Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Barbacoa and Butchers

I've posted already about barbacoa, that time prepared in a slow cooker. I'm no longer in Mexico, though the slow cooker still is, somewhere, and I really missed my weekend barbacoa.

The problem wasn't the cooking vehicle though. Finding any cut of meat beyond the most standard in Ireland is actually a bit of a chore. A butcher these days seems to be a guy who slathers some horrible marinade on some chops and arranges them on a tray. I've tried to find flank steak, beef cheek, beef tongue and beef shin in all types of butchers and have got everything from a vacant stare, to an assurance "we don't keep that, the meat inspector makes us throw it out", to promises to order it an call me.. that never seem to be fulfilled.

After more driving around town than I would have though necessary I picked up two smallish beef cheeks, so was finally able to make some barbacoa.

(There was a whole palaver between the butcher and his helper. There-is-one-there-I'm-sure-no-there isn't-yes-there-is-I'm-sure, followed by a long trip to the cold room and the cheeks were put quickly into a bag whereupon I was then asked "you're going to cook it slow yeah?". Between that and the exploratory cut I found later in the meet I'd say the butcher wasn't very confident in his product... or just thought I was insane. Anyway, it cooked up fine and I'm still alive.)

I cooked it in the pressure cooker rather than the slow cooker. For the liquid I blended some onion and good half a head of garlic, a couple of cloves, salt and a couple of chiles de arbol with a couple of cups of water. I used this as the liquid in the pressure cooker. The meat cooked for just under two hours and turned out perfectly. Exactly the smooth, meaty, unctuous dish I remember and missed so much.

Operation arrachera on the other hand is still ongoing. Unfortunately.

The very definition of Mexican food is a multicultural cuisine

From The Splendid Table

'The very definition of Mexican food is a multicultural cuisine' 

A conversation between Pati Jinich and Gustavo Arellano (she of Pati's Mexican table and he of the book Taco USA and the very funny Ask a Mexican column) on the multicultural nature of Mexican cuisine.

It's something I hadn't originally been aware of. It's not until you are there and see the soy sauce, magi sauce and Worcester sauce everywhere as well as the pastries that you realise how much Mexican cuisine has adsorbed from elsewhere.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Pan De Muerto

Pan De Muerto


Rompope is most often described as Mexican eggnog. That's a pretty fair description, though I don't think it's as seasonal a drink as it's eggnog cousin. Commercial versions are widely available, like Baileys it seems to be a staple of duty free lounges. But it's simple to make your own.

There are a couple of approaches to making Rompope and before I started I had a good idea of the type of recipe I was looking for. I have no desire to put condensed milk in it, nether did I want a recipe that omitted the almond and finally I wanted to avoid recipes where the egg is uncooked.

I don't have any prejudice against condensed milk (unlike my mother who is revolted by it!), and I've already made a handful of the vast number of Mexican deserts and sweets that use condensed milk and evaporated milk as a base, but adding it to Rompope seems a bit cheaty to me. It's edging towards add-a-can-of-campbell's-cream-of-mushroom-soup cookery.

The almond is, I think, a necessary addition. (Actually I've purchased versions of the drink made with pine nuts instead of almond - which is coloured pink to differentiate it form the regular pale yellow, almond based drink.) Without the nuts you are left with a boozy, thin custard; a re-purposed eggnog.

Given the above the recipe here from Serious Eats came close to what I was looking for.

  • 2/3 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 cups milk
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Rind of 1 lemon (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 to 1 cup aged rum
The recipe calls for the milk to be simmered for 15 minutes with the flavourings and the baking soda, much as if you would do when making cajeta. This was a little more palaver than I thought necessary so I omitted the baking soda, and left the flavourings infuse for 20 minutes in milk that had been brought to a simmer.
Other than that everything was the same. 
Make a paste of the almonds and the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk the almond past egg yolks and remaining sugar together until pale. Strain in the milk infusion slowly and return to a low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Cool and add the brandy.
I'm not sure how long it keeps for. It'll be drank long before that becomes a worry anyway.

New Year's Resolution

Fewer 6 month fallow periods.