Friday, February 17, 2012

Preserving our flavors: Sauces that taste of history

Hispanic cuisine sustains itself through sauces, which serve as multicolored coatings with such particular flavors that they are dishes in and of themselves. They are so versatile they are the perfect and irresistible accompaniment for meat, poultry or vegetables.
Huasteca region roots
Pipián sauce may be the Cinderella of Aztec cuisine. “It is not well known, but I don’t hesitate in stating that it is the best one,” said Emmanuel Montes, a chef originally fromTamaulipas,Mexico. He spoke while preparing a version of that salsa in hisTulsarestaurant. “It has a special texture; besides, it brings out the flavor of the dish in which it is used. It is unique.”
Montes said that pipián sauce “is not the mole of the Huastecos; it is simply a wonderful creamy sauce; it is pipián and that’s all.”
His recipe combines the know-how from family and from travel to region known as the Huasteca, which takes in the Mexican states ofHidalgo,Veracruz,San Luis Potosíand Tamaulipas. “One time, traveling along thePanucoRiver, I had a chance to try this type of sauce,” he said. “The most popular are the red and the green ones. The one that I make is slightly orange.”
Among the ingredients that Montes uses are roasted pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sesame and chile ancho, which he describes as “a flavorful chili, because it is not hot; it just adds aroma and taste.”
The dishes chosen by Montes to be drenched in the sauce include a large chicken leg and a large serving of enchiladas. These were served with rice and black beans, which were sprinkled with white cheese. “The freshness of the pipián sauce is the key to success,” he said. “It is also a great alternative for vegetarian dishes, since it is a sauce that is so juicy and with so much flavor that it stands out.”
For a Jalisco ‘birria’
Francisco González, a Mexican cook, said he has perfected the best sauce for a birria, a sort of stew. He put it to the test at his mobile restaurant, usually parked near11th StreetandLewis Avenue. “Few people like to give out their recipe to accompany the birria,” he said. “But it is worth it, so that others may enjoy it.”
Birria is a dish made with mutton, lamb or goat, but it stands out due to the sauce that accompanies it. “Although birria complicated, anyone can make it. But when it comes to the salsa, that’s something else,” González said, while checking the ingredients for his top-notch sauce.
The base of the sauce is made up of tomatoes, tomatillos (the Mexican green tomato), chile de árbol, jalapeños, vinegar, chile ancho, chile serrano, ground cloves, cumin, oregano, black pepper, onion, garlic and salt to taste. “The important thing is the balancing and the amount of ingredients,” said González. “If we go overboard with any of them, then that is all we will taste in the sauce.”
González put the ingredients in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. “Then it is blended, although the original method is using a molcajete” he said. “That’s all. The only thing that is missing is the birria.”
A wise adage reminds us that “there is no better sauce than a good appetite.” However, the pipián sauce and the sauce for the birria might be an exception.


Chef Emmanuel Montes - ‘Salsa Pipián’

Francisco González - ‘Salsa para Birria’

Photos by Juan Miret 

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