Wednesday, October 28

Monday Market Mysteries Part II

I thought the world had become a safer place. I thought I could stroll safely through the market without some unknown nemesis lurking beneath the lettuce, mangoes, and beets. I thought with the evil chayote locked away all was well. I thought. . .wrong.
A new blight has descended upon the peaceful market scene. One who feeds on a well-known market dweller, mutilating her shining, golden features into a monstrous distortion of leprous black and grey boils.

The worst shock came when I realized I knew this villain. Hiding out in Oaxaca she's passing herself off as
a seasonal delicacy and going by the name huitlacoche. But I'd recognize her monstrous features and fiendish ways anywhere, she once pillaged my mother's garden, torturing my siblings and I with here cruel, sadistic exploitations of the sweet corn patch. We called her corn smut.

No joke here, huitlacoche really is the same thing as corn smut. It is probably the food that has intrigued me most, probably because of the disgust it provoked in me as a child and never thinking of it as something edible or delicious. I've been wanting to try it, but haven't gotten to it yet, maybe because it is a little bit terrifying. Bugs, worms, intestines, feet, are all a little intimidating too, but never presented the same problem for me, because I've always had a special loathing and skin crawling reaction to mold. Huitlacoche looks like the most sinister mold I've ever seen, like something that could only be spawned by damp, festering gym socks with mayonnaise on them or something. I mean, grey/black, tumorous looking growths don't exactly spark the confidence that crispy red chapulines do.

That being said, I've still been eager to try it, so I bought some at the market two weeks ago and asked the secretary of the English department, the all-knowing Flor, how I should prepare it. She recommended blending it with garlic and chili, then frying it and using it in quesadillas. It sounded promising, but I've uncovered a problem with foods that look rotten; they rot on me. It has happened twice now. The past two Monday's, I've sought it out at the market, excitedly bought it, and had to toss it out a few days later.

Another problem has been October's pressing social schedule. This is also where I'm laying responsibility for my infrequent blogging. There was The Battle of Miahuatlán festivities to kick off the month and ongoing town or school events all month, culminating in Day of the Dead this weekend. It's been fantastic, but I haven't been doing a lot of kitchen experiments. I've been doing a lot of quick visits to papas or taco stands before the evenings events commence. One day soon, however, I will either conquer huitlacoche myself, or eat it at an establishment that has better produce management skills than I do.

I leaned slowly back in my chair slowly shaking my head. Huitlacoche had slipped
through my grasp yet again.
"You've won this round, Huitlacoche, you devilish little smut" I muttered, narrowing my eyes at the gathering darkness "but I'll will devour you yet," I added with a slight smile while lifting an icy Bohemia to my lips "oh yes, we will meet again."

Tuesday, October 6

Breakfast Pajamas

It feels like October. Yes, it is October, but the months here have rarely matched the descriptions I've stored away in my mental file cabinets. Today the sun is shining, the sky is blue, there is a cool breeze blowing, I'm reading ESPN to scrape up every accolade for my beloved Hawkeyes, and I'm wearing a sweater (I can barely contain my excitement with this one), all aspects darkly underlined on the October file.
To add to this excitement, my friends got an oven at their place. An honest to god oven!!! I commandeered it on a cool, rainy Saturday and made banana bread that my friend Jess made a couple years ago in the north country and I promptly tagged in my September and October files for future use.
I'm definitely projecting this fall feeling to a certain extent, I'm sweating wearing this sweater (my cool here is 70 degrees, not 45) and I won't get to watch a single Hawkeye game this season. That aside, I'm enjoying my faux-fall immensely. Tying certain aspects of my traditional fall to those I'm creating here.
My favorite fall traditions were generally also my laziest, it may be a coincidence, but more likely it is my undying love of being well pajamad. Living at home Saturday mornings at my parents house had me lounging in old flannel pants and playing Scrabble. My Louisville autumns saw me rocking the pajamas on my fire escape, listening to music, and enjoying a beer from BBC.
College has probably been the pinnacle of my pajama:normal clothing ratio(or low point if you're one of those "active" types). Looking back it seem like I was in pajamas for four solid years, but especially in the fall. Cooking breakfast on Saturday mornings before games, my friend Katie and I would daydream about owning cute pajamas with an egg and bacon print from the over-priced boutique. Later, as we would make our way to the game full of heavy breakfast foods and a bevy of beverages, we would host our pretend talk-show (our imaginary wardrobe being the aforementioned jammers) Breakfast Pajamas. Some may daydream about illustrious careers with fancy wardrobes, but give me a job where I can be a total ass and wear comfy pants with bacon strips on them.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, I can't ever remember what happened on this talk show. But I do remember making a condescending, mildly-amused, closed-mouth reporter laugh after pretty much everything we said. Maybe that was all there was. Whatever the content, the memories of football, crisp weather, breakfast, and cozy pajamas summarize everything I'm importing to Mexico for my full fall enjoyment.
These were the jumble of memories rolling through my head when I stumbled on something called red flannel hash. I've never gotten into the hash thing. Partly because the sight has always made me vomit in my mouth (just a little bit)and partly because my old roommate Roxie told me it was good, she generally lies. But red flannel made me think of pajamas and the recipe from epicurious involves beets and sweet potatoes, roots and tubers feel autumnal to me every time, plus there's bacon. It kind of screamed "I am fall, trick!" Maybe not the breakfast meal to take home to mom, nah, probably even mom would overlook the foul-mouthedness for the delicious.

Red Flannel Pajama Hash
serves 4
8 bacon slices
1 jalapeño, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 C fresh parsley
1/4 C sour cream thinned with about 1 Tbsp milk or fresh cream
1 C coarsely chopped cooked beets (roasted, steamed, boiled..whateva)
1 C coarsely chopped cooked sweet potatoes
1 C coarsely chopped cooked potatoes

In a large skillet fry bacon until crispy. Remove from skillet and crumble into a medium mixing bowl. Drain off excess bacon grease, but leave a thin coating in skillet.
Add remaining ingredients to bowl with bacon, salt and pepper, and mix.
Heat skillet over medium-high heat and transfer contents of mixing bowl to skillet. Using a spatula, smash hash mixture. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning up bottom occasionally to prevent sticking, but allowing to crisp and brown. Repeat smashing as needed.
Divide amongst hungry. Top with poached or over-easy egg.