Sunday, April 15, 2012

Truly Mexican: Beans with Pork

I actually made this bean dish last night as part of my Mexican dinner, but I wanted to see what they tasted like the next day.  I figured they would benefit from an overnight visit to the refrigerator, and they do improve with time.  If you have any left, that is.

The beans are incredibly flavorful, and I honestly think that the bacon is all that is really needed, although I'm sure I would be perfectly happy to wolf them down if pork threads were floating happily side-by-side with the beans.  In fact, with the pulled pork the recipe originally called for, this would be a meal unto itself.  The applewood smoked bacon certainly added a nice smokey flavor that went well with the mild beans and the spicy sauce.

Beans with Pork
From Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibanez

1¼ ounces guajillo chiles (8), wiped clean, stemmed, slit open, seeded, and deveined
⅓ ounce dried arbol chiles (10), wiped clean and stemmed
4 garlic cloves
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1 cup water
4 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, including liquid, plus 1 cup water
4 cups carnitas
2 ounces sliced bacon, diced (about 2 slices)
½ cup finely chopped white onion

Heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-low heat, and toast the guajillos, a few at a time, turning them over and pressing them down frequently with tongs, until they're fragrant and their insides have changed color slightly, about 1 minute per batch.  Toast the arbol chiles, turning them over and pressing them down frequently with tongs, until they are brown all over and blackened in spots, 3 to 4 minutes.

Soak the chiles in enough cold water to cover until they're softened, about 30 minutes.  Drain and discard the soaking water.

Blend the chiles with the garlic, cumin, peppercorns, cloves, and the 1 cup of fresh water to form a smooth puree, at least 3 minutes.

Combine the chile puree, pinto beans (including the bean liquid and water), and the pork in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a small heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until browned, 5 to 8 minutes.  Add the onion to the skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer the bacon mixture (including the fat) to the pot with the beans and pork, cover the pot, and simmer everything together for 20 minutes.  Season to taste with salt.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Truly Mexican: Camarones con Pipián Verde (Shrimp with Simple Pumpkin Seed Sauce)

I wanted to make a meal for my mother and father this weekend, but with my mother being a diabetic and me being on a diet, the menu was going to be complicated.  As much I wanted to make something that involved a giant pile of creamy mashed potatoes, I held back.  Yes, I have willpower of steel!

The sauce is pretty easy to make, but I found that it tends to break VERY easily.  And since it can be difficult to coax my parents to the table on time, I had to keep trying to re-integrate the ingredients with more stock.  Not fun.  The sauce was pretty delicious, however.  Salty and nutty, so it was a perfect match with the large Gulf shrimp I got.

Camarones con Pipián Verde (Shrimp with Simple Pumpkin Seed Sauce)
From Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibanez

5 ounces hulled raw (green) pumpkin seeds (1 cup)
⅓ cup chopped white onion
3 fresh serrano or jalapeño chiles, coursely chopped, including seeds
1 small garlic clove, peeled
½ teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon fine salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 to 5 cups chicken stock, divided
2 tablespoons mild olive oil or vegetable oil
½ cup chopped cilantro
Poached chicken, roasted pork, or 1¼ pounds raw fish or shrimp

Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast the pumpkin seeds, stirring and tossing constantly, until they're puffed and just slightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.  Put the pumpkin seeds in the blender jar along with the onion, chiles, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and 2 cups of the stock, and blend until the mixture is smooth, at least 3 minutes.

Heat the oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot (this will give you enough room to add the meat or fish later; if you're making just the sauce, a 3- to 4-quart pot is fine) over medium heat until it simmers, and carefully pour in the blended mixture.  Cook (use a splatter screen so the sauce doesn't make a mess of the stove), stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add just enough stock to thin the sauce to a velvety consistency that thickly coats a wooden spoon, but isn't gloppy.  Simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, adding more stock, as necessary, to maintain the velvety consistency.

Return some of the sauce, about 1 cup (or all if the sauce has broken and looks like scrambled eggs), to the blender, then add the cilantro and blend until smooth.  Be careful when you're blending hot ingredients: cover the top with a kitchen towel, and hold the top firmly in place with your hand.  Work in batches to avoid blending with a full jar.

Return the sauce to the pot and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes more.  As the sauce is simmering, swish a little liquid around in the blender and add it to the pot.  Season to taste with additional salt.

If you're using chicken or pork, add it to the sauce now, reduce the heat to low, and cook until it's just heated through, 15 to 20 minutes.  If you're using shrimp or fish, season it with salt, gently cook it in the sauce until just cooked through, about 10 minutes, and serve with lime wedges.

Makes 4 cups sauce

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Saveur: Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate Glaze

Well, it's Easter.  Which means it's lamb time.  I understand the whole lambs + eggs = Spring thing, but why does that mean you eat them?  Probably because they're super tasty.  Especially when the pretty little lamb is slathered in syrup and garlic.

Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate Glaze
From Saveur magazine, November 1995

3 cups pomegranate juice
½ cup granulated sugar
Leaves from 2-3 sprigs oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 8-bone rack of lamb (about 2½ pounds), frenched
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook pomegranate juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until a thick syrup forms, 20-30 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat and place in a larger pan of hot water to keep syrup warm and liquid.

Preheat oven to 500ºF.

Chop oregano leaves into minced garlic as finely as possible to make a paste, then smear it over all surfaces of lamb. Season with salt and pepper, and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Brush lightly with pomegranate syrup, and place in top part of oven, bone side down, for 5 minutes. Lower oven to 375ºF and roast 15 minutes per pound (or till interior reaches 125ºF on a meat thermometer) for medium-rare. After first 20 minutes, add some water to bottom of pan, and brush roast with more pomegranate syrup.

Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into chops. Mix pan juices into remaining syrup, pour over chops, and serve.

Makes 4 servings