Monthly Archives: August 2013
Inocencio Carbajal becomes emotional as he shares a very personal story. In the late 70s, as a recent transplant from Uruapan, Michoacán, he had to make the decision to let go of his most precious possession- a medal of the Virgin of Guadalupe. “I asked Her to bless my choice,” says Inocencio, his eyes tearing up. “We bought our first piece of equipment with that money.”
Fast-forward four decades later, and Inocencio’s hardship has paid off. As we arrived at the Pilsen eatery, a long line of patrons had already assembled. Marcos Carbajal, Inocencio’s son, kindly invited us to tour the kitchen while we found a spot to talk.
The state of Michoacán in southwestern Mexico, is famous for its carnitas, one of Mexico’s favorite folk dishes. Usually cooked in large copper containers brought in from a specific neighboring town, it is not uncommon to find this treat also being prepared in large stainless steel pots. “In many villages, eating carnitas is a Sunday morning ritual,” said Marcos, who periodically visits family in Uruapan, his father’s birthplace. “People know to arrive early, as typically only one pig is prepared, and they gather to eat after church. Many of our customers still follow this custom, but we cook a fresh batch every two hours.”
Although he kept in his heart the desire to go back to Michoacán at some point, Inocencio’s family and his growing business kept him in Pilsen. “All of a sudden, Marcos was ready to go to college, and I was happy that he had the opportunity,” said Inocencio. For Marcos, the word “pigskin” is not merely a seasonal one- with a degree in Economics from the University of Michigan, and thinking of helping his dad, Marcos left his corporate job to work in the restaurant full time, while also pursuing a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship from Northwestern University.
Although Inocencio has not returned to Uruapan, he has brought Uruapan to Chicago with him. The path he chose was not easy but, he says smiling, “I would do it all over again”.
His eatery’s menu is perfectly simple, with many well-achieved crowd pleasers. From mouthwatering pork carnitas, to menudo, chicharrón en salsa de tomate ( chicharrón in tomato sauce, of which I took a big container home), cacti salad and even quesadillas de sesos (brain-stuffed quesadillas), this place is the real deal. In fact, the cueritos I tried here are the best I have ever had in both, texture and flavor.
Carnitas Uruapan did not disappoint. My stomach was full and happy, and after talking to Inocencio and Marcos, my heart was too.
1725 W 18th St Chicago, IL 60608
Claim your free carnitas taco with your to go order and and free order of chicharrón if you check-in on Facebook.
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If you have the good fortune to be in Mexico late in the fall, you will likely find chiles en nogada appear on many menus. Literally “peppers in walnut sauce”, this seasonal delicacy attributed to the state of Puebla, was served for the first time in the 19th century to celebrate Mexico’s independence from Spain.
Part prayer, part recipe, the story tells that Augustine nuns from Atlixco, Puebla improvised this dish in honor of Mexican caudillo* (and later Mexico´s first emperor) Agustín de Yturbide, who made a stop in Puebla on his way to Mexico City after signing a document in Veracruz establishing Mexico´s independence. Fittingly, green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag, are represented on the plate.
Part warrior, part angel, chiles en nogada calls for poblano peppers to be stuffed with a mixture of meat and fruits, which allows for a variety of textures in every bite. To top it off, the walnut sauce is very light and deliciously accented with pomegranate, available in central Mexico through mid September.
Part indigenous, part Spanish, this plate is all Mexico, and the edible equivalent to CliffsNotes on this country’s dichotomies both in personality and history.
Do not pass up the opportunity to try it.
Belisario Domínguez 70, Mexico City
Blvd. Manuel Ávila Camacho 1515, Cd. Satélite, Edo. de México
46 E Superior St
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To beat this summer heat with a unique Mexican version of ice cream, our friend and contributor chef Aldo Saavedra, shared with us a recipe to make a delicious mezcal and sesame seed treat.
Just like tequila, mezcal is made from agave. This smokey-flavored artisanal drink is slowly becoming popular as another Mexican contribution to gastronomy worldwide.
Ice Cream Base
This is the foundation for any ice cream, and it can be used to create any other flavor. The sky is the limit! It is all up to your imagination.
- 2/3 cup of sugar
- 10 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups of whole milk
Mezcal and Sesame Seed
- 7 tbsp of your favorite mezcal
- 2 cups of toasted sesame seeds
- 2 cups of semisweet chocolate (in chunks)
- Boil the milk along with the cream and mezcal in a pot.
- In a separate container, whip the egg yolks with the sugar until fluffy.
- Once your milk mixture has reached the boiling point, add half of the volume to the whipped egg yolks, and continue to whip until the yolks and the mix are incorporated.
- Add the whipped egg yolks to the pot on the stove and stir with a wooden spoon on low heat until the mix thickens.
5. You will know it is time to remove your mix from the stove, once you are able to draw a finger on the wooden spoon without it dripping. Remove and let the mix cool over ice.
6. Once cold, put the mix in a blender with the sesame seed and blend. Strain.
7. Transfer the strained mixture into a container and place in the freezer. Stir about every 10 minutes until it reaches the desired consistency.
8. Add the chocolate and mix.
You can store your ice cream in plastic containers in the freezer. Enjoy!
Mexican Chef Aldo Saavedra regularly shares with La Vitamina T’s readers his passion for his country and for Mexican cuisine as a cultural expression. Chef Saavedra has been part of the team in charge of delighting guests at a variety of reputable establishments, including Hotel Condesa D.F. He has also partnered in projects with global brands such as Larousse and Danone.