Latina Eats: Cabrito and Chiles
Hey everyone, hope you’re all enjoying your summer so far! I’m excited to fill y’all in on my fourth week doing the Latin concentration in San Antonio!
This week was one of my favorites so far for two reasons: chiles and open-fire cooking!
Yep, that’s right! We cooked a cabrito, which is a young goat, in our outdoor kitchen and we also worked with chiles from Latin America. Let’s explore what week four in the Latin concentration was all about.
We had a lot of fun working with cabrito this week. I don’t have much experience with open-fire cooking, so it was awesome to learn how much work goes into making a fire, keeping the fire burning, and controlling it so you get a well-cooked product. There was something about this day that made me feel like we got to the origin of cooking: meat and fire. This preparation was only an introduction to open-fire cooking techniques, as we will be roasting a whole pig pretty soon. (Stay tuned for that one, guys!)
So how did we cook this baby goat, you may ask? Well, Chef Remolina brought in a grill from Mexico! The grill is amazing—and what’s really cool about it is that it was bought from a man, Chef Juan Ramon Cardenas, who has a restaurant in Saltillo, Mexico. This restaurant specializes in a certain thing. Yes, you guessed it…cabrito! And they do it really, really well. Mr. Cardenas is known for serving some of the best cabrito around and that’s easy to believe since he goes through more than 200 goats a week!
I guess you could say that the tender goat served at his restaurant was the inspiration in the kitchen that day as we were preparing to cook ours. During our morning lecture, Chef Remolina showed us a video of Chef Juan in his restaurant in Mexico and how he and his staff prepare cabrito. After that, we started to work on it. We followed Juan Ramon’s method of preparing the goat for cooking, which is really complicated: season it with nothing, then put it on the fire (insert sarcasm). Not going to lie, I was a little bit skeptical and so badly wanted to throw a pinch of salt on the goat before we started cooking it. I was pleasantly surprised afterward when I took a bite of the crispy skin and tender meat inside of a homemade corn tortilla. …*drools*… No, but really, it was that good. If I liked the goat we cooked here so much, I can’t even begin to imagine what the one at Juan Ramon’s restaurant tastes like.
Sounds like I need to book a trip to Saltillo.
Anyway, we cooked the goat on two metal rods over a charcoal fire, which sounds simple right? Not quite. Throughout the three-hour cooking time there was a lot of checking and moving. Chef had to constantly feed the fire and make sure the heat was at just the right temperature. All the babysitting was well worth it, because the final product was just delicious.
Here are some pictures of that day, and if you’re interested in checking out how Juan Ramon serves his famous cabrito, here’s his website!
Fun fact: Who knew that there are over 2,000 varieties of chiles?
Before this week I knew little about this very important ingredient. This is another reason why the Latin concentration has been such a valuable experience to have for my career. It’s so interesting to learn that these flavorful fruits have influenced so many cuisines. From Latin America all the way to Asia, chiles are defining ingredients that are so essential to the food and people of many countries.
Chef Remolina helped us identify dried, fresh, and frozen chiles this week, and we cooked recipes using them. My favorite of these recipes was from Chef’s grandmother’s recipe collection. It is a poblano chile stuffed with pork, wrapped in puff pastry, and served over a mild tomato sauce, One word: yum!
My classmate Maria made it with the help of Chef and it came out absolutely gorgeous! Take a look at that masterpiece.
I enjoyed everything we learned this week in the Latin kitchen. Chef Remolina keeps us engaged with the material he’s teaching because it comes naturally and is so personal to him. Every lesson he teaches usually comes with a story from his hometown in Mexico or about a person in his life who’s influenced him. As I said in a previous post, the CIA San Antonio feels like a tight-knit community, and this still holds true even by week four!
I hope you guys are enjoying our journey through the Latin concentration so far, and if you’re interested in what we’re doing here in San Antonio, check out my blog next week or comment with any questions about this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Hello everyone, my name is Giselle Sigala and I am currently a seventh-semester bachelor’s student at The Culinary Institute of America. I’m honored and excited to be the student blogger for the Latin Cuisine Concentration at the San Antonio, TX campus!
A little bit about myself:
I was born in Long Beach, CA and was raised in Fort Worth, TX since the age of 3. (So I’m a Texan at heart…Go TCU!) My parents are both immigrants from Zacatecas, Mexico, so my siblings and I are the first generation in our family to study in the United States.
Since I can remember, I have always had a fascination with cooking and anything food related. As a child, instead of playing with dolls I was begging my mother for an Easy-Bake oven. (Which I found is a common memory with a lot of CIA students. Right? No? Ok fine, I guess it was just me! Haha.) My fondest memories as a child are set in the kitchen, from helping my mom flip tortillas—I remember always burning the tips of my fingers—to the simple smell of charcoal burning on a Sunday afternoon, because this meant a carne asada was in the works…which also meant we were going to eat some great food! Yum!
A major factor that played into my decision to come to The Culinary Institute of America was the large success of my parents’ carnicerias (a Mexican meat market that sells a variety of produce and delicious baked goods). By spending most of my childhood in the carniceria’s kitchen and bakery, I quickly realized that I had a passion for Latin American cuisine. With time, I knew that there was nothing I’d rather do than to make people happy by cooking for them. Knowing this about myself helped me make my decision about coming to the CIA. And honestly, this place has given me countless amazing opportunities and experiences. The CIA has helped me pursue my dream of working in some of the best kitchens around the world, cooking Latin food, and potentially opening up my own business in the future.I couldn't imagine going anywhere else to pursue these aspirations. It is truly an amazing program that is always evolving and striving to be the best it can be.
As a CIA alum, I couldn't be happier to have chosen to pursue my career goals here. Since my graduation from the associate program in June 2015, I have come to admire and appreciate different cuisines and cultures from all over the globe. From the Cuisines of the Americas class I took to the Cuisines of Asia course, this school has taught me that I can learn so much from a culture by simply learning about their food.With that, I am excited to start my semester studying the vibrant food of Latin America at the beautiful CIA San Antonio in Texas. The campus looks amazing, and I can’t wait to write about my experiences! I invite you to check out my blog as I cook some delicious food, explore an exciting city, and learn from some of the best-trained chefs in the industry!
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