Friday, April 10, 2009

Carnes en Sus Jugos

Carnes en Sus Jugo

The plate is a little known speciality of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. I had my first taste of this at El Norteño in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was served this dish as a "taster" for the restaurant. It's delicious. No two ways about it. I never got the recipe from Leo, but did have it described in detail for me. But I have changed the recipe!!! I may have improved it. Well, not much. Why I say improves is I have improved the American "chile con carne" recipe. Purists may pull their hair all they want; this is my story and I'm sticking to it.

I can find two Guadalajaran restaurants that specialize in the dish. They are:

and I submit this as a tribute to those who invented this (yet another) splendid Mexican dish.

The substance of carnes en su jugos is bacon and beef. The beans are served on the side. I have read reports about Texas chile con carne having the beans served on the side. And to Texans I understand that beans in chile is a sin. Then again, Texans may be confused about many things regarding chile con carne.

This is a wintertime dish. No two ways about it. It's like a beef stew without so many vegetables. I ask myself, "Why is that better?" and cannot find an answer. I probably chanced across the technique for this dish by making Clifford Wright's recipe from his encyclopaedic tome Mediterranean Feast: Beef Ragoût in the Style of the Boatmen of Arles. That dish uses beef, onions, garlic, anchovies, salt and pepper as the only ingredients. It to is a wintertime dish; rich and hardy.

Recipe - begin by preparing the ingredients, first

3 pounds top sirloin cut in 3/8" cubes, remove all fat, gristle, silverskin, nerve, blood and connective tissue.
12 ounces smoked bacon, cut in 3/4" slices
2 pounds of onions, sliced lengthwise
1/2 bunch of cilantro, leaves only
1 head of garlic, skinned and minced
3 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper
hierbas de olor

I will begin with a discussion of hierbas de olor. This is a Spanish cooking term which means herbs of aroma. As this is a Mexican plate, I suggest oregano, bay leaf, pasilla chile powder and one or two jalapeños. My pal, Leo, reminds me that this is a family dish in Mexico and chiles are for adults. So feel free to leave the chiles out of this dish. I am not going to give quantities for the hierbas de olor and I do this not out of not knowing, but as an attempt to get you, dear reader, to experiment a little.

Also, frijoles de olla are part of this dish.

16 ounces of pinto beans, check for dirt, small stones, broken beans, removing all
1 ounce of bacon fat, lard, cooking oil
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 sprigs of epazote
2 teaspoons of salt

Clean the beans, soak overnight in water. Drain, return the beans to the pot, cover with water by 2". Bring the pot to a simmer, add the garlic and epazote. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Add the salt after you remove the beans from the flame. Stir to incorporate the salt, remove the garlic and epazote. Serve the beans in a separte bowl on the side and allow diners to add beans to their taste.

The secret of Carne En Su Jugo is in the cooking technique. The bacon is added to the pot first, and over a medium flame, the fat is rendered. Once that is done, there are two ways of proceeding, the bacon can be removed, leaving the rendered Carne En Su Jugo fat behind for the beef, or the bacon can be cooked further with the beef. Add the beef and under a gentle flame, cook it until the beef juices render. This should take under 10 minutes. Maybe 12 minutes. Unlike making traditional American chile con carne, the meat is not seared or browned here in this dish. After the liquid has been released, cover with beef stock or water by 1" and raise the heat. Add the cilantro. Cover the pot and when the boiling begins, immediately lower to a simmer. Cook the meat 60 minutes. Taste it. If the beef is tough, cook another 30 minutes.

This plate is served in a shallow soup bowl, beans added by the diner. Tortillas also are part of this extraordinary meal.

This dish can be scaled up or down, but the ratio of beef to bacon is 4 to 1 or 25% bacon.

NOTE on hierbas de olor. 
Use one or two whole cloves. Use some bay leaves. Mexicans use oregano. If you choose oregano, use it sparingly. The herb seasonings here, in this dish, are to be a half-note. A subtle scent.

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