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an aztec-style feast!

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 16 April 2010 at 16:00
alright, folks - inspired by john's mayan-style barbecue pork, i decided to have a go at it from the point of view of a later mezo-american empire, the aztecs.
 
the mayans actually ruled the aztecs before they (the aztecs) rose in power and dominated central mexico. the aztecs revolted against the mayans and had many wars with them and finally moved en-masse, to escape the mayans, to the north-central part of mexico. legend has it that their seer said that they would be free when they found a place where they would see an eagle killing a serpent (indicative of the mayans who bowed to kukulkan, the feathered serpent god.) as they traveled, much like the wandering jews, they came across a lake where they saw a small island where a huge cactus grew. on top of the cactus, they saw an eagle killing a serpent.
 
they decided then, that was THE place, and settled on the island in the lake, which provided a defensive barrier for them. they built up the islands in the lake and that became the ancient city of tenochtitlan, where the aztec empire grew. this capital on the lake of the aztec empire was later encountered and conquered by cortez. eventually, the lake dried out over the centuries and what was tenochtitlan is now the central downtown portion of mexico city.
 
aside from being the capital of the aztec empire, tenochtitlan was also a center of trade on routes that extended as far as the inca empire to the south and the four-corners area to the north, and beyond. indeed, the aztecs were related, both by language and by blood, to the ute and shoshone tribes in colorado, wyoming, utah, idaho and montana. further, the obsidian for the blades used by the aztecs for their grisly human sacrifices actually came from the yellowstone region.
 
to reflect this rich history of migration, conquest and trade, i am forming this meal around various elements, centering on the aforementioned smoked pork barbecue (cerdo a la barbacoa) which will feature two halves of boston butt. cortes documented barbecue-style practices for cooking meat upon his arrival; the common, native meats cooked at that time were javelina, which looks like a small pig but is actually a rodent, and turkey, but we will be using pork, which was subsequently introduced by spain. also included will be ecuadorian choclo loaf, which reaches back to the inca empire, and a version of anasazi beans, which predate the pueblo and navajo cultures in the american southwest. further, i will be incorporating seasonings, herbs and spices that would have been familiar to the conquering spaniards; the resulting subtleties in flavours will be the glue binding the elements of this feast together, much as the influx of spanish language, culture and religion did to these same areas during the 300 years following the arrival and conquest of cortez.
 
more to follow, as it happens!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 April 2010 at 17:03
I'm drooling just thinking about it Ron...tell me, how do you plan to get around Mrs Tas, as far as the heat thing? I have the same problem with Mrs Hoser....not too high of a heat tolerance. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 April 2010 at 17:11
i'm going to try a couple of tactics in order to achieve that that particular objective.
 
a) i plan on using the mildest chiles i can find; in this case, it looks like that will be guajillos or possibly new mexico chiles if i can find them. i had some dried new mexico chiles somewhere in the house, but seem to have misplaced them. i tried some of the guajillos (they are dried) and it looks like they will be quite mild in comparison to chiles such as jalapeno, pequin or japone; plus, they have a great, earthy and fruity flavour.
 
b) secondly, i am going to extract as many seeds as possible before crushing up the skins and applying them sparingly to the rub. i am hoping that as the pork slowly cooks on the SnP, most, if not all, of the heat will be lost.
 
i am also considering reconstituting them a bit by soaking in water after crushing, in the hopes that the water might draw out some of the heat (much the same as rinsing a de-seeded jalapeno in cold water). i don't know if this will work on a dried chile, but i am hoping that it does.
 
john, when you read this, please offer a few thoughts on ways to get some chile flavour, whilst keeping the heat level as low as possible!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 April 2010 at 22:01

Absolutely OUTSTANDING! Loved your introduction and set-up for the the visual feast to follow! You have raised the bar Ron, and the rest of us can only aspire to create such a mood for our culinary projects...many congratulations to you!

To address Dave's concern, the whole thing is actually very mild. A high heat level is not traditionally found in the puerco rub nor in the choclo loaf at all. Rich spiciness yes, definitely; heat, not at all, unless you want it.
 
Ron- good choice on the chilis, and your plan to deseed and soak the dried ones is wise. This will remove some of the heat and preserve the dusky richness of the chili itself. As we've discussed before, if you slow cook (barbecue) fresh chilis, they will actually lessen in heat as the cooking process "sweetens" the plant's wall, much like grilling a bell pepper will sweeten it. The seeds will remain hot, but combined barbecuing with the removal of the seeds will actually reduce heat to almost unoticeable levels. If you look at my post that's linked to this one, with all those chilis I chopped up and put into the rub, the heat was almost nonexistent. Even my wife tasted it and never mentioned any detection of heat. Lots of flavor, but no heat.
 
You've really got the excitement level up for us here Ron, and we are looking forward to your masterpiece!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 April 2010 at 01:50
alrighty - my first step is to begin the preparation of my anasazi beans, which you can read about here. next, i turn my attention to the pork barbecue!
 
i am marinating 2 half-butts (about 4 lbs each) in a sour-orange marinade overnight:
 
 
this marinade is a great mexican tradition using sour oranges that really bring out the flavours of pork!
 
 
also, i am soaking some crumbled, dry chiles in cold water overnight (after changing the water a few times):
 
 
the purpose of soaking them is in an attempt to remove some of the heat while leaving all of the flavour. i am using some guajillos (which have a wonderful, earthy and rich smell!) as well as what i think are some new mexico chiles (they are very mild and the right colour for NM chiles) and also some mild green chiles that i don't kow the name of but were given to me as being native to the region around pueblo, colorado; therefore, i call them pueblo chiles, for lack of a better name.
 
off to bed and will hopefully rise early tomorrow and begin the rest of the preparations!
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 April 2010 at 09:44
a little behind schedule this morning, but i think it will be alright ~
 
i began today by draining the sour orange marinade from the two half pork butts and patting them dry. then i prepared the achiote paste by mixing the achiote verde with 3 tablespoons of vinegar:
 
 
then, i mixed a few spices and flavours in a bowl -
 
 
2 teaspoons each of
  • fine sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • chili powder
  • hungarian sweet paprika
  • crushed cloves
  • ground allspice
  • ground cumin
  • ground cilantro seed (coriander)
  • mexican oregano
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder

many of these spices and herbs were already in the achiote verde block and were thus enhanced with a bit of a boost. the other flavours combined very well to produce a rich, earthy aroma and a real party on the taste buds!

i then combined the spices and herbs with the achiote paste:
 
 
and stirred them together until well-blended:
 
 
then, we proceeded to apply half of the paste to the first butt:
 
 
best results seemed to be obtained by scooping the paste on top of the butt, then patting it down across the top and down the sides. the bottom of both butts were fat cap, so i didn't worry about any seasoning there.
 
for the second butt, we chopped up half the chiles that i soaked last night and added them to the paste:
 
 
after applying the paste to the second butt, we let them rest a while while the smoker heated up to about 300 degrees:
 
 
when temperature was reached, we set the butts in the middle of the grate and closed the lid.
 
 
the temperature settled down to 250 degrees and we held fairly well. weather conditions today are sunny with a very slight breeze. temperatures today are expected to be in the high 60s, possibly approaching 70.
 
for today's smoke, we're using kingsford briquettes infused with hickory, with occasional additions of large hickory chips as needed.
 
 
meat went on at 0900, and i am hoping for a maximum cooking time of 8 hours. i've never cooked two half-buts before so it will be a learning experience. i intend to hold cooking temps around 250 degrees, plus or minus 10 degrees.
 
next up, we'll get the anasazi beans started!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 April 2010 at 10:44
a few words about the bitter orange marinade:
 
the bitter/sour orange marinade is something that originated from an orange called the seville orange (presumably developed near seville in spain). it is a traditional latin american flavour that is really popular with pork and seems to be a hallmark of "yucatan" cooking.
 
perhaps some experts in latin american cooking can expand on this a bit ~
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at 1100, i checked on the butts and turned them over so tht the fat cap could start melting down, providing a beautiful basting effect....
 
 
i then completed my opening preprations on the anasazi beans and got them started on the crock pot! take a look!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 April 2010 at 19:38
Wow, nice 1100 hours pics. Looking good so far, and excellent looking fire basket.....abutting the smoking chamber during cool weather, nice amounts of coals glowing into another nice amount to maintain heat (minion method).....good to go! The rub and spice boost really sounds like a winner here and I'm eager to hear the results. I've found the basic achiote rub/paste to be very mild, too mild for me, and your spice-boosting sounds right on the money.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 April 2010 at 16:37
well, i am going to go out on a limb and say this was one of the tastiest and most well-put-together meals i've done in a long time! using the themes outlined in the opening post, i pulled together cuisines from peru to colorado and brought them onto a single plate. very impressive to all five senses!
 
as the afternoon wore on, the bark on the butts continued to get darker and darker and the fat cap continued to melt down over the pork, basting it with wonderful flavours:
 
 
i didn't get any pix on the grate after this, but no worry. the fat cap rendered out to a crispy, crusty top and the bark got somewhat darker, but stayed flavourful. every time i flipped the butts over, a bit of the crust came off on my fingers; what else could i do but give it a try?Wink
 
i could easily taste the cloves, allspice, the achiote verde and everything else. it was wonderful! the chopped chiles on the "spicey" butt stayed pretty warm, but it was nothing overwhelming.
 
after a while, the bones twisted out and the top layers of meat were starting to slough off. the internal temps were still a little low (187 and 190), but no big deal. we removed them from the grate and served them up as it was getting pretty late.
 
for the most part, they pulled easily, but in the center we did have to cut up the core of meat, which was very much done but not yet "barbecue." here's a picture of the non-spicey butt - very nice smoke penetration and melting of fat/collagen:
 
 
and here's the spicey butt with the chiles on the outside. you could taste them, but they didn't overwhelm!
 
 
for whatever reason, smoke penetration didn't seem as good with this one. perhaps it rose faster in temperature and got above 140 degrees  (stopping smoke ring formation) before the other one did. i am sure that they were both still a bit frozen in the centre when they went on the grate at 0900, and this one might have been more frozen that the other. this would also account for the 10+hour cooking time, in spite of the relatively low weight (about 4 lbs each).
 
after shredding these babies, we served up our aztec style feast. we used the mayan pickled onions as a garnish for the pork on tortillas in a sort of carnita style, for lack of a better word:
 
 
the marinade from the onions also made a good spoon-on sauce for the carnitas!
 
along with the carnitas, we served our version of ecuadorian choclo loaf:
 
 
 
 
results were outstanding and the meal was a pretty big hit!
 
can't think of too much i would do differently, just a few little tweaks here and there. I must say i was envious of john's beautiful red colours when he did his version of this, but the flavours are the important thing, and this feast provided them in spades!
 
plenty of beans and pork for leftovers as well, which meqans great lunches for this week! can't ask for anything more than that!
 
if anyone is looking for a meso-american experience, this is a sure-fire way to travel to that time. the foods here are not 100% authentic (newer spices etc.), but they will certainly put you at in the halls of montezuma ~
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 April 2010 at 04:32
Major congratulations on a superb meal and post for the FOTW site! In fact, it should be considered an "anchor post" in that it touches on everything the site is about as well as demonstrating perfect meal planning and execution. Your descriptions, pictures and commentary sure kept us hungry for the conclusion and you didn't hold back there either, finishing off with what was certainly a wonderful feast! I can almost reach into the screen and take one of those tacos!
 
No worries on the color of the Mayan pork versus your Aztec one- I just used red achiote and you used the green one; which I know has more flavour to it- which is the bottom line. Your pulling pics looked real nice too, looks like they were pulling well at those temps, so thumbs up on that too Thumbs Up
 
By the way, your bark looked deliciously juicy and tasty-very nice!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 March 2013 at 15:36
Tas,

Would this Mexican Roast Pork Butt work in oven ? 

I like the  profile ingredients and the spice blend. 

How would you adapt the oven - temperature ? 

Sounds very interesting ... and great for Cinco de Mayo ... 

I would serve it with Brook´s Mango & Radish Salad and fried twice Plantains ... and of course Corn Tortillas instead of Mediterranean bread. 

Thanks in advance.
Margaux. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2013 at 07:05
Hi, Margi -
 
This is indeed beautiful stuff, with a wonderful, lively profile. I kind of threw it together on my own, but the flavours really worked well.
 
To answer your questions:
 
a) This flavour profile consists of herbs/spices that I added AND ALSO an "achiote verde" package:
 
 
If this package is NOT available to you, I'd recommend adding another teaspoon of each of the ingredients that I added. Don't forget the naranja agria or similar acid component! Also, the chiles that I coated one of the pork roasts with probably should have been chopped finer (as in a food processor) or perhaps even ground - but that's no big deal.
 
b) yes, this would work easily in an oven!
 
c) I would keep the oven temperature in the 275- to 325-degree range (F). I would roast it covered for a couple of hours, then uncovered until it is finished. If necessary, add some liquid. Keeping with the Aztec theme, I would only add water, stock or possibly beer.
 
If you have any other questions, let me know ~ this was  very tasty and different - a celebration of all things green!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2013 at 07:20
Tas,

 Firstly, thank you so much for revising the recipe for oven preparation ... We are quite fond of Mexican cuisine as you know ... 

The ingredients are very available here, have dear friend who owns a Mexican Taquilla ( Mexican Tavern in Mexican Spanish ) and product boutique with all types of imported Mexican products from spices, chili peps., beers, cheeses, corn tortillas, tequilla etcetra.

Achiote is easily obtainable ... 

Great slow oven covered and then, uncovered ... 

Would you go with Dos Equis Ambar dark, or a blonde Mexican beer ?

1 More enquiry; Sevilla Oranges, or the bottle of Naranja Agria ??  

Question:  why Hungarian Paprika and not Pimentón de La Vera ?  

Excited to try this, and shall do pictorial ... 

I have photos to upload ... Thanks again. 

Muchas gracias.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2013 at 07:31
Hi, Margi -
 
One thing to mention is that to cook it in the oven, the method of cooking would be very similar to when doing pernil: covered first, then uncovered, adding braising liquid if needed. If you think of it as similar to doing a pernil, it should be just fine. If you have a pork roast with skin on it, even better! Be sure to de-fat the liquids and use them as a sauce for the pork; also, be sure to let the pork rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes before slicing or pulling.
 
If you ask your friend for a block (or package) of achiote verde, he should be able to take care of you very well - the one I used (el Mexicano) was very good. After that, you can add some or all of the same spices that I added.
 
I personally would go with the lighter beer for this, because I would want something to work with the bold, spicy flavours rather than compete with them. I am sure that either would be fine, though! Beer
 
I used the bottle of naranja agria, but since you would have access to Seville oranges, I think it would be wonderful to use them here, both for marinating the pork for a few hours, and also for mixing the spices and achiote verde together into a paste.
 
The paprika I used (sweet, non-smoked Hungarian) was simply what I had at the time - yes, by all means, use smoked pimentón de La Vera ! Clap
 
Looking forward to seeing it ~ good luck!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2013 at 07:39
Tas,

This is exciting ... truly interested in preparing this on morning of 5th May ... 

Perñil method, understood ... 

Achiote verde, shall call Ventura this week, and enquire ... 

Seville oranges are sold in every farmers market throughout Spain literally ... we have quite a citrus produce variety here ... from Sevilla, the Levante provinces, Murcia and Almeria, Andalusian regions ... 

BLONDE MEXICAN BEER: sounds right ... shall see which varieties are available, and photograph, and the Vet or Ventura Rochas, our Mexican American dear friend can drive them over ... 

The beer acts as a wonderful tenderizer ... 

Your roast ( in photos )  looks like " melt in your mouth " ... 

I shall keep you updated ... I am very pleased with this choice for this occasion ... 

THANKS AGAIN,
Margi. 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2013 at 07:43
Sounds like you're on track for a very wonderful Cinco de Mayo feast.
 
The only other thing I can think of to mention is that we had a total of about 8 pounds of pork here (a little over 3.5kg), so the amounts of spices etc. assume a roast that large. 
 
Also, you want an internal temperature of around 190 to 195 degrees (F). The bone will twist easily out of the pork, and it will "pull" rather than slice - very tender, very good!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Logan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2013 at 10:19
Tas,

I joined the forum a few weeks ago.  This recipe and pernil were two of many that have tantalized on my taste buds.  Last week I bought 2 pork butts, on sale at Sam's Club.  I will be attempting to do both pernil and the Mayan Pork, Sunday on my vertical smoker.

My plan is to smoke them at 225 until they reach 195.  Then I will wrap them in foil and old towels and put them in an old cooler to rest.

Do you use any mop or spray?  Any last minute tips?

Thank you for this forum.  My wife and I love to try all kinds of foods.

Logan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2013 at 10:34
Hi, Logan - we're very glad that you joined, and look forward to traveling the world with you!
 
Your plan for smoking them sounds good; you can use any wood you want, but I am guessing that hickory or oak might give the most "traditional" taste. Me personally, I think apple might be really good! The only suggesiton I have where this is concerned might be to boost the heat up a little (maybe to 250) during the last hour or two, in order to develop a good bark on the meat and get some of that caramelisation action going, which really adds to the flavour. Having said that, you know your smoker and method better than I do, so do what works for you. Thumbs Up
 
As for mops or sprays, I didn't use any, the first time - relying on the rendered fat to baste - but you sure can, if you'd like, for both this and the pernil. What I would recommend - in order to keep the Mexican/Caribbean theme intact - is simply orange juice (or the leftover naranja agria marinade) with a little bit of olive oil in it, OR orange juice plus plenty of basting with the drippings and the rendered fat.  Maybe use a pastry brush to spread the drippings and fat around, then give a little spray of orange juice or leftover naranja agria. I always have a little bit of a fat component in my mops or bastes (in this case, the olive oil or drippings); the fat adds to the basting/browning action and turns out a very good bark as well as deep, roasty flavour for meat. The sugars in the orange juice will cause some darkening, but nothing terrible, and it will taste fine as fine can be while sticking with the theme.
 
I tend to go the long way about explaining things, so if any of that is unclear, don't hesitate to say so. Any other questions, be sure to let me know, and I'll be happy to attempt an answer.
 
Well now, after all of this talk about this Aztec-style pork, I've got the bug again. Cinco de Mayo falls on a weekend this year, so I might see about preparing this wonderful pork again on that date, serving it as carnitas much the same way that we did above. Since the el Mexicano achiote verde block is unavailable up here, I just placed an order on Amazon for a small supply of it a few moments ago:
 
 
Some changes I am considering:
  • I will definitely add the herbs and spices to boost the achiote, the same as I did before.
  • I may or may not leave out the paprika, since the red really affected the colour; but if I do use it, I'll use smoked paprika.
  • I will pulverise the chiles (if I use them) more with a food processor and incorporate them better into the final achiote paste. 
  • I will inject some naranaja agria into the pork, in order to infuse that wonderful citrus highlight into the very fibre of the meat.
  • Finally, I'll reserve half the achiote paste for later in the barbecue, "painting" it onto the roast an hour or two before the pork is finished for (hopefully) a more attractive end product. 
This really was a good way to prepare a different barbecued pork, and I highly recommend it. The changes I am considering above are as-yet un-tried, but should be good, if anyone wants to attempt them; either way, it's sure to be good eating!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 March 2013 at 11:12
Tas,

Muchas Gracías for all your wonderful advice and time taken. Cannot wait ... 

I believe the final step mentioned above, can be used as a Baste with the blonde Mexican beer and pan juices ... Am I correct ? Suggestions specifically would be most appreciated ... 

The final enquiry, is Injecting freshly squeezed Seville Orange juice !  How to´s ? 

The orange fragrance is sure to be dynamic ... 


Thanks in advance ...  
Margaux
Volamos a Mediterraneo, un paraiso que conquista su gente u su cocina.
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