I love switching things up when it comes to cuisine, so this week I decided to hit the Mexican Supermarket (el super mercado Mexicano) for my groceries. I was inspired by a dish I saw on TV, Yuca Gratinada. Since the nearest Kroger, Publix, Ingles or Aldi is about 3 miles (translated to 15 minutes in my area), I planned a week’s worth of meals around what was available at Brito Supermarket.
Since I have a teenager (Nicholas) and a meat & potatoes kinda guy, I was able to incorporate enough American inspiration and variety from solely Mexican cuisine to please all of us! My full meal plan and shopping list were ready and off I go!
The biggest hurdle I have in navigating such a market is the meats (las carnes). Some are easily identifiable and others are what might be considered specialty meats to your meatloaf and mashed potatoes kinda guy (my boyfriend, Jubal). So I scoured the internet and found some great information.
Karen at Mex Connect takes the guesswork out of the Mexican Carnicero (butcher) with an extensive article as well as a detailed breakdown of the various types of meat found at a Mexican grocer in the U.S. After reading, I finally felt confident to go in an order utilizing the brief stint into learning the Spanish language during high school (circa 17-19 years ago).
Now, the tables turned a bit when Jubal & I approached the counter. For the beef, I wanted an oven roast to make with a Lokshen Kugel (Jewish). Jubal guided me before we left that it would be the round roast, which is either the tapa, cuete or bola/empuje. I quickly found the bola and we decided that was not what we were looking for. It was more of a steak.
The gentlemen at the counter quickly offered their assistance, much unlike your typical meat & even deli department in a commercial chain U.S. grocery store; where it’s rare that you ever actually encounter the butcher and trying to get the attention of the deli attendants is like pulling teeth.
I then ran through my list again and the butcher pointed out the cuete. That looked like what I wanted, a perfect roast with virtually zero fat that can be cooked in juices at low temperature in the oven. It was bigger than a pork tenderloin, but not as expensive as a prime rib roast. Jubal explained what he was looking for. The butcher brought out what resembled my perfect version, but double the size and much more fat. It was like show & tell. At the end of the day, “we” ended up choosing the leaner cut.
The ground beef (molida de res) and boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pechuga de pollo sin piel y sin hueso) were a cinch.
Las verduras or the vegetables were a bit easier since a similar array is available at a commercial grocer, however the root vegetables and the peppers are more abundant. I scored a 3.75 lb spaghetti squash for $1.09, 5 lbs of frozen Yuca for $6.19, which is much healthier than potatoes and empanada disks to make Jamaican Beef patties. I would’ve loved to snagged some Citrus / tropical fruits as they are in abundance, but my list did not call for them.
I’m afraid the translation for canned/dry goods was not covered in my Spanish language education. I suppose I could use Google translate, but that’s no fun! I found a bit more variety than I expected in some senses, as in there were some Oriental flavors available, however the prices were rather high all-around from the canned beans to the jarred sauces and even the spices. It seems like if you were to purchase them without the “brand name” at a commercial chain grocer, you’d pay about 1/2 the price. As for pastas, there was enough variety, but I needed egg noodles on this trip. That was nearly the ONLY thing they didn’t seem to have was a WIDE, flat noodle as far as what I consider to be your basics regardless of cuisine. I didn’t pay close attention to those prices as they did not have what was on my list. The spices were way overpriced, but I often find myself snagging spices at dollar or discount stores. Some specialty spices are worth the price.
The dairy department offered what seemed to be authentic Mexican ingredients, however I found it to be VERY overpriced. From $2.69 for 18 eggs to $5.19 for 16 oz. shredded Quesadilla cheese and $1.99 for Philadelphia Cream Cheese, I don’t plan to repurchase these items at Brito, with the exception of the cheese, which I may buy and blend with commercial cheese to save a bit of money. It truly is an amazing cheese. Jubal was “afraid” to try the Sour Cream based on a recent experience from Deals discount store. I don’t believe we would have had a bad experience, but Jubal LOVES sour cream. He was already taking a leap by letting me grab the reigns and cook all week.
I’ve always LOVED the bread and baked goods department of Mexican origin. Bimbo Bakeries is owned by Sara Lee and it’s probably the best tasting and best priced bread I’ve EVER had as far as sandwich bread is concerned. Plus, we snagged a few sweet treats (fresh & packaged) that seem to be a hit in the house. The prices are a bit more than I would normally pay for the packaged goods, but it’s a change of pace. The fresh goods are AMAZING and very reasonably priced. You might consider giving a Panaderia a shot one day instead of an ice cream parlor.
The Meal Plan
After making tonight’s dinner, the meal plan has changed ever so slightly, though we have all of the necessary ingredients after picking up the dairy products at Kroger.
Tonight we had Chicken Salsa Verde with Spinach & Black Bean Couscous and Fried Plantains. It was AMAZING! I have step-by-step pictures and will post a tutorial with recipes this week. Plus, I sampled the dish like “The Taste” TV show on ABC and it was the perfect compliment of texture and contrasting flavor. If I can make it “homemade” instead of semi-homemade, I seriously would have considered entering my dish.
Here’s a sneak peak!
For the rest of the week, here are our options, in no particular order:
Cuete (beef oven roast) with Yuca Gratinada (substitute for mashed potatoes) and green beans. Why green beans? Well, I intend for this to be a more Americanized meal for the boys!
Lokshen Kugel with Meatloaf. The Kugel will be prepared savory style with a cream mushroom base to pair with the meatloaf, along with green peppers and onions infused in the meatloaf.
Mexican Pizzas and soft tacos. Ground beef and/or Chicken, refried Beans, Pico de Gallo, a thin tomato sauce with Adobe seasoning, onions and whatever else our little hearts desire.
Jamaican Beef Patties. Hand made Jamaicaan beef patties with fried plantains, red beans & rice.
Breakfasts, Snacks & Lunches
For snacks and breakfast I’ve got organic fruit & nut bars, granola, plus this cute little apple sandwich with peanut butter, granola & raisins in between as well as trusty celery with peanut butter or ranch dip!
Lunches for the adults will be leftovers and for Nicholas, he eats school lunches. I think it’s time to ask him if he would prefer to bring lunches. That’s a post for another day!