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!
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