Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I didn’t use to like Mexican food. I write this with some trepidation, as I live in a large Hispanic community that is grappling with an increasing number of anglo residents, in a larger geographic area that was once part of Mexico... and it just feels disrespectful and unwilling.

Having lived here for about 4 years and in San Francisco for 10 and in California for almost 11 years, I can safely say that what gets sold on the East Coast isn’t really Mexican food, and what gets sold in chain restaurants is just accented fast food, and what gets sold North of Market Street, even, is pretty different.

About 7 years ago after watching the Shawshank Redemption for about the 20th time, M and I hopped on a plane and went to Zihuatanejo (clearly, before J was born,when we were still able to do things like that). And I can safely say I love Pacific Coast- Mexican. Tacos al Pastor. Fish Tacos. Camerones ala Plancha. The best Pina Colada I ever had. Coming home, I branched out, fell in love with La Altena. It turns out I like Mexico City food, too. I learned that lime and cilantro are usually fresh ingredients, not everything is smothered in cheese, and there is a wide range of spice (actually, I don’t think authentic Mexican food is too terribly spicy, not the way Thai or Szechuan can be).

And I have a confession: I like some faux (or faux-ish) Mexican food, too. Around the time J was born  I became addicted to a torta con chorizo verde from Nopalito (very North of Market, also, on the way to the Zoo... an easy habit to make). And try as I might I couldn’t find chorizo verde at Casa Lucas or La Palma, or anywhere else in the Mission.

And a straight google search didn’t turn up anything.

But recently, at our newly reopened library, I saw a copy of Diana Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking. While I’ve long heard of this book, new it was the “bible” of Mexican cooking, it had never occurred to me to look at it before. I don’t know why.

Anyway, she has a recipe, which I tweaked a little, and we made buns, and I bought some avocados and cabbage and made some salsa, and a corn salad, and J and I made some Watermelon Agua Fresca and I peeled a Mango for desert and it was the best dinner we’ve had in a while.

Chorizo Verde for burgers or tacos
Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking. I didn’t stuff and cure these, which you would do for real chorizo, but this preparation was great as a burger (tasted exactly like the sandwiches), leftovers were fantastic in a chorizo scramble, and tacos would totally work with this mixture too-- easy to crumble without drying out too much.

1 lb ground pork
2 oz pork fat (ground fat, or really finely chopped uncured bacon, pork belly, prosciutto, guanciale, etc. would work)
1/2 cup white vinegar (apple cider or rice wine work, too)
1 bay leaf
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
3 cloves
5 peppercorns
1/2 tbs sea salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1 serrano or other small, slim green chile, chopped
1 c loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro (or 3/4 cilantro, and a 1/4 mix of mint, basil, parsley)
1 bunch swiss chard

Steam or Boil Chard for approximately 6 minutes, drain and cool, then steam and roughly chop. Set aside.
Combine the garlic cloves, oregano, cloves, peppercorns, sea salt, cumin, coriander in a mortar an pestle and grind until loosely combined.
Set aside.
Put the vinegar in a blender and add the mortared spices, bay leaf, and chili and blend as finely as possible. Possible you could do this all in a mortar and pestle, or the mortar and pestle stuff all in the blender-- but my mortar is too small, and the blender didn’t seem to pound the spices well enough/too my liking.
Add the cilantro, then the chard, making sure that each ingredient is well incorporated before adding the next. You want to turn this into a paste, as much as you can.
Mix the fat and the pork together in a bowl, then add the spice paste, working it in by hand until evenly distributed.
Cover the bowl and marinate 2-24 hours. Form sausages or cook loose, and enjoy.

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