Tuesday, May 13, 2008
On Fire, part two: Supermarket Beef
Now that the temperature outside is beginning to become meaningful, it is time to share with you another benefit of living in La Paz.
for the price of the meat alone, there are three supermarkets here in town that will barbeque your purchase while you wait.
The supermercado Aramburo at the corner of Madero and Hidalgo and both Centro Comercial de California have enormous barbeque grills hot and ready for you. Yes, we all know about the hunt and the kill and the primordial urge to roast flesh over glowing embers, but the convenience of it all makes for an irresistable pause. And what you are buying from the supermarket carnecerias is usually Sonora beef.
Sonora beef comes in several grades, but the ones we usually see are "clasificado" and "de campo." Carne de campo is apparently range fed beef. I suppose it is equivalent to grass fed but you do not see much grass for pasture in the desert. It costs about 25% less than "carne clasificada" and usually has a very distinctive flavor that I find acceptable, but many locals detest. Even if Diane ate meat, she would not eat it. The same grassy flavor that is in the local cheeses comes through in the meat.
Sonoran cuts have local names. The most popular cuts are those that need to be cooked for a long time and that are typically used in carne asada. Carne asada usually means diesmillo sin hueso which is boneless chuck ... the fattier the better. Ribs or costillas are also preferred for carne asadas. The fats drip onto the mesquite charcoal causing it to flare and smoke giving the meat a distinctive flavor that can be very delicious. Since Sonorans typically like their meat extremely well done the flavors of more delicately cooked cuts of meat as T-bone, sirloin, rib and filet mignon are not considered. I have brought these to carne asadas and the treatment is always the same ... cook them to the point where it does not matter. In fact, at that point, only fatty sirloin and rib approach the flavor of the diesmillo. New York cuts become too tough to eat.
In the same tradition, carniceros usually cut the meat very thin often less than a centimeter. If buying "finer cuts," you will need to insist on a greater thickness if the idea is a juicy inch thick charcoal broiled steak. If you are going to eat it with others, it is best to tend your cut yourself. Most Sonorans will not eat beef that is even slightly pink on the inside. The curious result is that us carnivores who love thick juicy cuts like T-bone (porterhouse is included here in Mexico), sirloin. New York, rib and filet mignon are in heaven. These cuts are less preferred here and often cost very little more than chuck and what I would call the stew meat cuts. On the other hand if you are accustomed to buying chuck and ribs because they are cheap in the U.S., you will probably not be happy with their prices here. I believe safeway still often puts beef ribs on special for less than a dollar a pound. That would be about 18 pesos per kilogram ... not a chance here.
Beef roasts are not popular here so do not expect to find pre cut rib, round, sirloin, or chuck roasts in the supermarket. If you want a cut for roasting, you will have to make it clear that you want a sizable chunk of meat. Ground beef or "carne molida" can be requested at the carneceria. Just choose your beef and ask for it to be ground (moler). The best choice is pulpa (round) if you want it fat free and believe me that is what you will get ... pure red meat. If you need some fat, ask for it to be added or choose sirloin or diesmillo.
blanda - tender
carne - beef
carne classificada - classified or selected beef.
carne de campo - unclassified beef.
carne molida - ground beef (specify quality)
carne para cocer - stew beef
costillas - ribs
delgado - thin
diesmillo - chuck
diesmillo sin hueso - boneless chuck
filete - filet mignon
grasa - fat
grueso - thick
higado - liver
hueso (way-soh) - chuck
kilo - kilogram
nueva york - new york cut
palomillo - sirloin
pulgada - an inch (3 centimeters)
pulpa - round
riñón - kidney
rib - rib
t-bone - t bone or porterhouse
tripas - intestines (tripe)
- The Bread Guy
- La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
- Before gaining control of my life, I created pastries for some cool places in California: San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, Brix Restaurant in Napa and The Lodge in Sonoma. Now I am the chef/owner of Pan D' Les bakery in La Paz. My personal favorite is the Multigrano loaf, full of crunchy seeds and a nice chewy crust.