Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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Granizado de Michelada

A discussion arose yesterday among colleagues over what, exactly, a michelada is. Everyone acknowledged that it was Mexican, but after that, there was some...confusion. Despite the protean ingredient list one finds in bars from El Paso to Tijuana, a michelada is a simply cold beer that’s been hacked.

The embellishments of a michelada may be as straightforward as a squeeze of lime and dash of salt or may involve more complex iterations involving chile, Worcesterchire sauce (called salsa inglesa or "English sauce" in the Mexican idiom), Maggi seasoning, tomato juice, Clamato, shrimp, etc.

In the same way that something as straightforward as iced tea morphs from a sweet North Carolina specimen to a passion fruit-laced California example (or a bloody mary changes between bartenders), a michelada in Veracruz will not be the same as one in La Paz — or Dallas. With little effort, one may drift from the safe and familiar harbor of, say, a Corona-and-lime into more exciting territory of drinks a lot like seafood cocktails.

Add to this mix Fany Gerson’s granizado de michelada, a frozen concoction more akin to an Italian granita than a San Antonio thirst-quencher. Gerson, author of My Sweet Mexico, has written a complementary book called Paletas about Mexican ice pops, shaved ices, and aguas frescas. It’s a cool little book and, despite the obvious appeal to parents with young kids, bartenders and cocktail types would do well to crack it open; more than a few of the recipes include sugar, water, and spirits — the very definition of a classic cocktail. Well, minus the bitters.

Gerson’s main topic — the paleta — is a typically Mexican popcicle. You’ll find easily approachable ones everywhere, flavored with strawberry, tamarind, mango, or coconut. But you won’t have to scratch around long in Mexico to find varieties with corn, hibiscus flowers, berries, melon, rice, chiles, chamoy, and more.

In addition to lime-and-chia, rice pudding, strawberry-and-horchata, coconut, lime pie (with crushed graham crackers pressed into its surface), avocado, grapefruit, watermelon, and other kid-friendly flavors, frozen alcohol-spiked varieties in the book include:
  • Paletas de crema y cereza con tequila (pops with sour cream, cherry, and tequila)
  • Paletas de sangrita (with a tequila-laced spicy tomato base)
  • Paletas de donaji (mezcal-orange ice pops)
  • Paletas de platano rostizado (roasted bananas with rum)
  • Paletas de rompope (rum- or brandy-spiked egg nog)
For my friends in Pennsylvania who may not have ready access to such things, here’s Gerson on her frozen michelada:
Micheladas, often called cheladas, are drinks made with beer, fresh lime juice, and sometimes chile. Micheladas especiales, or cubanas, use the same foundation but add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and Maggy sauce, a popular seasoning that has a salty, caramelized, deep flavor. This raspado is inspired by these popular beverages.
Granizado de Michelada
(beer with chile granita)

2 small piquin or arbol chiles
3 cups water
½ cup sugar
Zest and juice of 3 limes, plus juice for wetting the rim
¼ cup chile powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups cold medium-dark beer

Combine the chiles, water, sugar, and lime zest in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in the lime juice. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour the mixture into a shallow nonreactive pan and put it in the freezer.

Once the edges start to freeze (about 1 hour), scrape lightly with a fork, bringing the ice crystals from the edges to the center. Return to the freezer and continue scraping every 30 minutes or so, until the mixture is completely frozen and looks like small ice flakes.

Place the chile powder and salt in a bowl and stir. Wet the rim of a glass with lime juice, then dip it in the chile powder. For each serving, place ½ cup of the granita in the prepared glass. Pour about ¼ cup beer over the granita and serve immediately.

Note: It's always best to serve granita as soon as it's ready. But if you leave it in the freezer and it hardens, simply take it out of the freezer, let it soften for 5 to 10 minutes, and then scrape it with a fork again.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to slip off to get some chamoy for tonight's round of mangoadas.

Fany Gerson (2011)
Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas
128 pages (hardback)
Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 1607740354

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