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Merquén

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gracoman View Drop Down
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    Posted: 09 October 2016 at 18:35
Merquén or merkén is a centuries old traditional seasoning used by the native Mapuches in the Araucanía Region of Chile. This condiment is made of dried goats horn pepper (cacho de cabra) which is dried, smoked and ground together with salt, coriander seed and sometimes cumin or oregano. Merquén is a seemingly all purpose blend that adds a wonderful smokiness with a bit of heat to everything it is added to.

Goats horn chile peppers are illegal to import into the US so American spice shops are forced to contrive approximations of the flavor profile by generally adding smoked paprika to the mix. It is not illegal to grow goats horn peppers here.

I accidentally discovered merquén while searching for a good way to grill rack of lamb.  I’ve never much cared for the strong flavor of lamb but every now and then I give it a shot to see if perhaps my tastes have changed.  I saw a recipe for hot smoked merquén spiced rack of lamb and decided this might be a good compromise as the described spicy, smokey blend might just work.

I began by ordering the real thing imported from Chile with one small bottle which I used on the rack of lamb.

Merquén spiced rack of lamb catching a bit of smoke before the sear


Resting for 20 minutes


Sliced


The lamb was a success.  I actually enjoyed this.  I liked what the merquén did for the lamb so much I ordered another small bottle.  Then I got serious.


I can see this stuff working with all sorts of dishes.  Soups and stews immediately come to mind.

So I tried the famous Chacarero.  A Chilean steak sandwich with the seemingly strange addition of green beans.

First marinate skirt or flank steak (I used skirt) for a few hours in a mix of orange and lime juices, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and a good deal of merquén for a few hours.


Pull the meat and dry with paper towels before dusting with more merquén


Let the meat warm and grab a bit of smoke while waiting for searing temps.  The reverse sear is a favorite method of mine and many others.


While that is going on, mix some merquén spiced dipping sauce/spread/all purpose sauce.  This stuff is a keeper.  The ingredients: merquén, mayo, roasted red peppers, garlic, cream cheese, salt and pepper combined in a food processor making a flavorful spicy, smokey, simply wonderful sauce.


Let the grilled steak rest before slicing against the grain into long strips


To build your Chacarero first we make toasted garlic bread of French bread.  Then Guacamole. 

From the ground up we begin with the garlic bread bottom.  Slather with guacamole, then sliced tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion.  Now add the sliced grilled spiced skirt steak and cover with melty cheese.  I used Muenster.  Now cover the cheese with green beans and top with the other half of the toasted garlic bread after a good dollop of merquén spiced dipping sauce has been added.

The Chacarero


These are very good.  The green beans work merquén is a keeper


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2016 at 02:36
Very interesting G-man
This stuff could be a new secret ingredient for chili, for your basic rub, or whatever.
Just curious ....what was your opinion on the green beans in the sandwich? I meaan..you stated that they worked, did it add texture, or what? I'm sure the spice was the main flavor...just curious.

Now see what you've done? I'm off to my spice vendor's list LOLBig smile

Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2016 at 07:20
That does sound like an interesting spice mix. And it’s surprisingly available, at a wide range of prices. Among the sources:

Savory Spice Shop: http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/spice-blends/mapuche-style-merken-seasoning-merquen-.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Etnia-Chilean-Merquen-Smoked-Corked/dp/B00T4G1LVI/ref=pd_lpo_325_bs_lp_tr_t_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=AZP4GZB544YAATYX64AG

Tu Chile Aqui: http://www.tuchileaqui.com/nsearch.html?section=&query=merken&searchsubmit=Search&vwcatalog=yhst-62086439978846

Tu Chile Aqui undoubtedly has the best prices. But caution: There’s a ten buck shipping charge on any sized order. So, unless you’re buying other things from them, it’s not cost effective.

Seems to me, though, it would be an easy mixture to replicate at home.


But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2016 at 07:39
Originally posted by Hoser Hoser wrote:

Very interesting G-man
This stuff could be a new secret ingredient for chili, for your basic rub, or whatever.
Just curious ....what was your opinion on the green beans in the sandwich? I meaan..you stated that they worked, did it add texture, or what? I'm sure the spice was the main flavor...just curious.

Now see what you've done? I'm off to my spice vendor's list LOLBig smile

The brand that I bought benefits from a run through your home spice grinder to make it more of a powder than flakes.  There is only one distributor of Chilean merquén. etrina which packages it under at least one other brand name for the 70 or so Mapuche families that have come together to produce it.  From what I have read, the merquén found in Chile is more of a powder than flake and is only combines with ground toasted coriander seed and sometimes salt but no cumin as is in etrina's commercial blend.

etrina's blend is not as spicy hot as one would imagine.  It has some heat, yes, but its the overall smokiness that is most prevalent characteristic.  My first whiff from my first bottle was all smoke.  Much more so than smoked paprika.  And certainly spicier. 

As for the green beans, i used frozen French style because that's what I had on hand.  A julienne cut.  I think this sandwich would  benefit from whole green beans, lightly steamed, for a bit of crunch. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2016 at 07:57
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

That does sound like an interesting spice mix. And it’s surprisingly available, at a wide range of prices. Among the sources:

Savory Spice Shop: http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/spice-blends/mapuche-style-merken-seasoning-merquen-.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Etnia-Chilean-Merquen-Smoked-Corked/dp/B00T4G1LVI/ref=pd_lpo_325_bs_lp_tr_t_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=AZP4GZB544YAATYX64AG

Tu Chile Aqui: http://www.tuchileaqui.com/nsearch.html?section=&query=merken&searchsubmit=Search&vwcatalog=yhst-62086439978846

Tu Chile Aqui undoubtedly has the best prices. But caution: There’s a ten buck shipping charge on any sized order. So, unless you’re buying other things from them, it’s not cost effective.

Seems to me, though, it would be an easy mixture to replicate at home.




As stated above, etrina controls the whole shootin match if you want the semi real deal. 

The Spice Shop site is where I found the recipe for the dipping sauce/general purpose sauce.  This alone makes the purchase of merquén a smart move.  Many folks like to use sriracha mayo for an added bit of spicy flavor to sandwiches but the dipping sauce blows sriracha mayo out of the water.

According to the Spice Shop, goats horn chiles are illegal to import into the US but you can certainly grow them here and make your own merquén should you have the time and opportunity.  Drying and smoking the chilies are the limiting factor here but it certainly can be done.

I have read that a combination of merquén, brown sugar, salt, and garlic powder make a good pork rub.  I haven't tried it yet but its in my future.

I can absolutely see this stuff going well in any chili.  I usually smoke a brisket chili for chili because I love the smokey flavor.  etrina Merquén may be a bit pricey to load up a large pot though.  Doesn't mean I wont try it.

I can also see merquén adding a bit of pizazz to Ron's posted potato-bacon chowder.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2016 at 03:53
I don't know if you guys have amazon Prime or not, but the shipping is free, so $8.95 is your total cost. Two day shipping.

Just ordered myself...decided to go with the 10.5 ounce jar for $28.95. Seems like the best deal out there.

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: 11 October 2016 at 10:36
It looks absolutely incredible, and the description sounds like a small-yet-wonderful corner of heaven. Lamb is a bit out of reach here, unless one is willing to pay prices that make a highway robber blush, but I can certainly imagine this on beef and venison, with beautiful results. Adding a bit to the Bacon Potato Chowder sounds like a great idea, too ~

Interesting that the traditional peppers are illegal to import, yet legal to grow; peppers don't do well at all up here - at least in my garden - but for someone in a similar climate, this might be a worthy project!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2016 at 15:25
sounds like a small-yet-wonderful corner of heaven

Not in your household, Ron.

Goat Horn (AKA Bahamian Goat) is related to habeneros, and, generally, scores incredibly high in SHUs.

But if you must, seed is readily available in the U.S. from several suppliers.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 October 2016 at 15:29
Well, The Beautiful Mrs. Tas might have to watch me try this one from the sidelines. I am having visions of beef ribs with this seasoning, with the addition of a bit of the sauce.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 October 2016 at 11:30
Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

Well, The Beautiful Mrs. Tas might have to watch me try this one from the sidelines. I am having visions of beef ribs with this seasoning, with the addition of a bit of the sauce.
Tas, merquén has a good amount of heat right out of the jar but it isn't as spicy as one might think when used at appropriate amounts.  For example, the excellent dipping sauce recipe posted on the Savory Spice Shop site calls for 1 tablespoon of merquén.  I used two and, for me, it had more of what I was looking for.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 October 2016 at 14:56
If I do get some, I'll have to play with it a bit and see what works. I lean toward "middle-of-the-road" spicy, but for Poor Mrs. Tas, even a quarter teaspoon of added cayenne in a pot of chili often seems to be too much. She's getting a LITTLE better, but oh, too slowly ~
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 October 2016 at 20:57
Ron, I played with your bacon-potato chowder a bit.  I triple or quadrupled the recipe, lightened it up quite a bit and added more veggies and a half pound of mushrooms.  I added one tablespoon of merquén and it changed the whole thing around.  It is a delightful addition.  Smokey with a hint of spice.  Not overpowering at all.

Merquén spiced bacon-potato-vegetable chowder with Italian seasoned croutons


I like added spice so I garnished a bit more merquén.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 October 2016 at 08:28
Looks great to me ~ I'm guessing that the milk and cream toned the merquén down to just the right level, leaving behind a ton of flavor.

Beautiful photos!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 October 2016 at 03:17
Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

If I do get some, I'll have to play with it a bit and see what works. I lean toward "middle-of-the-road" spicy, but for Poor Mrs. Tas, even a quarter teaspoon of added cayenne in a pot of chili often seems to be too much. She's getting a LITTLE better, but oh, too slowly ~

I'd think twice before ordering Ron...like Brook said. Now you know me....I'm a certifiable chili head, my merquen came in yesterday, so I opened it...took a bit on my finger and tasted it and it really lit me up! Wonderful smoky flavor, but I think this is waaaay out of your missus' comfort range. I got the big container Ron...if you'd like I'll send you an envelope with a good size sample in it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 October 2016 at 08:34
Dave, if you wouldn't mind, I would most definitely like to grab a sample of some merquén. Its unique properties intrigue me.

Thank you, my friend!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 October 2016 at 04:06
Consider it done!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 October 2016 at 19:04
Originally posted by TasunkaWitko TasunkaWitko wrote:

If I do get some, I'll have to play with it a bit and see what works. I lean toward "middle-of-the-road" spicy, but for Poor Mrs. Tas, even a quarter teaspoon of added cayenne in a pot of chili often seems to be too much. She's getting a LITTLE better, but oh, too slowly ~
I have outfitted quite a few trips for handpicked newbies into the backwoods.  Mountaineering as well as mtn biking through the desert. These trips would last 3 to 5 days and cooking was always a big part of that.  Backpacking at altitude restricted most meals to caloric content but desert mountain biking with sag wagons to haul gear, food, and water was a different experience altogether.  The number one rule when cooking for people in the outback is NO SPICY FOODS ON THE MENU.  So I understand the no spicy people.

But to be able to even detect 1/4 tsp of cayenne in an entire pot of chili blows me away.  I wish my pallet were that sensitive.  Part of it is age and part of it is a tolerance built up over the years.  This tolerance can be built and lost.  Much like fitness. 

Merquén has good heat right out of the bottle but when used as a flavoring, a seasoning, it is very different.  At least in my estimation. 

Be careful with this Ron.  I have no experience with such sensitivity and can offer no advice other than that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 October 2016 at 19:40
gMan - between you and me ...

(Ron looks back over his shoulder, then returns to his keyboard....)

She's definitely very sensitive to spicy-hot food, but I'm pretty sure that - in that particular instance - if she wouldn't have known it was there, it wouldn't have affected her quite so badly.

Shocked
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2016 at 11:30
I've been terribly remiss in that I neglected to post an update here about this....

I received a healthy sample of Merquén late last week (thanks, Dave!), and I am happy to report that I am a very enthusiastic convert!

This stuff has the aroma! This stuff has the flavor!

This stuff definitely has some heat, too! I took a small "finger-tip sample," and yep - it's hot! But it wasn't quite as hot as I thought it would be, and the heat was, for lack of a better word, very "complimentary" to the smoky aroma and flavor. I was very impressed.

The next day, I had the chance to dust a little of this on some roasted chicken and squash. I used a small amount, and invited the family to try a bit, too. The kids did, but the Beautiful Mrs. Tas declined. All who tried it were similarly impressed, and I have a feeling that it won't be long before I'm ordering a supply of this, as well.

This really is something special, and I like it!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 November 2016 at 11:38
Another update regarding this beautiful, flavourful spice -

I am one of those who occasionally enjoys pork rinds (also known as chicharrónes) as a snack. Most often, I get the ones that are dusted with a rather spicy seasoning; however, occasionally The Beautiful Mrs. Tas buys the plain, un-flavoured ones.

Such was the case not long ago; I am not a fan of this variety, so I normally drizzle a little Tabasco, Texas Pete or other "hot sauce" on them. This time, however, I mixed a little merquén in with some home-made cream cheese and tried it as a dip.

Delicious! The spice and the smoke, along with the actual flavor of the peppers themselves, blended very well into the cream cheese, producing something that I really found spectacular.

Just a little more to love with this stuff - thanks to gMan and Dave for introducing it to me!
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