Monday, July 16, 2018

HUEVOS EN RABO DE MESTIZA.- A classic Mexican dish from long ago.....

Throughout my years living in Mexico, I became aware that more and more classic dishes we'd been known for were disappearing or they were no longer widely available as before. I'd ask people around me, my employees at my restaurants, neighbors and people I'd come into contact with, food vendors and providers and it became clear that women being in the workplace, "progress" and just our changing life was causing us to put these classic dishes at risk of disappearing. I'd ask "what do you cook at home?" "what are your family favorites?" "what are your celebratory dishes?" "who's responsible for cooking in your family?"..... The answers became predictable: usually it was "my mother", "my grandmother" or "I know how to make it but don't have time anymore".... 

When I first moved to Puerto Vallarta, more than 30 years ago, it was a different world. I'd walk to the municipal market very early in the morning trying to beat the heat plus they'd close before lunch, enjoying the walk by the Rio Cuale and visiting the ladies that would greet me each morning. I'd pick up the day's menu items, everything was always fresh, from the bread for the merienda or breakfast to the meat, chiles, vegetables and grains to be used for the main meal of the day. I'd walk down to the pier for fresh fish and buy direct from the fishermen who were returning from the day's catch. Just amazing! This was the custom up to this point but now in modern times, when the smaller municipal markets are being threatened by the big supermarket chains they are slowly giving way to them, so life changes and along with life our food traditions. What happens when the Mom or Grandmother dies? Who cooks? Are the young people (men and women by the way) learning by their side? Are they even interested or is everyone picking up ready-to-eat food at the market or just calling "Uber Eats" or "Rappi"? As we saw in Vallarta when trying to find Birria which we couldn't, being in Jalisco after all, that the restaurants would cater to tourists and offer "International Cuisine"..... easier dishes than the classic ones. Such is life....

I get it, taking hours to produce a dish is not something most people will do. People look at recipes with a lot of ingredients or long preparation times and admit they'll never do them while most people will look at the food shows, which have all been dumbed down due to this too, but never cook the recipes. Now and then you'll run into a restaurant or cook presenting the "real thing" like "El Cardenal Restaurant" in CDMX where they produce everything used in the restaurant at their own ranches, or the many places in Puebla where true gems await, let me tell you it's amazing and the true food I grew to know. You have to search out the places known for their presentation of the classics and not all restaurants can be recommended, unfortunately. I've found some true gems in little places run by families that just "cook their family's food" and it is a delight to find them.

I've always talked to the Moms and Grandmothers in the cities where I have lived to get their take on their food, classic techniques and the ingredients particular to a location while learning about the true traditions of a place. One of my greatest pleasures it's how I learned many of the dishes I prepare and lovingly made into nostalgia for my family, by doing my own Culinary Anthropology study, we are much better for it. I only wish more people were interested in preparing the dishes and techniques. 

Thinking along these lines is an old breakfast dish much beloved by all called "Huevos en Rabo de Mestiza", a strange name for sure and I've had many versions of the dish claimed by both Yucatan and Puebla and I must admit that I like the Puebla style of preparation best so that's what I will refer to. This dish gives poached eggs a wonderful framing sauce made of tomatoes with Poblano Chile strips, cinnamon and clove with oregano, in an amazing dance of flavors only then to add fresh cheese, sometimes under the eggs for them to sit on and then topped with lovely cream before service. I've also used this sauce for many other dishes as well, over chicken, shrimp, calabacitas, mixed vegetables and almost anything else you can think of once you taste it, an amazingly flavorful sauce that's simple at first glance but contains years of refinement to offer taste and delight.

To prepare "Huevos en Rabo de Mestiza" you will need:

8 large eggs
8-12 fresh sauce tomatoes like Guajillos o Roma's, Saladet
1/4 - 1/3 cup manteca or lard (you can use oil too)
2-4 Poblano Chiles
2-4 Tbl onion, chopped
8 pieces of fresh cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 - 1 Tbl Cinnamon, ground
1-2 Cloves
1/2 - 1 Tbl Oregano (can be fresh or dried)

Score the tomatoes on the base end making an "X". In a pot with boiling water on the stove and put the tomatoes in for a minute or two until you begin to see the edges of the "X" begin to peel away from the fruit. Take the tomatoes out and allow to cool or place in an ice bath. One cooled, chop.

Place the Poblano Chiles over the flame of the stove to char, turning often to get them charred all over. Place in an plastic bag, close the bag and allow to steam and cool, about 30 min to 1 hour. Once cooled and able to handle, remove the charred skin (NEVER put under the faucet to rinse, you'll lose the precious oil which add a lot of flavor). Cut the chiles open, remove the seeds and veins and cut into strips.

In a cazuela or pot you have chosen and over med-high heat, add the manteca to heat. Once hot, add the tomatoes with some salt and pepper and cook to make very tender and mushy. Once done you can process with immersion blender or place in blender to make tomato puree. You can add more manteca, add the onions to cook some along with the chile strips, sauteing for 2-3 minutes and then add the tomato puree to cook. Add the spices, lower the heat and simmer for at least 15 - 30 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings, you may add more salt and pepper if needed. You can also add 1-2 Tbl of sugar if the tomatoes are too acidic.

Once the sauce is slightly thickened and the flavor is how you like it, add the cheese slices, spacing them around the pot where you will place each egg. Place sauce over the cheese and then break an egg over each of the cheese slices. Insure the heat is low and cook the eggs until the white's set and depending on how soft you want the yolks. You can shred some cheese over top before service and once served in deep plates, dollop some cream over top to serve. Enjoy!

I hope you will make and enjoy this dish that evokes so many memories for me. May you create wonderful memories for your family too!

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