Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Antepenultimate Tuesdays In Octobers

Michael Sedano, The Gluten-free Chicano

California's on-again, off-again Fall hits with a vengeance like clockwork every October. That was true back on October's antepenultimate Tuesday in 2016, and, with global warming, I hope it's not truer this year, the vengeance part. 

Here, in Pasadena, most people put on a sweater or sweatshirt until the sun burns through the overcast, then it's afternoons of playeras and chanclas. Coverup again around sundown, when it's time for a hearty dinner. Something savory, not heavy, good for you. And, of course, gluten-free.

A savory fish soup is just what the calendar and el tiempo and el clima and El Gluten-free Chicano call for. Here's an updated recipe for Caldo de Pescado from October 11, 2016. Back then, el Gluten-free Chicas Patas enjoyed Frito Lascano's annual La Pelada and stocked-up on roasted rajas. Social isolation put the kibosh on peladas. Hatch chiles, however, have found a niche in local grocery stores. Truth be told, any "large green chile" will be just right. Some people, and restaurants, serve a bell pepper-only caldo.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks 
Caldo de Pescado: Naturally Gluten-free

Skies darken earlier as Fall wanes into Winter, and with dropping temperatures, a steaming bowl of caldo de pescado hits all the right spots for dinner or lunch. In fact, if you make a big pot, you can have dinner and lunch, maybe even breakfast of this richly seasoned hearty preparation. 

Red potatoes 
Garlic - 3 dientes 
Bell pepper
Hatch chile
Helotes or corn kernels 
Canned tomatoes 
Tomato juice
Frozen cod filets 
Cilantro, Salt, pepper, powdered coriander, bay leaves, olive oil, water. 

My kitchen stocks these ingredients in partially used quantities. I had the nub end of a celery, half a cabbage, most of a big red onion, and half a red bell pepper. I used another whole bell pepper because half isn't enough. 

The Gluten-free Chicano seeks value and finds it in bulk frozen cod at the grocer. One filet per person, let it defrost for a couple hours until soft enough to cut into spoon-size chunks. A partially-frozen filet slices into easily spooned cubes.

I like the cabbage cocido style, so slice half a head into four wedges. 

If using fresh corn, clean and break in half. For this preparation I had a jar of Niblets Corn (half a can) in the icebox and used that to good advantage. 

Get an edge on your knife with a steel, then carefully chop everything except the cabbage into spoon-size pieces. 

Add the root of the celery, the top of carrots, the tops of bell peppers. After cooking their flavor into the broth, pull them out and feed to the hens. La Chickenada loves them.
Pour a scant helping of olive oil into your soup pot and get it hot. 

Add the chopped vegetables and cook on medium heat for a few minutes. 

Add the fish and stir it into the cooking vegetables. 

Add as much chopped Hatch rajas as you need, based upon the hotness of the flesh and your diners' palates. You want the soup to be lip-smacking picoso but not so much that those of a different palate won’t enjoy the meal. You can offer powdered cayenne or dried chilitos, along with the lemons and onions and cilantro as the standard condiments.
I had half a mason jar of whole peeled tomatoes, so I added them—the equivalent of 3/4 of a 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes. I rinsed the jar and added the water. 

Add a cup and a half of tomato juice then enough water to fill the pot ¾ full. The vegetables exude liquid, too, so leave room. 

Add the dry spices and cilantro. I didn't have fresh cilantro so used some dried coriander. Stir in three small bay leaves, scantly generous salt, several pinches of coarsely ground black peppercorns.
Place the cabbage and helotes on top, bring to a happy boil, then cover and lower the flame to small simmer. Leave it on the fire for an hour or until the cabbage is soft enough to pierce easily with a fork. 

As this caldo slowly simmers your entire home fills with the aroma of puro love. Preparing this caldo is a lot of work, and all those ingredients combine to form a lusciously enticing perfume that reflects your labor. 

Speaking of love, The Gluten-free Chicano is using his mother's 1941 cocido/menudo pot.
Scoop heaping mounds of the vegetable and fish into a bowl, add as much liquid as you want. In the fotos below, I doubled the liquid before serving.
Serve with fresh lime or lemon halves to squeeze into the savory broth. This is excitingly filling without being heavy. That means you don't have to serve quesadillas, nor tortillas, for that matter. A tort, however, is useful to push food onto the soup spoon. 


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