Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wednesday, Jul 29-Day four, Cooking at Casa Diana Kennedy

Kaopectate Day!!
Last night I felt the beginnings of the "touristas" but waited until this morning to take the kaopectate tablets I brought along. I did not have cramps or stomach problems so hopefully it will be alright.
Each morning I have been able to make a cup of tea in my room using my little electric immersion heater.  I also use it to heat water for the hot rollers for my hair.  It cost $1.25 and has served me well but, alas, it gave out today. No more pre-breakfast tea. Oh well only a few more days.  Andre Claude's kitchen served a great blackberry jam with breakfast.  I pretty much stuck to the wonderful rolls and some fruit in the morning, not being much of a breakfast person anyway. The tamales were not served.....I sense trouble.
We had an invigorating hike up to "Quinta Diana's". It is a beautiful, rustic road and it gives us a chance to chat on the way up, before we are out of breath.

 Diana greets us, worried, as she only saw three at breakfast and today is the third day when the students start dropping off.  We reassure her that all is well.  I keep it to myself that the smells of things cooking are a bit overwhelming.  After a few minutes we start our lessons.
First, questions from the previous day and critique of the food are the topics.  We discussed the tamales, "Oh did you have them for breakfast" she asks, we all stuttered, "no".  Mary said she told Andre Claude that they were to be served at breakfast.   Diana starts boiling over, thinking his kitchen staff stole them or something.
We finish our discussion and she is off to ring up Andre.  An argument ensues and she hangs up on him.  She can't concentrate on our lesson.  Andre phones back twice but the answering machine is on.  She intimates that if he gets angry enough he is likely to evict us and refuse to take anymore groups.  She gets very worried and says she will send a note.  I am thinking that it is highly unlikely that we will be evicted or that he will refuse to take more groups. Zitacuaro is not exactly a resort. I can't imagine who else comes down here to vacation or visit. Diana is the main draw for Americans, I am sure.
Anyway we  go over the many tasks for today.  There weren't alot of recipes but they were the more complex ones.  One of my favorite recipes from "Cuisines of Mexico" is the classic Mole Poblano.  She taught it while I was in Chicago in the 70's.  Steve actually bought me the huge orange Le Cruset dutch oven so I could make it.  I have lugged that around lovingly and still have it.  Instead of turkey, we used chicken that was poached leaving out the carrot.  All of the seeds,bread, tortillas and chiles were fried in lard.  It turned out perfect.  Mine has occasionally had a slight burned taste but this was wonderful.  The chocolate was a very bittersweet-grainy tablet which may have made a big difference.  The Mole Poblano was served with tortillas.  We thanked Tom and Paula for tackling this.
From "The Art of Mexican Cooking" Cindy made Green Pozole.  The hominy (corn) has to be soaked in lime to loosen the skins.  This was done yesterday and was cleaned and ready for the soup.  Diana had already started cooking it in a beautiful clay pot with onion and garlic. It has to be fully cooked before adding it into the pozole.  The "green" comes from the use of sorrel ( so happy as I have a patch at home), raw hulled pumpkinseeds and tomatillos. There was alot of toasting, grinding, mashing and blending.  She suggested only straining the blended ingredients if the sorrel is stringy.  Pozole is a hearty soup that is served with an assortment of condiments which is the fun of eating it.  This version was served with: toasted chicharron ( you know, fried pork rinds), wedges of lime, oregano, chopped serrano chiles, avocado and chopped onion.  It was excellent.  The Kaopectate was working.

Diana serving the Pozole Verde
Next was a dish we did when Diana taught at Tante Marie's Cooking School in San Francisco.  It was a salad of Nopales or cactus paddles.  "Ensalada de Nopalitos"  from "The Art of Mexican Cooking".
I took this one on with Diana's help. First sweat the 1/3" diced nopaoles. They have to be cut into precise little squares. One has to take off the spines first unless you purchase them already cleaned.  Diana's were so fresh that the spines scraped right off. Onion is sauteed in a little oil and the nopalitos are added with salt. The pan was covered to let the slimy liquid exude. With the cover removed, we boiled away the liquid and let them cool down. To make a "salad", toppings were prepped consisting of sliced tomatoes, chopped cilantro, purple onion rings, crumbled queso fresco ( white, salty cheese), jalapenos en escabeche and avocado slices. The juice from the jalapenos en escabeche was used to flavor the nopalitos instead of lime or vinegar.
I love all salads but this one is right up there with my favorites.
The last recipe was "Tamales de Frijol Negro" from the same book.  These are pretty complex but worth the effort. We all had a hand in them. Basically a ball of masa is centered onto a plastic "baggie" that lines a tortilla press. Another baggie is placed over the top and the tortilla press squishes the dough into a disk, just like a tortilla.  A black bean paste is spread over the disk.  The baggie is lifted so the dough folds over itself on each side to enclose the filling. Then the top and bottoms are folded over to make a rectangular shape.
A piece of hoja santa ( Saint's herb or root beer plant) is placed on top and the tamale is transferred to prepared corn husks to be wrapped up and transferred to the steamer. The hoja santa has a flavor like root beer. It is a beautiful plant with large fuzzy heart shaped leaves. I immediately ordered a little plant from a place in Texas and it took to my Mill Valley garden beautifully. Every time Diana came to town she knew she could use some of my leaves.  Anyway the tamales were steamed in this huge steamer with the requisite pesos on the bottom.  If the pesos are rattling the water hasn't boiled away.  These were served with a picante Salsa de Pasilla made with smoked Pasilla chiles from Oaxaca..Tom and I decided we had to find a source for these!

Steaming Tamales, Heidi, Mary,Tom &

Tamales de Frijoles Negro
 We sat down to taste our bounty and Diana brought out bottles of Coronitas...heaven!

Pozole, Ensalada de Nopalitos & Coronitas

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tuesday, July 28-Evening of Day Three-Big night out on the town

Diana had sent our leftover tamales to Andre Claude, proprietor of the San Cayetano motel that we were staying at, in a basket.  We delivered them to him as he was arranging for a taxi to take us into town to the new "La Placito" where we could buy pottery and watch the Olympics at the "Video Taco Bar'.
After our, now, routine evening session of going over recipes together and griping about Diana's way of teaching-she gets on everyone's case for making mistakes or not asking her before finishing a recipe (she is the foremost authority of this cuisine, lest we forget, and therefore entitled to making sure we get it right),we decided to go into town.  Actually we had no choice since Andre worked hard finding a trustworthy taxi driver to take us in and pick us up.  While waiting Andre offered us beers (which we paid for) and Barbara, a local woman showed up to chat and have a "tea punch" on Andre. He says she is "the hair in my soup". Lucky for us the taxi showed up before any retaliation by Barbara was made.  Off we went to the new "La Placito".  The taxi left us off agreeing to pick us up at 9:30.  We stepped inside the plaza and everything was CLOSED!! We decided to wander down to the Revolucion Avenida where we found another "video bar".  It was nice and quiet except for MTV and the Coronas were ice cold.  Mary was hungry so Tom ordered tostadas.  They arrived and we ate them, laughing our guts out as we tried to figure out what the topping was. It was gelatinous and I guessed pickled pigs feet or ear.  Anyway they were good.
We arrived back at the plaza at exactly taxi.  It was raining and a few other people were standing around. These were pre-cell phone days.  Finally one Senore spoke some English and said our driver had been there, realized the plaza was closed and left!  This wasn't a big deal except we hadn't paid for the ride.  We found another taxi on Revolucion to take us back.  Andre was waiting with a lecture about "his" man coming all the way back to see if we were there and him sending him back into town for us. In the end it cost us $15mp taxi home and $40mp for the four trips the first driver made.  Andre is a "lecturer".  Mary, Tom and I were only hoping to make it through the night without any bathroom problems from the "pickled appendage tostadas" so we paid whatever Andre wanted. That was our "big" night out in Zitacuaro!
Unfortunately I did not take any pictures...they would have been the best!