Quesadilla Sans Fromage

For all my American friends, the title of this post is actually “Quesadillas without cheese”, and that´s today complaint.

See that melting cheese coming out of the tortilla... in love dude, in love

See that melting cheese coming out of the tortilla… in love dude, in love

I´ve been living in Mexico City here for 2 years already, and besides being an amazing place full of history and culture and stuff happening around you literally all the time, there´s one thing that I can´t understand.

Quesadilla with chorizo...

Quesadilla with chorizo…

And this sole thing seems to be a concern not only for me but for the rest of the country. Let´s do something together, ok? I want you to picture a soft corn tortilla, nice and freshly made, now, I want you to mentally put some cheddar or Edam cheese (grated) on one of its side, right? Now place that tortilla on the pan, medium heat, cheese side facing up. Imagine how that cheese begins to melt on that soft, freshly made tortilla, right?

That´s what I´m talking about!

That´s what I´m talking about!

Now, we are going to mentally do this together, right? Fold that tortilla, involving that sweet, melted cheese in all its glory. How do you call that?

A QUESADILLA, that´s right. 

Turns out that in  Mexico City, this is a Quesadilla with Cheese, meaning that the term quesadilla, when you order one on the street, doesn´t necessarily mean that they will give you what we just described in the above paragraph. When you order a quesadilla in Mexico City they´ll ask you if you´d like that with or without cheese, or what kind of stew will you like in it, not cheese involved.

Folded into perfection ...

Folded into perfection …

For the rest of the country, a tortilla with anything in it, is a taco, but when it has cheese it becomes a quesadilla (it´s in the Bible, trust me, Deuteronomy or something like that, true story “And Abraham melted cheese on a soft corn tortilla, using the heat of the pit of fire of sins of the gentiles…” ).

That´s the spot...

That´s the spot…

Apparently in Mexico City they don´t respect this, and will often confuse a taco with a quesadilla, only troubling the mindset of the tourists and other Mexicans, offending our history and traditions.

I will not rant about how much this pisses me, and the rest of the Mexican community, off, I rather write these lines to en-light all of you out there.

Whenever you come to Mexico City, it is your right, no! it is your Human Right (universal and stuff) to demand your quesadilla with cheese, always, and to ensure that melting cheese is always part of your gastronomic needs. Whatever they serve you in a tortilla, without cheese, is a taco, period! Quesadilla_de_Queso_by_mclaranium Damn… is anybody else hungry too?

How to Cook an Octopus

To the point, this is one of my favourite things to eat and cook, either in a stew, soup, salad, or grilled, octopus is a very versatile product. As a guy born and raised in the coast, I learnt to eat seafood since I was a wee boy, my mum doesn´t want to tell me the first time I ate octopus, (I´ve told her several times that I´m too old to be taken away from her by social services anyway, but she doesn´t get it), that, along with crabs, ceviche, shrimps, and fish are part of our regular diet.

Anyway, every time I cook octopus my mates ask me how do I know it´s ready to eat. Well, let me tell you how I cook this amazing seafood, while I attempt to post a video of myself putting an octopus into boiling water. (FAIL, I couldn´t upload the video, so, there, have a pic of Mexicans celebrating the CINCO DE MAYO).

What do you mean they don´t look Mexican?

What do you mean they don´t look Mexican?

First, go to your fish market, ready? Good. If you don´t have a fish market, well, so sorry, go to your local supermarket and go to the fish section, I´d rather buy it frozen if you don´t live close to the coast or in the middle of Saskatchewan. If you are buying it fresh, the octopus must have a bright and shiny skin, firm texture from the head to the tip of the tentacles. Now, don´t be shy, grab the octopus, take it closer to your nose and smell it, the scent should be something between salt, the ocean and fishy (and your unfulfilled dreams from high school of becoming a pro soccer player). Have you picked your octopus? Sweet, now ask the lad behind the counter to clean it for you (pretty much taking out the insides and the wee beak it has).

Remember to put the necklace apart and get rid of the double chin

                          Remember to put the necklace apart and get rid of the double chin

Now go to the kitchen, that´s right, take that eight legged bastard to your crib and get things started. Use a medium size pot and pour 2 litres of water, 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper, 1 garlic clove, and 1 quarter of an onion. Put it to boil, now wait patiently until you see the water boiling. Now, as seen in the video, little by little, like if you are testing the water for the octopus, put it inside, this will let the tentacles to take the heat and don´t roll up too much, because this will happen if you place it straight into the pot.

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I once learnt that in order to know how long it takes to cook an octopus, you ought to leave it in boiling water with a potato the same size of the head of the octopus, true story. I´ve tried this several times and turns out that when the potato was ready, the Octopus still needed 20 to 30 more minutes. My standard is an octopus of 500 gr (usually the standard size in Mexico), leave it for 1 to 1.5 hours. Honestly, wait one hour, cut one of the tentacles off and try it. You are looking for a soft, easy to chew texture, slimy outside and well defined inside meat.

When ready, as an easy recipe, cut it into cubes, and stir fry with onions, garlic, paprika, chilies and deglaze with some soy sauce. Serve with some cous-cous or white rice and pair with a Pinot Gris or a nice Rosé.

Or just put it on the grill, beside this nice piece of meat :)

Or just put it on the grill, beside this nice piece of meat :)

Don´t Cry for Me, Argentina

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Almost one year ago I went for a two weeks trip to Argentina and it was quite an experience. The flight was pretty decent, and as soon as I got there I felt in a totally different continent (That´s right, for my Murican readers, Latin Americans consider America the whole continent, instead of the regions known in The US, as North America, Central America and South America, true story, see, you learnt something new)

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Believe me, the meat is AWESOME…

 

For some of you, Argentina means great meat, tango and Maradona (and Evita, as well, never forget Eva Peron). However, during my visit, I got the chance to experience Buenos Aires on foot, and to glance briefly the way things are being handled in Argentina by its authorities. After that, you realize not everything there is juicy meat and sweet tango.

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What I witnessed, and I must insist, just briefly, was a social unrest, but not entirely coming from the lower class in the country, but rather an unhappy middle class. Turns out, that the economic and social measures imposed by the Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner´s administration have damaged the real potential for development of Argentina.

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As this sign in front the Pink House, the current administration seems to be always under construction

 

Just an example, the inflation in Argentina has reached double digits, but the government doesn´t talk openly about it, regardless the fact that the IMF and the World Bank demanded this information, Argentina seems to rest its economic hopes on political continuity. However, “this will end soon”, as expressed by some friends there, due to the fact that “La Señora” (as they call Cristina Fernandez) is soon to finish her term.

In reality, Argentina has most of its recent history (1970s till now) struggling to succeed in the international arena, either politically or economically. Right after the “Guerra Sucia” (where the State using the military, conducted violent action against political dissidents, “disappearing” an estimated of 15,000 to 30,000 people) the Argentinians had to deal with the escalation of “Operation Rosario” that led to the Falklands War (1982), while bad macroeconomic decisions concluded in the big economic crisis of 2000.

votingfalklads

Just recently, the UK announced the conduct of military exercises on, according to the Argentinian Embassy in the UK, “occupied Argentine territory”. This has been seen by the Latin American country as a provocation and will increase the tension in the region. These war games are scheduled to take place Abril 14-17.

So, Argentina is currently going through a phase of restructuration, while its people don´t lose the ability to amuse me with their amazingly high self-esteem, others reckon the next political force shall be more humble and down to earth, putting the pieces of the social and economic puzzle together.

Oh, sorry, I got a little carried away, aye, the country was amazing! The food was gorgeous, and yes, lads, if you ask me, Argentinian women are the bomb, their accent, attitude and glamour are outstanding.

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The best part of my trip? Well, it made me understand the joy of traveling, again, the sense of adventure and made me find the reason I´m a curious person.

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And everybody´s favourite, if you are smart enough to get the jokes, “Mafalda”

 

Ps. What happened to Nisman? we might never know.

Mexico City: What Really Grinds My Gears

grinds-my-gearsRegardless of how much I love Mexico, there are some things I hate about its people, my people (our people, and so on) and their habits and manners.

I hate these things not because I´ve lived abroad or I feel better than my countrymen, these are just things that according to common sense (and international agreements and covenants) shouldn´t even happen in the first place:

 “What did you bring/buy me?”

Plain and simple, no matter where you are going or where you are coming from, your friends and relatives will always ask you “so, what did you bring me?” and will be upset if you didn´t think of them and their needs for souvenirs while you were abroad. Ironically, they ask for presents instead of asking about your trip or wishing you a safe flight.

Exactly, this is how you guys look when you ask for souvenirs instead of greeting me.

Exactly, this is how you guys look when you ask for souvenirs instead of greeting me.

“Can I steal that from you?”

You read it right, at least in the centre of the country people don´t ask for stuff, like “May I have some water?” or “Could you lend me your MC Hammer Vinyl?”, in Mexico City people prefer to “steal” from you.

Oh, those were the days...

Oh, those were the days…

I found this shocking at first when coworkers will go like “Hey Luis, can I steal your phone for a second?” or if I´m having a snack people will lurk around and will say “Can I steal a bite from you?”… Goddamn it people! Just ask for it, don´t need to steal my Cheetos! Which brings me to…

 Cutting in line

In other countries I´ve visited, you queue accordingly, no matter if it is to enter a venue, the elevator, or when you go to the bank. Even if you see a friend or relative at the front of the line you just say “hi” and move to the end of the row, and wait, patiently. In Mexico it doesn´t work that way, if you find a friend at the front of the line, you greet him, talk to that person for a while and then… subtly stay behind or beside that person, literally cutting in line no questions asked. It is rare that somebody at the end of the line will point it out and ask you to do the right thing. (That´s my “cutting in line” theory*)

There´s one thing the English do right, and that´s freaking queuing

There´s one thing the English do right, and that´s freaking queuing

 Discrimination

Right, this isn´t as funny as the previous three, but discrimination is huge in Mexico. Discrimination based on race, social status, gender, place of birth, etc. And among all of these, gender discrimination is, I reckon, the biggest one. In Mexico, women are the silent victims of a society that objectivizes them, harasses them, and underestimates their role in the Mexican society as limited to marriage, motherhood and underpaid positions in the job market.

It reads: "it´s easy being a man"

It reads: “it´s easy being a man”

The independent, strong and self-driven females are seen by men and other women as aggressive, lonely and stubborn members of the Mexican society. Women don´t get paid the same amount of money for the same jobs as men, they mustn’t speak up their minds in family reunions or work meetings about politics, economics and their point of views regarding other topics traditionally addressed by men. And if you are thinking that I´m wrong, I´m sorry mate but you are one of those hipster guys who lives in the posh neighborhoods in Mexico City, or a suburban high class executive from Monterrey; and you still believe that women are free and brave and independent, or that they shouldn´t complain as they have all their needs sorted out (like a house, maids, marriage and a well-paid husband).

Because, remember, this is how many companies think.

Because, remember, this is how many companies think.

That´s right, I reckon that from these four examples, this last one pisses me off the most, as not only men discriminate women, women judge other women for their individual accomplishments not related to marriage and motherhood, undermining the development of an egalitarian society, more productive and equally able to provide a sustainable economic and social growth to all of its members.

Remember, harassment and discrimination of women leads to violence, as said this example in this article published by The Guardian on Mexico´s Machism: “The state of women’s rights in Mexico is alarming,” said Rupert Knox, from Amnesty International. “In recent years we have witnessed not only an increase in killings of women but a continuing routine lack of effective investigations and justice.”

vm

Just a quick example, “Maternity Leave” isn´t called that way in Mexico, oh no, when you ask a pregnant woman when is she having her time off to prepare everything for the birth of her baby, you say “When does your DISABILITY period start?” That´s right, because being pregnant isn´t becoming a mother, it is a disability. Also, instead of asking her when she is “due”, in Mexico we ask her “when are you getting better”, implying that pregnancy is an illness. Think about it, we portrait pregnancy, with these common expressions, as something negative for women.

maternity-leave

Quesadillas without cheese 

If you are in Mexico and you find a nice taco stand and ask for a quesadilla it will certainly come as a folded tortilla with melted cheese in it, right? Everywhere in Mexico except in one place, the capital, Mexico City. The first time in Mexico City that I asked for a quesadilla the waiter asked politely “With cheese?” What the bullocks man! As you might have guessed, the word “quesadilla” comes from the combination of words “queso” (Cheese, in Spanish) and tortilla, hence: Quesadilla.

Cheese, melting cheese! It´s in the bible, Jesus!

Cheese, melting cheese! It´s in the bible, Jesus!

Plain and simple, and if you reckon the opposite, well, my friend, you are sexist, narrow-minded and an enemy of the free world.

Ps. *The cutting in line theory: In Mexico corruption is the status quo, and most prefer to look to the other side whenever something illegal happens in their surroundings, the same with cutting in line. My theory is that people cut in line, while the people behind them also queuing silently judge that person but they don´t speak up, because they know that eventually they will be that person cutting in line. Translated to every day basis, Mexicans don´t speak up as eventually they´ll be in the position of breaking the law, with impunity.

Roast and Salad for Saturday

Saturday wasn´t any different, we went on the hunt for a good dining table and a washing machine. So my sister and I had the great idea to drive all the way to the East of the city (remember, this is Mexico City, almost 20 million people and more than 5 million cars, pretty much traffic hell everywhere), where several stores could supply our needs.

That´s the Walmart we are looking for!

That´s the Walmart we are looking for!

We were on this for 5 to 6 hours, we found the dining table, not the washing machine, and somehow we ended up in the North part of the city, because we are from out of town we didn´t realize that we suck at calculating time and distance in here.

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Anyway, the point is we were hungry as, bro, so we stopped by a supermarket (aye, it was a Walmart) and we got ourselves enough ingredients to cook what I´ll call: Sirloin and beef short ribs roast with beetroot and arugula salad. (or as my sister called it “just buy that piece of meat and let´s eat it raw on the way home”).

For the roast:

  • 500 grams of sirloin cut (usually known as Picaña, in Latin-America)
  • 500 grams of short beef ribs
  • 2 red capsicums, cut in halves
  • 1 big red onion in quarters
  • 1 small branch of fresh rosemary
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and Pepper
meats

If this isn´t heaven to you, then, bro, you are reading the wrong blog.


For the salad

  • Fresh arugula
  • 1 avocado
  • 30 grams of goat cheese
  • Half a red onion into thin slices.
  • 2 medium size beetroot boiled, and later grilled, then cut in quarters.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper.

For the roast:

Turn on your oven at 200 Celcius, in the meantime put a large pan on the medium high heat, sprinkle on it some grounded pepper and salt, put the ribs first, let the fat melt while it covers the entire surface of the pan (faaaaaat…mygosh!). Now, grab that beautiful piece of meat and place it fat to the pan and let it freaking cook, I mean, we want to sear the surface of that steak. Do the same with the ribs.

Now put those pieces of meat in an oven tray, sprinkle more sea salt, pepper, put the sliced capsicums and onions around the meats and put into the oven for 45 minutes.

For the greens:

In a big bowl, put all the ingredients together, remember to put the cheese and the sliced avocado at the end, as they ought to be crowning your salad. Mix thoroughly and plate, crown with the avocado, the beetroot and the goat cheese.

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Take the meat out of the oven and let it rest for 2 to 3 minutes, you want those juices to evenly distribute into your cut. Now slice and plate, pour yourself a glass of red and enjoy, you deserve it.

Roast

Home Cooking for the Brave

So, this is my report from last weekend, I was out of town for around a week, you know, work related stuff. Anyway, that´s not the point, as soon as I got back to Mexico City, my sister and I started cooking like maniacs for three days in a row, and it was awesome.

Not actually us... I´m bald, for instance.

Not actually us… I´m bald, for instance.

I´ll go as fast as I can with the dishes we prepared that weekend, full of laughs, adventures and inside jokes.

Friday

I was shattered by the end of  the week, couldn´t be bothered to do anything else, my sis went out and I decided to treat myself with something elegantly delicious. So, I rushed to the supermarket and got myself a neat piece of salmon, 1 kg of clams, spring onions, butter (oh yeah, baby, lots of butter), and a fancy rosé.

ButterBreak

These dishes can be cooked at the same time, so let´s start with the clams:

Put a regular size pot to medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, spring onions, carrots (1 inch slices), sliced garlic, and half a sliced onion, then stir-fry until the onion softens. Now it gets interesting, put half a kilo of the clams in the pot (freaking rinse them, mate, don´t just cook stuff straight from the bag, you are better than that and you know it), now you either pour 1 cup of white wine or 1 cup of water, let it simmer for a while and put the lid on.

clams

The clams will open nicely, discard those that don´t.

For the salmon, follow these simple instructions:

Put some salt and pepper on the salmon, don´t mind the skin, leave it, it´s important, and if you are into it add some dill weed or smoked paprika to the rub. Turn on the heat to medium on a regular size pan, a table spoon of extra virgin olive oil and butter, let it melt, wait until the fat browns slightly and put the salmon skin down, now let it cook.

There you go, you can see exactly how it is cooking (not my actual kitchen, nor my pan, nor my salmon)

There you go, you can see exactly how it is cooking (not my actual kitchen, nor my pan, nor my salmon)

This technique is super easy, as you don´t need to turn the salmon to finish cooking, just let the heat flow from skin up. This will allow you to cook your meat to perfection.

And that´s it, just plate and enjoy it with a good rosé that you´ve obviously put in the fridge while you were cooking this.

salmon

Digg in, bro, you know you want to.

Ps. What´s the favourite dish you like cooking with your family or friends? Share your stories if you have something to share.

The Kitchen: My Happy Place

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After coming back from awesome New Zealand, I moved to Mexico City, and I´ve been living here for the last two years. I´m loving it so far and I´ve met amazing people in this city, as well as knowing more about my professional capabilities and skills.

But there´s one thing I do miss, either from Aotearoa or my hometown, Tampico, and that is having a decent kitchen. I know what you are thinking, a good cook doesn´t need fancy spaces nor expensive appliances to deliver amazing dishes, however, before this new place, I used to cook in a kitchen only a hobbit could fit in.

My mates and I hanging out, you know, just chilling before going to an adventure, and stuff

My mates and I hanging out, you know, just chilling before going to an adventure, and stuff

Of course, I´m no Jamie Oliver grilling freaking salmon in the middle of the woods, but this kitchen was way too small for me and my usual need to cook for large audiences.

Just recently, I moved in with my youngest sister, we found a flat in one of the most interesting and quiet hoods in town, Colonia Napoles. What about the kitchen? It suffices, and has a nice working oven, pantry, and lots of space to chop, mix, marinate and other regular things I like doing there.

Because "Mise en Place" shall be mandatory in your kitchen, the way Jesus told his disciples back in the day, true story.

Because “Mise en Place” shall be mandatory in your kitchen, the way Jesus told his disciples back in the day, true story.

Oh, and my sister brought a nice size fridge with her! So, all set now.

"... and then I told him that I was just fine, you should have looked as his face, priceless"

“… and then I told him that I was just fine, you should have seen the look on his face, priceless”

My next posts will be about the three awesome dishes we cooked this past weekend, they were legendary, true story. Because for me, as a Mexican, the kitchen isn´t only a room in the house, it is where things happen, stories get told and family bonds in a much stronger way.

The Kitchen is where I used to hang out with mum and dad, where gossips are shared and rivalries settled.

The kitchen is where the magic happens and the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

 So, every time I come home from work exhausted, thirsty and hungry… I go to the kitchen and cook whatever comes to my mind, not whatever suffices, but something that inspires.

The ordinary... extraordinary

The ordinary… extraordinary

Ps.The dress was black and blue, assholes.

Ps2. Have you been following closely Mexican politics lately? No need to say that The Economist, New York Times, El País and more recently Financial Times have charged with all they have against the current administration. And when I said “with all they have” I meant “with all the obvious corruption and violation of human rights that the federal and regional government have allegedly committed against the Mexican citizens”. As they said in one of these media outlets “They don´t get it that they don´t get it”.

Ps3. ISIS is all over the news these days, and without question it´s a matter that should be in the top priorities of the UN Security Council, however, so is Ebola, and without any more American or European infected this disease has become uninteresting to the mainstream media.