Monday, February 21, 2011

Classic Mexican Cuisine for a cold and rainy day.... Just perfect!

I first began making "Birria Estilo Jalisco" in Puerto Vallarta. We had just moved there, gypsies that we are, and thought it would be easy to find since now we were in the state of Jalisco. Now, Birria is usually made out of goat meat but it's a stronger tasting meat and doesn't work for most people so I wasn't surprised to find it made out of beef or pork yet the only people offering this classic Mexican dish were carts on the street and while not bad (you think I didn't try this?) it didn't hit all the flavor notes I was looking for and the more I looked around and spoke to people, it became increasingly clear that "modern times" had hit Vallarta too.

Vallarta, as it's known to the locals, is a sleepy little beach town that was discovered way back when Elizabeth Taylor decided to have an affair with Richard Burton (yes, all that...) and this "scandal" brought the world's media in (along with the filming of the "Night of the Iguana"). The director, John Huston, had a particular preference for Vallarta since this is where he lived. While during those years it didn't have the infrastructure it has today, no fancy hotels, discos, restaurants or anything else for that matter, the natural beauty of the beaches, the jungle vegetation and tropical climate made converts of everyone and so the invasion began and Vallarta was "discovered".

The state of Jalisco is among the prime examples of the better known Mexican Cuisine since it's responsible for Tequila, Birria, Pescado Sarandeado, dishes using Maguey and it's derivatives, Pozole and many others. The state is among the richest and most progressive and having Guadalajara as its capital, offers the best medical care and Universities too. The climate is compared to an eternal Spring, local products are first rate and its women are considered among the most beautiful. Charros are from Jalisco and many traditions began here as well. So, it's a nice place.

Getting back to the "Birria", I found if I was going to get what I was going after I would have to make it myself and I set upon finding the real Jalisco style Birria recipe. I spoke to mothers and grandmothers who were the only ones cooking anymore (women here are out of the kitchen and in the workplace, younger generations no longer cook and fast food or take out are very popular, just like other places on the planet which means traditional cooking methods and foods will suffer) and pretty soon I had a good idea what I was after. This is my usual "modus operandi" when it comes to obtaining "true" recipes, I investigate, talk to the older people and reach a consensus on what the "real" version of dishes is all about; I insure I've got the "real" techniques and ingredients and once I produce an acceptable version do I consider "tweeking" to suit our individual preferences. It's worked in the past and I've been very successful doing it like this so I must be on the right track.

Here is an excellent version of "Birria Estilo Jalisco" that is perfuming my kitchen at this very moment. It is wonderful.....

1 lb lamb stew meat (you can use goat, beef or pork)
1 1/2 lamb ribs, cut in 1-2 inch pieces
2-4 chiles de arbol, dried, de-stemmed and de-seeded
2 chiles pasilla, dried, de-stemmed and de-seeded
2 chiles anchos, dried, de-stemmed and de-seeded
3-5 garlic cloves, peeled, roasted
2 lb tomatoes, roasted
1/2 large onion, cut in large dice
5-7 large peppercorns
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
2 oranges, juiced
1/2-1 cup white vinegar (optional)
salt to taste
lard or oil for frying, your choice

1 large onion, finely diced
2 tbl oregano, dried and crushed
2 tbl cilantro, finely minced
2-4 Persian lemons, cut in quarters
Hot sauce, your choice (optional)
Fresh tortillas

All the dried chiles are roasted on a dry pan until fragrant, turning. Then they are placed in a large bowl and covered with hot water where they will remain until soft. You can do this in a pot on top of the stove and simmer gently for at least 1/2 hour, test and decide if more simmering is needed. Roast the garlic and the tomatoes and place them along with the softened chiles into a blender (save the soaking liquid) along with the spices except for the marjoram. Add the orange juice and vinegar if using. Process very well and then run through a sieve (so no seeds or anything else is included) and in a large pot (I use a pressure cooker) with 2-4 tbl of lard or oil, brought to a hot temperature, you add the sauce and you cook it slightly so it's not completely raw.

To the sauce you will add the meat and the marjoram. The traditional way is to stop at this point and allow the meat to sit in the sauce overnight. I skip this step and proceed to cooking, your choice to wait or not but I don't feel it's truly necessary. You cook the meat until it is soft. About 30 min in the pressure cooker for me, might be 1-3 hours of regular cooking and some people bake it in a 375 degree oven, covered with foil really well too. Just watch it so it doesn't go dry and add chicken stock or make additional sauce to have on hand.

Have the garnish ingredients ready when you are going to serve since these are used as needed as a topping for the "Birria" which is traditionally served in soup bowls, with the toppings, hot tortillas and cold beer for a taste of Jalisco!

Chalupas.- Nothing says "Puebla" to me like these little wonders. Nothing fancy, very simple... yet full of flavor and tradition. If you're in Puebla, go to "Memelas en la Calle 3", the best in town!

1 lb masa dough (you can make your own or store bought)
1/2 lb shredded pork meat
1/2 lb shredded chicken meat
1 cup pork lard (manteca, yes.... won't taste the same)
1 onion, finely diced
2 cups Salsa Verde
2 cups Salsa Roja

Salsa Verde:
2 tbl manteca
1 1/2 cups green husk tomatoes, clean
1/2 onion, cut in quarters
3-4 garlic cloves
1-2 tbl cilantro leaves
1-3 chiles serranos (optional and depends if you want it hot or not, for taste only use 1 serrano)
salt & pepper to taste

Salsa Roja:
2 tbl manteca
1 1/2 cups Roma tomatoes
1/2 onion, cut in quarters
3-4 garlic cloves
2 dried chile moritas (seeded and deveined / toasted and soaked in hot water to soften)
salt & pepper to taste

Make the sauces: Green: Put all ingredients except the lard, cilantro and salt and pepper in a pan, cover with water and cook until the tomatoes have changed color. Put everything in the blender, adding the cilantro and salt and pepper and blend well. In another pan, get the lard hot and then pour in the blended sauce and cook about 5 min on med-low heat. Reserve

Red: Once the dried chilies are soft, put all ingredients (except the lard, salt & pepper) in the blender and blend well. You might have to run through a sieve if pieces of the dried chile remain), in another pan put the lard and get it hot, pour in the salsa and add salt & pepper. Cook 5 min and reserve.

If the masa is not soft, add very little warm water and work the dough (adding very little water) until it's workable. Make small tortillas which are put on a "comal" (or large pan) with some lard on it, already hot; the tortilla is cooking so dribble some more lard on top, now put some sauce on top followed by meat and finally some onion; more hot lard goes on top right before serving.

Comes with half green and half red and while these are considered appetizers, I used to have these as dinner along with a big glass of fresh squeezed orange juice! MMMMmmmmm!!!!

Tlayoyos.- Another traditional "tidbit" that is second to none when it comes to flavor!

3 lbs masa for tortillas (make your own or store bought)
1 lb peas
Salt to taste
2 Avocado leaves
1/2-1 cup lard or oil
Red Sauce
Green Sauce
1 lb fresh Mexican Cheese (Cotija for instance), grated

Cook the peas with a little salt and the avocado leaves until very tender, drain and process until a paste is obtained. Add a little lard and mix well. Work the masa well until it's soft yet firm and make small tortillas which are filled with the pea paste, you fold so the filling is well encased and they look like elongated half moons.

Cook in some lard in a hot pan until golden and serve covered with sauce, half in green sauce and half with red sauce and sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Enjoy!

If you've read more of this blog then you know my penchant for "street food" anywhere in the world I happen to be, I love it! While Birria is not commonly a street food, Chalupas and Tlayoyos (or Tlacoyos as known elsewhere) are most definitely along with about a millions other offerings. I was talking to Rene about all this while typing and we recalled our favorite places while living in Puebla and we remembered "Sushi Itto", if you're ever in Puebla, make a point of going there to sample some of THE best sushi anywhere. They do a fussion of Japanese and Mexican ingredients that is not only flavorful but perfectly paired to deliver amazing products, you'll see! But do make a point to walk around the downtown area of Puebla and see the sights along with tasting the incredible traditions that this city/state offers the world, it's worth the trip...... Do use the search bar on top and look through all the Puebla info posted here..... Talk soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment