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They gave us whole bags of tortillas from Santa Rosa-based La Tortilla Factory at the IFBC cocktail party. But, after my first food blogger’s conference, I was itching to get back out to the farm and reconnect. In just a matter of a few weeks, all of the pears that were dangling from sagging tree branches were now gone, lest the few that had fallen to the ground and given the air a perfume of fermentation. What had ripened in that short time were the Brown Turkey figs. The purple coloring on the figs had started to creep upward and consume the green, ribbons of sugary syrup oozing out of cracks. The last few days in the Sacramento valley had ceased to punish us with triple degree weather. The delta breeze began to stir curtains and pour into open and screened windows, cooling the nights down to the point where I grabbed a light quilt from my closet. The mornings felt calm and the sky was tinged with brass, reminding you that autumn is just around the corner, but not before another heatwave. It felt like autumn just long enough to actify the gatherer within me and set me off onto the farm to pick figs. But, not before coffee and breakfast.
At the IFBC, there was a swag table where we could fill up our gratuitous bags adorned with a silkscreened ear of corn on the front. Confectionaries, whole grain granolas, dried figs, t-shirts, goat cheese, cans of Blue Diamond almonds, tortillas. Whole bags of La Tortilla Factory tortillas. La Tortilla 50/50 (have corn, half flour) Factory. I placed them on the cast iron placa until erratic charred spots formed, tore a piece off and pinched my chorizo and eggs into the torn piece of tortilla. The 50/50 were better than expected, with the texture and robust flavor of corn, but with the pliability of flour tortillas. Unfortunately, it took longer to cook than it took for me to eat and throw back a hot cup of cafe con leche. And I’d like to say I consumed my breakfast quickly so I could get out onto the farm sooner, but we both know that would be inaccurate.
This recipe contains the following term: Paysanne.
- 1# Ground Pork (with some fat)
- 1/4 cup garlic, roughly chopped
- 2TB onion, roughly chopped
- 2TB unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1TB paprika (not smoked)
- 1TB ground ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp ground cayenne
- 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground oregano
- Salt and Pepper
- 3 Eggs
- 2 Medium Russet Potatoes, sliced paysanne
- Splash of milk (optional)
- To make chorizo | In a bowl, mix the vinegar, onion, garlic, and all the spices.
- Place ground pork into a food processor and pulse three times. Add aromatic mixture into the ground pork and pulse until it resembles meat paste; should be 2-3 more pulses.
- You can use immediately, but letting it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour in a plastic covered bowl is recommended.
- To cook chorizo, eggs and potatoes | Place eggs and a splash of milk into a bowl, and whip with a fork until whites and yolks are combined. Set aside.
- Against all the things you've heard about consistent sizing when it comes to chopping, roughly chop your potatoes into irregular sizes. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, cut those pieces, skin facing up, into half lengthwise (should now have eight long wedges). Place two wedges side by side, skin facing up and slice into paysanne. Try to have some pieces thin and some a little thicker than thin.
- In a 10'' cast-iron skillet, over med-high heat, heat an inch of canola oil. Place one of your slices of potato in the skillet to see if the oil is hot enough; bubbles with form around the potato, it will sizzle, the potato will fry. Dump all of the potatoes into the hot oil, season with salt and pepper, ensuring that most make contact with the bottom of the pan to gain their crust; 3-5 mins. Flip potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. When the thicker potatoes are fork tender, remove from pan with slotted spoon and set aside. Remove oil from pan.
- In the same pan, add your chorizo; cook for 5 mins. When chorizo meat starts to separate from fat, add your potatoes and make sure chorizo coats the potatoes. Add your eggs. Cook until eggs have solidified; 3-5 mins.
- Try not to disturb mixture too much at this point because you want to keep the potatoes in large pieces.
- Remove pan from flame and set aside, while keeping it in the cast-iron skillet. Serve with tortillas.
The reason why I mention using Pumpkin Pie Spice is because it's an economical shortcut. If you don't use ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger and ground nutmeg all that often, it could lose its pungency by the time you get around to using it next. And you invested at least $10 in purchasing all of those spices.
I use Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice which contains cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and lemon peel. It's superior.
The insanity behind the irregular cutting of the potatoes lends itself in the texture. Some of the potatoes will turn into crispy bits and some will remain thoroughly cooked, but tender.
Storytelling is an art. Unfortunately, many people self-proclaim themselves as storytellers on many a Linkedin profile, but if you have to tell the world you’re a storyteller…you’re probably not a good one. The best storytellers don’t think you’re interested in their stories; they feel like they’re rambling and are often apologetic. But, who in the world wouldn’t want to listen to a person share their most intimate conversations they had with some of the culinary world’s most respected and illusive icons?
John Ash is a natural storyteller. He opened his restaurant in Sonoma County in 1980 and is allegedly the first restaurant to cook in the California Cuisine manner; seasonal, local, sustainable. I was able to be under his spell at this year’s IFBC conference in Sacramento. And since I have only just met him recently, I can’t say if he’s always been this way or the art had been honed over time. His stories about the time he spent with Julia Child and the stunningly natural beauty MKF Fisher – one of America’s most popular food writers – were enough to bring the wide of eyes of wonderment I feel like I’ve lost over the years for food. Julia Child had already passed by the time I entered the culinary industry professionally, so the next best thing is to stand next to someone who stood next to her.
John kept me engaged the entire time – a much harder thing to do lately – and I really could have listened to John speak for much longer than he did. I hope I’m honored enough to have a chance to be in his presence again. There are not many like John Ash left in the world.
Puerto Rican Paste Magazine | In 2005, my ex and I had broken up and I was forced to move out of our Mission apartment and seek housing elsewhere. I went on the longest series of roommate interviews, ever. Each and every time I stepped into the blur of claustrophobic rooms for rent, a white man was the interviewee. It wasn’t until a tiny dancehall lovin’ Filipino student from Long Beach interviewed me that I finally found a place to lay my head. I’ve been grateful to Christine ever since.
Why am I mentioning this? Because after pitching this essay – about Puerto Rican familial foundation – around for one-year, it seemed like it was doomed for the same destiny had it not finally fallen into the peripheral vision of the food editor at Paste Magazine. She got me. She got the essay. I’m eternally grateful to her.
It looks like I’ll be attending the International Food Blogger Conference next week in my hometown, Sacramento. Deeming themselves as the first ever conference for food bloggers, this conference “features high-quality educational sessions and personal networking opportunities.” Of course, their theme for the year is “farm to fork.” As Sacramento and the surrounding valley provides so much produce to the US, Northern California producing 82% of the world’s almonds. If I have to hear the “farm to fork” term one more time, I might become homicidal.
One of the workshops within the conference is focused on “Questions the FoodTech Industry is Asking and How Bloggers Can Answer.” Companies throughout Silicon Valley are asking: how can we change food for the better and disrupt some of the largest industries in the world? I never thought the world of tech, as I know it to be the “make the world a better place through gentrification” had a rightful place in the restaurant industry and this belief was confirmed during the Hapa Ramen, Nakato vs. Van Natta, fiasco.
Sacramento weather will be in it’s full summer glory, beaming down on those of us who will be attending the “pre-conference excursions.” It’s supposed to be 104°F on the day we set out for Capay Organic Farm. “Capay Organic is a second-generation, organic farm that got its start in the Coastal Ranges’ Capay Valley, 90 miles northeast of San Francisco. After more than 30 years of organic farming, Capay Organic grows more that 130 varieties of fruits and vegetables on 500 acres of certified organic land. The farm is now owned and operated by the second-generation farmers – Kathy and Martin’s sons – Noah, Thaddeus and Freeman. In keeping with their parents’ vision, the farm practices healthy crop rotation, encourages a diverse ecosystem around our fields, efficiently uses local water sources, and carefully selects produce varieties that grow well and taste great.”
All in all, I’m excited to attend my first ever food-related conference.
I’m not a morning person. When the East Bay Express’s Luke Tsai asked me if I was available for a tiny interview in the morning, I obliged. I tried not to stammer too much the next morning while he asked me questions about my little nothing in the apartment of a secret location where I’d be cooking. I was my usual self filled with sailor vernacular. My mother would not approve. The importance and the acumen for this Puerto Rican supperclub came across and the one and only other example of Puerto Rican food in the east bay was compared, “That’s what the guys at Borinquen Soul said,” when I mentioned the only place to get culantro was the Southeast Asian markets. I’m grateful for Luke’s phone call and his interest, truly. I’m thankful that anyone would grace me with their ear or presence, sit down at my table and eat my food. And pay for it! This isn’t coming from a place of “undervaluing” myself or having low self-esteem – a certain demographic keeps informing me that I embody both of these things – this is coming from humility and being humble. Maybe it’s a Latino thing. The world owes us nothing. And sometimes, even hard work doesn’t give you the break you think you deserve.
They started showing up after 5PM, Servsafe in eyeshot for everyone to see. It took no time for me to bring out their piña coladas, not on the menu, and little empanadas filled with picadillo and bacalaitos (codfish fritters). I was busy in the kitchen with final touches and deciphering course timing by the din of voices spilling out from the dining room; quiet means eating, laughter means a few more minutes before the next course. By the time everything came to an end, almost an hour and a half had passed. People spilled back out and I collapsed into a chair and woke up an hour later.
Over the next few days, I felt unfulfilled. Like, the whole thing was missing something. I had asked for feedback; genuine honesty and for diplomacy to be pushed aside. No one had anything to say but positive remarks. How often are people you’ve never met in your life going to be completely honest with you? Haha. The goal now is to get someone in the dining room that gives the feedback I need before I decide to take over the Mission space this autumn.
It took a while to convince people to come out to the east bay and pay to eat in a tiny hidden location. Eventually, both events had sold out. Hopefully the next ones do as well. I’m looking forward to doing a full blown Christmas Puerto Rican menu this December, complete with pasteles and pernil. The menu will evolve over time. While most of the menu now is very ancestral and from my heart – with the exception of the dessert – I’ll start to reveal a more cerebral menu that includes some of the dishes I’ve been working on where I merge the similar flavors of Southeast Asia, Mexico and Puerto Rico.