21 August, 2015

Slow Food and the Joy of Family

“Imagine wanting to take a whole afternoon to leisurely prepare supper–without a food processor, microwave oven, or cookbook. To live, after all, is to experience things, and every time we mince an onion, lower the flame under a simmering pot, shape the idea and substance of a meal, we actually gain rather than lose lived time. Such minutes are not only full and rich in themselves, but they brush a lasting patina of lived experience onto our memory” John Thorne
 Now don't get me wrong... I enjoy the handiness of a 30 minute meal on a busy weekday just like any other housewife.  But when I do have the time I am most content hovering over my giant cazuela slowly stirring a batch of jam.  Since we have had a bit more time on our hands lately waiting for the Food Truck to get up and running and really needing to work out some frustrations from a months worth of mechanical issues I decided to make some Achiote Paste... FROM SCRATCH.  Now this may sound silly as you can buy giant packages of the paste for a few pesos.  But I have made the paste from scratch before and the difference is vast... making it well worth the effort!

Achiote Paste is most known for being the prime ingredient in Cochinita Pibil.  But once you have it made up you can rub it on chicken, or potatoes, even fish... just about anything.  Taking a time consuming product and turning it into a quick mid week meal that tastes like it took all day.  I usually make one large batch once a year.

Store Bought Achiote Paste

Side from my giant cazuela the other prized kitchen utensil is my molcajete.  It is hand carved from lava rock and is an absolute joy to use.  It makes me feel like a real kitchen witch.  Now grinding together all the ingredients needed to make Achote Paste is time consuming, but the other day I was feeling up to the challenge and just focused on the amazing flavors that I would have to share with my family at the end.  I think that really is the whole point of slow food: the love that you put into it knowing the joy that it will bring to your family.  I felt so full of love and was at peace as I worked diligently over my molcajete.

In order to make Achiote Paste you will need:
  1. Time!  I made 5 times the recipe below and it took me a few good hours.  But I will not have to make any more for the rest of the year.
  2. A Molcajete (or spice grinder if you are short on time)  If you do not have a spice grinder you can carefully fit the blade of your blender onto a pint sized mason jar.  You will have to work in small batches to not cook the spices and destroy the natural oils.  This of course is not ideal!
  3. Try and source whole spices for this recipe.  The flavor is much more intense.

Achiote or Annatto Seeds
The recipe that I use is adapted from Rick Bayless Authentic Mexican  
Note:  I usually multiply this recipe to use all year. The portions in this recipe is enough for one whole chicken or a pork shoulder.
Achiote PasteIngredients: yields 1/4 cup
1 Tablespoon Achiote Seeds
1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
4 Whole Cloves
1/2 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1 inch Cinnamon Stick (try to use Mexican Cinnamon)
1 teaspoon Coriander Seeds
4 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Salt
5 cloves Garlic, peeled
2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
In small batches grind the spices.  Pour the ground spices into a fine mesh sieve and sift over a bowl.  Return the unpowdered spices to the molcajete and continue to work it as needed.
Once all the spices have been finely ground into powder, set aside in a bowl.
Grind the garlic cloves and salt into a smooth paste in the molcajete.
Sprinkle some of the spice mix over the garlic paste and continue to work until all of the garlic has been worked into a smooth consistency.
Add the cider vinegar and work the rest of the spice powder into the paste. 
Let the paste rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour before using.  The paste can be stored in small jar in the refrigerator for months.
Tip: I fit a pint sized mason jar onto my blender in order to get the cinnamon stick and achiote seeds started.  Then finish them in the molcajete.

To use the paste: mix with fresh squeezed orange juice and rub (use gloves to not stain your hands) over pork or chicken.  Slowly roast the meat before shredding.  Steaming the meat in banana leaves is traditional.  Serve with marinated red onions.  Check out this earlier post for more detailed instructions.

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