Chorizo & Refried Beans Elevated to Remembrance of Beloved People – and Restaurants – Laid to Rest
Eats: Quick home version of La Slowteria’s El Soldado with Homemade Tortillas
Tunes: Shazams at La Slowteria over the years
Dinner Convo: Ways of honoring ancestors around the world, and sharing memories of family and friends who have died.
We are now closer to Thanksgiving to the Day of the Dead, but here’s what we cooked and listened to back on 1 November this year.
Dia de Muertos has become part of the American fabric here in the US, though marking it seems to be more about having an excuse to eat Mexican takeout and imbibe muchos margaritas (not unlike the Americanization of Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s day… but I digress).
Following the gorging trend we do so well, the Americanization of Halloween includes copious (dare I say ridiculous) amounts of candy. But as you may know, Halloween is actually a precursor to All Saints’ Day on November 1st (and All Souls’ Day on November 2nd). The word ‘Halloween’ itself is an evolution from ‘”All Hallows’ Eve.” Trick-or-treat fun notwithstanding, I’d wager that Halloween overshadowing the intended main event is actually a result of death still being so taboo in this [American] culture.
That’s why when Dia de Muertos rolled around, I resolved to find myself some fresh Mexican chorizo, whip up some ‘El Soldado,’ and make a playlist of my Shazams at La Slowteria over the years, and talk about our dead loved ones!
And now, as I edit this post, a recent development makes it even more special to us. While walking home today, I came across the below sign in the window our beloved La Slowteria, noting it’s closing and asking us to head to Chef Hugo’s next post: Vida Verde. Is that meta or what? I’ve never even used that term, but here I am mourning loved ones via the memories of a favorite restaurant, only to find out that that restaurant itself is no more?
At any rate, La Slowteria
is will always be a core part of so many family memories! It was the location of my son’s first real outing, just days old in February 2013. It was the scene of so many lovely meals, most of which came at the request of our kids (for their birthdays, etc.). They would love to sit at the bar and have one of the delicious agua frescas or juices along with their meal. We enjoyed trying new things each time, but I’m not sure we ever went without their El Soldado, which we loved so much I kept trying to repeat it at home. I’ve now finally come close, thanks to a sidewalk convo w/ chef Hugo a few months ago. After catching up, I confessed that I’d been trying to mimic his dish, unsuccessfully, noting that it was good, but that was missing something. He told me that it was likely that I wasn’t using the right chorizo; that this dish required fresh Mexican chorizo – not the more-available cured kind. It was house-made at La Slowteria, and so I tried the version we found at Paisano’s in Brooklyn. It was good, and we enjoyed it, but still not exactly the taste I’m hoping for. Seeking out other purveyors of Mexican chorizo…
One of the reasons I loved La Slowteria so much is that there was always cool music on. There’s no other place I’ve Shazammed more! This playlist is a compilation of some of the songs I’ve shazammed there! Love that I can go back through years of Shazam history. But there was one time Shazam couldn’t catch the song, and to this day I wish I had asked. In my memory it sounded like a fusion of Bollywood and some sort of Mexican music… numerous Googles since then have come up empty and I’ll be forever indebted to whomever helps me find that elusive music!
In the intro I mentioned this country’s uncomfortable relationship with death. In prior posts, I’ve talked about reaching out to other traditions to find ways to break that taboo in my own life (for example miscarriages and cross-cultural condolences).
In this case, I wanted to use Dia de Muertos (which our kids knew a bit about from Book of Life (and soon to be Coco! We haven’t yet seen it, but I wonder if Santa will bring that book this year?) as an excuse to talk death!
There are certainly no shortage of detailed ways to “authentically” celebrate All Saints Day, All Souls’ Day, Samhain and the rest (and you can find a brief overview here, of the various incarnations of holidays and traditions), but I think that keeping it as simple as sharing memories of loved ones who have died can be simple yet powerful.
I did also intend to light some candles to make it that much more sacred or special… but in the end, I forgot this time. There’s always next time.
I’ll leave you with this fun fact: English speakers translated it to “Day of the dead,” and then reverse translate it (incorrectly) as Dia de los Muertos. The correct name in Spanish is Dia de Muertos.
El Soldado, adapted from La Slowteria in Brooklyn
- 3 jalapenos, roasted
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 links of fresh Mexican chorizo, casings removed
- 1 large red onion: half diced, and half sliced into 1/4 inch rings
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 large can of kidney beans, drained
- 1/2 cup tomato salsa (we prefer Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica, if not making it fresh)
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- hot sauce (optional)
- First, set the jalapenos to roast over the flame of your stove, turning every few minutes, using tongs, until they are entirely blackened. Then put them directly into a brown paper lunch bag and close the bag, allowing them to sweat for 20-30 minutes.
- Boil water for stock.
- Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp oil to a hot fry pan and then cook the chorizo, breaking it up as you stir. When cooked, move the chorizo to bowl, and keep it aside, covered.
- In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add the diced onions. When they begin to brown, add the garlic. When they are golden brown, add the beans. Fry for a bit, scraping up any bits. Using a potato masher or a spatula, mash some of the beans, and continue to fry.
- Add the cooked chorizo, salsa and stock and stir to combine.
- Cook for another 5-10 minutes to combine flavors.
- Meanwhile, peel the charred skin off the jalapenos (perhaps using gloves so you don’t later regret rubbing your eye), and grill or fry the onions using the remainder olive oil.
- Serve the beans/chorizo hot, topped with the grated cheese, roasted jalapenos and roasted onions, and accompanied with your favorite tortillas and hot sauce.
- I’m still not satisfied with the Mexican chorizo we used and we need to find a better one.
- Next time I’d like to try to make our own corn tortillas but we didn’t have the time, this time. [29Nov update: After making corn tortillas to go along with Carnitas last week, we are converted and will never again but corn tortillas. Recipe notes in that post!]
- Next time, I might also try lard instead of oil.