Friday, November 30, 2012

Mercado de San Juan

Since I’ve been in Mexico, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all that I am able to find at the supermarkets.  Sure, sometimes I have to go to more than one in any given week and I have to give Mexican brands a shot while also making minor substitutions here and there, but I’m almost always able to recreate my favorite dishes using locally found ingredients.  Have you all found the same thing?  Is there something you are looking for that you haven’t found, or at least a reasonable substitution?  Let me know and perhaps we can find a solution together so you can make your favorites, too. 

Me with the Turkeys at Mercade de San Juan
Even for me, though, there were a couple of things I was missing and I knew I had to go out of my comfort zone to find them.  For example, I knew I wanted a fresh turkey to serve this Thanksgiving, and I knew I wasn’t going to find it in any of the major supermarkets as they only sell frozen birds.  (Please note, I do not think there’s anything wrong with using frozen turkeys, I just enjoy finding fresh turkeys and comparing flavors.)  Additionally, I have really been missing having large, flavorful shallots.  All I have been able to find are tiny ones at Chedraui, which are a pain to dice and often already rotten.  Finally, I have been sad that I couldn’t find some of my favorite Asian vegetables.  Not that I was complaining!  I know we really have it good here in terms of what we can acquire, but I thought maybe if I went on a little adventure I could find what I was looking for, and I did!

My Finished Turkey!
So last week, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I went to Mercado de San Juan, mostly in search of my turkey but also to see what I could discover.  It was a blast!  I have never in my life seen a 40 pound turkey, but they had it there!  It was bigger than my preschooler.  Needless to say, I chose a smaller, 20 pound turkey as I was feeding 10 people plus 4 kids.  The turkeys were still whole, but they fabricated it the way I wanted and even gave it a “bath” for me.  (I washed it again with a little bleach solution when I got home for safety!)  The turkey turned out amazing with great flavor, and everyone at my table was excited that they got to experience a real Mexican turkey.  At Mercado de San Juan, I also found the HUGE shallots I’d been seeking, and got about 12 for only 15 pesos!  They also had a huge array of Asian vegetables, such as bok choy and different types of radishes.  I was thrilled.  They also sell quality, whole Mexican, Italian and Spanish hams at greatly reduced prices, amazing cheeses you cannot find anywhere else, tons of rare Asian ingredients, and so much more—including more Mexican specialties than I could possible list—as well as amazingly beautiful, delicious fruits and other produce. 

If you’d like to go on your own adventure to Mercado San Juan and see what they have to offer for yourself, here’s how you get there.  The market is in a very large warehouse on Ernesto Pugibet, between José María Marroquí y Luis Moya, four blocks from Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas. From the Embassy, go northeast on Reforma, right (east) onto Donata Guerra, right (south) onto Eje. 1 Poniente, then left (east) onto Ernesto Pugibet.  There is parking available right outside the market for a small tip to the attendants.  Here are two links to Google maps: http://goo.gl/maps/MMTdM
http://goo.gl/maps/UgVCT


Here’s what I’m making with my finds!  Feel free to substitute leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken for the turkey, and almost any hearty green you like for the bok choy.  (Swiss Chard, labeled “acelga”, is commonly found in Mexican grocery stores.  If you use a more tender green such as spinach, skip step 3 and add it with the turkey in step 4.)

Asian Turkey Noodle Soup with Bok Choy
Adapted from www.finecooking.com                                                                                                                                                                            Photo by Scott Phillips
Serves 4

4 oz thin Asian noodles of your preference, such as glass noodles or rice vermicelli
4 Cups chicken or turkey broth
3 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 2-inch long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced then mashed
1 ½ Tbsp. soy sauce (more for serving)
1 medium head bok choy (about 8 oz.), sliced ¼-inch thick crosswise (about 3 Cups) [see note above for greens substitution ideas]
2 Cups coarsely shredded cooked turkey or chicken
2 scallions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced

1.      In a 3-qt saucepan, bring the broth, garlic, ginger and soy sauce to a rapid simmer over medium high heat.  Cover and continue to simmer for 10 minutes; remove and discard garlic and ginger.
2.      Add noodles to the broth and cook until tender.  Using tongs, distribute the noodles among 4 bowls, preserving the broth in the saucepan.
3.      Add the bok choy to the broth and cook, uncovered, until the white parts start to become tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove the bok choy and distribute among the bowls.
4.   Add the turkey to the broth and simmer until just heated through, about 30 seconds.  Distribute the meat and the broth among the bowls.  Top with the scallions and serve with more soy sauce on the side.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Turkey!

It’s time for turkey, so here’s your once-over-the-world guide to roasting that bird.  If you’ve decided that turkey is always bland and dry, I beseech you to keep trying.  I have roasted everything from lean but flavorful (and sinfully expensive!) heritage breed birds to the cheapest frozen bird that can be found at the discount store, with success at both ends of the spectrum.  It doesn’t take professional training, but rather planning ahead, good timing and a bit of patience. Feel free to let me know if you have specific questions! 

Choosing your Turkey
In Mexico, we don’t have as many options as we do in the States, but don’t fret.  Perfectly acceptable frozen turkeys are available almost anywhere you would normally shop, and fresh turkeys are available at the Mercado de San Juan, which is located on "Ernesto Pugibet", between José María Marroquí y Luis Moya, four blocks from Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas. Here are two maps: http://goo.gl/maps/MMTdM
http://goo.gl/maps/UgVCT
Once you’ve decided where to buy, plan on 1½ to 2 pounds per person, and I always overestimate so there are plenty of leftovers.  For example, if you are having 10 people, get at least a 15 lb bird and if you like experimenting with leftovers (recipes below!), get 18 pounds. 

Defrosting
Let’s start at the beginning.  Most of you will buy, now and in the future, a frozen turkey.  The first thing to do is figure out how long and how you will defrost your bird.  Here are the options:
a)      In the Fridge: This is the most desirable and safest way to defrost.  Place your turkey in the fridge in its original packaging on a platter with the breast side up.  Your turkey will take about one day for every four pounds, which means a 15 lb bird will take four days.
b)      In the Sink/Cooler: This is an effective way to defrost that takes less time but more work.  Cover your turkey with cold water, and change water frequently to keep it cold.  It will take about ½ hour for every pound, which means a 15 lb bird will take 30 hours.

Flavoring
How will you flavor your turkey in preparation for cooking? There are a lot of different options, but the two I like the best are brining and basting, and I usually do both!  Here are your options:
a)      Brining: This is a simple method of soaking your turkey in a “brine” composed of water, salt, sugar and aromatics for many hours prior to cooking.  The flavored water seeps into the turkey, resulting in succulent, savory meat.  If you know your turkey is lean or you have a tendency to over dry your bird year after year, brine it.  Many brine recipes can be found online but don’t be intimidated from creating your own.  The general ratio is about 1C of salt and ½C brown sugar to 1 gallon of water.  Mix these three ingredients together along with any desired aromatics (good choices include peppercorn, dried herbs like rosemary, dried apples, star anise, cinnamon sticks, juniper berries, whole allspice, ginger, etc).  Bring your mixture to a boil, then let cool to room temperature.  In a brining bag or a large stock pot, add at least 1 more gallon of water plus a bunch of ice and your brining solution, along with your already-defrosted turkey.  Place this in the fridge and allow to brine for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours.
b)      Basting: This is a great way to flavor your bird, and is advised even if you used a brine.  Dry your bird inside and out with paper towels.  Using course ground salt and freshly ground black pepper, season your bird inside and out.  Mix at least one stick of softened butter with some chopped fresh herbs of your choosing (such as rosemary, sage and thyme).  Simply rub this mixture inside and out of your bird (don’t forget under the skin).  Any extra should be used on the skin outside the breasts.  You really can’t use too much, so be liberal.  Place sliced lemons and oranges along with a wedged onion and extra herb stems inside the cavity of your turkey and you’re all set.  (Please note: It is generally not advised that you stuff your bird, as was tradition in the past.  It slows the cooking and generally does not reach a safe internal temperature for consumption, plus the cavity never holds enough stuffing anyway!)

Cooking
Now it’s time to cook your bird.  First you have to calculate how long it will take.  You will need 15 minutes for every pound.  For a 15 lb bird, that means you need at least 4 hours, as well as rest time which is at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.  There are many options for cooking your bird, but here we’ll focus on the most traditional: roasting.  Here are the steps:
1)      Preheat your oven to 450°F.  If you don’t have a roasting rack to elevate your turkey, use a bunch of vegetables (onion, carrots and celery) in the bottom of your roasting pan to serve the same purpose, but do not neglect to elevate your turkey in one of these ways.
2)      Truss your turkey, which means tucking the legs of your turkey under its body and tying them together with kitchen twine (or whatever you have around—I have literally used a hair tie before in a pinch).  This is a necessary step to ensure even cooking.  Place your turkey on your roasting rack or bed of vegetables in the roasting pan.  
3)      Roast your turkey for 30 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 325°F.  Keep an eye on your turkey, but it’s not necessary to continually baste, as this causes fluctuations in temperature and slows cooking time.  Baste only when you have to open the oven for another reason, such as tenting the bird or checking the temperature.  If you notice that part of the skin has already reached the desired brownness, simply put a double layer of tinfoil over that part of the bird.  It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to shield the skin.
4)      Roast your bird until the thigh meat reaches 165°F and the breast reaches 155°F (both parts measured in the thickest area, away from the bone).  If you reach either temperature before the other, tent that part of the bird with foil as well until the other part is ready.
5)      LET YOUR TURKEY REST (covered all over very lightly in tinfoil) for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour.  This step is vital to allow the juices in the meat to redistribute.  If you don’t let your turkey rest, the juices will end up on your cutting board and your meat will be dry, which defeats all your hard work! 

Timing
Planning ahead is vital for Thanksgiving dinner, so here’s a sample timeline for a frozen, 15 lb brined bird:
4 days for defrosting + 1 day for brining (minimum) + 4 hours cooking time
+ 1 hour resting (best to plan for the maximum in case cooking takes longer) =
5 days and 5 hours total
Therefore, if you want to eat at 4pm on Thanksgiving, better get that frozen 15 lb turkey in the fridge by 11am on Saturday morning!
Gravy
Yield: Approx. 6 Servings

Turkey Gravy

Even if you don't like to admit it, you love gravy. Especially on Thanksgiving. Here's a method I have used in the past with great success...you'll basically want to drink it straight (but don't)...

ingredients:

  • 1/4 C butter
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 package turkey giblets from inside your turkey, or you can use turkey wings/legs/bones, or even chicken giblets, bones, wings, etc.
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 4 C turkey or chicken broth or stock (low or no sodium if purchased, or homemade)
  • bay leaf and thyme sprigs
  • drippings from pan in which you've roasted your turkey (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Madeira, Cognac or Sherry (optional)

instructions

  1. Make your roux (please reference my blog post on roux): Melt butter in a saute pan over low heat. Whisk in flour and increase heat to medium-low. Cook roux, stirring often, until it reaches a medium brown color and has a nutty aroma. Let roux cool. (This step is important to avoiding lumpy gravy later!)
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a large oven-proof saute pan, heat canola oil in oven until smoking. Add turkey or chicken pieces. Roast in the oven until golden brown, turning occasionally. Remove pan from oven and remove turkey or chicken pieces.
  3. Transfer pot to stovetop and place over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot to the hot pan. Stir to crape up fond (the golden brown bits) from bottom of pan, and cook, stirring often, until soft and golden brown.
  4. Add dry white wine and reduce until almost dry. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Temper roux into broth (this is important for avoiding lumps; more info in my Roux blog post) and bring back to a simmer. Add bay leaf and thyme sprigs and let simmer gently for 15 minutes. Strain gravy through a fine mesh sieve and discard mirepoix (onion/carrot/celery) and herbs. 
  5. Add pan drippings (straining if necessary) and Madeira or Sherry. Allow to simmer 5 minutes longer and serve hot.
Created using The Recipes Generator
Leftovers
Leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner are great fun, and fortunately ideas are all over the place.  One of my absolute favorite dishes to make with leftover turkey is Curried Turkey and Isaeli Couscous Salad with Dried Cranberries.  I make it every year the day after Thanksgiving, and sometimes throughout the year using leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  You can substitute regular couscous (which is small and easier to find in Mexico) for the Israeli couscous (which is large, also known as pearl couscous).  However, I think it is much better with the Israeli variety, which I have found at both Superama (perhaps this was a lucky find as I haven't seen it since) and also at Sinai Kosher Deli and Bakery, located at Av. Stim #72 in Lomas de Chamizal.  Anyone know if they have it at City Market?
Back to leftovers, Bon Appetit also has a great selection of leftover recipes in their Thanksgiving guide.  The Turkey and Mushroom Risotto looks especially promising.  Of course, there's always the old standby: the sandwich, in which you include all the stuff that used to be on the dining room table in between two slices of bread.  I think this year I'll do delicious grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches using my grill pan, some nice French cheese (so glad that's available in Mexico!) and cranberry sauce.  You've got to use it up somehow, right?!

Good luck to you, and have a wonderful Thanskgiving!  Let me know how it turns out!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Meat in Mexico: Pork

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on Beef in Mexico.  Many of you let me know how useful it was, and I’m so glad for that.  As I said then, I think the labels here at the Mexican grocery stores can be somewhat confusing, particularly those on the meats.  I am going to continue to help you decipher some of those confusing labels, as well as restaurant menus, and figure out how to enjoy (or avoid, in the case of one of my vegetarian readers!) all the various types of meat available in Mexico.   This week we’ll talk about pork.

What I hope to is give you through this diagram of general cuts shown (downloadable and printable here), as well as the spreadsheet outlining specific labels available below, is an easily accessible, home-cook’s guide to buying pork here in Mexico.  In the spreadsheet you will find the approximate price per kilo for that particular cut, the direct translation to English and the cut’s American Equivalent, suggested cooking methods and traditional American and Mexican dishes using that particular cut.  Hope you find it useful!  If I get something wrong or leave something out, please let me know, either by leaving a comment here or emailing me at TheGlobalFork@gmail.comTheGlobalFork@gmail.com. 

A couple of things I’ve noticed about Pork in Mexico:
·         Colonial Spaniards introduced pigs to this region and, although it took a while, Mexicans have become extremely fond of this animal, and use every bit of it. You will definitely see parts of the pig being sold here that you would never have imagined seeing in the States.  Definitely try to be adventurous while you have the chance!
·         Other names for pig are “puerco”, “cochino” and “marrano”, and a suckling pig is called a “lechón”.
·         Many times the package is labeled for the dish made from that particular meat, not the actual cut.
·         There are not a lot of “large” cuts of meat available in the normal grocery store like we’re used to in the States, such as Boston Butt.  I have noticed these types of cuts are available sometimes at Costco, or you can ask the butcher at the grocery store to have something cut for you.  Ask for the particular cut “en trozo” and specify how many kilograms you want.  Be aware, you might have to special order these cuts.
·         Most Mexican pork is quite lean, but if you want to be sure all fat is removed, ask for the meat “sin grasa” (without fat) and every last ounce will be removed.   Mexican butchers are meticulous about trimming fat, which will be melted to fry pork rinds and carnitas. The pork rinds are called chicharrones, and the lard itself is manteca.
·         If you’re going to buy meat at the open-air markets, get there early and take home the meat that hasn’t been sitting out all day.  However, they sell a lot of pre-cured pork products at the open-air markets, which I have bought a lot of (even later in the day) and never had a problem.

Here is a list of all the pork labels I have encountered here in Mexico, along with their translations and suggested cooking method.  Click here to download and print this spreadsheet.

COMMON LABELS FOR PORK / CERDO                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 by Alaina Missbach, www.TheGlobalFork.blogspot.com
Label Price per Kilo Translation American Equivalent Cooking Method Traditional American Dish Traditional Mexican Dish
Alambre $89 MXP "wire" literally, but is generally meat sold along with bacon, onions and green peppers pre-packaged meats with vegetables used for fajitas or stir-fry sauté Fajitas, Stir-fry Tacos
Brocheta $69 MXP (sing.) skewer (plur.) kebabs kebabs Grill shish kabobs Brocheta
Caña de Lomo $96 MXP "cane" of the loin; it is cured pork loin from Iberian acorn-fed pigs cured pork loin ready-to-eat cured meats cured meats
Carne al Pastor $116 MXP meat "shepherd style"; a Mexican derivation of Lebanese schawarma no equivalent as this is sold packaged and seasoned, but you can make it at home yourself using pork shoulder (espadilla) and a dried chile (or chipotle), achiote, and pineapple marinade grilled or roasted None Tacos al Pastor
Cecina $74 MXP "cured" or "smoked" dried, salted meat ready-to-eat perhaps something using salt-pork, like pork and biscuits Aporreado, a regional dish of Guerrero (cecina with eggs and chiles)
Chuleta $74 MXP chops, cut from the back ribs of the rib loin (espinazo) pork chops, de-boned Sauté or Grill Pork Chops and Applesauce Espinazo con Verdolagas (Purslane)
Chuleta Ahumada $68 MXP smoked chops, easier to find and more readily used than fresh chops smoked pork chops Sauté or Roast Less commonly found in the States, but can be used in any way you would use fresh chops Chuletas de Puerco con Chile Verde
Chuleta con Hueso $68 MXP chops with bones bone-in pork chops Sauté or Grill Same as pork chops without the bone, although the bone generally attributes more flavor and the meat is less likely to become dry
Chuleta Korubata $425 MXP chops from the "Korubata" pig chops from Berkshire pigs, or "Kurobata" pigs from Japan Sauté or Grill, or Braise due to high fat content Same as other pork chops, but with minimal seasoning due to the pig's prized natural flavor and juiciness
Chuletón Sin Hueso $64 MXP "steak" without bone A pork "chop" from the loin of the pig Sauté or Grill Same as any pork chops, but while meat from the loin is more tender it is less flavorful
Codillo $45 MXP "knee" or hock ham hock; usually smoked used for flavoring Braise Split-Pea Soup Guisados or Sopas
Cortadillo $69 MXP Small pieces of pork cut to use in a dish called "cortadillo" None Braise None Cortadillo Norteño
Costilla $79 MXP "Rib"; cross-cut ribs with small bone pieces None Grill None Served grilled with Salsa
Costilla Babyback $90 MXP Babyback Ribs Babyback Ribs Grill Babyback Ribs Not traditional.
Espinazo de Cerdo $82 MXP "Spine" or "Backbone" of Pig; a  cut from the rib loin None Braise None Espinazo con Verdolagas (Purslane)
Hamburguesa Desayuno $105 MXP Breakfast Hamburger Breakfast Sausage Sauté or Grill Breakfast Sausage Not traditional.
Lomo Mariposa $99 MXP Butterflied Loin Butterflied Loin Roast Roasted Pork (great for stuffing) Roasted Pork
Manteca $35MXP Fat lard (rendered pig fat) Used as a replacement for fat (oil, butter, etc.) in cooking for better flavor Can be used to fry/Sauté anything Very popular, used in many many dishes (Refried Beans wouldn't be the same without it!)
Milanesa $79 MXP no direct translation; meat from many cuts that has been pounded out to 1/4-1/2" Milanese-style Pan-Fry Breaded, like Schnitzel Milanesa
Molida $70 MXP Ground Ground pork Roast Meatloaf, Meatballs, etc. (excellent when mixed with beef to add dimensions of flavor) Same, mix with beef for Albondigas, etc.
Molida Mixta $86 MXP Mixed Ground Mixed package of Ground Beef and Ground Pork Roast Meatloaf, Meatballs, etc. (excellent when mixed with beef to add dimensions of flavor) Same, mix with beef for Albondigas, etc.
Pierna   Leg Leg of Pork (or "ham", but fresh, not cured) Braise Roasted Pork or BBQ Pork Cochinita Pibil (from the Yucatan)
Pulpa $64 MXP "boneless meat", usually large pieces of meat Stewing meat Braise Stew Guisados like Pozole
Pulpa Pernil $74 MXP boneless meat from the leg Stewing meat Braise Stew Guisados like Pozole
Salchicha, Chorizo $48MXP Chorizo Sausage Chorizo (usually cured, but available fresh); Spanish-style are made with pimenton (Spanish paprika), while Mexican chorizo is made with chiles, making it spicier When cured, eat raw just reheat; when fresh, Sauté or grill Often used to make traditional Valencian paella,             Chorizo con Papas, etc. Tacos, Queso Fundido, tortas, etc. or             Chorizo con Huevos, Choriqueso, etc.
Salchicha, Chorizo Verde   Green Chorizo Sausage, a specialty of Toluca made with tomatillo, cilantro, chiles and garlic None Sauté or Grill None Same as regular chorizo
Salchicha, Longaniza $48 MXP Longaniza Sausage Longaniza, another Spanish-style cured sausage with its own distinctive flavor due to the use of black pepper and nutmeg; usually made quite spicy in Mexico Eat raw or just reheat Can be used to replace linguica in any recipe, which is a Portuguese sausage popular in the U.S. (Beware, though, that longaniza is probably spicier than your typical linguica.) Tacos, etc.
As you've probably noticed, there are MANY types of sausages available--both fresh and cured.  Just as in any other part of the world, each sausage is unique in the mixture of meat(s) used, as well as other ingredients and particularly spices.  Don't be afraid to try a few to see which flavor you like best!  Remember, the vast majority of sausages are made from pork and, in Mexico, many are spicy.  Also, cured sausages are usually hard to the touch and stored outside of the refrigerator section in the store while fresh sausages are the opposite, but these guidelines don't always hold true.  If you're not sure, ask the grocer or always cook your sausage to an internal temp of 165°F.
Tocino Rebarado $88 MXP Sliced Bacon Bacon Fry The possibilities are endless! Less often used in Mexican cuisine

Finally, here’s a great recipe for Tacos al Pastor, which uses the pork shoulder (or “espaldilla”).  You can ask for the cut using this term, or just ask your butcher for meat to make puerco al pastor.

 Tacos al Pastor
Recipe courtesy of www.rickbayless.com
Makes enough for 20 tacos, serving 4-5 people
·         3½ oz achiote paste
·         3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, plus 4 Tbsp adobo sauce
·         ¼ C vegetable or olive oil, plus a little more for the onion and pineapple
·          1½ lb (~.7kg) thin-sliced pork shoulder ( ¼” thick is ideal)
·         1 medium red onion, sliced ¼” thick
·         Kosher Salt
·         ¼ of a medium pineapple, sliced into ¼” thick rounds
·         20 warm corn tortillas
·         About 1½ cups raw tomatillo salsa ("green", made from "tomates", as they call them here in Mexico!)
1.       Combine achiote paste, chiles, adobo sauce, oil and ¾ C water.  Blend or food process until smooth.  Use 1/3 of the marinate to smear over both sides of each piece of meat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.  (Refrigerate or freeze the remaining marinade for another use.)
2.       Heat your charcoal or gas grill to high temperature.  If using coals, bank them to one side to create a hot zone and a cooler zone.  If using gas, turn down one zone of your grill to low heat.  (See my blog post on Grilling for more information.)
3.       Brush both sides of the onions with oil and sprinkle with salt.  Lay in a single layer on the hot side of the grill.  After about a minute, when richly browned, flip and brown the other side to the cooler side of the grill until soft and sweet.  Oil and grill the pineapple in the same manner.
Grill the meat in batches, allowing about a minute per side.  Transfer to a cutting board and chop into pieces.  Scoop into a skillet and set over the grill to keep the meat warm.  Chop the onion and the pineapple as well, add to the skillet and toss everything together.  Taste and season with more salt if needed.  Serve with tortillas and salsa.