One of the things I appreciate most about Pati is that she explains how to prepare items not usual in our regional cuisine, case-in-point: nopales.
I’ve eaten nopales plenty of times, but always they have been prepared for me either in jars or in restaurants, but I haven’t had access to fresh paddles in the great Northeast.
A different recipe in Pati’s book drove us in search of guajillo peppers, which oriented us to a local market that specializes in difficult-to-find items in a standard grocery. We found the peppers, but also fresh nopales. Simultaneously, I recalled a short video with a man eating nopalitos and eggs straight from the pan using a tortilla as utensil and the page of Caviar Mañanero in Jinich’s book (p 187). My stomach responded accordingly; we checked out of the store nopales in hand.
I’ll admit to being a tiny bit nervous about cleaning the nopales because I worried I would miss a bump, and in that bump would be a thorn, and then the thorn would (obviously) slice us unholy from top to tail, but it was an intrusive and unnecessary worry. I skimmed the tops of the nopales to remove the bumps and danger needles inside, then using a paring knife, I trimmed around the edge and sliced off about a half inch of the base, just like Pati directed me (p 332 Treasures).
I cut the nopales into small pieces and placed directly into a hot pan where they emitted a gooey mucus much like okra or aloe. The directions stated to continue cooking until the goo had mostly evaporated, at which point I added onions, fresh chiles, leftover canned hatch chiles, the last of our fresh cherry tomatoes, and eggs. We dished up with some leftover black beans and flour tortillas.
The cleaning of the nopales was way easier than I had expected, and I look forward to trying them in other recipes.