Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cascarones time is blanquillos time.

Michael Sedano

La Chickenada were complaining loudly as I stepped into the jaula. Buff Orpington had fouled the water but steadfastly refused to admit it, much less apologize for the green-white lump that sat in the trough. The three Barred Rock had their own beef over which had produced the ideal shaped egg for cascarones.

The Ameraucana cackled hers were inherently superior for two reasons. First, shape. Her tight oval and thick shell made cracking the end neat and easy. Second, color. The green shell requires no additional work to look resplendent in the cascarones basket.

Buffy scoffed. “You don’t even know what ‘resplendent’ means. Beside, with my nearly uniform oval it makes no difference what end the cascaron maker chooses to open. And the soft pink makes coloring superfluous, but if dyed, gives a richness to the hue impossible with the brown shells of the Barreds.” The Barred Rocks protested in unison and loudly vigorously that productivity counted more than shape or color, and beside…

I gathered the daily take and left La Chickenada to their never-ending debate. Each made a good point, it is cascarones time and each blanquillo comes with its particular benefit. Blanquillo. My grandmother was teaching me about chickens and eggs when she pointed out that “huevo” is what little boys and men carry around and not to be confused with blanquillos, which is what hens produce.

Easter Sunday is traditionally boiled egg gathering time. It’s also cascarones time. My flock keeps my refrigerator filled with blanquillos. It’s a simple process to crack open blanquillos and reserve them for the annual confetti fill. With Easter hard upon us, it’s still not too late to make up a supply. Plan a menu heavy with eggs--flan, custard pie, cheese soufflé, omelettes, and chiles rellenos—and in no time at all you’re ready to make a goodly supply of cascarones, if you dry the shells in a warm oven.

In honor of cascarones season, here are two recipes. First, cascarones. Second, gluten free chiles rellenos.1. Gather your eggs. When you open a blanquillo, use the edge of a knife and crack the narrow end with sharp blows. Remove the end and pour out the whole egg, poach or cook que se salen. (That's my granma's word for "over medium". So this cook at a buffet in el Defie asks me how I want my egs, I say "que se salen" and he gives me a blank stare. "Over medium" I say in English, and he does so.) If you wish, poke a hole in one end first, then poke a hole in the other end. Blow out the contents and cook scrambled. Rinse the shell and let dry.

2. Use wax crayon to draw designs on the dried egg shell. Dye the shells and allow to dry thoroughly. You can dry them in the oven for an hour at 200 degrees. All year, I used to save the punchholes from a paper puncher. I also buy colored paper confetti at party stores. Do not use the plastic or aluminum confetti, unless you want to put out eyes.

3. When your spring fling arrives, crack cascarones on cocos. Careful in intercultural settings. When my kidlet was tiny she cracked one on her friend's head. The friend, being anglo, didn't understand the ritual and slugged my daughter.

4. Sweep up the mess.

People with gluten intolerance or worse, Celiac disease, cannot eat wheat, barley, or rye. Tortillas de harina. Out. Beer. Out. Cakes, cookies, pizza. Out, out, out of one's diet. Eating in restaurants becomes a serious problem, and fast-food joints are basically off-limits owing to contamination and the staff's lack of training on what's in their food and what "GF," gluten free, means. Peor, most analogs to wheat foods truly suck out loud. Gluten free beer is such a disappointment when one has enjoyed rich malty lagers and ales prior to discovering the condition. Lastima, you GF gente. Yo también.

But there's hope. Here, for example, is a completely successful rice-based batter for chiles rellenos. Over at Cook! Raza, I'll be including GF recipes like the one below.

GF chiles rellenos
Fresh or frozen rajas de good chiles, or whole chiles. The ones in cans work, too.
GF flour or rice flour.
Fresh egg.
Good melting cheese; jack, Oaxaca, mozzarella, cotija (very salty, not a great melter, so be careful). Cut into ½” rectangles the length of the chiles.
Chile powder, Gebhardt’s is an excellent commercial blend.
Baking soda. Salt.
Beat egg with milk. Add a pinch sal and two of baking soda.
Sprinkle flour over egg and whip to beat air into mixture. Make batter that slowly falls off a spoon.
Let sit for 10 or 15 minutes. (This is a key step using rice flour).

Dowse rajas/chiles in dry flour.
Stuff the chiles with cheese.
Dip floured chiles into batter. Let them sit, then dip again just prior to frying.

Heat good olive oil to smoking hot.
Slide stuffed battered chiles into oil. Use a spatula or perforated flat wok utensil.
Cook until fluffy and browned.
Turn and cook.
Remove from pan, place on newspaper or towels to absorb excess oil.
Serve with conventional side dishes. Cry in your GF bironga.

Happy St. Paddy's day yesterday. Comida de cuaresma time, so enjoy your nopales and tortas de camarron, and make up a bunch of chiles rellenos. Provecho!

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See you next week with a review of Alicia Gaspar de Alba's Calligraphy of the Witch.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was wonderful. It brought back a lot of memories. My family didn't make cascarones. I had to wait until I was in college in the Chicano theme house to learn about them. Then I taught the cub scouts when I was their leader. What fun!

Comida de cuaresma ... my uncle called me last week to ask me how to make capirotada. I told him over the phone and the next day he called to say it turned out very delicious! Good for him. I didn't make it this year.