Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday,July 27, 1992, day two at Casa Diana

Diana met us at Rancho San Cayetano and we discussed the previous day.  She was upset that we thought it should have been an "orientation" day, not a paid class day. There was some descension among the group about paying for five classes when they thought it was four.  Mary and I talked and she agreed to negotiate with Diana.
We went into town to the bank and market.  Spectacular mushrooms! Bright yellow-orange, huge blue ones and small clavitos.  It was noon when we arrived back at Diana's cocina and a full day of cooking awaited us.  We worked very hard and could see she was upset about the misunderstanding. What a way to start what was supposed to be the chance of a lifetime to study under the foremost authority on traditional Mexican cooking. I was a little pissed at some of the complainers. Everyone seemed to mellow as the day went on.  We were cooking cuisines from the Yucatan Pennisula.  Pork is the word here.  The kitchen staff already had "pibil cochinitas" in the oven.  This is a 4# pork loin end rubbed with achiote paste ( housemade of course),wrapped in banana leaves and baked in a covered dish for 2 1/2 hours or so.  Traditionally, a hole is dug in the ground with stones placed in the bottom. A fire is lit and allowed to burn until the stones are blistering hot.  Some of the stones and wood embers are taken out and the container with the banana leaf wrapped pork is set on top.  Wet burlap sacks are stacked on top and the stones and embers placed back on top. The hole is filled with dirt and the meat is allowed to cook for 2 1/2-3 hours.  Sort of like a Hawaiian Pig roast or Back East Clambake.  This sort of cooking has been around forever.  Anyway the oven sufficed this time.  This pork was to be the filling for Panuchos a wonderful small filled tortilla.  We made the panuchos on the the thin metal comal to achieve the desired puffiness. They are made with corn tortilla dough formed into small rounds and placed on the hot "comal" until they puff up. We let them cool enough to handle and carefully sliced a pocket into each of them.  These were filled with traditional hard cooked egg slices and black bean paste. We pressed them a little so the filling wouldn't come out.
Next we heated lard and fried the "panuchos" until they were just crisp.  While these were being done someone had prepared my favorite- "Yucatecan pickled onions" These were seasoned with Yucatecan oregano which has a ribbed leaf, larger than our domestic, plus, bitter Seville orange juice and Chile Habenero, diced.  They are usually made with a lighter vinegar brine in my kitchen so these were a  little bitter, but good with the pork.  Chile Habenero is a killer hot bright yellow-orange chile.  A little goes a long way!  The pork was shredded and we were in heaven when these little goodies were assembled.  Simply pile pork and onions on top and enjoy!  "The Cuisines of Mexico" contains the step by step preparations for these.

Next we prepared Calabacitas, one of my mainstays for a Mexican buffet. It is so delicious and a good vegetarian filling for tortillas.  Basically it is a zucchini-corn-tomato dish. Diana's is a wonderfully authentic version. Roast about 1 1/2# tomatoes until they are soft. Cut up the same amount of zucchini into 1/2" dice
Heat oil,we used safflower oil in her kitchen but I use peanut oil in mine, saute squash, adding chopped Epazote, a Yucatecan herb that tastes like a minty oregano but smells like gasoline. It is really good and easy to grow.  The tomatoes were placed in a blender with 2 cloves of garlic, 1 medium chopped white onion and 2 charred chopped serrano chiles.
This was added to the skillet of zucchini, seasoned with salt and cooked at a simmer until tender and the juices reduced.  Serve with grated cheese, Chihuahua is soooo good, it is like a Jack Cheese but with alot more buttery flavor, oh,we ran the casuela under the broiler so the cheese melted into gooey wonderfulness!

Next there was a "Sopa" or soup on the menu. This one was from her "Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico" book.
                                                         Sopa de Hava
We soaked 2 c. yellow "hava" beans which are flat beans that can be found in Middle Eastern stores, or well stocked Mexican stores Drain the beans and saute in a little oil.  Add 1 1/2 c. diced white onion, 1 1/2 c diced roma tomatoes, 2 tsp. chopped garlic, 1/2 c. chopped cilantro, 2 chopped serrano chiles and 1-2 tsp salt.  Add water to cover and cook until the beans have broken down and are soft. Season with a pinch of cumin.  She had us toast dried pasilla chiles and crumble them over the soup. HEAVENLY! The beans, come to think of it remind of dried favas (havas, favas all good).

Another group was working on Diana's signature dish, "Lactarios Indio" or Blue Mushrooms from "The Art of Mexican Cooking".  Here is a picture of the infamous blue mushrooms from Zitacuaro!

We reduced about a quart of cream until it was quite thick, 20 min or so, sweated 2 cloves garlic and 2 Tbsp. chopped white onion in oil, use more depending on how many mushrooms you have, added strips of roasted and peeled Chilaco chile ( a local long dark, thinnned skinned, green chile) and cooked for a few minutes.  Next cleaned sliced mushrooms x 4 C. were added. Sprinkle with salt and cook down to release the juices. Ours were very meaty mushrooms so alot of reduced cream ( we used 1 1/2 c.) was needed. We continued cooking until very thick.  The dish was finished with chopped epazote.  She served them in heated blue corn tortillas but I liked them just out of the pan.
Blue corn was the rage in the 1990's, Mark Miller, Rick Bayless and numerous other Chefs were featuring it on their menus and coincidentally all of them studied with Diana at one time or another.

There is more!  We had all of these fabulous mushrooms ( see picture in my last blog). The bright gold-orange mushroom is called " Tecomatoes".  This was a simple preparation of sweating garlic and onion, adding the mushrooms and covering them to steam.  Remove the lid and let the juices reduce.  Toss in chopped chile serrano and, of course as it is Yucatecaen day, chopped epazote.  These were served over a salad of "Chevito", a local wild green with sliced onion, lime juice, X-Virgin Olive Oil and salt.

One of Diana's requests was to bring her some olive oil and cocoa powder of which Taste Catering, where I was Executive Chef, had plenty of.  I brought her a big bag of Valrhona cocoa and she was so pleased. I think Mary or Tom lugged the olive oil down.

We had so many wonderfully different ingredients and were tasting all of them.  One in particular, Mamay fruit was really beautiful and tasty. The skin was brown with salmon red pulp and a beautiful shiny brown skin. It tasted sweet with a cooked yam texture.  I picked up a copy of a very cool magazine "Mexico Descononcido" from Diana and read that the seeds are used in Puebla, boiled then smoked and ground for sauces.  The local Papaya was very large with salmon pink flesh and also very good.

Heidi and I managed to fit in making Chorizo.  I made the Chorizo Verde which was the recipe in "The Art of Mexican Cooking" .  I added 6 coarse ground chiles serranos which was not in the recipe.  Heidi made the traditional chorizo out of the same book.  We hand stuffed them and tied them off with corn husk strips.  Diana set up a fan to dry them.  Off we went to our motel and beers that Andre had waiting for us.

Heidi hard at work stuffing chorizo mixture into the casing while Diana continues to lecture.

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