Thursday, July 07, 2011

A lakeside dive......

We need to get out of the house every few days, So we fill the gas tank up, pack a little ice chest with some drinks, point the car and go.

Sometimes we do this on the weekends, sometimes not.

Weekends are the days when Mexicans also get to the road, cram the family and mother-in-law, maybe a few neighbors and see how many people can fit into a 4 door Nissan pick up truck.

You can usually spot the families going somewhere especially if you get behind one of those overloaded vehicles. You've seen them before, the bed of the truck is usually about 8 inches off the ground, maybe something to do with having 7 people inside and 8 in the bed of the pickup.

Mother-in-law usually sits in the back with the kids, it so appears.

If you have noticed before, we don't enjoy hordes of crowds, especially on the weekends.
Something about screaming kids running around you, sneezing on your space, you get the picture.....

So why not venture out during the weekday.
Brilliant idea.

10-15 years ago it use to take several hours to get to our fresh water pristine lake called Zirahuen.
Now it's only about 25 or so minutes. The Autopista has an off ramp and the potholed dirt road is now now lined with concrete stones.
Easy...relatively fast, a nice jaunt.

There are some nice restaurants perched around the lake. Some are fancy show off places, that are only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.......we told you about one of those awhile ago. Nice view but no concept of service, so we won't give them our pesos....sorry.

But there are some common folk places around the municipal pier. (Pier is a very nice description of the structure jetting out into the water)

We go to those. They are nothing fancy, cheap, decent attention to service, ok food and have cold beer.
My kind of joint.
We wound up there.

Patzcuaro is know for it's deep fried fish. We tried some years ago and were not impressed.
They are called Charales.

In Patzcuaro they are usually 4 to 5 inches long, over cooked, dry, greasy and semi tasteless.
Kind of like eating a dried up old french fry that stayed in the bottom of the bag and dried out.
You need to drink a lot of beer to rehydrate those babies.

Not so at our dive joint on the lake.
Where else can you sit lakeside, have a cold beer, stuff your face with a plate of little Charales, that have taste some moisture and flavor for less than 4 bucks?

And we were there at 1:30 or so and had the place to ourselves for the first half hour.
It just doesn't get any better than that.

Well it does, I also had the Mojarra for my main dish and my wife had the Flor De Calabazas which were both decent and tasty. More to follow......


Steve Cotton said...

In all of my years of eating, I have seen (but never tried) squash flowers. How are they?

Anonymous said...

Always wondered what specie is called "pezcado blanco". It's said you never really know what you're eating at Patzcuaro, nor where it comes from. A quick search for "charales" references a green alga. There was a time when mojarra rated about as low as catfish in Latin America. Hope you advise Cotton to have a proper squash blossom soup, he doesn't know what he's missing.

Octavia Betancourt

JerryL said...

Water looks a little choppy, storms a brewing.
40 pesos for a steak lunch, the way I figure it, that about 3 bucks, for the grub.

Tancho said...

Steve, you have been missing a great luxury which is cheap in Mexico. Stuffed squash blossoms come in many varieties only to the imagination of what you can put inside them. Cheese, meat, vegi, fish fillings all do justice to the subtle taste of the blossom. Next time you are at the market buy some, and stuff them with rice and chopped leftover chicken then either saute them in some butter or if you are feeling decadent, dip in egg batter, fry in some oil...

Octavia, Pescado blanco is the term for whatever ends up in the net, so to speak. I see any small fish called Charales, even in Mexican markets in California, so Grunion or Smelt are now Charales. But then anything deep fried in oil tastes good and is bad for you. Yep Mojarra is pretty much the cheapest fish available, nothing special, but available.

Jerry, it is a pretty big lake and it was a little choppy but nothing like I have seen it in the past. We have seen big whitecaps on the lake. Kind of unusual.

Calypso said...

Informative post as usual amigo. As to Steve and squash blossoms - dude try them in a casadia (in a folded tortilla or between two) with cheese - yum!

Felipe said...

I don't know what kind of weird charales you've seen that are 4-5 inches long, but the ones I see are far smaller. I call charales minnows, and I do not eat them. Who eats minnows? Well, okay, Mexicans eat minnows. But not this Mexican. Yuck. Eyeballs, tail and everything.

As for squash flowers, known hereabouts as flor de calabaza, I put to one and all that this is simply a tradition because the flowers are pretty. But they have absolutely no taste whatsoever. None. Zip. Zero. They are pretty, however, if you want to eat pretty. But whatever taste is in your mouth is from whatever holds the pretty flowers and how they were prepared.

And it's impossible to stuff them. What you're doing is using them as stuffing. Pretty flowers. Nada más.

Felipe said...

Pretty flowers in a tortilla with cheese = cheese taco.

Tancho said...

Calypso, hopefully our amigo Steve will enjoy his time in SMA and have a full plateful of experiences like stuffed blossoms. Who know, he even may like SMA, after all he is an retired attorney and could probably have gainful employment settling squabbles from the Gringo citizenship.....

Felipe...., you don't surprise me at all. Next thing you are going to tell me that you don't like squid, escargots or oysters or foie gras.

I was not a charales fan either, simply because they had little taste, but for some reason the lady frying them as we wandered by the walkway persuaded me to try a few. The ones at Zirahuen, were pretty good. And yes you eat the whole thing, eye balls and tall, just like you do some sardines, sprats and other processed little fish from a can.
Now I know that you will never be a 100% Mexican, maybe 99% but not 100% unless you eat them disgusting things.
As far as squash blossoms, you should also try those, the blossoms are filled with pretty near almost anything and then fried. The blossoms provide the vehicle for delivery of the inside goodies. There are hundreds of recipes of stuffed blossoms, you should try a few with your favorite goodies. I like stuffing them with a goat cheese or as Calypso suggests tossed into a tortilla. I guess you could call it a blossom-cheese taco....

Don Cuevas said...

Doña Cuevas and I once went to one of those dockside Zirahúen restaurants. WE had Caldo de Charales. After a while, we learned how to bone out the minnows with our tongue and teeth. The taste was nothing special.

That day, the real annoyance were the dozens of bees that flew into the bowl, the spoon, our faces our mouths.

Bottom line: Much Michoacán cuisine of the tradicional sort is over hyped. Further evidence in future editions.

Don Cuevas

PS: An earlier encounter (in the early '09s) with pescado blanco, at Restaurante "Las Redes", in Pátzcuaro, was a total bust. Tasteless, greasy probably reheated fish in egg batter.

PPS: Squash blossoms are a lovely concept, but basically tasteless.

Felipe said...

I love raw oysters, escargot and paté, but I ain't gonna touch no squid. On the other hand, my wife will eat absolutely anything, and she has. Insect tacos, for instance.

I draw the line at eyes. Brains too. And insect tacos.

No, I will never be even near 100 percent Mexican.

So, one does encounter stuffed flor de calabaza? I've never noticed the lovely flower as anything other than a stuffing, not the stuffee. Rather than stuffed, I would imagine that the flower is simply wrapped around something else, something with taste. They are quite pretty.

You are an educational experience, Señor Tancho, as ever.

Tancho said...

Sr. Cuevas, bees in your soup? That should have been an interesting experience.
The reason the charales were tasty at this place was the frier did not over cook them into a dry stick of a fish. They were fried but still had elasticity to them, hence possibly why they had some taste left in their tiny little bodies.
She got me to try a few of them on my way past her fry station and that made me order them. The few times I had tried them before, I have to agree with you locals, that they were dry, tasteless, waste of energy to try and eat.

Aaah, you have redeemed yourself a tad, Any man who can eat oysters and escargot is A OK. I know that you couldn't have possibly survived living in the Big Easy without dropping a few bushels of the great tasting Apalachicola delights.
Calamari though is one of my favorite proteins. NOT the way Mexicans cook it. I forget now and then and order up a plate of it, Thinking that just maybe they have figured out how to cook it. It is truly disgusting the way Mexicans cook it. They treat it like Chicharones and fry the crap out of it, to the point that it is dry and tasteless, kind of like the charales that they also overcook.

Some people just can't handle eating what they call "fishbait" but cut into little circles , breaded in a corn bread and flour mixture along with some spices and cayenne, flash fried is something exquisite.

Parboiled and marinated in an Italian style vinaigrette and made into a salad with chopped celery, onions,parsley is also a favorite.

I have never had empty squash blossoms, so I cannot attest to how they taste empty.....but stuffed with something delicate and fried......tasty!

The Indian women have them for sale on the side street in the mercado. Try some, you may like it.

Anonymous said...

Squash blossoms in a good caldo have the texture of spinach and the little baby squash gives them tooth. If you buy the male flowers, they saw you coming.


Howard in Fla. said...

We have these in Florida and eat them like French fries. Salt and Ketchup makes anything taste ok.

Felipe said...

Much Michoacán cuisine of the traditional sort is over hyped.


Squash blossoms are a lovely concept, but basically tasteless.

Don Cuevas said it, and it's all true. He's the boss.

The best escargot I ever ingested in one sitting was served me in Barcelona, Spain, in 1976. In the U.S. restaurants will give you six or 12 of the little rubbery buggers for some scandalous price, but the Spaniards tossed me a huge plate of them swimming free in some green sauce. Loved it. Never forgot it.

Calypso said...

Agree with Don Felipe on the escargot, oysters and pate; and not the squid or octopi. But - I believe the squash blossoms have a 'tangy' taste to them. Add some marinated jalapeno's to the casadia ensemble if you need a kick start of flavor ;-)

Nancy said...

Said in jest, sort of...

...Do you ever think of picking up the phone and chatting with Don Cuevas and Felipe in person? Or having lunch somewhere you all like? Seems like you always have a lot to share.

Just kidding, my Maz pals chime in with some frequency, too. Just tickled my funnybone when I read this comment thread.

So when are you coming to Maz next, Tancho? It's our turn to treat, you know!

Tancho said...

Nancy, one thing great about Patzcuaro is that it is a small town, unlike your Mazatlan. I run into Felipe and Sr. Cuevas on the street fairly regularly, therefore not requiring any phone calls.
We also chat, talking about the important decisions we need to make running the country.
If the 3 of us got together at some restaurant, the Federales would send a helicopter to wipe out the block, so we stay very low key to our meetings.....
The wife is heading way south for a spell, so when she returns we will meet up, at our favorite bakery/cafe!

Felipe said...

Well put, Tancho. However, Nancy, what he so politely glossed over is that I am about as social as a fence post. It's a character defect that seems to be insurmountable. Think of a bear in permanent hybernation. I likely need care by a mental-health professional.