplest, approach was simply to season the meat with plenty of salt and dried Mexican oregano.I guess this was the control in the experiment.

Guess what!
Simple is best.
By far.