Sunday, January 13, 2008

Las Diligencias or El Cabrito... Pt. 1

Sometime last week, I embarked on a journey to Monterrey, Nuevo León via bus from Southern Texas. I had but four goals and no particular agenda.

1. Work in a restaurant to learn new culinary techniques and recipes.

2. Drink Carta Blanca and Indio beer.

3. Eat tons of food.

4. Don't get rolled.

Well, I am happy to report that I accomplished all of the above goals. However, the American dollar is weak and Monterrey is expensive, so it wasn't long before I ran out of money. I did, however, eat a ton of expensive food, a fair amount of cheap food, and drank a modest amount of beer.

When I first got off the bus, I wandered to the University Metropolitan Area where I found a nicer looking restaurant situated caddy corner to a place called El Cabrito (The Goat). Because Northern Mexico lacks an abundance of cattle, their specialty is goat. I had eaten goat cheese and drank goat milk, but never eaten goat meat. The restaurant that I went into also specialized in goat, but was significantly more upscale. As it turns out, both restaurants are owned by the same person, and the goats are roasted whole over a wood fire at El Cabrito. The upscale restaurant, Las Diligencias, gets their meat from El Cabrito, but serves it in a much trendier fashion. As it turns out, goat tastes similar to lamb, and I found it to be very delicious, especially when braised in salsa.

After eating a huge meal at Las Diligencias, I began to speak to the waitstaff and ask if I could see the kitchen. Once the owner arrived, he was happy to show me around. Using the hostess as a translator (my Spanish is weak), I arranged to come back later that evening to work for a few hours. They taught me some recipes and showed me how to cook various dishes. I learned some secrets to cooking goat and how to break one down. I also taught them a few culinary tricks. It was a wonderful experience for everybody.

This is El Cabrito where the goats are roasted on spits over a wood fire. The skinny one is liver that's been wrapped in bacon.

This is where they break down the goats after they are done.

Cabrito al Carbón

This woman made about five tortillas to my one. But they were impressed that I knew how to make a tortilla. Here, she is reheating tortillas that she made earlier in preparation for a large party.

I only wish that I could have spent more time with the friendly people at Las Diligencias. Once I showed interest in their establishment, they opened up and treated me as a guest in their home. They gave me free food, knowledge, and shared cherished recipes. They shared their secrets and livelihood with me, and they probably would have even put me up for a couple of nights had I asked them. It was amazing.

To be continued...


Chef Kevin said...

I'm sure the Peoria County Health Department would love that break down "table". NOT!

Very interesting post. Can't wait for part 2. Talk about a true love of food.

Keith Shank said...

I don't think the word "sanitation" translates into Spanish!

angela said...

I was marvelling that the woman appears to be wearing a hair net. This seems to be a far more professional operation than the ones I witnessed in Mexico. The difference being the size of the town where we stayed didn't really have "restaurants"; they were more like the front room (or sidewalk) of any given house where you went and paid to sit at the table with the woman's family and eat what they were eating. Plus we were quite a bit farther south. The advantage to the restaurant environment is that there was a large enough kitchen for you to participate in the cooking. Once when our car broke down the mechanic and his wife had us in for a free lunch of posole (rojo) and fried cecina. That was my closest encounter to someone who would allow me to work in their kitchen and not just be served. Afterward they took us sightseeing nearby. The photos are priceless. Can't wait to see more.

Ken P. said...

Wow, I'm realy impressed by how adventurous you are. I'm jealous as well. I wish I were there with you. I can't wait to try the new dishes that you are learning to make. I wonder if you can get good goat meat in Peoria?

Keith Shank said...

I wish I could have taken more pictures, but many of the places I traveled to was not conducive to photography - or rather, not conducive to carrying around an expensive camera.

Usrah Agro Farm said...

Yummy El Cabrito.!