El Restaurante Mexicano January/February 2011 : Page 17

SPECIALREPORT&#1a;-EXICO J amaica : Hibiscus Adds Color and Zest to Mexican Menus BY KAREN HURSH GRABER, WRITINGFROM-EXICO A mong the most appealing culinary sights encoun-tered by visitors to Mexico are the stands displaying clear glass containers of the fresh fruit drinks known as aguas, including the eye-catching agua de jamaica. This deep ruby-colored beverage is made from the dried flowers of the roselle hibiscus, found in the tropics and subtropics, and used to produce one of the signature flavors of Mexico. The intense color and tart flavor of roselle hibiscus has made it a favorite of modern Mexican chefs. Its tartness can be played up in marinades and vinaigrettes for savory dishes, or balanced with sweet ingredi-ents to create dessert sauces and syrups, sorbets, granitas, and jellies. Hibiscus makes appearances in bar menus as well, in jamaica martinis and margaritas. For savory dishes, hibiscus is used primarily in salad dressings, as well as in sauces for poultry, pork and seafood. Most often, it is dried hibiscus that is used in these dishes, although the fresh flowers themselves are sometimes incorporated into salads and used as garnishes. (continued on p.18) JANUARYsFEBRUARY
 17

Cooking With Jamaica

Karen Hursh Graber

Among the most appealing culinary sights encountered by visitors to Mexico are the stands displaying clear glass containers of the fresh fruit drinks known as aguas, including the eye-catching agua de jamaica. This deep ruby-colored beverage is made from the dried flowers of the roselle hibiscus, found in the tropics and subtropics, and used to produce one of the signature flavors of Mexico.<br /> <br /> The intense color and tart flavor of roselle hibiscus has made it a favorite of modern Mexican chefs. Its tartness can be played up in marinades and vinaigrettes for savory dishes, or balanced with sweet ingredients to create dessert sauces and syrups, sorbets, granitas, and jellies. Hibiscus makes appearances in bar menus as well, in jamaica martinis and margaritas.<br /> <br /> For savory dishes, hibiscus is used primarily in salad dressings, as well as in sauces for poultry, pork and seafood. Most often, it is dried hibiscus that is used in these dishes, although the fresh flowers themselves are sometimes incorporated into salads and used as garnishes.<br /> <br /> At La Diferencia in Tijuana, the spinach salad is tossed with mandarin oranges, strawberries and hibiscus flowers, and at La Olla in Oaxaca, the mango and jícama salad is served with hibiscus dressing. Both Gaia in Cuernavaca and Hacienda Cocina y Cantina in Cabo San Lucas feature rollitos de jícama, made with thinly sliced jícama used as a wrap filled with carrots, cucumber and crab with hibiscus vinaigrette.<br /> <br /> El Arrayan in Puerto Vallarta features quesadillas de jamaica, made with sautéed hibiscus fl owers and asadero cheese in corn tortillas, as permanent fixtures on the appetizer menu. At Aguila y Sol in Mexico City, fried hibiscus flowers are served atop the plantain gorditas, and that city’s Paxia San Angel serves raspado de jamaica— hibiscus granita Garnished with a crystallized hibiscus flower— as an intermedio, or palate cleanser, between courses.<br /> <br /> Hibiscus marinades are used for pork and lamb, and hibiscus sauce is served with seafood, chicken, turkey and duck. At Peacock’s in Cabo San Lucas, a dish called Shrimp Four Seasons consists of sautéed jumbo shrimp served with four different Mexican sauces: hibiscus, mango, tamarind and Chile mulato. A seafood brochette in hibiscus sauce is on the revolving comida menu at Oaxaca’s Temple. At Izote in Mexico City, camarones al mole de jamaica is garnished with a hibiscus flower, and Los Danzantes in Oaxaca also serves a hibiscus mole, which bathes organic turkey breast. Voila in Cabo San Lucas offers pork loin in hibiscus flower sauce. <br /> <br /> On the sweet side, hibiscus Is used to make syrup for topping poached fruit, cake, and ice cream desserts, and in berry and sparkling wine gelatins. At Mexico City’s Pujol, hibiscus merengues are served with lemon creme and raspberries, dusted with coconut.<br /> <br /> Using jamaica in your restaurant<br /> <br /> The jamaica that goes by the scientific name hibiscus sabdariffa is the only edible variety, and is the one that is sold in bulk in Mexican markets and in Mexican grocery stores in the U.S. It is now readily available even in non-Mexican supermarkets, where it is usually sold in packages rather than in bulk.<br /> <br /> As a staple kitchen ingredient, hibiscus has several advantages, including its versatility in both dishes and drinks. It does not require refrigeration and, being a dried product, has a long Shelf life. Like other dried ingredients, such as spices and dried chiles, it should be stored away from heat. There is an advantage to buying it in bulk because two cups of dried hibiscus are needed to make 10 servings of agua de jamaica, a standard Mexican menu item. When buying in bulk, look for bright color and soft petals, and avoid very dark or musty ones.<br /> <br /> Since hibiscus syrup can be used with several Desserts, it is worthwhile making it in quantity because it keeps well. A drizzle of it either over a dessert or around the plate adds easy, instant eye-appeal.<br /> <br /> Hibiscus marinades, since most contain vinegar or wine, also keep well and are adaptable to a wide range of meat and seafood dishes. A hibiscus glaze makes for attractive plating of these foods, and is another item that takes well to advance preparation and storage.<br /> <br /> Hibiscus should also be a regular ingredient at the bar, with agua de jamaica on hand for mixing with Sparkling wine for a hibiscus wine cooler garnished with a sprig of hierba buena mint Freeze it into ice cubes to add color and interest to both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. Feature hibiscus margarita and martini specials, particularly on holidays and on Cinco de Mayo menus.<br /> <br /> To make hibiscus concentrate that can be used as a base for agua de jamaica and diluted to taste, or used in sauces and marinades,Combine one cup of dried hibiscus, one cup of simple syrup and four cups of boiling water, steep and strain. Jamaica is one ingredient that is nearly synonymous with Mexican cuisine, and menus from cocktails to dessert would be enlivened by hibiscus in one form or another.

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
 

Loading