I’ve had two visits from happy cruisers in the last couple of months. The first, a group of six, got a culinary tour and private class — the two ladies who were in last week got the tour and a sit down Mexican cooking demo with each course served in miniature servings presented on pale yellow glass heirloom dishes.
The menu went like this:
TORTITAS DE PAPA – a real Mexican comfort food. You’ll find these crispy little potato-cheese cakes served throughout Mexico, homestyle with a nice sauce. I made a roasted tomato salsa with lots of roasted garlic, and served the tortitas up with a good mild queso fresco crumbled on top, garnished with a sprig of cilantro.
ENSALADA DE NOPALITOS – another comfort food, top of the list of many Mexicans I’ve asked for their list of faves. Prickly pear cactus are now available everywhere in Cabo, perfectly spineless and ready for cooking, a faithful indicator of the number of mainland cooks who have moved in and set up kitchens all over Los Cabos. The cactus leaves exude a slime much like okra, but this can be eliminated or minimized with proper cooking techniques, resulting in a bright green, crispy tender vegetable with a flavor similar to green beans. This cool, refreshing salad combines nopalitos, Roma tomatoes, white onion and fresh cilantro, dressed with lime juice, sea salt and just a tiny pinch of Mexican oregano. Delicious on a steamy summer evening with totopos, toasted pita triangles, or garlic toast.
GORDITAS DE PUERCO EN MOLE ROJO – The culinary tour took us to El Mexicano, a wonderful traditional tortilleria where the masa is prepared and ground fresh daily, and every tortilla is hand made. We picked up a half kilo of warm and friendly-feeling masa to play with at home, then dropped by Los Michoacanos, the legendary Princes of the Pig serving up fresh hot carnitas daily — the whole pig cooked up crisp yet tender in its own fat. We nibbled on free samples while we scored a huge bag containing very lean pork, little bags of homemade condiments and salsas, and wonderful handmade tortillas. Back home we combined the porky bits with a rustic red mole from Michoacan that I made up the day before using guajillo, pasilla and ancho chiles, pumpkin seeds and lots of garlic. The ladies and I played with the masa, forming thick, boat shaped masa discs we cooked up on a hot comal, pinching up edges to form a cup for the pork, slowly cooking in the red mole meanwhile. The finished gorditas were served with Cebolla Encurtida, a red onion halved, then sliced thin and packed in a glass jar with a charred habanero chile (very little heat escapes if you don’t pierce it), white vinegar and a good pinch of sea salt. Allowed to macerate overnight, this is a wonderful condiment to keep on hand for traditional Mexican eating.
PICARDIA – a Jalisco standard. A juicy jicama is chopped with a seeded, finely chopped serrano chile (or two) and a big handful of finely chopped, fresh mint, finally dressed with fresh lime juice. I added a pinch of sugar as my jicama wasn’t as sweet as I would have liked. Served cold — so refreshing! I can eat a bunch.
POLLO EN MOLE NEGRO DE OAXACA – Yum! Diana and I brought black mole paste back from our last foray to Oaxaca City – the gift that keeps on giving! I buy it by the quart at the big Central de Abastos market – Juquilita is my preferred brand – and cut it into cigar size chunks. Each chunk will sauce a whole chicken in grand style. There is nothing like Oaxacan black mole. The ladies had never experienced a real mole sauce, and the rustic red and fine black offerings showed them something of the range of these fine Mexican sauces. So many people mistakenly think “mole” refers to a chocolate sauce, and have no interest in eating “chocolate on their chicken”! Surprise! A good mole may or may not contain small amounts of chocolate to enhance the wonderful bitterness of the dried chiles which make up its base flavors. Is bitterness a good thing? Think coffee. Think dark chocolate. Oh yeah.
The black mole was served on poached chicken medallions on a bed of fragrant white rice…
We finished off with a silky FLAN DE ELOTE – fresh corn custard with the traditional caramelized sugar topping. This was much like any good homemade flan, with fresh corn ground into the custard before baking to perfection in a baño maria.
And to drink… Agua Fresca de Jamaica, ruby red hibiscus tea served cold and slightly sweet, and Agua Fresca de Pepino, cucumbers blended with a bit of fresh mint, strained into a pitcher of cold water with just a hint of sweetness.
A wonderful visit, we got to play with our food… and of course reminisce over all those little courses. I cannot wait til the next cruise.
Bon voyage to everyone setting sail…
Un saludo afectuoso,