Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cooking in Oaxaca

Okay - after a week of gorging ourselves on Oaxacan cuisine, Megan and I decided to take a cooking class.  At Casa Crespo, under the hilariously dour tutelage of Oscar, the owner, Megan, I and five others cooked and enjoyed an entire Oaxacan meal.

The class started with a leisurely coffee while we all decided what dishes most appealed to us.  Once we decided, we all sauntered (There is no walking in Mexico - and definitely no brisk walking.  Only ambling, sauntering, moseying, meandering and maybe a bit of strolling.) to the Sanchez Pascuas market to buy our ingredients.  This was perhaps the most instructive part of the class. 

Before even reaching the market, I learned:
  • soaking chiles in vinegar and water reduces the heat (spiciness)
  • avocado leaves can be used to flavor salsas and moles
  • tinga is the name for a dish composed of shredded meat, tomatoes, chipotle and onion
  • chipotle is dried or smoke jalapenos
  • the chocolate in Oaxaca has no milk in it.  Just almonds and cinnamon.

Once in the market, Oscar took us on a tour and named and described the use for all the chiles we encountered.  I must admit that the options at Whole Foods for chiles can't compete.  Oscar mentioned that many of the uses for chiles are simply to add color to the food or salsa, and why would we need those chiles when we have Red #40?



Back at the restaurant, we rolled up our sleeves, donned our aprons, and got to work, first with making tortillas.  I've tried it since at home, but was quite disappointed in the results without having a tortilla press to use.  But, it was fun!


Then we started working on the almond mole, the stuffed chiles, and the quesadillas.  Besides learning that everything is better if it is first blanched, soaked or roasted, we learned that..... (let me put my serious face on here)... "Puebla says by accident they created mole.  This is not possible.  It is a complicated process!"  No no.  Mole was invented in Oaxaca.


Anyway, after much snacking and much cooking, and five salsas, an avocado soup, chocolate ice cream, cucumber drinks and guacamole later, we were ready to take a break while everything cooked.

The meal was fantastic.  The company was interesting.  The instructor made me want to instigate trouble.  And, recipes in hand, I am going to attempt them all here in Chicago.  I'll return with links to the successes.  This was one of the most memorable and lasting vacation activities I've ever had - I've shared the story and the pictures - I can't wait to share the tastes and the smells with you!

5 comments:

Megora said...

This: "The instructor made me want to instigate trouble." is at the core of why we are friends, Aubrey. And also at the core of perhaps why we lose friends. :)

What a great day!

Aubrey said...

Hee hee. I thought we were VERY well behaved!

Aaron Lipke said...

Share with me! I eat. I totally qualify as an object of sharing.

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