June 7, 2012

la casa de los sabores: day 2

We assembled at the cooking school once again, prepared to be divided in half so one group could go to the market while the other prepped. But Chef Pilar took us all, instead, to the Benito Juarez Market. It was huge and filled with stalls crammed with items of every sort. Brought back memories of other markets in other countries.

market alleyway

We bought dried chiles of many kinds.

dried chiles

And also a lot of vegetables - this is Chef Pilar's favorite stand.

vegetable stand

There we discovered the Mexican specialty of huitlacoche - basically moldy corn but with a flavor comparable to blue cheese/mushroom/truffle.

huitlacoche kernels

After grocery shopping a couple of us lingered too long (ok fine, maybe we were buying things) at a piñata stand and got separated from the rest of the group. We managed to make our way back to the cooking school despite Chef Mark not picking up our phone calls.

The menu for today focused on chiles - two types of chiles rellenos (stuffed chiles) and some super spicy salsas.

One of the chiles rellenos was stuffed with picadillo - chicken (or any other meat) sauteed with tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, almonds, raisins and lots of spices (allspice, clove, cinnamon, oregano, thyme - which I got to ground up with pestle and mortar).

two-hand sautee

The chiles for this were dried pasilla chiles, which were rehydrated before being stuffed.

me & chrissy working

Then they were floured and battered in meringue (which included a bit of flour and some yolks for color) before being fried.

fried chiles rellenos

The other type of chiles rellenos were made with fresh chiles de agua, and stuffed with black beans and cheese.

chiles rellenos ingredients

As with every meal, we had to make lots and lots of tortillas. Chef said he wouldn't let us leave the country unless we learned how to make a proper tortilla. And it seems simple, with the tortilla press and all, but they can rip easily, and the hardest part is laying them down on the comal flat. I got really into it and laid down a bunch of flat ones (after the first one failed).

me laying tortilla down

By the end of everything we had a sizable feast assembled.

everybody getting food

I tried to place a shot of mezcal on my plate but it fell over. But the alcohol soaking the food wasn't even a problem compared to how spicy the meal was! All of us were grunting and panting in agony (but kept on going because everything was tasty). I think the habanero salsa (disguised as green chile sauce) got a lot of us.


Afterward I went back to the Benito Juarez Market and got myself a new pair of sandals because my other ones got broken. The first two stands I encountered had merchants that were not very nice, but then I encountered a nice old lady and rooted myself at her stand, determined to buy from her just because she was being so patient and kind while I tried on pair after pair. I left a happy customer.

new shoes

It was very hot so I went back to the hotel to get into the pool, where the water was colder than our showers. By the time I got out I longed for a hot shower, thinking it wouldn't be possible. But I got in the shower and hot water miraculously poured out - my first hot shower in Oaxaca! Hopefully it won't be the last.

Had dinner at a sushi place - more expensive than the local food of course, but there's only so much tortilla I can eat, even if I do love making them...

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