Whenever there was a wedding or baptism to celebrate in San Luis de la Loma, Ana Mellin made the relleno de puerco. In the tiny town just up the coast from Acapulco, she and her cousins roasted banana leaf-swaddled, whole hogs for funerals too. The celebratory pig, stuffed with pineapple, plantains, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and pickled onions and jalapeños isn’t well known outside the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, but Mellin’s daughter Ana Fernandez brought it with her to Mexico City—and her granddaughter Arlene Luna is bringing it to Irving Park for Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s ongoing chef pop-up series at the Kedzie Inn.
“I have friends from all over Mexico,” says Luna, the chef-owner of Avondale’s marvelous Moonwalker Cafe. “Unless they are from Guerrero they don’t know it. It’s almost like a little secret.” She says that secret society of expat Guerrerense cooks have adapted their varied recipes to smaller cuts like shoulder or fresh hams, but the essential method abides. While everyone seems to make relleno (for short) differently, Luna plans to debone whole Catalpa Grove Farm pierna, before marinating it in a paste of guajillo chilies, cinnamon, star anise, oregano, cloves, marjoram, and vinegar. She’ll stuff it and wrap it in banana leaves before roasting, then finish it with peas and serve it with white rice or sandwiched on a bolillo. Never with tortillas, she says. Some people add raisins, but her abuela says “never.”
Luna and partner Jack Blue are virtuosos at this sort of laser-focused pop-up. As I promised, they’ve relaunched their Friday night pop-ups at the Moonwalker, selling some 93 animal-style LA burgers in 90 minutes last week. “I feel like I got hit by a bus,” she says. This Friday they’re doing another LA tribute at the cafe; a handful of variations on the banana-wrapped Tijuana dog (aka Sonora dog, aka danger dog).
Meanwhile, they’re taking preorders for Monday’s relleno de puerco right now via Instagram DM—with rice and a green salad ($17) or on a bolillo ($13), along with Luna’s chocolate cake ($7), named for Guerrero’s coastal region from where her family hails. As always there will be a limited number of walk-in orders available on Monday, January 31 beginning at 5 PM at the Kedzie Inn, 4100 N. Kedzie. Bring your proof of vaccination.
And here’s an update on the Foodball schedule: Funeral Potatoes is back, and Shin Thompson is bringing Bokuchan’s to the bar!
- February 14: bye week for Valentine’s Day
- February 21: Oskar Singer, aka @ryehumorbaking, and Uma Jupiter, aka @_fa1th_of_the_hrt_, present “Chateau Picklebone”
- March 14: Joey Pham, aka @flavorsupreme, and Kelly Ijichi of Mom’s Chicago, present “MSG (Monday Snack Gathering)”
- March 21: Lorraine Nguyen, aka @lolo_agogo, and Joey Pham, aka @flavorsupreme, present “SUPRANOS: a Viet-Alo Experience”
- April 11: A second act from Oskar Singer (aka @ryehumorbaking)
- April 18: TBA
- April 25: Roel Estanilla of @pigandfire