El Sin Fin #2: El mero centro; or how I learned stop worrying and love the bean

 

Hello and welcome to the second edition of  El Sin Fin, coming to you from the lovely coast of southern Oaxaca, in the city of Puerto Escondido.  Seeing as this edition has been delayed more than I would have liked by slow computers, the travails of traveling, and a few more days getting into the slow groove of tropical living, this week´s blog will be dedicated to the highlands surrounding the valley of Mexico and Mexico City, and the beautiful colonial cities and delectable goodies there, and the following post dedicated to southern Mexico and Guatemala.

After leaving Guadalajara we beelined for the picturesque high desert capital of Guanajuato.   There we got lost in the labyrinthine residential areas along  the hills and explored the numerous, colorful plaza tucked in the cobbled streets.   We ate some shockingly good tamales made with bacon, cheese and chard in Plaza de Los Angeles the first night and drank warm, rich champurado, which is a sort of hot chocolate thickened with corn flour and seasoned with cinnamon.  It is actually quite similar to making instant pudding and drinking it before it cools. 

After a couple days in Guanajuato, we went to nearby Querétaro, where we met up with my couchsurfing buddy Daniela.   For those interested in Project Couchsurfing, visit www.couchsurfing.org.  It is a true godsend for travelers such as ourselves, because it not only puts you into contact with someone  everywhere you go, but it also puts you into contact with someone really great wherever you go.  We ended up staying at her house  for more than a week, as we kept making more and more friends and playing more and more music.    I was making this recipe for lunch one day at Dani´s house, and all of a sudden a bunch of people showed up out of nowhere and before we knew it there was a full on party.  I think it has something to do with the beans.  They were a big hit, and many people said they were the best they ever ate.  The key is the chiles!

Party Beans

2 cups black beans, soaked overnight

2 chiles “Guajillo”, dried

2 chiles “del arbol”, dried

one bunch fresh epazote, or one tablespoon dried

2 cups cubed grey, zucchini or yellow squash

1  large onion, cubed

2 large carrots, cubed

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 chiles ¨serrano¨, fresh

1 chile ¨poblano¨ fresh

2 Tablespoons whole cumin

2 Teaspoons coriander

Rinse the soaked beans and cover with ample water to boil.  Resist the urge to salt at this point as it will render your beans tough.  Put the epazote and dried chiles in the pot with the beans and bring to a boil, and then simmer until they are tender.  This usually take about and hour and a half.  In the meantime, dice the squash, garlic, carrots and onions and start to sweat them in a sauteé pan.  While those are going, toast the cumin and coriander in a dry pan over medium heat, moving them around frequently until they come alive and start to smell delicious. Grind in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. (I can´t tell you how important this step is to the success of this recipe; toasting spices really brings out their true potential).   Then take the poblano and serrano peppers and char them over an open flame such as a barbecue or gas stove until they are totally blackened.  Remove the stems and seed, roughly chop the flesh and add them to the other veggies already sauteeing.  Add the toasted, ground spices to the sauteed veggies and remove from the heat.  When the beans are tender, blend them together with the chiles (with stems removed) and epazote until totally blended.  Add the sauteed veggies and bring to a boil.  If thicker than you want, add stock or water, if too thin let them cook down until desired consistency.  Season with salt.    This can be eaten as a soup, spooned into quesadillas or on top of rice.

Hanging out in the charming colonial city of Querétaro, I soon encountered another chef  named Mariano Torres-Hütt, when I was invited via a friend to make “gourmet burgers” at his house.  We got to chatting over some truly amazing burgers heaped high with sauteed chiles, onions, avocado and spicy salsa roja, and when he told me he was the chef at a molecular cuisine kitchen in Querétaro, I was  fascinated.  I asked him if I could come hang out for a night in his kitchen, help out a bit and try and learn a little something about Mexican molecular cuisine. 

For those not in the know, molecular cuisine is based around the concept of rearranging familiar foods using gases, cooking processes and food chemicals to present new textures and interesting presentations.  Their philosophy seemed to be using traditional Mexican flavors, sourced locally and from artesan providers, in unorthodox presentations that hit the tongue in exciting locales.  So here are a few photos of my night at 5 de Mayo Experimental in Querétaro, Qto. 

Unfortunately, the photo I had of the menu came out blurry, so I don´t have the name of these dishes, but Mariano promised to post the recipes in the comments, so stay tuned!

After leaving Querétaro, we rolled into Mexico City, or as Mexicans call it “El DF” (Distrito Federal, or Federal District).   Mexico City is by some accounts the largest city in the world, and proves its worth as a culinary capital. Here we dined on the best Al Pastor tacos in the city (El Borrego Viudo), a small taqueria and drive-through populated with frenetic cooks in paper hats, dishing out orders of small, greasy tacos of pastor (marinated pork cooked on a skewer, usually with pineapple) with onion and cilantro.  We also had Chilaquiles, a classic Mexican breakfast food, which I will leave you my recipe for here.

Chilaquiles “DF”

1 lb corn tortillas, cut into quarters

5 tomatoes

2 jalapeñoes

1 Onion

2 cloves garlic

Eggs

1/4 lb crumbly white cheese like “queso fresco”

Avocadoes

4 Tbl. Vegetable Oil

Sour Cream, or Crema  Nata if you can find it

Salt

Heat up the oil in  a large skillet until very hot.  Fry the tortillas until golden and crispy on both sides.  Remove to drain on paper towels.  Meanwhile, char the peppers and tomatoes on open flame and throw in the blender with the onion and garlic.  Blend until smooth, place in a large sautee pan over high heat until thickened slightly.  Throw the fried tortillas (the crispier, the better) in the salsa and toss to cover the chips.  Serve a heaping spoonful of the chilaquiles, put two eggs over easy on top, sprinkle with crumbled cheese, cream and chopped raw onion, and avocado slices on top.

That is all for this week, as struggling with the incredibly slow upload speed of public computers is making me lose my mind, but I promise to repost soon with the rest of the photos and audio!  Thanks for reading!

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Published in: on March 5, 2010 at 12:53 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Mikey, feeding the masses as you go, drawing inspiration from the people, the freshness and the instant gratification of satisfying hunger.
    Keep up the great work.

  2. I’m all over those chilaquiles. Don’t get kidnapped by zetas.

  3. Slow to the punch or late to the dance or spinning my wheels or whiskey dick..You name it, but I’m sorry I haven’t transversed your corner of the world in a hot minute. El verdadero viaje de descubrimiento no consiste en buscar nuevo paijes, pero mas mejor en tener nuevos ojos..guero!

  4. Molecular cuisine? In other words do you mean… “cooking”? I’ve heard of this concepto before.
    Delicioso!


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