Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eating Oaxaca - Part One

The winter passes relatively benignly here in the Pátzcuaro, Michoacán region. But January brings some cold nights and cool days, and we sought a break from the chill air. Moreover, I looked forward to the diverse cuisine of sunny Oaxaca, and to learn a little about it. We also wanted to renew old friendships and make new acquaintances while there. After looking over the many and varied cooking schools and classes offered around Oaxaca, I decided to test the waters by signing up for a one-day class at La Casa De Los Sabores.

Several options are available, as you can see from their website. I decided to splurge on a private class (I was the only student) because I wanted to match class content with the my skill level and experiences . In other words, I wouldn't be very happy if I was taught how to make guacamole. It was difficult to decide which of the 15 menus to pick. I've attached them below.
Reprinted courtesy of Pilar Cabrera


Cooking School 2008®


Quesadillas de champiñones y quesillo (Cheese and mushrooms quesadillas)
Ensalada de espinacas con aderezo de jamaica
Sopa de guias (Traditional Oaxacan vegetable soup)
Mole Amarillo de pollo (Yellow mole with chicken or pork)
Arroz con leche (Mexican rice pudding)
Salsa de chile pasilla oaxaqueno


Taquitos dorados de pollo (Golden fried chicken taco)
Arroz con chepiles (Rice with oaxacan wild herbs)
Coloradito de pollo o puerco (Coloradito with chicken or pork)
Pay de Guayaba (Guava pie)


Taquitos suaves de nopalitos (Tender cactus in soft tortillas)
Sopa de haba al chile pasilla (Faba bean soup with chile pasilla)
Estofado de pollo (chicken with a mix of tomato-almonds sauce)
Arroz campestre (Rice with flowers and corn)
Nieve de nuez


Quesadillas de flor de calabaza (Quesadillas with squash blossom and cheese)
Salsa de tomate y chile de agua
Mole Negro con pollo o guajolote (Black mole with chicken or turkey)
Arroz a la hierbabuena (Mexican style rice)
Nieve de vainilla (vainilla sorbet)


Memelitas (Small corn tortilla with cheese)
Salsa de tres chiles
Sopa de garbanzo a la hierbabuena (Oaxacan dry cheakpeas soup)
Mole verde con carne de puerco o pollo (Oaxacan green mole with chicken or pork)
Pay de requesón con salsa de chocolate (Ricotta cheese cake with chocolate sauce)


Ceviche de pescado
Arroz costeno (Mixed of carrots and cabbage with rice)
Camarones a la diabla (shrimp in chilpotle sauce)
Salsa de habanero (Green habanero sauce)
Flan de café (Coffee flan)


Memelitas (Small corn tortilla with cheese)
Sopa Conde (Black bean soup)
Chiles rellenos de queso y flores en salsa roja (Poblano chiles stuffed with squash blossoms and cheese, over red sauce)
Arroz a la hierbabuena (Rice seasoned with mint)
Pay de requesón y pina (Ricotta cheese cake with pineapple)


Tetelas de frijol con hierbabuena
Ensalada César (Ceasar salad)
Chiles rellenos de picadillo en salsa de tomate (Chile pasilla oaxaqueño stuffed with picadillo in tomato sauce)
Arroz a la hierbabuena (Rice with oaxacan wild herb)
Gelatina de rompope (Eggnog gelatin)


Flores de calabaza rellenas de requesón (Squash blossoms filled with requesón cheese)
Salsa verde asada (Smoky tomatillo sauce)
Sopa Azteca (Tortilla soup seasoned with avocado leaves)
Chiles en nogada (Poblano chiles filled with chicken, in nut sauce)
Flan de coco (coconut flan)


Ensalada de jicama y berros (Jicama and watercress salad)
Tamal de frijol (Black bean tamal)
Corundas (Cheese tamal wrapped in bambu leaves)
Salsa roja (red tomato sauce)
Tamal de mole en hoja de plátano (Black mole tamal wrapped in banana leaves)
Pay de mango (Mango pie)


Salsa verde cruda (Uncooked green salsa)
Gorditas rellenas de frijol (Stuffed corn tortilla with black beans)
Arroz negro (Rice with black beans)
Pescado a la veracruzana (Veracruz style red snapper)
Flan de vainilla (Vanilla flan)

12. 100% MAIZ

Tostaditas de tinga
Molotitos de papa con chorizo
Taquitos dorados de requeson
Tetelas con frijol y queso
Salsa roja
Salsa verde


Quesadillas de flor de calabaza
Ensalada verde con mastuerzos
Pechuga de pollo en salsa de flor de calabaza
Helado de petalos de rosas (Rose petal sorbet)
Te helado de jamaica


Tamal De frijol
Tamal de dulce
Chocolate de leche
Salsa de tomate

Every class we have a cocktail, a beer and wine, we’ll prepare during the class.
All the menus have been chosen by Pilar Cabrera, 2008 ®

As you can see, the eager, prospective student is spoiled for choice. I began by eliminating the menus that interested me less. That eliminated Colorado, Enchilado, Patrio, Veracruzana, 100% Maíz, Familiar. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with those menus, but I felt that they were either too basic (Colorado) or not as relevant to the region.
I considered Tamalada, but I felt that that one was mono-dimensional and the hand skills were too demanding. Besides, the tamales family is very common to Michoacán, although they are nowhere as rich and complex as a Tamal Oaxaqueño.

I like the idea of the De Flores menu, but realized it was difficult to reproduce and, let's face it: perhaps a bit precious. I really liked the concept of the Menú Vegetariano, but in the end, I had Negro or Verde as the the finalists. Mole Negro is complex and rich; probably the most popular choice among advanced students. Always the contrarian, I decided that Verde was my winner.

For convenience and comfort, I booked three nights at the Casa de Los Sabores B&B, where the classes take place; located on Los Libres 205, a bit off centro but a pleasant and interesting walk. For the remainder of our stay, I first booked two nights at Casa Arnel, in Colonia Jalatlaco, mostly for old times' sake and to visit our friends, the Cruz family, whom we'd not seen in over 12 years. We later extended our stay another night.

Our transportation was by bus, which in México, is a usually advantageous way to travel. We booked on Primera Clase and ADO GL buses, using our Senior INAPAM (formerly "INSEN" credentials to obtain 50% discounts, whenever seating allocations allowed.

We broke the journey in México City, staying at the Hotel Milan, in Colonia Roma Norte. It's a good, solid 3 star hotel, well located and very comfortable. There are any number of wonderful used book stores cafés and eating places close by, but we went to El Bazar de Oro, off Av. Insurgentes, to the Parillada Bariloche, a lively South American steak joint, a real, shirtsleeves, family sort of place. Seating on the backless plastic stools was uncomfortable, but the steaks were juicy and delicious. Prices are moderate, about $90 to $110 pesos a steak. There are no accompaniments, except bread and 3 delicious salsas. We ordered some papas Francesas and some soft drinks. Our bill for two was about $280 pesos. The restaurant is only open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

We slept well, and took the Metro from Insurgentes Station to San Lázaro Station, which resurges next to TAPO (Terminal de Autobuses para Pasajeros al Oriente)


Steve Cotton said...

What a great combination trip. My mouth waters. Now, Michael, do you have any suggestions on my cold mango soup request?

Don Cuevas said...

Steve, I've never made cold mango soup. I've made mango salads and mango salsas.

Steve Cotton said...

I found it. If you try it, let me know what you think.

Chilled mango soup
2 large ripe mangoes
1 jalapeño pepper
1/2 pineapple sliced in chunks
2 cups mango juice
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (red and/or white peppercorns)

Peel and pit mangoes. Roughly chop mango flesh. Roughly chop jalapeño. (Discard seeds and pulp for milder soup. Include seeds and pulp for a more picante version.) Combine all ingredients in food processor. Pulse until mixture is as smooth as possible. Press mixture through sieve, and chill in refrigerator at least for 2 hours. Serve with any complementary garnish -- mint, berries, fruit sorbet.