This month, we are taking an adventure into gourmet Mexican foods. After searching far and wide for these items, I was well delighted with the results of the recipes I have included.
Our first unique ingredient, epazote, can be found at Mexican Grocery stores or mail order from Penzey’s. Epazote is actually a poisonous weed plant if eaten in great quantities but two tablespoons make it a miracle worker in a pot of beans. Follow the directions. Two tablespoons of powdered epazote will make your beans an anti-flatulent meal. That’s right - no gas! If purchased as a whole plant, it can be processed with your blender into a powder. It adds a bit of a sweet taste to the beans.
1 pound dried black or pinto beans
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
2 large sprigs fresh epazote (or 2 tablespoons dried)
1 pound chopped fresh chorizo sausage (recommend Daddy Jims)
1 diced onion
2 diced carrots
2 diced celery stalks
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon ancho or New Mexico chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
• Soak black beans overnight in cold water to cover. Drain and rinse. • Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the beans, chicken stock and water, and epazote in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil on the stove top, skim off foam, then cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
• In a large, heavy skillet, brown chorizo sausage. Remove the chorizo, leaving the fat in the pan. Add onion, carrots, celery stalks, and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until the vegetables become soft.
• Remove the pot of beans from the oven and stir in the vegetables and chorizo, along with ancho or New Mexico chile powder, ground cumin, and salt to taste.
• Cover and bake for another 1 hour at 300°F, or until the beans are soft.
Serve in pre-heated bowls with jalapeno slices and cornbread. Feeds 4 to 6 hungry people.
The next gourmet ingredient is Machacado. It is a cured and finely chopped beef that is excellent in scrambled eggs. A good source is Cisneros Packing in Raymondville, Texas. 956-689-2448.
2 oz. Machacado
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 jalapeno, finely diced (optional)
1/2 tomato, seeded and chopped (optional)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt & pepper
Coconut oil or butter
• Crack the eggs into a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then lightly beat with a fork. Set aside.
• Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add coconut oil. I used about 1/2 tablespoon to start. If you’re leaner and more muscular tha n I am, feel free to add more fat!
• When the pan is hot, add the onions and jalapeno. Sauté until the onions are tender and the vegetables are beginning to get nice brown spots, about 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragra nt, about 30 seconds. DON’T BURN THE GARLIC!
• Add the Machacado and chili powder. Continue to stir-fry until the beef is coated in the fat from the pan. Toss in the tomatoes and stir-fry until the tomatoes are beginning to soften, about 2-3 minu tes.
• Push the vegetables and beef to the side of the pan and add a nother dollop of coconut oil; I used another 1/2 tablespoon or so.
• Add the scrambled eggs to the fat in the pan and push the mea t and veggies into the egg. Let it rest for a bit so the egg gets a hold of the other ingredients, then gently stir with a wooden spoon. This is where your personal preference needs to dictate cooking time.
• Taste a bite and add salt and pepper as necessary … then dig in!
Gold star if you serve this with:
- Homemade pico de gallo or salsa
- Sliced avocado or homemade guacamole
- On the plate or with warm tortillas
Double gold star if you don’t reserve this delicious dish just for breakfast. Serves 3 to 4
Achiote paste in Cochinita Pibil
Achiote is a paste made from the annatto seed, garlic, and cornmeal. This is the same seed that gives orange cheese its color. Be careful as this stuff will stain almost everything absorbent that it touches.
When pork shoulders are cheap, like $1 a pound at HEB recently, you have an opportunity to make a Mexican Yucatan specialty. This pork entrée is known as Cochinita Pibil that traces back to the Mayan regimes.
If for some reason you don’t eat all your cochinita pibil at one sitting, it will keep for several days in the fridge. Achiote is an essential ingredient for this recipe, there is no substitute.
4 to 6 pounds pork shoulder
1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed if possible
1/2 cup lime juice, juice of 4-5 limes
1 teaspoons salt
3 ounces of red (rojo) achiote paste, available in Latin markets or some HEB stores
Pickled red onions (optional), for garnish
Dry Mexican cheese (queso seco), for garnish Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish
• The night before or the morning before you plan to serve this , mix the orange and lime juice with the Achiote paste and salt in a blen der until combined. Be sure to rinse the blender soon afterwards, as the Achiote stains. Cut the pork into chunks of about 2 inches square. Don’ t trim the fat, as you will need it in the braising to come. You can always pick it out later. Put the pork in a non-reactive (glass, stainless steel or pla stic) container, then pour over the marinade mixture. Mix well, cover and keep in the fridge for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.
• Cooking this takes 3-4 hours, so plan ahead. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large casserole with a double layer of heavy-duty foil, or a triple layer of regular foil – you want a good seal.
• When the pork is tender, take it out of the oven and open the foil. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl, and then shred it with two forks. You don’t have to shred the pork, but I like it this way. Pour enough sauce over the meat to make it wet.
To serve, either use this as taco meat or eat it over rice, garnished with cilantro, lime wedges and queso seco, a Mexican dry cheese a little like Greek feta. Pickled red onions are a traditional garnish, and if you like them, they’re good, too. Serves 6 to 10, depending on appetite.