What to do with: Mexico Delicacies Box

What to do with: Mexico Delicacies Box

Ben @ Ben to Table
I absolutely adore Mexican cuisine — thought there’s so much regional diversity that there’s always a ton more room to explore! I’m sure we’ll return to Mexico with Delicacies at some point: this first Mexico Box is just us getting started. Here’s what’s coming:
  • Oaxacan Mole Negro paste from Guelaguetza in Los Angeles.
  • Prepared hominy (dried, nixtamalized corn) from Rancho Gordo.
  • Huitlacoche from Endotzi, a small producer in Mexico.
  • Oregano Indio from Rancho Gordo.
  • A chile powder from  Rancho Gordo.
  • Mexican chocolate with guajillo chiles from Taza.

Prepared hominy

Hominy
This dried, heirloom corn from Rancho Gordo is nixtamalized (prepared in a way that changes the texture and allows our bodies to absorb more of the nutrients — a method developed by indigenous Americans more than 3,000 years ago!). It makes for an extremely versatile ingredient that we could stand to see a whole lot more of in American cooking — and it’s the distinguishing ingredient in posole, one of the true national dishes of Mexico.

You can cook hominy similarly to beans, and I do include a pre-soak here for a few hours. Then bring to a boil for 5 minutes in plenty of water, followed by a low simmer for 90-120 minutes. It’s still toothsome when done, but it softens in a very pleasant way. Then you can drain.

Here are a few of my favorite uses:

1) In a classic, Mexican posole: Recipes abound, with many adherents to different versions (Steve Sando from Rancho Gordo just published a whole posole cookbook, in fact!). The general idea is a heavily flavored (with different Chile powder) soup/stew — it’s usually thinner than what I imagine with the word “stew,”  but thicker than the average soup. Basic ingredients like onions, carrots, garlic, and oregano are essential. It’s excellent with long-simmered chunks of pork shoulder, or great with dark-meat chicken.  Just add the already prepared hominy toward the end, or cook it in the soup itself if you’re using a protein that can handle it (like braised pork shoulder).

2) Don’t call it “posole”: Hominy is also great in other soups and stews that just shouldn’t be called posole. For instance, it was delicious in a soup with pimentón, shrimp, and green beans, and also in a stew with tepary beans and turkey.

3) Could be a great alternative to a whole grain for “grain salad” type of recipe, with veggies and a protein of some sort.

Oaxacan Mole Paste

Oaxacan Mole Paste
Fernando Lopez and Maria Monterrubio brought true Oaxacan mole to Los Angeles when they opened Guelaguetza in 1994–and now we can bring it to you.

This incredible mole negro is a rich and sultry version that's easy to put together and will rival the best pastes you'll find anywhere. Just blend with tomatoes, stock, water, salt, and sugar, and serve with tortillas and your protein of choice (or get more creative!). Here are some ideas of what to do:

1) Mole enchiladas: This makes for an incredible version of a pretty basic dish, Just check out the quick video here for the very few steps!

2) As a base sauce for a pizza (just trust me on this one). This works especially well if you use complementary ingredients like queso fresco, cilantro, and lime. More here.

3) As the base for a stew, just cooking your protein and ingredients down in the mole sauce. You could also add hominy here, and/or serve with tortillas and sour cream.

Huitlacoche


huitlacoche

When I talk with people about the Mexico Delicacies Box, this is the ingredient that gets the most frequent questions (or blank stares): Huitlacoche. Also called "Mexican truffles" or "corn mushrooms," and often literally translated as "corn smut," huitlacoche is a true Mexican delicacy that's rarely appreciated elsewhere.

Huitlacoche is fungus that grows on corn. Farmers often discard it when they find it, but those who really know what's up harvest it instead.

Huitlacoche is best fresh, but it's extremely difficult to find that way, especially on this side of the border. There are some canned varieties, which I've not been impressed with. This jarred version from Endotzi is by far the best shelf-stable huitlacoche I've come across, and I highly recommend it.

It's already prepared in the jar, and just needs to be heated up, and you can basically use them where you'd otherwise use mushrooms. Here are some of my top uses:

1) As the main ingredient, along with cheese and maybe beans, in a quesadilla,

2) as a topping for an enchilada, or a huarache, if you can get your hands on some 

3) With eggs, in an omelette or frittata.

Hit this link for more on huitlacoche and what to do with it:

Oregano Indio

Oregano Indio
Also called oreja de raton (mouse's ear) due to its distinctive shape, it's produced for Rancho Gordo by the Oregano Caxtle Cooperative in Tlahuitelpa.

Unlike the European oregano we know best, this has less of a citrusy flavor, and more of an earthy flavor. Great on roasts or in soups and stews, especially the posole (and posole-ish) recipes discussed above. You’ll most likely want to break it up, but you can just do so by rubbing it in your hands before topping on whatever you’re adding it to.

Chile Powder

Chile powder
Made from nothing but new crop New Mexican chiles, this medium-heat chile powder packs a flavor punch.

This brings a great chile flavor to soups and stews, works well as a core seasoning rub for meat or tofu, or would go nicely with, say, some huitlacoche inside a quesadilla.  Use liberally for lots of flavor and not too much spice.

Taza Guajillo Chocolate

Taza Chocolate

This is delicious dark chocolate with a bit of a chili kick. Just enjoy straight, or add to your mole sauce instead of sugar to make that sauce even richer.

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