In honor of Mexican Independence Day today, we are revisiting some conversations we had with some of the top chefs in Mexico at the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo FOOD & WINE festival a while back. First up is culinary pioneer Chef Guillermo González Beristain. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America whose career includes stints at Jaun de Alzate in Madrid and Le Divellec in Paris, Beristain is an award-winning chef and owner of Grupo Pangea, which includes his first restaurant venture, Pangea, currently ranked number 19 on the Latin America's 50 Best Restaurant's List.
Beristain is originally from Baja and now bases his culinary empire in Monterrey, which has it's own special cuisine. "It's about rustic and honest food." explains Beristain. And apparently a lot of goat. "Why do we eat goat in Monterrey?" asks Beristain rhetorically. You have to look at the history of Monterrey for the answer. The city was founded by Jewish families fleeing the Inquisistion. "The Jews brought sheep with them, but the terrain was too difficult for sheep, but goats thrived." he explains as he prepares a sous vide goat dish. "It is also the only place in Mexico where you have flour tortillas, which is also due to the Middle Eastern influence, they were trying to replicate flour pitas."
Monterrey is also known for beef, Beristain explained as he prepared what he call a beef ceviche by first slicing onions and mixing them with flour or cayenne pepper and frying them in hot oil and draining on paper towels. He then grilled the beef until it is medium rare. While the meat is resting, he diced cucumber, thinly sliced cilantro, some green onions — the green parts only, and chopped some red onions. The final vegetable flourishes are paper thin slices of serrano chile and curls of avocado. After slicing the meat, all the ingredients are mixed and tossed with lemon juice — "I like to squeeze lemon by hand, when you use a squeezer you get all the bitter oils" he explained. Then comes some Worcestershire sauce and local sea salt. "It's taking a classic Mexican seafood dish and translating it to the meat culture of Monterrey."