Sisters Maria and Sylvia Calderon cook side by side in their tiny eatery located on the banks of the Ramos river in Allende, Mexico under a towering tree. At their one-room, one-table restaurant, they only serve one dish–chile con carne–though sometimes they call it “carne con chile.”
It comes in a bowl with another bowl of beans on the side along with a plate of mashed avocado, a plate of queso fresco slices, and a plate of sliced onions soaked in lime juice seasoned with a little salt and oregano. We were served an extra dish–jalapeño chile relleno. The sisters start making flour tortillas as soon as you sit down.
The chili is made to order in small skillets that each fill one bowl–enough for two people. The meat is chopped round steak. It is browned in lard with a touch of garlic. Roasted roma tomatoes are pureed in the blender with some wild chile pequin and that mixture is added to the browned meat. It simmers long enough to cook the meat, but not long enough to make it very tender. This dish would be called carne guisada in South Texas, but if las comadres want to call it chile con carne, you best not argue.
While we ate, Maria took fresh tortillas, drizzled them with manteca, and squeezed them tight in her hand to form a sort of squashed-together tortilla log. It was amazingly tasty. “My mom made the same thing with hot flour tortillas spread with butter,” my dining companion, Monterrey cooking school principal Robert Navarro told me. “She would make a little animal head on one end–we called them burritos. I always thought that was where the name came from.”
The river flooded some years ago and washed the restaurant away. The sisters thought it was a good opportunity to rebuild a sturdier structure. The new building looks pretty stout. To make a reservation, visit their facebook page.
Eating lunch at Las Comadres and talking about cooking with the Calderon sisters reminded me why I used to spend so much time in Mexico. I realized that I have been away too long.