Mexican Spicy Carrot Pickles

Mexican Spicy Carrot Pickles
(Zanahorias en escabeche)

I love the spicy carrots on the salsa bar when we go for tacos. So much so, a couple years back I asked The Google for some recipes. I found one that was okay at the time, but haven’t made it since.
We’re having a Fiesta Friday potluck at the office this week. (Because although we appreciate the alliteration of a Taco Tuesday, none of us has the time for an office party on a Tuesday.) I made carnitas and wanted some cebollas en escabeche to go along. That got me thinking about those carrots again. YouTube is overflowing with awesome home cooks making their zanahorias. I always wondered why there was a tiny bit of oil in the pickle juice – and now I know. The veg are lightly sauteed before adding the vinegar. Dur. Makes perfect sense.

My searches also garnered the Spanish dish by the same name, and it was interesting to see the differences – thyme and pimenton, cook the carrots a little longer. No hot peppers. I’m thinking the Mexican version is a post-colonial smoosh – but, hey. I am no food anthropologist. Anywho, this was maybe twenty minutes start to finish. I bet you have the ingredients already. These stay good a couple weeks in the fridge – if they last that long. Make some today to have ready for your Taco Tuesday. You can totally eat these the same day, but they certainly get better the longer they soak in that gorgeous escabeche.

Zanahorias en escabeche
Makes about 3 cups.
1# carrots, peeled and sliced in to ¼” thick diagonal ovals.
3 jalapenos, halved
½ large white onion, sliced in ¼” thick half-moons
3 cloves garlic, slightly smooshed with the flat of your knife
½ tsp. black pepper corns
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. Mexican oregano leaves
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 ½ c. white vinegar
1 ½ c. water
(sal al gusto)

In a large non-reactive skillet on medium, heat the oil, pepppercorns, bay, oregano, and the garlic until you can smell the garlic. Then, add everything but the water and the vinegar. Stir around (you do not want this to brown) for a minute or two until you see the onions are starting to soften. Pour in the water and vinegar, and simmer until the jalapenos are done – they will change from a deep green to an olive green.
While that is simmering, prepare your container. You want something that can handle hot liquid – I used glass with those snappy silicone gasket lids. Just be sure to heat up the container with some hot water before you dump in your pickles. (Just imagine cold glass and hot liquid. Yeah.)
When the jalapenos are done, scoop all the veg in to your prepared container. Then, pour in just enough of the liquid to cover them. You will most likely have extra liquid at the end. Toss it. Or use it to make a vinaigrette.

That’s it. You’re done. Cool it. Label it & pop it in the fridge and enjoy.
PS – all the recipes I saw added salt to these puppies, but I think this is plenty flavorful without. But add some if you like!

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the red onion and the chile de arbol in the knolled pic – I made some cebollas en escabeche at the same time. But those are already a blog post…

Barbacoa Tacos

Tender shredded beef, seasoned to mouth-watering goodness, topped with tangy, crisp onion.
Tender shredded beef, seasoned to mouth-watering goodness, topped with tangy, crisp onion.

If you are not from the southwestern US or Mexico, I need you to sit down. There’s something important you need to know. Diana Kennedy or Rick Bayless may have already told you but just in case, here it is:

Enchilada sauce is not made from tomatoes. Truly. It’s red color comes from red chile.  

In fact, every time enchilada sauce is made with tomatoes, a kitten dies.

Chiles (two kinds!), garlic, onion, laurel
Chiles (two kinds!), garlic, onion, laurel


Enchilada (hey – look at the word in the middle of that – chile!) means chile-fied, enrobed in chile, etc. Now, don’t be embarrassed. I remember when my sister-in-law, the one who’s now the chef, explained this to me when I was so excited about a new “decoration” for my front door. It was a beautiful chile ristra and she remembered the last one she got and how her Nana E took them all because the chile was so good.  And I was all like, what? You don’t *eat* that.  And she was all like, what? Why the hell do you think people dry them and hang them up? Well, duh. Color me educated. Think about it – bunches of herbs, garlic braids, chile ristras. They are all for the pantry, in the pre-supermarket way.

So by now we all know my Sunday dinner plan to make a big roast of some kind. That whole “cook once, eat thrice” thing. This week it was a 7-pound chuck roast from Costco.  I knew I wanted to have it potroast style, and then thought some shredded beef soft tacos might be this week’s carb indulgence for Himself.  So I started googling barbacoa recipes and found the most awesome YouTube channel for a lady called Abuela Oti.  She has a chili-based sauce for hers, which led to the little opening spiel. Mmmm…..barbacoa tacos…..

Small corn tortillas, ready to grill and fill.
Small corn tortillas, ready to grill and fill.

That made me think of the plethora of fabulous taco stands we have here, and the wonderful condiments to go with them: radishes, pickled carrots and jalapeños (zanahorias en escabeche), and pickled onions (cebollas en escabeche), grilled spring onions (cebollitas asadas al carbon), grilled jalapeños…..oh my. And wouldn’t that rich, rich beef pair beautifully with some cold, crisp, zingy pickled onion?…my mouth waters just thinking about it.

Cebollas en escabeche
Cebollas en escabeche

So, is this a post about the pickled onions, or the meat? Honestly, it has to be both. But we’ll start with the meat.

For the sauce
2 large or 3 medium dried chile california or chile guajillo (those are the smooth, oxblood-colored ones. Get medium or mild unless you’re muy macho.)
1 dried chile pasilla (that’s the crinkly, raisin-looking one)
1 cup boiling hot water
2 cloves garlic
½ small white onion
½ teaspon Mexican oregano leaves
2 bay (laurel) leaves
For the meat
1 # shredded beef (leftover potroast)
S&P to taste
Pop the top on the chilis, discard that and the seeds. Put the chilis in a shallow bowl, cover them with the hot water and let them sit for half an hour until they soften. Put them, their soaking liquid and everything for the sauce but the laurel in the blender and blend until smooth.
Pour the puree through a strainer into a 10” saute pan, heat to medium and cook for about ten minutes. Add the shredded beef, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about fifteen more minutes, or until most of the liquid of the sauce is evaporated. Taste for seasoning at this point, and add S&P to taste.
Remove the laurel leaves, and serve with hot corn tortillas. And those pickled onions, of course. But that is for another post.
You can serve this with rice, too, like Abuela does in her video.