Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Corazón de Agave

The Pinot Noir my husband is making in San Sebastian needed time in an oak barrel for its finish. He ordered one from a cooper in Tequila and we combined the pick up with touring visitors around the sights. It is a beauty, the barrel, 200 liters, 50 gallons or so, bearing the name of our winery, Las Fincas. The oak comes from Kentucky. If it’s good enough for Mexican tequila it’s good enough for Mexican wine, we say. Besides, I heard they’re cutting down the forest of Fontainebleau outside of Paris for that precious French oak.

Visitors in tow, we toured the Herradura tequila factory. The cores of agave azul, called piñas for their resemblance to a pineapple, are roasted and pressed, the juice fermented and distilled. One always is treated to a taste of the roasted piña on such tours—delicious, smoky-sweet and very fibrous. You are reminded that alcohol comes from sugar. The agave has plenty.

Down the road we stopped by a little table where half a roasted piña was laid out for sale. We were offered the ends of the cut-off spears which were mahogany dark and roasted to caramel perfection. We separated the sweet stuff from the fibers with our teeth just as you’d get the meat off an artichoke leaf. We had already made out purchase when, seemingly as an after-thought, the seller offered us a sample from the piña’s center, its heart, its corazón. It was firmer than the heart of an artichoke but similarly smooth, no fibers. It was even more delicious than the spear ends. We were ravished. I bought a large wedge and began to brain-storm recipes.

First came pork loin cooked and sauced in corazón de agave. In my test kitchen, also known as my kitchen, I wrapped the pork in the fibrous spear-ends, encased it in foil and roasted it slowly. Fibers were strained out, sweetened juices reduced and mellowed with cream, cubes of corazón heated and served beside the meat. Oh, boy.

Then there was corazón de agave pecan pie. I heated two cups of corazón bits with a cup of orange juice and thickened it with flour. Some orange zest for that little edge. After the mixture cooled, I blended it with three beaten eggs and lightly-roasted pecans, poured it into a pie shell and baked it for an hour. Served with cream, it was better than mincemeat.

Now friends are in the act. Lorena made corazón de agave ice cream. Canela proposed mashing it and serving it instead of yams beside the Thanksgiving turkey. Imagine chunks in capirotada, Mexican bread pudding. Feel free.

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