Almendrado (Tucson, 1920s)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Dec 7 09:32:50 UTC 2001

   "Almendrado" is not in the "world's greatest culinary encyclopedia.  It's also not in OED, DARE, M-W, and Mariani's Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink.
   One of the books I went through today was TUCSON'S MEXICAN RESTAURANTS: REPASTS, RECIPES, AND REMEMBRANCES, Tasted and Written by Suzanne Myal (University of Arizona Press, Tucson; 1997 copyright with Fiesta Publishing, 1999 paperback).  From the Introduction:

Pg. 13:  However, things immediately start to get complicated in southern Arizona, because what are locally called "flat enchiladas" or "Sonoran-style enchiladas" aren't really like other enchiladas--they are thick cakes of corn masa, red chile, and often cheese that are fried and then served in a red sauce!

Pg. 14:  If you deep-fry a burro, it becomes a _chimichanga_--a truly local dish from southern Arizona or northern Sonora.  There are many legends concerning the origin of the chimichanga, and its apparently meaningless name (some folks insist it's a _chivi_changa).  I don't know which, if any, might be the truth....  I'd honestly rather eat the things than argue about their origin.

Pg. 17:  And for dessert, what better than _almendrado_, a tricolored almond confection invented right here in Tucson in the 1920s.

Pg. 150:
   _Yndia Smalley Moore_
   as told by Dianne M. Bret Hart, daughter
   In the early 1920s, "dropout" was a two-word verb, and _almendrado_ had not emerged from a Tucson kitchen to be called a traditional Mexican dessert.  But a University of Arizona coed changed all of that.  The coed was my mother, Yndia Smalley.
   One night, not long after enrolling in the university, Yndia had a date with her good friend Malcolm Cummings.  They left the house intending to go to a movie but returned hours later with an idea they had formulated during a long evening of talk.
   They would borrow some money and open a charming little reservations-only, Mexican-themed "tea room."  So with a bank loan, plus help from their families, Malcolm and Yndia moved ahead with their plans.
   Yndia's mother, Lydia, indulging a well-developed sense of romance and adventure, offered to lend her cook, Rosa, to the tea room along with her own adaption of a popular dessert that accompanied the family's Mexican dinners every Wednesday evening.  Lydia replaced snow pudding's lemon flavoring with almond extract, tinted the layers of frothy beaten egg white a pale pink and green vaguely suggestive (Pg. 151--ed.) of the Mexican flag, and laced the custard sauce with "bourbon, enough to mask the egginess."  She called the dessert _almendrado_.
   (...)(Pg. 152--ed.)
   Rosa's years in the family kitchen, followed by two seasons at La Cazuela, gave her the confidence and skill to seek employment at the popular El Charro, then on West Broadway, where she introduced the enterprising owner, Monica Flin, to La Cazuela's popular dessert.
   Added to El Charro's menu, and then to others both near and far, almendrado began, and continues today, its incredible and mythic journey into culinary history.  Trendy menus focus upon _almendrado_ as "not to be missed," cookbooks toot it as "typically Mexican," newspaper food pages label it "traditional," and nouvelle Southwest restaurants serve it after salmon enchiladas.
   I have eaten garishly hued imitations of the real almendrado in Minneapolis and San Diego and elsewhere.  Their bourbonless sauces would cause my grandmother grief.  But closest to home, for me at least, is the Mexican (Pg. 153--ed.) restaurant in the Student Union of the University of Arizona.  Each Cinco de Mayo lunchtime I go there to be entertained by mariachi music and to have for dessert their version of _almendrado_.  And, for my grandmother, to mourn the custard sauce.

      Yndia Smalley Moore
1 package Knox gelatin
1/4 cup water
6 egg whites
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
   Dissolve gelatin in water.  Heat until dissolved.  Meanwhile, beat egg white until stiff.  Add cooled gelatin slowly, beating continually.  Add salt and sugar slowly.  When well mixed, add almond extract.
   If desired, tint 1/3 pale pink, and 1/3 pale green, and layer with remaining untinted 1/3 white in ring mold, a la Mexican flag.  Chill for 6 hours, unmold, and serve individual portions topped with custard sauce (see following recipe).

_Custard Sauce_
6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 pint half-and-half
blanched and toasted slivered almonds
   Beat egg yolks slightly.  Add salt, sugar, and half-and-half.  Cook in a double boiler until custard coats spoon, stirring almost constantly.
   When cool, add enough bourbon to overshadow eggy taste.  Add almonds to sauce just before serving, or sprinkle on top.  Serves 4 to 6.

   As I said before, this is not a great book, but FWIW, from EL CHARRO CAFE: THE TASTES AND TRADITIONS OF TUCSON (Fisher Books, Tucson, 1998), by Carlotta Flores, pg. 114:

Almond Meringue Pudding
   Makes 12 servings
Almendrado is a light confection, actually an unbaked, soft meringue, molded in layers colored to resemble the Mexican flag--green, white and red (which actually is pink, in egg white).  It is served with a custard sauce.  It is said that if the Almendrado fails, the blame lies with the cook being angry that day.
   Almendrado can be made nicely with egg substitute for the custard sauce.  However, you will still need to use real egg whites for the meringue portion.
(Long recipe follows--ed.)

More information about the Ads-l mailing list