December 28, 2009 - 7:05 AM
A whole cow's head, tubs of lard, pickled pigs feet, and sticks of sugar cane. This list may sound like a recipe for some kind of witch's brew, but it is actually some of the things I encountered as I meandered through Ranch Market with my mom and sister. Phoenix has been home for 20 years, but Christmas Eve was the first time I had visited this well-kept Phoenix secret.
Ranch Market is a gigantic grocery store with several locations around the valley. The store specializes in Mexican foods for both fresh ingredients (e.g. maza [ground corn for tamales] and la crema fresca [fresh cream]) and pre-prepared dishes (tamales, frijoles [refried beans], and arroz [rice]). It truly feels like you are in a foreign country when you walk in: a Mexican radio station plays through the speakers, all signs are in Spanish, and the store's clientèle is predominately Latino. The three of us walked through the store wide-eyed marveling at such wonders as the tortilla factory that cranks out thousands of variously sized tortillas every day. In the meat section there was a whole cow's head, chorizo in the shape of a pig, and all varieties of sausage. The Market also offers an entire seafood section, juice bar, bakery, and café.
Although we mainly went for the cultural experience, we were on a mission to pick up some ingredients for the carnitas (spanish for "little meats") dinner I was preparing for Christmas Eve. As the carnitas slow-cooked in the crock pot back home, we searched Ranch Market for tortillas, frijoles, rice, El Pato sauce, salsa, and tortilla chips (none of which were difficult to find). We quickly assembled our shopping list and then searched the shelves for El Pato sauce. I was somewhat surprised to find that you could buy such Americanized items as Special K or Coca Cola at the Market, but I suppose it would make it easier for Ranch Market to be a one-stop-shop for weekly grocery shopping.
We found our Pato sauce, checked out, and struggled through the afternoon salivating at the frijoles and arroz. Dinner finally arrived. I must admit that I am a connoisseur when it comes to Mexican food, but these were some of the best tortillas and frijoles I have ever had (and Phoenix is a mecca of Mexican cuisine).
I will definitely return to Ranch Market soon because I still have a hankering for some of their frijoles, and I want to try other delicious items they offer. Should you ever find yourself in Phoenix, check out Ranch Market if you get the chance. Until then, I'll be scouring Eugene for the best Mexican market in town for my frijoles fix; I'll keep you posted.
One thing I haven't shared with y'all is that I love to cook. I have mastered a carnitas recipe that you can use the meat for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or any other concoction (I usually make soft tacos or burritos with it). I developed this recipe myself with my dad's help, and we got the inspiration from a restaurant in Flagstaff, AZ whose specialty is citrus carnitas. Make sure to give yourself about eight hours to slow cook this in the crock pot, and you'll be eating right.
1 2-3 lb. pork roast (may be any thicket cut, but I usually use a shoulder roast)
1 small white onion
1 8oz. can of El Pato Jalapeño Sauce (green can)
2 navel oranges
1 Tbsp. Cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. Brown sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Chili Powder
½ tsp. Oregano (dried)
Dice the onion and place in the bottom of the crock pot. Then mix the spices in a bowl and rub the pork with the spice mix. Place the roast in the crock pot over the onions. Quarter one of the oranges and squeeze some juice over the roast and place the four quarters in the crock pot with the roast (use more or less oranges depending on the size of the roast). Cover the crock pot and let cook for 6-7 hours on low. About one hour before you plan on eating, pour the can of El Pato over the roast and squeeze half of the second orange over the roast. The pork should flake apart easily after about 8 hours. Remove the roast from the crock pot and pull apart with a fork and knife. Serve on tortillas with frijoles, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole with a side of rice and beans. Garnish with cilantro. Serves 4-6 (and you should have leftovers).