Today we went back to El Origen, where we had our welcome dinner and our session with La Teca. However, this time we were being taught by El Origen's chef himself.
Chef Rodolfo took us to Mercado Abastos to shop for produce - conveniently the one big market I hadn't gone to yet. When we came back to the restaurant he sat us down and gave us the low-down on the five course meal we would be creating. And by low-down, I mean everything he came up with between the market and the restaurant. Because he didn't have a set menu.
In the kitchen, Chef didn't divide us into stations. He had his hands in everything, and so did we.
The first dish on the menu was sopa de guías, or soup of the guides, so named because it utilizes all parts of the squash plant (the squash vines guiding you to all parts of the plant).
Besides squash blossoms, vines, leaves and the squash itself, the soup also had corn and lots and lots of fresh herbs. Whose leaves had to be picked by hand, by Jen and I. (And this is why fine dining restaurants are like sweatshops.)
The second dish was the famed grilled octopus salad, which we had the chance to enjoy before at the welcome dinner. Beside octopus there was purslane, other herbs, radish, avocado criollo (local, with edible skins), mustard vinaigrette and artichoke chips.
The octopus was cleaned and boiled in a court bouillon until soft (at that point it tasted almost like boiled pork!) Then it was cut apart, marinated in a chili paste and grilled over wood charcoal. Krizol and I helped with cutting it.
The third course featured seafood - namely crawfish and grouper, beautifully presented. Hidden between were caramelized spring onion and carrot, garlic chips and an orange shrimp sauce to go with.
For this one I helped halve the crawfish, which were then seasoned with oil/salt/garlic and grilled. The grouper was poached in seasoned olive oil.
The fourth course featured pork tenderloin, and was accompanied by a creamy quince sauce and mole manchemantel (onions, ancho/guajillo chiles, thyme/oregano, cinnamon/clove/allspice). As is typical in mole manchemantel, plantains/sweet potato/pineapple were all present.
After being brined in a flavorful liquid including oranges, the pork tenderloins were wrapped in hoja santa and then bacon. I got to wrap one :)
The last dish was a twist on baked alaska. Mamon bread (Mexican sponge?), cooked pineapple, leche quemada (burnt milk) ice cream, and torched meringue on top. I helped make the tuna (cactus fruit) coulis which dotted the plate.
All in all very fine dining, and very contemporary Oaxacan cuisine. I have a feeling I would learn a lot just hanging out with Chef Rodolfo...