Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Estamos aprendiendo a cocinar comida mexicana

First off, a tourism update: yesterday, Kristen and I climbed up to visit El Pipila, the statue that overlooks the city, depicting a miner who fought in the first battle for independence. (Click on the link, if you're interested - his story is kind of cool.) Since the statue is at the top of the hill (Guanajuato, you may recall, is built in the valley between two small mountains):

we had beautiful views of the city, the photos of which really don't do it justice. I was longing for a panoramic lens. But here's a view of the city anyway, where you can see el jardin (green triangle in bottom right corner), the main basilica were we heard Mass on Sunday (big yellow building) and the university (above the church, kind of looks like a castle):

It was too close to take a good distance shot of El Pipila, and the sun was kind of back-lighting it anyway, so maybe this weekend, I'll take a picture of the statue from the town: he kind of hovers over the city. But here's what he looks like up close:

Yesterday I mentioned that we started taking cooking classes this week. The school runs these classes every week, and last week everything they cooked smelled so good that we just had to sign up. Also, the cooking facilities in our hostel are adequate but limited, and we were getting a little tired of eating out for every lunch and dinner. I'm going to be blogging about these classes this week, partly to share with you all and partly so I have the recipes written down somewhere! We didn't think of photographing our food yesterday (which is a shame, because it looked - and was - delicious), but hopefully we'll remember for the rest of the week.

Our instructor, Ana (who also works at the hostel in the mornings) is our instructor, and yesterday we chose four dishes we wanted to make from her list. (You can look forward to descriptions and recipes of enchiladas, gorditas and sopa de chayote (a squash that's very popular here), among other dishes I can't remember now.) Monday's dish was sopes de pollo, thick cornmeal tortillas shaped into little shallow bowls and filled with beans, chicken and cheese, and topped with salsa. We'll be making these when we get back for sure - they were totally fabulous. (Recipes below.)

Today's dish was not nearly as exciting, although it was very good: we browned chicken pieces in butter and mustard, then added boiled chopped vegetables (broccoli, carrots, chayote (a popular kind of squash here), summer squash and corn) to the dish and simmered it all in a sauce of roma tomatoes, two chicken boullion cubes, some garlic, some salt and some water, blended until pureed. Potatoes are traditionally added to the mix, but one of the women in the class is allergic to potatoes, so we didn't add them today. Definitely comfort food:

Our next culinary adventure is going to be tomorrow's breakfast. After dinner tonight, we finally broke down and bought a jar of cajeta, the goat's milk caramel that everyone seems to love here. We had been told numerous times that cajeta is eaten for breakfast with pan tostado, which I had mentally translated as toasted bread, or just simply toast. When we stopped at a bakery this evening, and inquired as the best bread with which to eat cajeta (and, incidentally, this question was posed and answered entirely in Spanish, which I was really excited about), we were directed to the grocery store next door, in order to buy this:

You may notice two things about this item. One: the brand name is BIMBO, which frankly I'm finding pretty hilarious. Two: it's pre-toasted wonder bread in a bag. We'll let you know how this goes.

Sopes de pollo
(not to be confused with sopa de pollo, as almost happened at dinner the other night. Good enunciation, I've found, is key.)

For the tortillas:
Some finely ground cornmeal (it looked like maybe half a kilo?) mixed with enough water to form a soft, pliable dough.

Take approx 2-3 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball; flatten evenly by hand or with Ana's awesome tortilla press. Cook disks in a dry hot pan until slightly browned on both sides, flipping once, then place over an open flame until they puff up slightly, cooking on both sides. Carefully flatten the tortillas and scrunch the edges up to form a shallow lip, to hold the fillings.

Fill the sopes with a refried beans, shredded chicken, and shredded lettuce. Drizzle some crema over top, and crumble on some queso ranchero. Finish with a dollop of either salsa verde or salsa roja.

Salsa Roja

10-12 chiles pullas, dried (there will be some coming home with us; they're at the market for 25 pesos per quarter kilo)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
8 tomatillos, halved or quartered
salt to taste

Toast the dried chiles over an open flame, until lightly browned, about 30 seconds on each side. Pull off the stem and toss into a blender whole. Saute the tomatillos in a touch of oil until fairly well blackened. Add to the blender and throw in the garlic. Add some salt and enough water to cover; blend the salsa until it's very finely minced. Consistency should be very liquid; the salsa should be able to be poured easily.

Salsa Verde
8-10 tomatillos, halved or quartered
8 fresh serrano chiles, stems cut off but otherwise whole
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, peeled

Place tomatillos and chiles in a small pot with enough water to cover; boil briskly for several minutes. Roughly chop the cilantro. Place the chiles, tomatillos, cilantro and garlic in a blender and add enough of the cooking water to cover. Blend until a similar consistency as the salsa roja is reached.

1 comment:

Lrerg said...

Wow -- who knew you'd be increasing your culinary skills while on this adventure? All of these goodies sound and look good. Love the Bimbo bonus!