by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez / Monday, June 18, 2012
Nopales con Costillas de Puerco y Chile Rojo (Cactus Paddles w/ Pork Ribs & Red Chile)
I enjoy all of his stories, but of course, I always listen extra hard when he has a story about food or eating. That is in my nature.
Over the past month, it seems that we've both been craving nopales quite often. It's his fault. He mentioned it first. And I tagged along with the sympathy craving. Mostly we've been cooking the paddles on the grill. If it's already fired up, there's no better way.
I don't remember how it all began. Perhaps we were at the mercado. Or maybe somebody mentioned nopales. No, wait...I remember. I was looking through a Zarela Martinez cookbook. I guess there must have been a picture of a nopal turned up as hubby walked by. Yes. That's were the craving came from.
And the story that inspired this dish.
The whole family waiting expectantly to dig in when it was finished cooking. Hubby said he would always eat the nopales first. Because there were more of them. The little money they had to buy meat didn't always go far, so he'd save the carne for last. So he could end with meat and suck on the bones when everything was gone.
Now, I said that they ate it almost every weekend. The reason I say almost is because he remembers a weekend when they didn't eat it. When it didn't even get made, actually. Apparently one Saturday, mi suegro handed mi suegra 50 pesos. And then it was gone. He blamed the kids. He yelled and asked who took it. But they all swore that nobody had it. Apparently it went round and round this way for a while.
Until they heard the dog, Osso, smacking his lips. Somebody reached in his mouth and pulled out a little corner of a piece of paper. No. A corner of that 50 pesos. Apparently somebody must have had some grease or something sticky on their hands that smelled good to the dog when they were passing that money. And he must have licked it right up and into his mouth. And then into his stomach.
Mi suegra was so upset. At the loss of the money. At the bickering and blaming. At everything. So that weekend, the Nopales con Costillas de Puerco y Chile Rojo did not get made.
His mami used either a metate or a molino to grind, and we used a blender. Her tortillas were always made by hand, and one of us only does that 45% of the time. Or less. We eat a lot of tortillas. He remembered amounts by eyeing them. And then I weighed or measured them. And took note of cooking times and temperatures. I want to record these recipes that have been arond for generations for our kids.
Occasionally mi suegra would make this using arrachera (skirt steak) beause it is long and stretchy and she could cut it into a bunch of pieces...making it seem like more meat. So feel free to use steak in place of the pork in this dish. We also used the little costillas, the ones cut into small pieces. Hubby loves those. Surely uncut ribs would work just as well, if that's your preference.
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
- 5 medium-large nopales (cactus paddles)
- 2 Ancho chiles
- 3 Pasilla chiles
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- ~2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 1/2 pounds costillas de puerco (pork riblets)
- 1 lime
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1/2 bunch cilantro (small handful), roughly chopped
Michiana-based food, drink, and travel writer with a fondness for garlic, freshly baked bread, stinky cheese, single malt Scotch, and Mexican food—who believes that immersing herself in different cultures one bite at a time is the best path to enlightenment.