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Cecina


schaem
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As a sous chef in a NY kitchen I find myself learning a lot about Mexican food from the other cooks as they make family meal. With the summer being slow, I feel like we could get even more complicated, and none of the guys seem to know how to make cecina from scratch. Anyone have a recipe, or recipes? Maybe we could even start a back-of-the-house Mexican food thread.

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Hi Schaem, What a great idea. Just had a Belgian guest who was suffering horribly. Tortillas no. Salsa no. Mole no. Finally I offered cecina and after a few tentative nibbles, she wolfed down several slices. One death from starvation averted. Whew.

Round here, the trick is to get incredibly thinly cut beef. Season it. In this region (north central), that means salt, lime juice and perhaps crushed cumin. Good sense determines the proportions. Then hang it in a dry place where the flies can't get at it. That's another tricky bit. I make cats' cradles of string between two high backed chairs in a pozo (like a tiny green house). The bits of meat look repellent for a day or two, like the most disgusting dirty grey underwear. But then they dry out and turn dark reddish brown (and sadly shrink to a fraction of their size).

Eaten as is or after pressing in a hot cast iron pan, I don't have to tell you how good the flaky brittle salty spicy bits mouthfuls are. How to adapt this to a steamy NY kitchen I'm not sure. I've fiddled around with very low settings on the microwave and not had terrible results.

Good luck,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I bet a dehydrator would work. Or come to that, residual oven heat. And obviously semi freezing the beef helps in cutting those paper thin slices.

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I've made beef jerky in my oven - put it on very low - left it all night with the door slightly open. Bet that would work, too.

Slice your meat while it's frozen. Very easy to shave off paper-thin slices.

Caroline - donde esta?

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Hi Jaymes. I'm in Guanajuato. Making cecina is standard practice in small villlages around here. Town people go to the mountains on weekends to eat at restaurants that specialize in "country" food such as cecina. So far as I can tell from their comments, for most of them (town people that is) the thinness is the key issue. So thin it almost shatters as you pick it up.

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Hi Jaymes.  I'm in Guanajuato.

I think I'll be visiting Guanajuato sometime in January. Maybe we could get together for lunch or dinner. ¿Quizás?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 1 month later...

I would guess so Maria. Just as long as the humidity is fairly low. Like all the dishes you describe, my experience is that this one is a matter of what is on hand and your favorite flavorings. I've made it perhaps half a dozen times but I know people who do it on a regular basis,

Of course, as you know, there are restaurants that specialize

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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  • 1 month later...

Preparing Beef or Pork in this method works well with any dehydrator, or even if you've got a oven at home or in the restaurant with a pilot light, just leave it overnight strung up inside the oven after it cooled down to about 110 degrees after dinner service as the temperture will slowly lower permiting curing and drying.

I prefer slicing, blocks of boneless aged top round, after semi-freezing, then slicing thin on a electric slicer. For Pork I prefer using the defatted loins, or top round from the leg, but it doesn't need aging.

This Mexican Dish may also be seasoned in the Asian Style either sweet or curried and Teri Yaki, or Chili Spicy as well.

It can be preserved quite long, if after preparing you place into a Vacuum Pakage or even a Jar. It seems to keep for months under refrigeration this way, and my kids take it Camping and Hiking in the Vacuum Paks and have used it over several weeks with no refrigeration. It's delicious as a snack, or to enhance taste and flavor with Beans, Rice, Vegetables or Stews.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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How does cecina differ from machaca or carne seca?

Actually, I just went through my several Mexican cookbooks and only one, Bayless' Authentic Mexican had cecina, describing it as carne seca before it's actually dried or fully dried. So, you might want to check around for carne seca recipes as well and just cut the drying short of jerky stage. Pretty much all my books had one. (Machaca is shredded carne seca, essentially.) Also, I'm sure checking a book on jerky making could be a good reference and just use the seasonings for carne seca/cecina and stop short of making jerky.

Bayless and Kennedy stay traditional with theirs, suggesting you hang dry them while noting that the USDA would not approve unless you cook the hell out of it afterwards. Poore and Peyton actually suggest baking it while stirring occasionally (this sounds like a bad idea to me, but USDA approved, I'm sure).

As far as jerky recipes go: Joy of Cooking says to set the oven at 175 and leave it open to allow moisture to escape; I saw a very good looking recipe on Martha Stewart one time that they did in the oven (and it was by a jerky expert), but I can't find it online or in my books.

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