by Ron Mader
On the road toward the World Forum on Mexican Gastronomy, aka el Foro Mundial de la Gastronomía Mexicana (FMGM), November 24-27 in Mexico City.
The following post is courtesy of the wonderfully talented, Cristina Potters. Her blog (Mexico Cooks!) is incredibly successful and we are proud to have her as a contributor to share her knowledge, recipes, and gastronomical expertise about Mexico.
Mexico Cooks! couldn’t start the month of September without paying tribute to our iconic chiles en nogada (chiles in walnut sauce), the Mexican flag on your plate.
Mexico celebrates its independence the entire month of September with parades, parties, and traditional food and drink in restaurants and at home. The traditional festive dish during the weeks before and after the Independence Day holiday is chiles en nogada, a magnificent tribute to the seasonal availability of granadas (pomegranates) and walnuts. From mid- August till mid-October, fresh pomegranates and walnuts make chiles en nogada possible. Mildly spicy chiles poblano, stuffed with picadillo and topped with richly creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds, flaunt the brilliant green, white and red of the Mexican flag.
This festive dish is traditionally served especially on September 15 or 16 in honor of Mexico’s Independence Day, though it is popular anytime in the late summer and early fall. During August and September in the highlands of Mexico, particularly in Mexico City and Puebla, the dish is very popular. On streets bordering city markets and tianguis (street markets), you will see village women sitting on blankets painstakingly cracking open nutshells and peeling the thin brown skin from each freshly harvested walnut. It is important to use the freshest walnuts possible, as they produce such a creamy, rich sauce that it is worth the effort demanded to peel them. Yes, the recipe is time-consuming…but you and your guests will jump up and shout “VIVA!” when you’ve licked the platters clean.
For the Meat
• 2 pounds beef brisket or other stew meat or 1 pound beef and 1 pound pork butt
• 1 small white onion, quartered
• 2 large cloves garlic
• about 1 Tablespoon sea salt
For the picadillo
• 4 Tablespoons freshly rendered pork lard or canola oil
• 1/3 cup chopped white onion
• 3 large cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 3 heaping Tablespoons raisins
• 1 or 2 chiles serrano, finely minced
• 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
• 2 Tablespoons chopped candied biznaga (cactus)
• 2 fresh peaches, skinned and diced
• 1 fresh pear, peeled and chopped
• 1 apple, peeled and chopped
• 1 extremely ripe platano macho (plantain)
• 1 large potato, peeled and diced
• 3 large, ripe tomatoes, roasted, peeled and chopped
• sea salt to taste
For the Chiles
6 fresh chiles poblano, roasted, peeled, and seeded, leaving the stem intact
For the Walnut Sauce
• 1 cup fresh walnuts
• 6 ounces doble crema or full-fat cream cheese at room temperature
• 1-1/2 cups crema mexicana or 1-1/4 cups sour cream thinned with milk
• about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 Tablespoon sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 cup dry sherry
For the Garnish
• 1 Tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Cut the meat into large chunks, removing any excess fat. Place the meat into a large Dutch oven with the onion, garlic, and salt. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface. Lower the heat and allow the water to simmer about 45 minutes, until the meat is just tender. Take the pot off the stove and let the meat cool in the broth. Remove the pieces of meat and finely shred them.
Warm the oil in a large, heavy skillet and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until they turn a pale gold. Stir in the shredded meat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon, pepper, and cloves, then, stir in the raisins, the 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts. Add the chopped pear, apple, and potato, and mix well. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste, and continue cooking over medium-high heat until most of the moisture has evaporated. Stir often so that the mixture doesn’t stick. Let cool, cover, and set aside. The picadillo may be made 1 day in advance.
Make a slit down the side of each chile, just long enough to remove the seeds and veins. Keep the stem end intact. Drain the chiles on absorbent paper until completely dry. Cover and set aside. The chiles may be prepared a day in advance.
At least 3 hours in advance, place the 1 cup walnuts in a small pan of boiling water. Remove from the heat and let them sit for 5 minutes. Drain the nuts and, when cool, rub off as much of the dark skin as possible. Chop into small pieces. Place the nuts, cream cheese, crema, and salt in a blender and purée thoroughly. Stir in the optional sugar, cinnamon, and sherry, if using, until thoroughly combined. Reserve at room temperature.
The stuffed chiles pictured above were dipped into an egg coating and fried prior to finishing with walnut sauce and garnishes. In Mexico, passionate diners argue the pros and cons of coating the chiles; many insist that coating and frying is not traditional, and many insist that it is. Mexico Cooks! prefers chiles en nogada with no coating.
Preheat the oven to 250ºF. When ready to serve, reheat the meat filling and stuff the chiles until plump and just barely closed. Place the chiles on a serving platter or on individual plates, cover with the walnut sauce, and sprinkle with parsley and pomegranate seeds
This dish may be served at room temperature, or it may be served chilled.
Note: Many people in today’s busy world prefer to make this recipe using a mixture of ground rather than shredded beef and pork. Using this quick method, simply brown the ground meats and add the rest of the picadillo ingredients once the meats are browned. The results will be excellent!
Culinary World’s Finest Chefs Gather in Los Cabos for a First-Class Tour of Baja’s Best Food & Wine
Los Cabos, Mexico – A top-tier selection of the culinary world’s finest chefs will gather in Los Cabos from November 30 – December 6 in celebration of the destination’s 9th Annual “Sabor a Cabo” (The Flavors of Cabo) food & wine festival. This highly anticipated gastronomic event is expected to be the largest since the festival’s debut in 2005 and for the first time in its history, will include a week-long series of ticketed events highlighting the renowned regional cuisine of Baja California Sur and the wines of Mexico’s celebrated Baja wine region.
The delicious weeklong festivities include a Country Side Taste Event on November 30 incorporating the local flavors of Baja; a Sunset Gourmet Gala served aboard a luxurious yacht on December 2 featuring a gourmet dinner prepared by Michelin Star Chefs; an Oktobeer Fest showcasing artisanal beer, local cuisine and music on December 3; a Wine & Art Walk in San Jose del Cabo on December 4 with 16 wineries, art galleries and restaurants participating for a family outing; and a Star Chef Dine-Around on December 5 featuring course meals prepared by celebrated chefs.
The main event will take place on December 6 from 5pm – 11pm and held at one of the destination’s most spectacular areas, the Sculpture Garden in Puerto Los Cabos. The event will consist of 50 participating restaurants and is expected to attract over 2,000 attendees, as guests from around the world are invited to dine beneath the stars and enjoy the “best-of-the-best” of international cuisine and wine.
“We are looking forward to welcoming the world’s best chefs to Los Cabos for the 9th Annual Sabor a Cabo event,” said Eduardo Segura, Managing Director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board. “Our destination has a rich and booming culinary scene that many people are still discovering. Events such as Sabor a Cabo highlight these offerings and provide us with a platform to position the unique products, sustainable brands and delicious flavors available in this particular region of Mexico.”
Confirmed to attend Sabor a Cabo are several world-renowned chefs including Federico Zanellato, Chef and Partner of NOMA Restaurant in Denmark (Ranked No. 1 among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants) Richard Sandoval, Chef and Restaurateur of over 35 restaurants world-wide, including Pampano and Zengo in New York City (James Beard nominated restaurateur and participant in Bravo’s reality competition “Top Chef Masters”), and Dieter Koshina, Owner of Portugal’s Vilajoya Restaurant (Ranked No. 22 among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants). Also on the roster is Roberto Alcocer, Chef/owner of Malva Restaurant in Ensenada, Mexico; Najat Kaanache, Chef/owner of Souk Restaurant in Dallas, US and former chef of Spain’s El Bulli Restaurant; Thierry Blouet, Chef/owner of Restaurant de Los Artistas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and Eduardo Osuna, founder of non-profit organization Chef to the Rescue in Mexico.
Additional participants and chefs are to be confirmed in upcoming weeks. Furthermore, the destination’s tantalizing culinary scene will be highlighted through participation of Los Cabos’ top Executive Chefs from two of the most luxurious hotels in the region, Las Ventanas al Paraiso and One&Only Palmilla.
Travelers interested in attending Sabor a Cabo can purchase festival tickets by visiting www.saboracabo.mx. General admission tickets are $100 if purchased prior to September 30 and $125 if purchased after. For special lounge area access tickets are $150 and for a seat at one of the events VIP tables tickets are $1,000 per person. All the money raised during the Sabor a Cabo event on Saturday December 6 will be donated to the Fire Department, the Red Cross and Children Foundation of Los Cabos.
For more information on Los Cabos, please visit: http://visitloscabos.travel.
Los Cabos, located at the tip of the 1,000-mile long Baja Peninsula, is home to award-winning hotels, resorts, championship golf courses, rejuvenating spas, world-class sport fishing, and was the host city for the G20 Summit of global leaders in 2012. With a unique landscape of dramatic desert and white sand beaches, Los Cabos is an exotic escape within easy reach of most U.S. and Canadian cities. For more information, images and videos from Los Cabos, please visit www.visitloscabos.travel, follow us on Twitter @LOSCABOSTOURISM and visit us on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.
Mexico Today News
The tacos of San Felipe, a town on the coast of Baja California in Mexico, are getting global recognition. Earlier this month, the Daily Beast published the Newsweek article “Top Chefs Choose 101 Best Places to Eat Around the World.” Renowned chefs participated in this global survey in order to compile a list of must-eats. Representing Mexico are the delicious tacos – specifically from taco trucks – located downtown San Felipe. The article recommends trying the carnitas and al carbon tacos, but the true specialty of San Felipe is its fish tacos. Read more…
Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico – May 28th, 2012 –Taste of Playa, 2012 is proud to announce its fourth annual culinary event for Sunday November 18, 2012. Taste of Playa, a premier international event, will be held at Parque Fundadores, between “La Quinta Avenida” and the beach in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico.
Taste of Playa offers locals and visitors a unique opportunity to explore a wide variety of contemporary and traditional Mexican cuisine samples, created within the region. Distinctive restaurants from Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya will prepare and present their gastronomic tastes.
“We are thrilled to have the support and commitment from many of our 2011 participants and corporate sponsors.” – Stated Tracy Redwood, This year’s marketing committee Co-Chair.
“Diamonds International is very proud to have been the ‘Title Sponsor for Taste of Playa 2011’- the event was truly amazing! The organization was excellent, the weather perfect and the food was the best – It was a great opportunity for Diamonds International and we look forward to Taste of Playa 2012” Said Lilia Gordian, Marketing Manager of Diamonds International.
Originally launched in 2009, Taste of Playa has gone from 25 restaurants and beverage providers, to over 40. Taste of Playa’s increasing popularity is expected to draw over 7,500 visitors in 2012.
Taste of Playa is organized by a Committee consisting of eight (8) local business owners in Playa del Carmen. The committee’s goal for Taste of Playa is to help develop and sustain community programs that will have a positive effect on the residents of Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya.
Taste of Playa is a community-oriented culinary event that is open to the public and relies on partners and sponsors for financial support. Online sales of Taste of Playa ‘pesos’ and VIP passes start on July the 15th through the event website; and Taste of Playa ‘pesos’ can be purchased on the day of the event, which runs from 3:00 PM – 9:00 PM. For more information, please visit:
el Jimador, 100 percent blue agave tequila, announces the launch of its “Cinco de Jimi Cup” contest in which participants can win a trip to Casa Herradura in Jalisco, Mexico to play a friendly match alongside former soccer legends from the U.S. and Mexican National teams. Eleven prize winners will receive round-trip airfare, accommodations, and local transportation for themselves and a guest.
“Cinco de Jimi Cup is an extension of our overall commitment to create once-in-a lifetime experiences for soccer fans,” said Jesus Ostos, tequilas brand marketing group manager. “We are thrilled to kick off the first of a series of interactive contests leading up to Brazil 2014 to engage consumers with the brand in a memorable way.”
To enter, adults 21 and older must define what they are made of by creating a list of characteristics that define them by percentage. The “Tell Us Your 100%” submissions will be accepted through el Jimador’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/elJimador under the “Cinco de Jimi Cup” tab, from March 15 to May 6, 2012. A panel of judges will review the entries and select 11 winners based on originality, personality and use of el Jimador brand. The winners will be announced by May 9, 2012 and be contacted via e-mail or phone. The friendly match with former Mexican and U.S. National Team soccer players will be held on June 6, 2012 at Casa Herradura’s Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. No purchase is necessary to participate. Void in CA and where prohibited. To see the Official Rules, visit www.Facebook.com/elJimador
Recently named Brand Ambassador, Alexi Lalas, will promote the contest through a series of interactive videos that will air on ESPN, MLS.com and Facebook. Additionally, the contest is being supported at retail with thematic point-of-sale and at many bars and restaurants frequented by soccer aficionados.
About el Jimador Tequila
From Casa Herradura, established in 1870, el Jimador is a premium, authentic 100 percent agave tequila that captures the spirit of real tequila. The name el Jimador honors the men who harvest the locally grown agave with great pride and care. Since its introduction in 1994, el Jimador has become the No. 1 selling tequila in Mexico*. el Jimador is the official sponsor of the MLS, U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams and the annual U.S. Tour of the Mexican National Team. To learn more about el Jimador, visit www.eljimador.com.
By Jeanine Kitchel
David Sterling, chef and mastermind behind Los Dos Cooking School in Merida, has the right idea about cooking in Mexico. Use what’s fresh, use what’s local, and try regional recipes. That’s exactly what he teaches in his cooking classes, dished up twice weekly between the months of October and March. Add a pinch of Yucatec history, a smidgen of Maya culture, a sampling of fresh spices and you have a tasty recipe indeed.
For Sterling, a Merida resident of many years now, cooking came naturally and one thing led to another down the path of regional cooking. Originally from Oklahoma and “weaned on chili,” Sterling discovered Mexican food early on due to a large Mexican population where he grew up.
In an interview the chef said his career took parallel tracks–cooking and design. While in graduate school for a Masters of Fine Arts in Design at Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan, he worked part time as a pantry chef at a well-known French restaurant, Le Bijou. This inspired him to start a small catering business.
After graduation he moved to New York City where he lived for 25 years. A friend who lived in the Yucatan urged him to come to Merida to visit, and after seven trips, he was hooked on Mexico. He did some serious thinking and decided on turning 50, “Why not shake it up?” He took the plunge, wrapped things up in NYC and moved to Merida.
On arrival he bought an old mansion with 18 foot ceilings, lots of space but in need of repairs. The plus side: it was in the historic district not far from the main plaza. He and his partner, Keith Heitke, started renovation.
When first in Merida, Sterling designed a gourmet line of Mexico food products that can be found on his website (www.los-dos.com) and slowly the idea for a Yucatan cooking school took shape. Now Los Dos hosts hundreds of students a year, mostly in the seasonal winter months.
Designed for people who love to cook, each class begins with coffee and pastries while Sterling gives an impromptu presentation of the history and techniques of Yucatan regional cooking. Sterling elaborates on the finer points of local food lore and the importance the Maya played in the development of Mexican cuisine and culture. The chef’s knowledge of Yucatec cooking comes from an intense interest in the subject. He scoured old cookbooks and did research through standard texts on the Yucatan, including books as seemingly unrelated to cooking as Friar Diego DeLanda’s Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. But even basic history books, he explains, have messages on what the food of the day was like.
He calls his wealth of knowledge on Yucatan food serendipitous, crediting a long list of mentors, including his friend Marta, a local anthropologist, and his favorite food writer, Sophie Coe (The True History of Chocolate and America’s First Cuisines), wife of archeologist and Maya scholar Michael Coe. Two friends, Diana Silveira and Socorro Rodriguez, also played a role as they’ve cooked with him since he came to Merida and taught him their skills in preparing regional cuisine which to them was just home cooking.
Included in the day’s itinerary is a tour of the sprawling Merida market, and under Sterling’s tutelage, students learn to identify first hand the exotic ingredients that make up Yucatec flavors by shopping for them. Then back to Los Dos to start cooking. What do the students whip up? Everything from tortillas to salbutes, panuches, tamales and more.
The school caters to a variety of needs and Sterling is flexible in how the classes are run. The grand finale to this epicurean adventure ends with a dinner the students prepare under Sterling’s guidance. It’s served in his formal dining room complete with all the trimmings.
A meal fit for a king? Well, maybe not far from it.
For rates and info, check out: www.los-dos.com.