Friday, November 6, 2009

Oaxaca Day 8

I have had a little time to accept that today's cooking class has been canceled. Luckily, we have one more confirmed for tomorrow so I won't be leaving Oaxaca on such a bad note.

Today, we will be doing some exploring of Mercado Benito Juarez (unprepared foods, clothing, leather goods, embroidered goods, cooking supplies, jewelry, mezcal, etc.) and Mercado Veinte de Novembre (a massive food court where you get yelled at to look at each places menu, watch your food being prepared, and get bothered by relentless beggars and wandering merchants while you eat). The two places are directly across the street from each other, but either one only have a small entrance hidden among outside vendors selling the same stuff as inside. I probably haven't made it sound very good, but it is exciting to wander around here. I am just not as comfortable taking pictures without the cooking class instructor softening the merchants.

As promised, I want to finish the cooking portion of Seasons of My Heart. I have one of Susana's cookbooks, "Seasons of My Heart", so when I heard we were making a guisado, I went through the book to decide what was interesting, unique, and challenging. The two I came up with were mole estofado and mole chichilo and I emailed the request. While technically not guisados (which is cooked with meat while moles are put on top of meat) Susana was apparently happy to have someone ask for one of her dishes and decided upon her favorite mole, chichilo.

We started with a lecture on the dishes we were going to prepare: Tetelas de Juxtlahuaca (triangular corn turnovers stuffed with red beans), salsa of little green chiles, sopa de ajo con flor de calabaza (garlic soup with squash blossoms), appetizer salad, arroz con chepil (rice with chepil), budin de tamala y pan (bread pudding with pumpkin), and of course the mole chichilo.

Here is a look at the kitchen of Seasons of My Heart.

There were 18 students and 4 assistants working in the kitchen making a variety of dishes. Luckily, JP and I were able to get into the 5 person mole making crew.

This recipe is similar in difficulty to the mole negro with a similar wide assortment of ingredients.

In this class, we wore elastic gloves to handle the chiles. The chiles are sliced to discard the stem and retain the seeds.

The chiles were toasted on a comal until they were aromatic, changing color, and starting to smoke.

The chiles are now put into a container of hot water to soak for 20 minutes until soft. They were then drained and chile water retained.

Add chiles to fill blender half way up. Next, add about one inch worth of chile water to give enough liquid for the blades of the blender to turn. After blending all of the chiles, pass them through a food mill to remove the skins and set aside.

On the comal, grill tomatoes and tomatillos until they are blackened and soft, around 15 minutes.

While the tomatoes and tomatillos are roasting, add the canela, allspice, clove to the comal and toast lightly. Remove the spices and add the garlic and onion until they become translucent.

Remove the blackened tomatoes and tomatillos and remove their skins. It should peel of easily while they are still warm.

Put the tomato, tomatillo, and garlic through a blender with a little bit of stock to keep the blades turning. Finally run through a food mill to remove the seeds and set aside.

Place the chile seeds inside a couple of tortillas, then put on the comal. It starts smoking at first, then the oil in the seeds cause them to catch fire.

Finally, the fire stops on its own and the blackened tortillas and seeds are ready to be removed. Make sure to take all of the charcoal remains.

The chile seed mixture is put in hot water to cover and soak for 15 minutes. It is then rinsed and put in a fresh batch of hot water to soak for another 10 minutes.

Strain the chile seed mixture and discard the water. Put the chile seed mixture into a blender with 1 inch of stock. Blend thoroughly, run through a food mill, and set aside.

Heat a cast iron frying pan to medium, then add a little oil to fry the raisins, almonds, cumin, oregano, thyme, and marjoram.

After 5 minutes, add onions and continue cooking for 5 minutes longer until nutty brown. The aroma of these ingredients is amazing.

Add the spice mixture to a blender with an inch of stock and grind finely. Pass through a food mill and set aside.

The final preparation for the mole is to mix a handful of masa fresca with a couple of inches of meat stock in a blender and set aside. This will act as a thickening agent.

It is now time to start cooking the mole. The first step is to heat up a couple of tablespoons of lard in a large stockpot. Then fry the chile mixture, stirring constantly over a medium high heat, for 15 minutes until the sheen of the lard surfaces.

It is time to add the tomato mixture. Keep stirring for another 15 minutes to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The sheen from the lard should again surface and the mixture will become bubbly.

Add the spice mixture and once it boils, add some stock to thin the sauce. Stir in the masa and stock mixture and blend together well. Keep stirring for another 20 minutes.

Toast a couple of avocado leaves over a flame and add to mixture along with the spice mixture. Simmer for another 30 minutes continuing to stir constantly. At this point, add salt and adjust based off of taste. Also taste for the pH level. Adding the chiles cause the acidity level to rise. Chicken stock acts as a basicity and adding some will help to neutralize.

While all this is happening, you will need to prepare the meat that is being served and cook potato wedges, green beans, and chayote. They chayotes here are huge.

Phew, that was a lot of work, but the result was delicious.

There were so many other things that were happening while preparing the mole. Shane was busy making the garlic soup with squash blossoms.

He also helped make the bread pudding with pumpkin. Both of these were awesome.

Seasons of My Heart was definitely the best cooking class to date. Maybe next time I will go on the week long course that they teach.

Tomorrow is the last cooking class of the trip, Casa Crespo. We will be deciding the menu when we arrive to the class. It is Trip Advisor's number one thing to do in Oaxaca and I am looking forward to it. Hasta luego.


  1. Looks delicious! Hey, welcome home! I hope you keep up the blog posting!

  2. Wow, the ingredients are fresh and in abundance. The amount of food being prepared is quite huge. All in all it definitely makes me want to just taste some of the food. Great pictures!