You hear it all the time.
You have to “layer flavors” when you’re cooking. Well, what the heck does that mean? Load up on ingredients? Add tons of spices? (more…)
You hear it all the time.
You have to “layer flavors” when you’re cooking. Well, what the heck does that mean? Load up on ingredients? Add tons of spices? (more…)
There are very few things, if any, that scare me in the kitchen. As an avid eater, I’ll pretty much try anything and love diving into the rich history and culture behind all food. And, for the most part, there really hasn’t been a recipe I’ve come across or food I’ve wondered about that gave me pause when attempting to recreate it in my own kitchen… except for one thing… menudo.
Menudo has always just been there for me. It’s comfort food. I grew up eating it. For those who don’t know about menudo, it’s a traditional Mexican soup that’s made from (just wait, don’t go anywhere) cow’s stomach, pig’s feet, hominy, and seasoned with Mexican oregano and a red chile sauce.
You there? Are you still reading? Hello? Okay, good. I promise. It’s delicious! I love it!
My Aunt Adelma is a Master Menudo Maker, and she was even our “Madrina de Menudo” (Godmother of Menudo) for our wedding! We didn’t have Padrinos de Lazo or Arras (Godparents of the Rosary or Coins) – we had Padrinos de Menudo (Godparents of Menudo), okay? No joke.
That’s how important menudo is in my life.
When I show up on Sunday at any Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant, it’s on the menu. When we have a Christmas or New Year’s Eve family party, it’s being served. When I take Sunday breakfast over to Grandma Ollie’s, it’s right next to the pan dulce and barbacoa. When I have a hankering for menudo, it’s never more than a few miles away, waiting for me to christen it with a sprinkle of cebollita (onion) and a splash of lime juice. But, I’ve never attempted this sacred dish in my own kitchen.
Why, you ask?
Because even though I know the flavor profile, basic ingredients, history, and process, I was scared it wasn’t going to live up to the menudo in my head! I didn’t know if I was ready to hit up this iconic labor of love. I was terrified that I was somehow going to bring shame to Aunt Adelma’s signature dish and end up with some pathetic, watery mess. (Plus, it takes forever to cook and stinks to high heaven when it first starts to cook. So, I really never had the desire to make the magic happen within my own four walls, especially when I knew where I could order it.)
Yet, two days ago, as I was thumbing through one of my Ma’s favorite recipe books, the menudo bug bit me.
I was going to make it; I was going to stink up my brother’s house to do it, and it was going to be amazing.
After researching for hours, reviewing about 15 menudo recipes, making calls to New Mexico and South Texas to get any input from relatives, I was ready to create my own approach, and I was determined to avoid using any “menudo mix” in the process, a packet of spices most grocery stores carry in the spice aisle. I was going 100% authentic – all the way.
First thing was to create the Chile Colorado, a red chile sauce that gives both the flavor and rich red color to the menudo, and I was going to use Bear’s Grandma Julia’s base recipe to get started. This recipe is something that Bear remembers growing up in Las Cruces, and he said this was the base sauce for many of his grandmother’s dishes. The only thing I added was the onion to help mellow out any bitterness from the chile (I know, total Texan move – sorry, Grandma Julia – I’m not New Mexican enough to do straight chile.)
Chile Colorado Sauce
During this step, be sure to either use gloves and/or avoid touching your eyes. The chile capsaicin will hurt like Hades if you get it in your eyes or any sensitive areas.
4oz Dried Whole New Mexico Chile Pods
1/2 Onion, quartered
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tsp Salt
Remove the stem from each dried chile pod, and then shake out any seeds from within each pod.
Add the de-stemmed/seeded chile pods, the quartered onion, and salt to a large pot and cover with water just until the pods are covered. Heat over medium-high and bring to a boil, using tongs to flip over the chile pods to ensure all sides are met with boiling water.
Once the chile pods have softened and the onion is cooked through and nearly translucent, use tongs to remove the soft chile pods and onion, and transfer ingredients to a blender. Do not use any of the water that was used in the pot, as it is bitter and will ruin the sauce. Discard the boiled water.
To the warm chile pods and onion in the blender, add minced garlic; then, add fresh water to cover half of the contents only. Blend on high until the mixture creates a paste-like consistency. The sauce will have a similar appearance to a thick/chunky tomato sauce.
Remove the contents of the blender into a fine mesh sieve, and using a spat or spoon, work the contents through the sieve to create a beautifully bright, velvety red sauce absent of any chile or onion pieces. Set aside.
This is Chile Colorado! You can use this sauce as enchilada sauce, seasoning for meats, and/or use it for menudo.
2 lbs Beef Tripe
1/2 lb Beef Honeycomb Tripe
2 Pig’s Feet, split
2 TBS Mexican Whole Oregano
1 Large Onion, quartered but attached at the stem
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Bay Leaf
1/2 Lime Juiced
2-4 tsp Salt
3 15.5oz Can White Hominy
Chile Colorado (4oz recipe above)
It’s very common practice to open the windows or doors when making menudo because the initial boiling of the tripe can be quite aromatic.
Beef tripe can be found in most Hispanic markets, and if honeycomb tripe is unavailable, add 1/2 pound of regular tripe instead.
Honeycomb tripe looks exactly as you think it might, a honeycomb.
Remove one end of the onion, leaving the stem side intact. Using a knife, gently quarter the onion without going all the way through the stem. The onion should hold together and just add flavor this way. Set aside. Thoroughly rinse the tripe and pig’s feet under running cold water in a colander, making sure that every part has been washed over with water.
Cut the rinsed tripe and honeycomb tripe into bite-sized pieces. Add all the rinsed tripe, pig’s feet, quartered onion, minced garlic, 1 TBS of Mexican oregano, 2 tsp of salt, and two bay leaves to a large stockpot (10qt).
Cover the ingredients with water, and fill the 10qt stockpot 3/4 full. Spin the onion if you like a little pizazz while cooking. I know I do.
Bring the stockpot to a full, rolling boil and let boil for approximately three hours, watching the water level closely. You can reduce to a medium-high simmer and cover after the first hour, but a constant low boil is necessary for the full three hours. After three hours, add the Chile Colorado and remaining Mexican oregano to the stockpot. Continue to boil for another hour. After the fourth hour, taste and add the remaining salt if necessary. Add the lime juice and hominy to the stockpot. Continue boiling covered for another 30 minutes.
Menudo will be finished when the tripe is tender and nearly melts in your mouth when chewed. Garnish with chopped fresh onion, additional Mexican oregano, and a squeeze of lime. Accompany your menudo with corn tortillas heated on a comal (South Texas style) or with a buttered and toasted bolillo or hoagie roll (New Mexico style) that can be found in any market.
This was, by far, one of my greatest kitchen accomplishments, and that’s not me bragging. You know I would tell you if it was a disaster. Thank God it wasn’t!
My entire family loved it, and I was just so happy that this labor of love turned out so well that I needed to share the recipe.
It made me so proud to use Grandma Julia’s Chile Colorado base recipe, and it made me proud that my Grandma Ollie loved it so much once it was done.
Never again will I fear a recipe. When you love cooking and love the culture behind the food, that love serves as the perfect seasoning to make any dish sing. Well, that and research and remembering what you did by writing it down. But, you get the picture. ¡Buen Provecho!
Brrrrrrrrrr… it’s chilly up in here! North Texas may not inspire tundra-like weather, but it has officially hit the freezing mark; and, that can only mean one thing: Caldo!
Growing up in South Texas, it rarely dipped past the 40’s, but when it did, it was like the Bat Signal went up for all the abuelitas to kick into high gear and get those ollas (cooking pots) out and fill them with warm, delicious broth that overflowed with hearty potatoes, calabaza (large green squash), carrots, and celery atop large pieces of chicken that fell right off the bone. And, while I’m nowhere near abuelita status, that doesn’t prevent me from hauling out the ol’ enamel-covered cast iron 7-quart dutch oven I like to call Pun’kin… ‘cus she’s orange, large, and in charge.
You should also know that you can swap out the chicken for large chunks of beef rump roast and swap the Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning for Knorr Caldo de Tomate Bouillon Seasoning and get Caldo de Rez (beef soup). If you do this, add some fresh corn cobs cut into thirds when you add the cabbage. Everything else is exactly the same.
In the fitting words of Bernardo, “Vamonos, muchachos!”
1 Large Green Squash
4 Large Carrots
3 Large Stalks of Celery
5 Medium Potatoes
1 Large Onion
1 Small Whole Green Cabbage
1 Bunch of Cilantro
4 Chicken Quarters or 1 Whole Chicken Cut in Fryer Parts
3 TBS Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning
2 TBS Vegetable Oil
6 Garlic Cloves, diced
1 TBS Cumin Seeds
2 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
Cumin Powder (optional)
Garlic Powder (optional)
Black Pepper (optional)
Rinse and dry all of the vegetables. Cut the squash, carrots, and celery into large 2-inch chunks, and set aside. Cut the potatoes in half, and set aside with the other veggies. Quarter the onion, removing the ends and peeling the outer layer. Core the cabbage, and cut the cabbage in half and then into large chunks. Do not worry about separating the onion or the cabbage, as they will fall apart in the soup. Set all the veggies aside. And, on a separate cutting board, separate the chicken quarters if they are not already cut into fryer parts. Then, liberally season the chicken all over with the Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning. You can find this seasoning at your local grocery store right next to the bouillon or in the Mexican/International aisle.
Get out your version of ol’ Pun’kin (large stock pot), heat to medium-high on the stove, and add the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the seasoned chicken to the pot, being careful not to overcrowd the pan at one time. Brown the chicken on one side, then turn over. When you turn over the browned chicken, add the squash, carrots, celery, potatoes, and onion on top of the chicken. Then, cover the ingredients with warm water, leaving some space for stirring and adding the cabbage. At this point, you’re deglazing the pan with water, removing any bits of the chicken from the bottom. Use a pair of tongs to gently stir up the bottom to remove all the wonderful yummy bits, being careful not to splash. Bring the pot to a rolling boil.
When you’re bringing the pot up to a boil, in a separate small skillet, add the cumin seeds. Place the skillet on medium heat, and toast the cumin seeds for about two minutes. Once you can smell the cumin, remove it from the heat, and immediately place the toasted seeds into a molcajete (mortar and pestle). To the cumin seeds, add the diced garlic and peppercorns. Take out any aggressions from a possible bad hair day or any other disaster, and smash those suckers into a paste, just like Grandma Ollie taught us how to do. Then, add some warm water to loosen the paste.
Once the pot is up to a rolling boil, add the watery cumin, garlic, and peppercorn mixture to the soup and stir. If you do not have a molcajete or mortar and pestle, do not fret. Whip out some cumin powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Add one heaping Tablespoon each of cumin powder and garlic powder; then, add one teaspoon of black pepper. Then, go buy a molcajete. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have one. They are cheap and are needed to truly create that magical seasoned paste that gives life to most Mexican/Tex-Mex dishes.
¡Andale! Go buy one after you eat caldo!
After you’ve stirred in the key magical cumin, garlic, peppercorn mixture, take the cabbage, and simply place the large chunks on top. Rip up the bunch of cilantro, and then place that on top, as well. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. Let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Be careful not to let the caldo over boil. If needed, leave the lid partially open to prevent overflow of precious caldo broth, and stir occasionally. This is the kind of soup you can leave on the stove simmering all day while you serve from the pot until every last drop is gone.
Once the chicken is falling off the bone, ladle the soup into a bowl, making sure you get at least one of every vegetable in your bowl. Serve with warm corn tortillas and a squeeze of fresh lime.
In our household, my Grandpa always used to eat corn tortillas with mayonnaise (don’t knock it ’til you try it), and that’s exactly how I eat my caldo. I slather some mayo on my corn tortilla, roll it up, and dip it into that warm, comforting broth. It brings back such wonderful memories of Grandma Ollie, as well as my Ma, making caldo and me sitting in my warm pajamas, eating right next to Grandpa at the kitchen table at the ranch.
May this soup warm you up – heart and soul.
I may not be “Straight Outta Compton,” but I am straight outta the first day of the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Seattle, Washington, and it was pretty darn awesome.
For the last six years, Foodista has held this conference for food bloggers everywhere, focusing on writing, food, and technology. And, this is the first year I’m participating in this phenomenally food-centric gathering.
In addition to the conference, I’m also finding some time to hit a few hot spots in Seattle to check out what the locals enjoy on a day to day. Yesterday, I made it to Stateside and Altura, two amazing visits which will get their own features soon, and today, I swung by Purple Cafe and Wine Bar before heading out to my first event with IFBC.
Taking the suggestion of my server, Jessica, I opted for the trio lunch plate that featured a beautifully created fig and Gorgonzola pizzetta, along with a butternut squash soup and a strawberry and goat cheese salad. I love figs and am a huge fan of pear and Gorgonzola flatbread; so, I knew this was going to be a winner. This pizzetta was out of this world. The buttery crust was perfectly crisp on the outside and nice and chewy where it counted. It was the perfect way to start my day’s adventures.
Now, while tomorrow marks the first official day of conference sessions, today featured a few excursions for the attendees. My particular group went to the Miele USA Showroom for a hands-on cooking class featuring their top of the line appliances, including an induction cooktop which we were able to utilize during the class. Their sleek, German-engineered, stylish ranges, coffee centers, wine refrigerators, and dishwashers were front and center during our class and proved to not only be appealing but functional.
Our group was split into five separate stations where we each made a different dish following Miele recipes while being led by our Miele cooking instructor, Mary. Group number two was where I landed, and I was paired up with Suki, a “super duper fantastic” blogger out of San Francisco who joined me in our take on Pasta e Fagioli. I say, “our take” because we put our own twist on the recipe that may or may not have included adding an entire can of tomato paste to the mix versus a few tablespoons. Whatever the case, the soup rocked, and everyone thought it was a hit!
Together with the rest of our larger group, we created Paella, Steamed Pork Buns, Sliders, Greek Salad, and Gruyere Souffle, a feast fit for kings and queens! Everyone did an incredible job and seemed to truly enjoy our outting at Miele. Now, plenty of food later, it was time for another amazing event, registration and the gift suite expo featuring local restaurants and food businesses.
Now, for me, the highlight of the gift suite expo was meeting the incomparable Armand Batali, father of famed restaurateur and Food Network icon, Mario Batali. Armand, who is actually an icon in his own right with Salumi Artisan Cured Meats in Seattle, was sampling four different salumis, fennel being the featured one in the pic. Not only was the salumi phenomenal, but Armand was, once again, an absolute delight. I’ve actually stood in line for hours to indulge in one of his handcrafted sandwiches made at Salumi, nearly missing my flight many times because I NEEDED that sandwich!
In addition to the ridiculous amount of goodies received, we had the absolute BEST “background” music by this funkalicious Rockabilly group named The Echo Devils. These guys were on FIE-uh! I’m talking blues, funky fab, James Bond groovy jams that took the event to a whole new level.
Now, if all that wasn’t enough, I decided that I would top off the night with a visit to Lark, one of Seattle’s best restaurants that features local ingredients from the very best artisans, produce growers and foragers in the Seattle area. Chef Sundstrom has truly hit his stride at this new location off East Seneca. While my particular service experience was initially questionable, they were quick to resolve any issues, and the food was never in question. From start to finish, the dishes were sheer perfection. Ending the night with a delectable black mission fig puff pastry tart was the absolute highlight of the evening… Told you I was a fan of the fig.
I can’t wait what Day Two has in store…
Note: While all IFBC posts are completely written based on my own experience and opinion, I was offered a discounted rate in exchange for three general posts about the conference.