When Betty Alatorre and her fiancé Alvin Hong opened Paletas Betty in downtown Chandler, there was a lot of confusion as to just what they were selling: Polenta? Palates? No. Paletas. The homemade Mexican popsicles we've been asking for.
"I'm not really a chef," Alatorre confesses. "I didn't go to culinary school or anything like that."
Who cares? Alatorre was born to make paletas: she grew up in the Mexican state of Michoacan, famous for its popsicles, in a three-generation family full of fabulous cooks.
"Every time I think of going back home, of course I think of seeing my family and my close friends, but then I think of food," Alatorre says. "I just love it. You just can't get that food here. It's not the same."
Alatorre translated family recipes like arroz con leche into tasty frozen treats, first in small batches at home with Hong and then in the hundreds at the shop's kitchen, which, by the way, was custom-designed for paleta-making.
"We do absolutely everything from beginning to end," Hong says. Cooking up recipes, branding the sticks, pouring the molds, taste-testing, packaging paletas, running shop. Everything.
Alatorre sits down with us and spills about the tacos she can't get enough of, why she's measuring-averse and the reason behind the bite in her paletas mold.
Favorite kitchen tool? The Paleta stick - we use it for everything. If when we're working on the recipes, then we'll use it for tasting. If we're mixing and making sure the chunks of fruit are where we want them to be, we'll use the stick. When there's spillage on the mold, we'll sort of use it as a scraper.
Hardest kitchen lesson? You have to be very careful and you have to make sure when you're using your quantities, when you're measuring, when you're cutting the amounts. Sometimes even if it changes like a quarter cup, it makes a huge difference. Alvin has helped me a lot with always measuring, because I'm not used to it. My mom and my grandma never measure. They know it from memory and from heart. They just take a pinch of this or a spoonful of that.
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How many paletas have you scrapped in experimentation? Bunches. Entire sinkfuls. And then you just have to wait until it melts, otherwise you end up with a trashcan full of water. I don't think we can think of a number, but it's been a lot.
What's with your teeth marks in the corner of the paletas mold? Why the bite? I think it just makes it different. I think it's a joke out there: The bite means it's okay to eat.
Check back tomorrow for more with Alatorre and Thursday for a tasty paleta recipe to try at home.