Greetings Fair Readers,
Since we left off, we have been living in the fine city of San Cristobal, in the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. San Cristobal is a charming colonial town set in the Sierra Madre del Sur, ringed by verdant hills and illumed by the crisp high altitude sun. Since making it our home at the beginning of April, we´ve been dedicated to working on our act as musicians, as well as spending a lot of time making art. We´ve gotten to the point where we can live off the profits of playing on the street and in clubs, so in a certain sense, we are professional musicians for the time being, which is kind of cool. If you want to see what we are up to musically, check out some of the (albeit limited quality) videos:
A friend in San Cristobal took some better videos of a concert we played in a club there called Perfidia, so I´ll try and have those up as soon as possible.
I originally meant for this post to be an art special, to let you guys know what we´ve been up to artistically. However, because my camera went missing with all the pictures of the artwork, I decided to put up some recipes I have created with friends as well as some that I have learned from cooking with others.
Here are a couple salsas I learned from some friends from Oaxaca, as well as a couple of my own creation. They are all dynamtite!
One big handful dried Chile de Arbol, or Chile Sureño, stems removed and seeds partially removed
One Small Handful Raw, Unpeeled Garlic Cloves
2 Cups Vegetable Oil
In a heavy sauteé pan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat about seven minutes. Place all ingredients in the oil, frying for about 7-10 minutes, or until garlic cloves are nicely browned. Remove pan from heat, and let cool. When fairly cool, place contents of pan in a blender, and blend in batches until you get a nice, emulsified paste. This salsa is excellent for meats or quesadillas, but would also be really excellent with pasta and a nice sharp white cheese, like manchego or doble crema.
This salsa is so named because the end result looks a lot like guacamole, but it doesn´t have any avocado in it, just a huge flavor!
6 large Jalapeños or equivalent mass of other hot chiles, stems removed and partially de-seeded.
1 large onion roughly chopped
5-6 Cloves of garlic
Salt to season
2 cups vegetable oil
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
Heat oil in a heavy sauteé pan or skillet 7 minutes. Place all ingredients except cilantro in the pan and fry until the onions are nicely golden. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, place contents of pan as well as cilantro in blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Salt to taste.
I served this with a marinated pork loin at a parrillada (barbecue) at our neighbor´s house. It was a big hit! I sliced the pork loin thinly and marinated it in a bit of white vinegar, onions, garlic and a touch of Mexican oregano. This salsa would also go well with fish, chicken, or just tortilla chips.
2 cups mango, peeled, de-seeded and roughly chopped
2 Jalapeños, or 4 serrano chiles, burnt on open flame, stems removed, roughly chopped
1 red onion, thinly chopped
1 bunch Cilantro, roughly chopped
Combine all ingredients, and let sit 1/2 hour.
If you want, you can substitute mashed bananas for the mango, add a touch of cumin and chile ancho powder, and voila! Bananamole! ( I got the idea for this from Kenny Shopsins amazing cookbook Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin.)
Chipotle Peanut Salsa
1 Can Chipotle chiles in adobo, seeds removed depending on spiciness preference
1 large onion, roughly chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, whole
1 cup of peanuts
1 cup of vegetable oil
2 Tbs. Honey
Heat vegetable oil in large sauteé pan 5-6 minutes. When hot, add onions and garlic to pan, frying until they are golden. Toast peanuts in another pan over low heat, moving constantly, until they are slightly golden and aromatic. Remove pans from heat, and allow to cool. When they are cool, add all ingredients into the blender and blend until liquified and creamy. Add salt to taste.
Verduras en Escabeche (pickled vegetables)
Although this is really more of a condiment than a salsa, I decided to include it here. I got the recipe from Rosi, the lady who owns our local corner store, who is a wealth of knowledge about Mexican cooking as well as the neighborhood gossip!
1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch chunks
3 carrots, peeles and cut diagonally into 1/4 slices
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 slices
1 lb zucchini, grey or other summer squash cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 lb Jalapeños, cut into 1/4 slices
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 Tb Olive Oil
1 Tb dried Thyme
1 Tb dried Oregano
1/4 cup Sugar
2 Tbs salt
2 cups water
1 Bay Leaf
1 tbs Whole Black Pepper
10 cloves garlic
Place all ingredients in a large pot with a lid. Over high heat, steam until the potatoes and carrots are tender. It is not necessary that the liquid cover the vegetables. Cool and use as a condiment to compliment meats, pasta, sandwiches or quesadillas.
These are some dishes I have invented recently to serve to friends.
Camarones Empanizados de Chicharron con Crema de Tomatillo (shrimp breaded in chicharron with tomatillo cream sauce) Or Piña a la Tequila
For those not in the know, chicharron is fried pork skin, a favorite snack and main dish in Mexico. This is an extravagantly rich dish, but the opposing sweetness of the shrimp, saltiness and crispiness of the chicharron, creaminess and acidity of the sauce make for a really dynamic flavor combination! I recommend using the bagged chicharron, as opposed to the real deal you get at the market. It is much less greasy, and hence easier to turn into a breading.
Wow! I forgot to include this in the original post, but when I actually made this dish, it was slightly different. I actually turned the tomatillo cream into a soup, and served the shrimp with Piña a la Tequila, which I´ll briefly describe here:
Piña a la Tequila (Tequila Pineapples)
These are a super simple, delicious and lovely accompaniment to the shrimp in place of the tomatillo cream.
1 Pineapple, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices
2 Tbs butter
1 cup tequila
Heat the butter in a sauteé pan until it browns slightly. Place the pineapple rounds until they caramelize on one side, and then turn. When they are caramelized on both sides, deglaze with the tequila, but just about an ounce at a time, so the alcohol cooks off before the pineapple soaks it all up. Move the pan so the pineapple soaks up all the delicious deglazed syrup, and repeat with the rest of pineapple. Serve the shrimp on top of the pineapple rounds, 4-5 to a plate.
2 lbs. large shrimp, butterflied, de-veined and peeled
1 large bag chicharron (approximately 1/2 lb)
Flour for dusting, approximately 1 cup
Vegetable oil sufficient for shallow frying
For the Salsa:
1 lb tomatillos, papery skins removed, roughly chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream ( I used the real deal, full fat cream for this recipe, so you might have to adjust the amount slightly)
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
3 Tbs vegetable oil
Heat 3 Tbs vegetable oil in a large saucepan or sauteé pan over medium-high heat. Sauteé onion and garlic until slightly browned. Add tomatilloes and reduce heat slightly, simmering to let the liquid reduce slightly. Temper cream by slowly adding spoonfuls of the tomatillo mixture to the cream in a seperate bowl and whisking. When the cream is warm, slowly add to tomatillo mixture in the pan, while whisking briskly. Turn the pan to low heat. If it heats too quickly, the acidity of the tomatillo will break the cream. Leave over very low heat, but keep a sharp eye while you prepare the shrimp.
For the shrimp, blend the chicharron in a blender until you have a even consistency. There should not be any large chunks. Set a heavy sauteé or skilet to heat along with sufficient oil to shallow fry, approximately 1/2 inch, over medium heat until very hot. Whisk the eggs along with a splash of water and set aside. Dredge the shrimp in the flour, coating entirely, then dip in the egg, and then the chicharron crumbs. You might have to massage the shrimp a bit to get the breading to stick all the way. If you need to check if the oil is ready, drop a crumb of the chicharron in the oil, if it bubbles, it is ready. Slowly set the shrimp in the pan. These will burn really quickly, due to the high fat content of the breading, so pay close attention. When golden on the bottom, flip with a tongs, and fry another minute or so. Drain on a plate lined with paper towel or newspaper. Check the seasoning of the tomatillo sauce, add a little salt if necessary, and serve the shrimp in a small pool of the sauce on the plate, so as not to get the breading soggy.
This should be served with a rice dish and a nice, light slaw or salad.
Tortitas de Platano Macho con Salsa de Moras (Plantain fritters with blackberry sauce)
4-5 Ripe plantains
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 Jalapeñoes, burnt over open flame, stems removed
Big pinch of Ground Cumin
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
Big Pinch of Salt
Vegetable oil sufficient for shallow frying
for the salsa:
1 quart ripe blackberries
1-2 Chile Güero or Habanero, stems and seeds removed, finely chopped
3 Tbs butter
Salt to season
(if the berries aren´t very sweet, you might add a pinch of sugar or honey)
Peel and mash the plantains in large bowl. Burn the jalapeñoes over open flame, remove seeds and stems and chop finely. Add chiles and onions to the bowl, as well as the rest of the ingredients. Depending on the consistency of the plantains, you might have to add a little flour, but you basically want the batter to hold together enough so that you can fry it.
In a saucepan, sauteé the chiles for the sauce in butter1-2 minutes over high heat, and add the blackberries. Turn the heat to medium, and depending on the juiciness of the berries, you can add a little water. Mash slightly with a spoon to break the berries open, but you want a chunky consistency. Let reduce a bit, and then remove from heat.
Heat oil sufficient for shallow frying about 1/2 inch over medium heat. Using a tablespoon, spoon the batter into the oil, frying until golden and turning with a spatula. When golden and crispy, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve the fritters with a drizzle of the sauce.
Rolos de Bistec con Salsa de Setas (Beef loin rolls stuffed with chard and raisins with Oyster mushroom sauce)
2 lbs. Beef loin or skirt steak, very thinly sliced
1 bunch chard, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 pieces
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 Onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1/2 pound thinly sliced white cheese such as gouda or edam
Salt and pepper to season
For the sauce:
1 lb Oyster Mushrooms
4 Shallots, peeled and finely chopped
4 Cloves garlic
2 Tbs Butter
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon
Salt and Pepper
Season the beef loin well with salt and pepper, and rube them with a crushed clove of garlic. Preheat oven to 375°. In a large sauteé pan, heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Sauteé onions and garlic until golden. Add raisins and chard, as well as vinegar, steaming with a lid until the chard is slightly wilted. Set aside to cool. Lay out the beef, one slice at a time, placing the sliced cheese on it, as well as a good amount of the chard mixture. Roll the beef around the filling, making sure there is enough meat in contact so that it holds together. Brown the rolls on all sides in a hot sauteé pan with a bit of oil. Place on a cookie sheet and place in the oven.
Chop the oyster mushrooms in 1/2 chunks. Sauteé the shallots and garlic in butter until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauteé until all excess moisture has been drawn from them, and they are browning slightly. Deglaze with wine and reduce until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Check the rolls to determine if they are cooked in the middle. Serve with roasted or mashed potatoes, spooning the sauce over the rolls.
Well, that´s all for now faithful readers. I hope you have enjoyed this edition of El Sin Fin and feel free to contact me via the blog for any cooking or traveling questions!