Charro Beans (Or Mexican Soup)

I was born and raised in the North of Mexico, Tampico is my hometown and I’ll will always cherish my childhood and youth spent there. However, right when I turned 19 I moved to Monterrey, Mexico. So from 10 good years I studied, lived, worked and ate grilled meat (“carnes asadas”) at the City of Mountains and hard working Mexicans.

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While there I learnt to cook “Frijoles Charros” or as I later called it in NZ “Mexican spicy bean soup”. So, don’t be shy, grab pen and paper and write down the following recipe for some kick ass spicy bean soup that will definitely be the final entrée at your home made BBQ this summer (or Fall… screw it, you know I went on holidays, so this is great for Winter too, ok? just be cool with it). Remember, this is not “Chilli”, this is a Mexican spicy bean soup, alright?

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of Cannellini or Red Kidney beans in brine
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic, chopped
  • 3 stripes of smoked bacon (the real deal, you know what I mean)
  • 1 piece of Spanish chorizo in squares
  • Red, yellow and green capsicums squared (1 each)
  • 1 bratwurst roughly sliced (I do prefer either Argentinian sausage or Polish burst)
  • Fresh cilantro (just a handful)
  • 1 smoked chipotle chilli
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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These are chipotles 

What to do? 

Use a large and deep pot, add the bacon and chorizo, stir around, let those juices cover the wall of the pot, add the onions, garlic and capsicums, stir-fry. Throw in the bratwurst (no pun intended), stir around again, oh yeah, that’s it, you know it. Finally, add the tomatoes, and after a couple minutes put in the beans, brine and all.

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Finally, put the chipotle and the cilantro in. The idea of using the whole chipotle, without chopping it or slicing it is because you don’t want to make this a hot soup, you just want the flavour of this smoked chilli, that’s it.

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Let all the ingredients mix in the pot, now pour in 3 cups of water, let it boil. Salt and pepper to taste.

This my friends, is a great confort food. You can even not put any extra water in it and it is a great side dish for a roast (like pork or lamb).

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In Mexico we can also just buy these and everybody will be ok with that. Kidding, we are not ok with this, go for the real deal

Ps. The year is almost over and we are soon to know who is going to become president of the USA. Aren’t we all excited? Not really, nor of the two options are great for my neighbours, but that shouldn’t be of my business, right? Now, if you excuse me, I have a wall to build.

 

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Spanish Tortilla, Bro!

Usually when I’m bored I go for a cooking sprint, and it gets pretty nasty. How nasty does it get? You might be wondering. Well, I go to my local supermarket and simply “go for it”. A bunch of dishes starts to appear in my head, hence, an imaginary list of ingredients types itself in my mind.

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This is just a wee example of my cooking sprints.

Spanish Tortilla

Pick 3 to 5 good size potatoes, the yellow kind, half an onion, slice thinly these vegetables. In a medium size pot, put a lot of water to boil, add 1 spoon of salt and put the potatoes there. Let them cook until soft but still firm. Drizzle a large size non-stick pan with some extra virgin olive oil, stir-fry the onions and a garlic clove (already cut in brunoise), until soft, don’t let them caramelize, don’t add any salt, just pepper to taste. Get those tatoes out of the water, and put them in the pan, stir gently until brown.

In a metal bowl, crack four or five eggs, whisk, add salt, pepper, 2 spoons of water, 2 spoons of sour cream, a pinch of dried parsley, and keep on whisking, who told you to stop? Now, let the potatoes and onions to cool down a little, integrate to the egg mix.

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Now the fun part, use a much smaller pan, like half the size of the one you used previously, drizzle more olive oil, put the stove to medium heat, ready? Add the mix into the pan. Why are we using a much smaller pan? Simple, this will make a thicker tortilla, easier to handle while cooking, and it’ll look great when plating.

Where was I? Right! Let the mix cook in the smaller pan, you’ll notice when it’s ready to turn when the top isn’t runny anymore. I usually put a lid on to get a firmer tortilla. Now grab a plate larger than the pan, put it on top, and flip it, put the pan back on the stove and carefully return the tortilla from the plate to the pan. Let it cook for 4 to 5 five more minutes in medium-low heat.

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Now plate!

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You can double or triple this recipe in order to make more Spanish tortillas, this dish is a great entrée and will not disappoint.

Ps. Mexico City is currently experiencing its worst environmental crisis in 15 years. The local authorities determined that limiting the amount of cars on the streets seemed the logical first step to solve the problem. I reckon that the pollution comes from the industrial zones located in the states of Puebla, Estado de México and Hidalgo. The authorities have done nothing to regulate these zones; in the meantime, Mexico City’s administration still hasn’t presented a public transport improvement plan, just saying.

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This is where I “live”… 

Paella by Mexicans

As part of many things The Americas inherited from the Spanish settlers, I reckon, the most important one was new ingredients and cooking techniques. Not only we got some great Spanish recipes, but this “Mestizaje” resulted in new and thrilling cooking methods, the incorporation of exotic ingredients, flavours and textures. The The Latin American cuisine was born as a rich, exuberant,and voluptuous (I always wanted to use to that word to describe food, far out!) pallet of flavours and emotions.

It was actually rougher than this. A very bloody and violent cultural assimilation.

It was actually rougher than this. A very bloody and violent cultural assimilation.

… Anyway, so, a few days ago, we decided not to go for the traditional Mexican dish, nor a North American craving (remember, we are from the north, close to the border with the US and A, so, aye, we love HEB and Texan massive portions), instead we went for freaking Spanish food.

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Why Spanish? Well, I’ve recently bought a “Paellera”, which is a special pan for paella, as shown bellow:

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I got the rice and the spices, then my youngest sis and I headed to the “San Juan” Market, which, I reckon, needs a post of its own, as it is an impressive place full of the most exotic ingredients, meats, veggies and a wide high quality charcuterie stands.

Colours... edible colours ...

Colours… edible colours …

Among other things we needed for the paella, we also went there to get the seafood, as northeast Mexicans from the Gulf of Mexico we do value fresh, high quality seafood. So, let’s get started, shall we?

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Utensils:

  • A 30 cms paellera
  • Cooking tongs
  • 1 medium size pot (for a 1 to 2 litres of chicken stock)
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • White piece of cloth

Ingredients (usually for a 4 to 6 people paella):

  • 600 grams of rice (preferable the “bomba” or “calasparra” variety)
  • 300 grams of chicken meat (I used chicken thighs, deboned)
  • 200 grams of pork in cubes (I recommend pork chops, deboned and leave some fat, always leave the fat)
  • 300 grams of large shrimps, skin and head on
  • 200 grams of white clams
  • 200 grams of squids (ask your vendor to clean them up before weighting them)
  • 100 grams of fried chopped tomatoes (I used two, and worked great)
  • 50 grams of sliced Spanish chorizo
  • 1 tsp of sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp of saffron
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ chopped onion
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 litres of chicken stock

Now what?

First, turn on the heat to meadium, on the paellera pour some olive oil (2 to 3 spoons are fine), level the paellera, you want to cook rice evenly, always. Next, throw in the pork and the chicken, you want to brown the outside of these meats before moving to the steaming process needed for the rice. Add the chorizo, the onions and the garlic, then the tomatoes, and the rest of the spices (saffron, paprika, oregano, pinch of salt and pepper).

Bomba-Rice

All set? Awesome, now, the secret of a great paella rests in the stock you use. Please, put as much love to make the stock as you do to prepare this paella. Oh well, screw it, you can buy chicken stock too, so anyway, where was I? Aye, put a good amount of large spoons of the stock in the paellera. As soon as the stock touches the hot pan your kitchen will be filled with amazing aromas, sounds and excitement (not the same sort of excitement we all felt while watching the first trailer of the upcoming Star Wars movie, but pretty close). Cover just half of the paellaera with the stock, let it boil.

Is it boiling now? Add the rice, distribute it nicely along the paellera, use your wooden spoon and distribute the hell of that rice, oh yeah, distribute it good… you are loving it aren’t you? Now pour more stock in it until you entirely cover the rice, lower the flame, and let it cook. Regarding the saffron, some put it while they stir-fry the meat, whilst others add it right after covering the rice with the stock. I used the first technique.

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Ok, so your rice is cooking, your stock is simmering, you’ve poured yourself a good glass of Tempranillo (because cooking and drinking is always mandatory), now, what’s left? Oh right, the seafood! Start arranging the shrimp, squid and clams in the paellera. Gently push the ingredients into the rice, they’ll cook fast, that’s the reason we didn’t cook them with the meat at the beginning. Pour a little bit more of that stock, you don’t want to burn your rice (unless you like socarrat, which is super delicious).

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At the last phase, when you notice the rice is almost ready, the seafood cooked (just check if the shrimps turn into that lovely pink colour) turn off the heat and cover the paella with that white piece of cloth you were wondering why I listed it in this recipe. Let it rest for good 15 minutes, it helps to settle and finishing cooking the rice.

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There you go, now take some nice pics, upload them to Instagram, use a nice filter, and share it with the rest of the world.

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Ps. Did you get the chance to watch the Republican debate yesterday? I didn´t, but it seems that Trump is doing his best to keep on surprising us. He is a jerk, but really popular, the lad might have a chance to compete against Hillary for the US presidency.

Ps2. Veracruz, that Mexican state in the shape of a wrinkled banana, by the Gulf of Mexico is now the one most dangerous places on earth for journalists. Javier Duarte, governor of that state, during an event with journalists warned them that the authorities knew which one of them were hanging out with the bad guys. Last Friday, Ruben Espinosa, photographer, allegedly threaten by Duarte’s administration, was found murdered in Mexico City. “Espinosa was the 13th journalist working in Veracruz to be killed since Governor Javier Duarte from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) came to power in 2011.” published The Guardian, regarding this event. Shame on you, Duarte.

Father´s Day Asado

Almost a month ago my dad had a stroke, it was the day after my birthday, as soon as we found out my sisters and I didn´t hesitate to run to our hometown, to be there with him and our mum. So, together, as a family, we made it, my dad has almost fully recovered and he is very keen to take the most out of this second chance life has given him. So, last weekend we came over again to celebrate father´s day with him. Indeed, it was a very meaningful celebration.

For this weekend, one of my sisters decided that we should feast as we always do on special occasions, throwing a massive asado (or “carne asada”, as we know it here in Mexico).

Ribs, picanha, and more meat... plain and simple

Ribs, picanha, and more meat… plain and simple

We used a charcoal grill, medium high heat, only using half of the cooking surface. This turned out to be a great idea as we usually just spread the heat all along the grill, in order to use all the cooking surface. However by doing this we were able to cook perfectly the pieces of meat and the rest of the veggies without burning them. Start by putting some jalapenos and tomatoes on the grill until they burn, later we place them on a mortar and make a salsa out of it. Wrapped in tin foil we placed some potatoes and onions really close to the fire, we want all the heat on them as they take longer to cook.

Let those jalapenos burn,  and destroy in that mortar, add some caramelized onions to the salsa and a splash of lime juice.

Let those jalapenos burn, and destroy in that mortar, add some caramelized onions to the salsa and a splash of lime juice.

Finally, for the “piece de resistance“, this time we had beef ribs, some fillets, and a 1.5 kg piece of picaña (which comes from the top back part of the cow). For the picaña (or picanha), the meat had to be scored first, it has a thick layer of fat, and you want the scoring not to get all the way to the meat but to be slightly deep, as you will be rubbing the whole piece with pepper and salt. Asado 3 My strategy is simple, put it on the fire, and let it cook on the surface, when you reckon it has a nice colour on the outside put the meat away from direct fire and close to grill´s lid, we are going for a medium level of doneness,  lots of juices and a beautiful pink in its core. The whole asado takes around 1.5 hours to 2 hours to cook, including the meat, ribs, vegetables, salsa and sides. Asado 4Indirect grilling turned out to be a fascinating technique, as it allows the meat to cook evenly, but without burning it, giving you more control during the process. Certainly the result was outstanding and it was the best way to celebrate not only Father’s day but also the successful recovery of my dad, he is getting there and we couldn’t be happier.

Beautiful indeed...

Beautiful indeed…

Pork Rib Roast – The Musical

This one isn’t an easy recipe, turns out that for great dishes and outstanding flavours sometimes we have to be patient and take our time.

So, get your oven tray ready, turn on the heat, sharpen your knives and let’s get kraken with this.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kilograms of Loin rack Joint
  • Half a litre of white wine
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 10 white small potatoes
  • A good bunch of fresh thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

Let’s find the meat. Go to your favourite butcher, I know I have mine, and ask him for a good piece of Loin rack Joint (use the previous image for life changing purposes), tell the lad to leave the fat on, (always leave the fat on), take it to your kitchen counter, ready? Now let the magic begin.

First remove the membrane that comes on top of the ribs, this will make the meat really tender while cooking it. Ready? Sweet, now score the meat on the other side, you want the salt and the pepper to really get into that layer of fat.

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Now place the white potatoes, in halves, the thyme, pepper, salt and the garlic cloves on the cooking tray. This will look like a potatoe bed where you will place the ribs on, fat up.

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Pour 300 ml of the wine on the tray, cover the meat with tin foil, and put that baby inside the preheated oven, now leave it there for 1.5 hours at 180 degrees Celsius.

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1.5 hours are gone, take the tray out of the oven, remove the tin foil and put the pork back in. The meat is now cooked but we want that fat to turn into a beautiful golden crust. Leave it there for 35 more minutes, after that, place the piece of meat on a wooden board and let it rest for good 5 minutes, you want those juices to get evenly distributed. In the meantime, take that tray and pour the rest of the wine, deglaze that bastard, use a whisker to scratch those flavours out the tray.

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Get a good knife, and cut the pork into slices according to each rib, now plate, pour that gravy on and it is done. Enjoy it with a chilled white wine or a really good Pilsner.

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Hot Wings and Beer

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That’s, I reckon, the best title I’ve ever come up with for any of my posts in this blog. The reason for today’s topic is plain and simple, Hot Wings and Beer are awesome (it’s in the bible, look it up)

Beautiful

Beautiful

Here in Mexico City we tend to go for wings every other Wednesday, and when I say “we”, I mean my mates from my hometown who live here and sometimes we bring a special guest. This sort of tradition began with my friends up north in Monterrey, most of them from my hometown, Tampico, used to get together every Wednesday. The day was chosen not because we love Wednesdays, but because of the specials they have that day at this restaurant (Wings Army), you order 20 hot wings they bring you 30. This place, Wings Army, besides serving great wings, also has a wide variety of national and international beers, which is awesome. From the local brews, to artisan beer, all the way to Cuban or great German beer. The place has it all.

Literally, from everywhere, except, you know... North Korea

Literally, from everywhere, except, you know… North Korea

I must admit I don´t really know how they do it, how they cook these wings to perfection, I’ve tried at home and the result is not disappointing but just “not the same”. I’m not going to explain how to cook the perfect wings, or what to look in a hot wings joint. This is just a reminder that there are some things that other do better, and we should appreciate them and munch our way through.

What other dishes you’d love to cook at home but just don’t turn out as good as your favourite food joint cooks them?

Ps, Oh, by the way, do you know that this guy in Guadalajara registered the “Duff Beer” and branded the bottles to commercialize this brew.

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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 🙂

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
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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.

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