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November 2012
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January 2013

December 2012

Seafood Pozole

I love the habit of cooking indulgent fish dishes on Christmas Eve and then being invited to someone else's house on Christmas Day for a roast or turkey. I don't know how to cook roasts and I love turkey but the whole national obsession of cooking it whole when it would be better in parts drives me nuts. 

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This year my contribution was a pozole with seafood. I could eat this night and day! 

I cooked an entire pound of our prepared hominy the day before and once it was cooked, left it in the fridge until I needed it. Meanwhile, in a large pot, I fried lots of chile powder and a little cumin in some olive oil until it was a paste and well cooked without being burnt. I think this out with chicken stock and let this mixture cook for about 15 minutes on very low. I added the cooked pozole, some shrimp, some langostine tails and some salt cod that had been soaked in water for a day with the water changing frequently. This cooked for about five minutes and then I served it with lime wedges. 

Very different and totally delicious. 


2012: It's Been a Very Good Year

We've been getting slammed with orders at Rancho Gordo so the blog has taken a back seat to fulfillment issues. Today is our last day for ground shipping and you can just hear the air being let out of the tire, so to speak. Relax.....just a bit. 

I had a great year and hope you did, as well. Photos help knock the memory around and these are some of the highlights of our professional (and my personal) year here at Rancho Gordo. 

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After a brief lapse, thanks to some nasty raccoons, I have chickens and eggs again. I've gone from 18 to six to none and now five, which seems like a manageable number. 

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I've always loved risotto but this year I think mastered the grain, using a clay pot, of course. Shrimp risotto with Oregano Indio is a winner. 

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In 2012, I took a second trip to Veracruz and I can firmly say it's my favorite place in Mexico, until I go somewhere else new. But really, you have the beaches, the food (which is really different) and salsa music. 

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I think Veracruz wins. 

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This was also the year I became obsessed with chipotles en vinagre. Smokey chiles in a sweet pickle, using our piloncillo and even our vinegar. What a winner. 

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Having made this condiment a few times, I think our piloncillo is essential but the other flavors may outweigh the banana in our vinegar so maybe it's better save it for a ceviche or salad. 

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2012 is also the year it seems my children grew up overnight. I miss their cuddly kind of love but the conversations are so much more interesting as they face adulthood. I'm really tickled. 

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Another year, another trip to Texas and I just love the place more than ever. As a bleeding heart San Francisco Bay Area liberal, I'm supposed to hate the place but it's impossible. I'm addicted. 

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4th of July was spent in Calistoga, the nearby town that gave us our start. We marched in the parade and introduced Miss Heirloom Bean 2012. 

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You win some, you lose some. Susan Sanchez, our general manager, returned to her native Kansas City with her husband Miguel. It was a hard loss as Susan's personality was a key part of Rancho Gordo. Under her watch, we really grew and flourished and we miss her tons, despite our abandonment issues. 

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I was so proud to have been asked to speak to Mexicans about beans! The MesaAmerica conference in Mexico City was like a weeklong lovefest. I was surprised to realize I've come to know most of the players in the Mexico City food scene. I felt like a star and it was hard to come back down to reality. 

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I would declare 2012 the Year of the Ingredient. Who would have thought xoconostle would be available in our markets? What's missing? Not much. I even saw the vegetable huazontle here in Napa recently. 

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Speaking of ingredients, there's nothing I'm more excited about than our stoneground chocolate. It's making waves! 

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Finally, I'm most proud that you can buy Rancho Gordo things in Mexico. I'm sensitive to the fact that I can be like a bull in a china shop and I need to tread lightly in Mexico but on the whole they've been welcoming and happy to help spread my word about indigenous products and Mexico's role in feeding the world. 

Now, let's kick some butt in 2013!  




Masa Fantasies

Hoja santa (or sometimes Yierba Santa) (Piper auritum) is a delicious leaf used throughout much of Mexico for flavor and as a wrapping. I've had very little luck growing it at home, which has been frustrating as I've heard over and over that's invasive! Well, this year they decided they were happy and I have a nice crop of hoja santa leaves to play with. 

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In Oaxaca, where this plant is used a lot, they make a delicious little masa snack called tetela. I wasn't sure about how to make them but I did steal the technique and the results were great. You can make these without just about anything that inspires you. I liked the fact that the leaf helped block the bean juices from permeating into the wet masa. 

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Diana Kennedy came up with the phrase "masa fantasies" to cover the hundreds of snacks and treats you can make with masa. The same item may have a different name in other parts of Mexico but they all have a certain creativity in common and they all tend to be delicious. 

The secret is to take your time and let the weight of the tortilla do the work for you. This filling was simply Sangre de Toro beans (I'm loving these more and more) and a few ripped hoja santa leaves. 

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After all three sides are done, you can wet the seam and try and make it seamless, but I didn't care that much. 

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You just heat them up on a medium skillet or comal. My next experiment would involve deep frying them. Or maybe you can and report back. 

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Remember, the filling could beans and cheese, cheese and salsa, just about anything. 

I've seen Oaxacans scramble eggs on yierba santa leaves on clay comales. They would use the leaf as almost a non-stick pan and then scramble the leaf into the eggs right before serving. I've also seen them press the leaf right into the masa and then toast both sides. I love these when lightly toasted as they have a very mild, almost minty flavor. When the leaves are fresh, it's somewhere between anis and root beer that you taste. 

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This last snack I just pressed the leaf into the masa to make a tortilla that I toasted on both sides before adding scrambled eggs and Sangre de Toro beans and Felicidad hot sauce. 

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