Everyone walked up to Diana's today. It was straight uphill through a very lush area. We took a path and followed it to a point that we didn't recognize. Heidi thought we missed a turn. I didn't have a clue as directions are not my strong point. Mary and Cindy missed the point and kept going. We three went back to the "missed turn". The other two were up to the Casa well in advance! We got the more scenic tour of the village of "San Pancho", or formally known as "San Francisco Coatepec de Morelos". We passed a hospital, church and school. That was it and the hospital looked a bit dubious.
Diana was cheery and glad to see us in good health. Everyone seems to wait for first of us to fall ill. It turned out to be a great photo taking day. We set straight to our tasks with Diana the "mother hen" at our heals. Mary keeps things light with her wit. She has said right from the beginning of this trip that she is a blank slate as far as Mexican cooking is concerned. This is her vacation as well so she is entitled to take it easy and observe alot. There is plenty of good food happening today.
After lunch, Diana gives us a tour of her home and greenhouse. What a thrill! We aren't allowed to take pictures of her living quarters and now I see why. They are so well thought out and very elegant without being lavish. Surely a "paid" magazine spread in the future. Her guest room has a veranda with a spectular view of the mountains in the area. The bathrooms are cream and brown tiled with wood slate floors. Diana's private bath has a deep tiled tub that looks like a Jacuzzi plus a bidet! Beats the rough toilet paper. The bed is covered with a tweed burlap-type fabric with posters and mosquito netting over all. She has a separate lounge for reading. Mary always needs a nap so Diana put up a hammock for her. Lots of funny pictures were snapped with Mary in that! There is a greenhouse off the end of the living room near where the guest room and master bedroom are with more vista views! Diana built this house from the ground up with alot of thought towards the land and enviornment. In the greenhouse were all sorts of greens & herbs only found in this part of Mexico (as far as I know). I try to identify those that she let us taste but it is difficult to remember the spanish names of all of them.
Before the tour we were busy with our menu for the day.
First off was Silil P'ak, a delicious pumpkinseed dip straight out of Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico" I began making this in Chicago and it is still one of my favorite recipes.The recipe I use is in my July 27 post by the way. This version was a little watery and not hot enough for me. Of course there was a sopa del dia and today's was White Bean and Dried Shrimp Soup from "Art of Mexican Cooking. There was much discussion about the dried shrimp. Diana assured us we would never find the right ones in the U.S. She advised against using fresh as they wouldn't absorb the flavors. It was suggested that we grind up the ones we have in the U.S. and add to the soup if we had to use fresh. I may try to find good quality dried shrimp in Chinatown when I get back to San Francisco. She brought out jars of different sizes of dried shrimp, the ones from the coast were the size of ants. They were interesting indeed!
Heidi made Jalepenos en Escabeche a take on the Chiles Serranos en Escabeche from "Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico" pg. 163. She added a pinch of Poloncillo, Mexican brown sugar, and used Diana's housemade fruit vinegar. They were wonderful! Every Mexican table has a little bowl of the pickled chiles with carrots, onions and herbs on it, the canned ones are just not the same.
We had procurred huge mushrooms from the market called "Coronas". They look like Portbellas, very large, brown and meaty. I took the whole cap and sauteed it flat with safflower oil, garlic and salt, turning it once. We cut it up and ate it with tortillas and limes. Unbelievable how such a simple preparation tasted soo good.
Thank goodness there were 5 of us as we teamed up to finish the day's tasks. Next, Cindy and Paula made Tamales Estilo Veracruzano. We did these in class at Tante Marie's school and again today. The masa wasn't quite right so there was much discussion about that. The recipe is straight out of "The Cuisines of Mexico" pg 101. The concensus on masa was to use 1/2 que broda (coarse) : 1/2 masa para tortillas (smooth). These tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, filled with pork that is cooked in water with onion and garlic, left to cool in the broth, strained and added to a chile sauce made with tomatoes, onion, garlic and dried ancho chiles along with the reserved broth. I could have just eaten it as a stew at this point! The masa is beaten with a little of the pork broth then spread on a banana leaf. A few cubes of the pork with sauce is placed on top of the masa and a small piece of a leaf called "hoja santa" which is called 'the root beer plant" in Texas is placed on top of the masa. The edges of the banana leaf is folded over this and the little packets are stacked in a Tamale Steamer one on top of the other. Traditionally a few pesos are in the bottom of the steamer. As long as they are rattling you know the water hasn't dried up. The tamales are covered with a thick cloth and the lid placed the steamer. They are left to steam their little selves off for about 1 hour.
|Diana showing Cindy how to form the tamales|
I set to work on Pollo en Mole Verde from "The Art of Mexican Cooking" . I love this Oaxacan mole. It is everything green in it's glory! Poblano chiles, cilantro, parsley, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, tomatillos, green pumpkinseeds as well as other spices. The "pollo" of it is a recipe in itself and could be used for a number of dishes calling for poached chicken. Diana had an earthenware pot just for poaching chicken. Of course I had to have one and found one before we left. I swear it made a difference from the stainless saucepans usually used at my house. Of course the chickens are all fresh from the market, you could buy them alive but thank goodness Diana spared us that and bought hers from the butcher. It was cut up and poached with the giblets, onion, garlic and sea salt. We let it cool off in the broth while the sauce was made.
There was much toasting, frying and grinding for the Verde sauce. The blender is definetely an essential piece of equipment in the Mexican Cocina these days. They used to use the heavy stone "metate y mano" or "molcajete y Tejolote" (mortar and pestle). We used one of Diana's beautiful "Cazuelas" which can be used over the flame on the stovetop to cook down the Mole Verde. This is cooked in lard until it is a deep rich green, adding more stock and lard if it is too dry. I love lard! She suggests substituting safflower oil if you must.
The cooked chicken pieces were added during the last 10 minutes of cooking. When pools of fat show up and the mole glistens it is ready to serve. This is one Mole that is best served the day it is made as the herbiness looses it's vibrancy when chilled overnight. Many pictures were snapped of this one! We served it with the always handmade tortillas that Veronica and staff made each day.
|Pollo en Mole Verde|
Diana is tired and we leave at 4:30 or so today. Her little dog " Chespa" follows us to the gate and off we went down the "correct" shorter path, snapping pictures as we go. Just before our casa, San Cayetano, Mary spots a "se vende miel" sign and wants to buy some honey! Of course everyone who speaks spanish in our group is already in the rancho driveway so the two of us push back the overgrown vines and attempt to buy "meil". It was a riot! There were brown chickens everywhere but mostly in the tropical tree branches above our heads. Scrawny dogs and cute baby chicks scampered about. A young girl with a baby approached us and somehow we got the point across that we wanted "meil" Her mother came out to make sure I hadn't misunderstood the price which was $10,000 ps and thought it was $2,000 and she thought I meant I wanted 2 jars so that's what we got! After about 10 min. with everyone in the family running in and out of doors-trying to find jars I imagine. The younger brother was kicking the scrawniest of the dogs so it wouldn't bark at us ( or worse). Mary was asking me all sorts of questions as to why people live like this, reproduce so often and kick their dogs. I didn't have an answer but I bet Diana would. The honey arrived, 2 qts at $10m each approximately $3. US. It looked lucious. I couldn't wait to get it home and taste it.
Our adventure for this day didn't end there.....