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Menudo: A Holiday Delight

When the weather gets chilly, nothing beats menudo.

Ah, food, wonderful food.

I was sitting there, minding my own business, and quite suddenly and unexpectedly, I had a craving for preparing and consuming one of my favorite peasant stews: menudo. 

This time of year you’ve got to go back to your roots.

Many of our panaderias and restaurants sell prepared menudo to go on the weekends, but there is a certain joy in cooking this wonderful dish myself.

Often finding all the ingredients isn’t easy, but I knew the markets in Highland Park wouldn’t let me down.

This stew requires two, maybe three kinds of meat, hominy and a corn product. I like to add onions and garlic and and Mrs. O’Roscoe likes salsas and cilantro and lemon.

Shopping for Ingredients:

My first stop was Fresco Market. I’d seen most of the things I need there in the past. Alas, none of the meats were stocked that day, but they did have a purple variety of hominy I’d never tried before.

My next stop was Cali-Mex, at 6600 North Figueroa. Again, no luck with the meats, though. But they had a good selection of other meats, a large produce section and a very good selection of Latin American products and just plain groceries. They also had my favorite brand of tortilla, El Dorado. No preservatives or substances to give texture. Both of those ingredients, I think, give a funny taste and an unnatural texture.  Their yellow corn tortillas only contain water, corn and lime. 

I figured that Super A  might have what I was looking for, but on the way I saw Chicos & Chicas Market, at 5941 York Blvd, a Salvadorian/Mexican food and products market. They had a good looking meat department, but not the meats I was looking for.  But they did have all kinds of spices and products from El Salvador that make going back worthy of the trip.

Then I wandered over to Guerrero Market, at the corner of Ave 56 and York Boulevard. The first thing I saw was a pile of 40 pound bags of mesquite charcoal. Now, you brothers and sisters of the broiler should know that mesquite is a wonderful way of cooking outside. And slow cooking outside in cool weather is a great experience.

Often, just inside the door,  Guerrero Market has a display of cherimoya!  A friend tells me that they are called custard apples in Australia.  Mark Twain called them "the most delicious fruit known to men." One of the most amazing tastes and textures you will find in any food. Pick one up and see. I like to let them get very ripe and the skin dark, but not black, when the inside feels and tastes of custard, but that might just be me. Remember, don’t eat the seeds.

While Guerrero Market is on the small size, they have a wonderful produce section, all kinds of greens and veggies and lots of fruit, such as multiple kinds of papaya and mangos. They have Diana Tortillas, another brand of simple natural tortilla goodness.

Their meat case is smaller than my other stops, but has lots of good cuts and variety meats. They had a case of chicharrón con carne; some call them pork cracklins, or fried port belly, one of those amazing foods that satisfy and then overwhelm. I love it.

And then, there, were the meats I was looking for. A couple pounds of this, another pound of that, a beef trotter, a couple of pounds of chicharron for a treat, and off to home I went for a glorious afternoon of cooking and munching.

The meal was wonderful, the hominy was purple and firm, and the leftovers the next day were exquisite.

Email me and I’ll send you the recipe. I’ve got another one using beans instead of hominy. Yum.

Making My Case for Tripe

Now, if you’ve read this far, I don’t have to tell you what menudo is. It is made from a couple of the stomachs of the cow. Or of the boy cows as well.

A question: We call the altered boy cows steers, the man cows bulls, and the woman cows cows, but what is the name of the animal? Bovine is Latin. I’ve heard cattle used for farm animals in general.

Just asking.

Throughout the last few tens of thousands of years, meat was precious. The result of a difficult hunt, or months or years of raising the animal. So when we got meat, we used every part of the animal. And being who we are, we found ways for making some parts very delicious. And most of the world has ways of making tripe delicious.

Relatively recently, somewhere along the line, we Americans got precious, and we find the making of these wonderful recipes from these wonderful other parts of meat yucky. It is very sad to me that so many people separate themselves from the cultures of food of their ancestors, and the cultures around us.

Allow me to encourage you to go out there and eat, and eat our history of the world.

Who are your favorite menudo purveyors?  Bakeries? Tamale vendors?

Leave a comment below. Or, email me and you’ll find it here in the future.

And please, if you’ve been to a shop, or a restaurant, or a stand, leave a review for that place here at Patch. Then we will all get to know new places to eat and shop.

Frank Mackey December 17, 2012 at 11:49 PM
It's the Pho of the south. Or as I call it, "the breakfast Pozole". I'm not a huge fan of it but the best I have ever eaten was from Dona Rosa on Arroyo Parkway. El Cholo's rotating super chef was there that day and let me sample it, a very "clean" brew. I think all the bone chunks is what turns people off to it (like Salvadorian tamales, what's up with that? Chicken bones shards, olive pits, gravel, seashells, etc). The usual local spots over the years have been La Fuente, La Abeja (way back in the day) and a few others. I won't buy it but if it is available I'll eat it.
David Fonseca (Editor) December 18, 2012 at 05:09 PM
David -- how do you feel about "bonus chunks" in your menudo?
David O'Roscoe December 19, 2012 at 06:55 PM
My first reaction to bone chunks was "what the hell?!" But it is all perception, right? I ate some of the menudo I had in the fridge, and what did I find? Bone Chunks!!! Here is the story. When you use a trotter, you can cook it whole, or you can ask the guy to cut it up. It does cook faster, and easier to eat. But some of the bones get cut to chunks! I like them, the taste, the discovery, the sucking of the marrow. But I guess I do see them as a bonus, not a minus, and they didn't register as a negative. Menudo is a food that doesn't let you deny being a carnivore.

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