Botana de Cacahuates
This is one of the perennial street snacks sold all around Oaxaca City. Eventually I was able to reproduce it from memory. The peanuts used there are a larger variety, but the taste is identical. Be sure to use a medium-coarse salt like kosher salt. The garlic is peeled and eaten along with the peanuts.
Though strictly speaking this should be served hot, I confess that when I started nibbling on a bunch of room-temperature leftovers, they were so delicious I couldn’t stop.
- Yield:About 2 1/2 cups
4 tablespoons lard* (preferably home-rendered) or vegetable oil
2½ cups shelled raw peanuts, with skins on
1 head of garlic broken into clove, unpeeled
2 tablespoons chile pequín** or other tiny chiles
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
Juice of 2 limes
In a large, heavy skillet, heat the lard over medium-high heat until almost rippling.
Add the peanuts, garlic, and chiles.
Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes or until the peanut skins have darkened.
Add the salt and lime juice to the pan and give another good stir. Serve at once.
*Home-rendered Lard (Manteca Hecha en casa) and Asiento. This recipe involves rendering pork fat in two stages. Neither stage will give you a lard resembling the fluffy, firm product commonly found in U.S. markets. Both, and especially that from the second stage, are closer to the semi-liquid, light brown lard of the Isthmus that is sold in plastic bags at the markets.
Please note that the pork fat must be fresh, not salted or smoked. Not all pork fat will produce asiento – try to get some with a little meat attached.
Cut 3 pounds fresh pork fat into ½-inch dice. This is a messy job that will be easier if the fat is deeply chilled or partly frozen
For the first stage of the rendering process, place the diced pork fat in a large, deep roasting pan or shallow Dutch oven with thick sides. (I use a 12- by 3½-inch Dutch oven with a cover.) Make sure that the bits are somewhat separated, not all clumped together. Place on the stove over low heat and cook, uncovered, stirring often, for 20 to 30 minutes or as long as it takes for the fat to have partly rendered out and the diced pieces to be somewhat (not fully) crisp. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly. Pour the contents of the pan into a tall, narrow container. Set aside the half-finished cracklings and any grainy residue (asiento). You will now have about 3 cups clear, pale tan lard and ¼ cup grainy residue. Refrigerate the lard until solid, cover tightly, and store up to a week in the refrigerator, or indefinitely in the freezer.
To proceed with the second stage of the rendering process, place the half-done cracklings in the same pan or in a large cast-iron skillet. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, over low heat for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cracklings have yielded all their fat. Watch carefully toward the end, reducing the heat as low as possible to avoid scorching. Let cool and strain as instructed above. When the lard has cooled and settled, carefully transfer into another container and separate the sediment (asiento) that has collected on the bottom of the container. You will have about 3 to 3½ cups of crisp cracklings, another ⅓ cup of asiento, and 1 cup of a darker, more intensely flavored lard called manteca amarilla (“yellow lard”). Use this in cooking when you want an especially rich, nutty flavor. (In Oaxaca it is used to make a hearty-textured bread called pan amarillo.)
Add the second batch of asiento to the first and place in a tightly covered container. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for several months. The cracklings can be eaten out of hand (sprinkle with a little salt and powdered red chile, if desired) or ground in a mortar or food processor until barely crumbly (not a paste) and added to tamal filling. They will keep up to a week in the refrigerator but are always best eaten fresh.
**Chile Pequín or Chile Piquín. (Also “chiltepín,” “chiltepe,” and several other spellings.) These tiny, bitingly hot peppers are thought to be close to the wild ancestors of most hot peppers. You will probably find them only dried, though they are also eaten fresh throughout Oaxaca.