Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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

Goes well with:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bookshelf: The Tex-Mex Cookbooks of Robb Walsh

My favorite food is Mexican food.
I used to be a waiter in a Mexican restaurant in Indiana.
Now that's where you go for Mexican.

~ Jim Gaffigan

Time was, Americans considered a chicken enchilada combo plate (with rice and beans) solidly Mexican. Then along came Diana Kennedy’s 1972 The Cuisines of Mexico, a book that raised Americans’ understanding of, and appreciation for, regional Mexican cookery. But in publishing it, she also dismissed our familiar Texas-style “mixed plates” as ersatz and debased Mexican, not worthy of our time and attention. After Kennedy, Tex-Mex was to real Mexican as ReaLemon was to an actual lemon.

To this day, nearly forty years later, some folks look down on what we’ve come to call Tex-Mex cooking. “That’s not” they can be heard to sniff “real Mexican food.” Well, they have a point. Tex-Mex is not Mexican per se. Kennedy was right. The food you find in restaurants and homes throughout Texas and at “Mexican” joints in the Southwest and Midwest is sometimes nothing like what’s eaten in Oaxaca, the Yucatan Peninsula, or Michoacán. This is not news — but it doesn’t stop the supercilious regard some hold for a sizzling plate of fajitas.

Good lord. How can anyone look down on a well-made plate of fajitas?

In The Tex-Mex Cookbook (2004), Houstonian Robb Walsh lays out how Kennedy actually did us a favor and helped define an American cuisine:
We can all thank Diana Kennedy for inadvertently granting Tex-Mex its rightful place in food history. By convincing us that Tex-Mex wasn’t really Mexican food, she forced us to realize that it was something far more interesting: America’s oldest regional cuisine.
Walsh makes the case in The Tex-Mex Cookbook for this “debased” Mexican as a very old and perfectly legitimate amalgam of cookery traditions from Mexico with influences from German, Native American, and even Canary Islander sources. He reminds us that San Antonio’s famous “chili queens” were selling bowls of spicy red goodness to hungry Texans around the time Vincent van Gogh killed himself and H.P Lovecraft was in diapers.

The Tex-Mex Cookbook is an invaluable source of information on this regional American cookery. Really. If you know nothing about Tex-Mex other than it involves chili, tequila, enchiladas, nachos, bean dip, and Frito pie, this is the book that explains what it is, where it came from, and why it’s not simply low-rent Mexican, but born of a tradition that both sprang from and parallels Mexican cookery. Walsh digs into archives and newspaper morgues, pulling old photos and interviewing old-timers. This is solid scholarly research. Naturally, there are chapters on chili and tacos, but there’s substantial ink devoted to enchiladas, tamales, breakfasts, sweets, and, for you boozers, the margarita (including the story of how Mauriano Martinez saw kids getting Slurpees at 7-11 in the early 1970’s and — bing! — had the idea for a machine to make frozen margaritas which theretofore had required blenders). Yes, recipes are included.

Made it this far? Good. Pour yourself a michelada, a lightly spicy lime-and-beer concoction that can be pretty damn refreshing with a plate of grilled oysters.

½ Key lime
coarse salt
2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp (5ml) of Tabasco or other hot red pepper sauce (more to taste)
12 oz light Mexican beer (such as Corona)

Salt the rim of a chilled beer mug by rubbing it with the lime and dipping it in the coarse salt. Squeeze the lime into the mug. Add the Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Pour in the beer and serve.
Walsh picks up the Tex-Mex story in The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook (2010) that focuses on grilling and smoking techniques you’ll find in restaurants, backyards, and various ho-downs in the Lone Star state. Yeah, there’s some repeated material from the earlier book (There’s Martinez and his frozen margaritas again).

But there’s also barbacoa de Borrego, beef short ribs in an ancho-molasses sauce (we use cane syrup), sweetbread tacos, grilled baby goat, rack of lamb with red pepper glaze, posole, and a long section on fajitas — what they are, where they come from, how they became popular, and why they’re sometimes mushy (tenderizing enzymes). Recipes abound for goat, pig, beef, game, chicken, seafood,  burgers, and the drinks and sides that go with them. We are especially fond of a recipe that doesn’t appear in the index: page 201’s cilantro cream.
Cilantro Cream

1 cup sour cream (we use a more liquid and pourable crema)
juice of one lime
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tbl chopped green onions

Mix in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
It goes especially well with puffy tacos or a big ol’ plate of freshly grilled fajitas — like the one below just begging for onions and peppers. Thanks, Robb, for the pointers on making them.

Robb Walsh (2004)
The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos
288 pages, paperback
Broadway Books
ISBN: 0767914880

Robb Walsh (2010)
The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook
256 pages, paperback
Broadway Books
ISBN: 0767930738

Goes well with:
  • Robb Walsh: Texas Eats. The man has a blog. Buy his books, but check out the free stuff, too. Click on the “books” tab once there for a rundown of his other titles. 
  • Texas Tea, a Punch in Disguise — a bit inspired by an offhand comment in a 1960's Texas cookbook. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Texas Tea, a Punch in Disguise

Texas food has been on my mind, apparently, for years. When I pulled down my accretion of Lone Star cookbooks, the stack reached to my hip. As I research something else entirely, I’m earmarking drinks recipes. Tequila, as you can imagine, looms large in the ingredients lists. Beer, too. Lots of citrus juices and occasional jolts of mezcal come into play.

It’s with no surprise that I suddenly remember my Texas cousins measuring driving distance in units of beers: “Oh, it’s about two beers east of here.” Serious? Joking? Just testing my reaction? It occurs to me that “Texas dent” may refer not just to the indentation one puts on a can of beer to mark it as one’s own, but to car and truck bodies influenced by overindulgence in barley pop.

Mary Faulk Koock’s midcentury The Texas Cookbook puts a slightly more elegant spin on Texas sips. Her method of adding water to a strong tea base is pretty close to how I make iced tea. But then notice what gets served alongside as a matter of course.
Darjeeling Tea (for 40 to 50 cups)

Save time by making a tea concentrate beforehand. Bring 1 ½ qts cold fresh water to a full rolling boil. Remove from heat and immediately add ¼ lb. loose tea. Stir to immerse leaves. Cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Strain into teapot and leave until tea time. At the table, pour about 1 oz. concentrate into each cup, and add fresh boiling water from a teakettle. Serve with a choice of lemon slices, rum, sugar, and cream.
Lemon, sugar, tea, and rum in your cup? Oh, Texas. You may call it tea, but I know punch when I see it. It’s a shame you’re 132 beers away or I’d visit more often.

Goes well with:
  • Mary Faulk Koock (1965) The Texas Cookbook: From Barbecue to Banquet — an Informal View of Dining and Entertaining the Texas Way. Little, Brown and Company, Boston. 
  • Homesick Texan, Lisa Fain's blog about the food of Texas from her digs in New York. Ms. Fain, as you can see plainly, takes better photos than I.