Thursday, August 16, 2012

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Mexican Pickled Carrots (o: zanahorias en escabeche)

The radishes that appear on the table at chips-and-salsa type Mexican restaurants appeal to some, but the more common pickled jalapenos and carrots are my own weakness. Give me that, a continuing supply of cold beers, and no particular place to be and I don't care how long it takes for lunch to come.

My regular eating buddies have dainty and tepid appreciations for chiles, so the bowl invariably is left to me alone — and it always gets emptied, leaving just a little pool of oregano-flecked juice at the bottom. Sometimes the chiles are shockingly hot; other times, they're duds, no hotter than a garden-variety bell pepper. Part of the fun is finding out which kind I just popped in my mouth. Whether you know them as pickled carrots, Mexican carrots, zanahorias en escabeche, or (upping the chile quotient) chiles encurditos, know this: they're simple to make and they go fast.

For the vinegar, you can use the plain white stuff or a mix of half white and half rice vinegar, Filipino cane vinegar, or homemade pineapple vinegar.

Mexican Pickled Carrots

24 oz/750ml water
24 oz/750ml vinegar (see above)
1/3 cup/80ml canola or corn oil
5 bay leaves
1 Tbl oregano
1 tsp crushed black pepper
1 head of garlic, halved across the equator
2 lbs/1kilo carrots, sliced diagonal
4-5 jalapeno chiles, sliced diagonally
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced thinly

Bring the carrots and enough water to cover them by a finger width or two to a boil in a large pot. Cook at a low boil for 5-8 minutes, until tender but still with a bite. Cooked them too long? They're mush now? Feed them to the dog and start over.

Drain the carrots and give the pot a quick rinse. Mix the remaining ingredients except chiles and onion slices in the pot and bring to a boil. Add the drained carrots, the onion slices, and the uncooked chiles. Return to a boil, then take the pot off off the heat, cover, and let it rest overnight.

Pack into clean jars and store in the fridge.

Makes about 1.25 liters/5 cups.

Goes well with:
  • Pork tenderloin in peanut sauce. It comes as a surprise to some Americans and Europeans that not all Mexican food is hot (though it was with glee that I saw a Frenchman clamp his hand to his mouth in shock and pain after sampling what I considered a mild table salsa). The recipe in the link above for filete de cerdo en cacahuate is one I adapted from Larousse de la cocina Mexicana.
  • I make watermelon pickles with lemon and ginger. You should, too.
  • Small batch half-sour pickles, a quick and simple recipe for making New York-style pickles when you don't feel up to cranking out a whole barrel of them or traveling to the city to enjoy them in situ.

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