Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday, July 31- Wrapping up the week at Casa Diana Kennedy's

As we walked down the path from Diana's house for the last time we were all a little sad it was over. Everyone had mellowed towards her sharp tongue and instead concentrated on the information she so freely shared about her beloved Mexican cuisine.  As for myself, I secretly had a few laughs because Diana hasn't changed one bit since the first class I took from her in 1976 in Chicago.  She wants things done her way, following the recipes she has researched and tested in her books to the letter.  A few revisions were made to fit ingredients available in the her books but here we used the local ingredients, herbs, chiles, produce and dairy that have been used for decades.  Diana is trying to save these recipes from fast food oblivion. This is what I came here for.  The thrill of using her collection of cazuelas and ollas was beyond belief to me.  One really needs to leave their ego checked at the border to enjoy a trip like this.  I am sure everyone felt the same way.
Cindy closes the gate to Casa Diana

Diana Kennedy, center with our class, July 1992
 Back at San Cayetano, Mary collected tuition for the classes. She, Diana and I figured out the payments with Cindy and Paula paying for the extra half day when we return to San Francisco. I told Diana that the cheeses, cocoa and dates were a gift from "Taste Catering", who I worked for as their Director of Culinary Operations ( basically head Chef).  She was thrilled and promised to write a note and send down a revised "The Tortilla Book" for me to take back.
In the morning we were all packed and ready to leave this retreat.  Breakfast is Chilaquiles, the wonderful rolls and plates of papaya. I am not shy about eating breakfast anymore and savor the green peach marmalade one last time.  I can't possible carry anything else or I would take a jar each of it and the blackberry preserves.  Diana told me she has a recipe similar to the green peach marmalade in her " Nothing Fancy" cookbook.  I can't wait to look it up.
She joins us and as promised gives me the paperback copy of "The Tortilla Book" and a note to Taste Catering thanking them for the goodies.  Everything seems fine with she and Andre.  We are settling the bill with him which, of course, was complicated. He had me mixed up with Cindy the entire week, charging my food and drinks to her and vice versa. This was a riot to us as I guess all blondes look alike in Mexico.  We straightened it out with alot of  French Vietnamese-Spanish chatter from Andre .  Our bus arrived and off we went to Mexico City, crammed into the bus for a three hour non-stop whirlwind trip.

Whew! My trip down memory lane is over, at least for this adventure...
Here are some odds and ends of photos that I thought were fun.
Mary Risley
I love this picture of Diana showing us an old corn cob "scraper"

Diana's backyard " Panaderia"-built to emulate wood fired ovens in bakeries.
I wish we could have fired them up for bolillos and other bready things.

Adjacent to the adobe wood fired ovens, a clay comal for tortillas
These were built for classes and magazine shoots although I have never seen any of the articles.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thursday, July 30- Day five, Last day of cooking at Casa Diana Kennedy

Last night Alejandro came to drive our group into Zitacuaro to shop at La Placita and have dinner at a restaurant-bar owned by a woman by the name of Lily, a friend of Andre's.  She also had a video of the opening ceremonies to the Summer Olympics.  I decided to forego this "adventure" to read a set of magazines called "Mexico Desconocido" that Diana loaned me. She wrote articles for this publication about regional dishes that were beautifully photographed and, conveniently, translated into English.  I took alot of notes even though many of the ingredients aren't available outside of the particular regions let alone the U.S.
There were photos of Braceros which are kitchen islands in older homes such as the one we are cooking at in Diana's house. One article was about the mother of Consuela, Diana's housekeeper. It described how she made tamales from the male corn plant when it tassles. It is quite a process of drying the seeds and beating them with a peach tree stick then grinding them for the masa. There were many other recipes that I won't be able to include at this time but will at sometime in the future.  
Diana's household staff was made up of Consuela, the aforementioned housekeeper, her husband Carlos who is the handyman, Vernonica, Carlo's sister, Sonia who works in the kitchen but is not related to the others, Miguel ( Ponsy) who helps out wherever needed and Alejandro sort of the Rancho manager.  They were all very sweet and certainly a patient group to work for Diana on a daily basis.

Veronica in the kitchen
I woke up Thursday and realized it was the last day of classes. Alejandro met us at 9am and off to the mercado we went to buy cazuelas and chiles.  The chiles moras ( chipocle mora) man was closed. Diana strongly recommended we take some of the Mora's home. Oh well.  We found plenty of cazuelas and Mexican utensils and everyone had fun choosing their treasures to lug home.  Tom and Cindy each bought beautiful large deep bowls with smooth thick handles and a good glaze.  We did get lessons in glazes and Diana assured us she has had many "lead tests" all of which came out negative. She does, after all cook daily in the local pottery. I bought four small covered bowls for sope plus two salsa bowls to take home to my girlfriend Weezie.  Heidi and I went farther back into the market to check out other vendors. She bought great soup and stew bowls, about 12 of them for $5. US. I found a large covered cazuela with the same flowers as my soup bowls again for $5. US, a large hand carved wooden spoon to add to my collection and for souveniors we picked up little "Zitacuaro" ashtrays. Mary wanted a comal so we got that for her.
Diana's collection of Regional Mexican pottery-we got to use alot of these pieces

We went back to San Cayetano and unloaded.  Heidi had  had a bad night so stayed back to rest.  Diana was delighted to see the five of us but concerned over Heidi.  Compliments all around from Diana, Cindy's blue shirt with a red apron impressed her as did Mary and my French print scarves and on and on.  She was ready for a few days off I think. We began to talk about the days menu.  She already had chicken for "Sopa de Lima" poaching in the earthenware pot.  She added extra bones to enrich the stock.  We picked the bitter limes from the greenhouse.  What a different lime!  They were bright dark green like the Persian limes but fragrant with a bitter flesh that was perfect for the sope.  "The Cuisines of Mexico" has this seemingly simple recipe on pgs 144-145. There are quite a few steps to get the sopa into our bowls but my favorite part is the end of the recipe where you drop half of a bitter lime into the broth then retrieve it after a few seconds, place broth into individual soup bowls, fry tortilla strips and while they are still hot drop some into the broth so they sizzle. Little bowls of condiments similar to pozole are passed around.
Heidi showed up mid day feeling much better and with her appetite back. 

Heidi Krahling-happy mom to be
We started on a difficult dish called "Papa Dzules" or Tortillas in pumpkinseed sauce.  The tortillas are dipped in pumpkinseed sauce, filled with chopped hard boiled egg, rolled up and covered with more sauce. It is finished with tomato sauce and little pools of green oil squeezed from the pumpkinseeds. What a beautiful dish!   Everyone had a turn at squeezing the oil out of the toasted and ground pumpkinseeds.  A little broth is added and the ground seeds are kneaded until they become a dark color.  You need to squeeze the paste until drops of oil exude from it.  This is harder than it sounds.  Diana did alot of the squeezing which I can see would be a good way to take out aggressions.  Tom, with his large hands, did the best squeezing.  What a great flavor! We all licked our fingers and groaned.  Mary wanted to lick Tom's fingers but he resisted.  The eggs that filled the hand patted tortillas were from Diana's hens. They were the brightest yellow that I have ever seen with a very rich flavor.  The sauce was "Salsa de Jitomate Yucateca" from the same book, "Cuisines of Mexico". We used alot of epazote in the broth which was added to the pumpkinseed paste after most of the oil was extracted.  This formed the green sauce.  It was a fairly heavy dish when all was said and done but delicious.

Diana Kennedy squeezing the oil out of pumpkinseed paste
 There were "Uchepas" or, green corn tamales, resteamed and served with pork stew and slices of queso anejo plus Diana's crema.  Mary made ice-less margaritas. I pounded Diana's coarse sea salt in her small molecate for the rim of the glasses.  They were authentic and cut through the richness of the dishes.  Mary's nose turned bright red and she declared herself "high".  We followed the margaritas with "coronitas" and finished our meal. Diana brewed some of her homegrown, dried and roasted coffee. It was delicious.  She also served a little plate of dried peaches and more booze! Mescal with apples.  Tom loved that! 

Tom Worthington with his beloved apple infused mezcal
She talked about her ecology movement.  They are making honey in the Yucatan from bees that gather nectar from tropical flowers that are in danger of extinction.  It is now called "Jungle Honey", a name we all disliked.  She had some for us to taste.  The flavor was very different, acidic, light and sort of grainy.  The proceeds will be put back into the area to help preserve it.

Paula Lambert intently listening to Diana's stories, "Bracero"
or kitchen island in the background
We made "Conchas" or breakfast pastries from a frozen starter.  They were a bit dry and not the most interesting except for the topping of raw sugar mixed with butter and shortening.  Her oven was acting up and Tom straightened the heating element out. She promised to finish baking them off.  We were all interested in the metal cutters that shaped the Conchas. I wish I could draw them but they are round with straight blades about 1/2" apart on one side and either curved blades or squares on the other depending on the pattern desired. We trekked up to the top of the hill on Diana's property to take pictures of the vista and her partially hidden house( I don't know where my pictures went). Classes were over but she promised to join us at Andre's for pozole that evening when we would settle the bill for the week.
Diana came over bearing the Chorizo verde and Chorizo rojo that we made earlier in the week and left to dry.  They were to be prepared for breakfast the next day along with the conchas.  Andre made himself scarce but did oversee the kitchen when the pozole was served.  It was delicious and a perfect ending to the day.  We had beer and another sipping of tequila with Diana joining us.  She promised to bid us off in the morning and most likely make sure the chorizo was served!