Food, Living, Mexico

Pork Belly Tacos

Christopher Columbus took 8 Iberian pigs with him on his 1493 voyage. After Hernan Cortes overthrew the Aztec empire in 1521 he traveled to Oaxaca and he brought pigs that were descended from the pigs Columbus brought to Cuba. Since then, the pig has been an important part of Mexican food culture. From tacos al pastor to cochinita pibil to lechon- there are many ways to cook a pig and it is almost always a feast for the senses.

While I love my pork slow-cooked, sometimes I just don’t have the time. So I have worked on finding a fast way to cook pork without losing the delicious flavor and pull away tenderness.

Here is my recipe for a fast cooked, yet tender pork.

Pork Belly Tacos

  • 1 pound (1/2 kilo) pork belly, leg, or shoulder with some fat attached
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 chipotle pepper from a can
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  1. Rub pork with minced garlic and salt.
  2. Heat oil in a deep pan or pot on medium-high.
  3. Sear pork until brown. Do not let the garlic burn. Add orange juice, chipotle, cumin and lime.
  4. Cover and turn heat to low-medium. Every 7 minutes turn pork over. After 45 minutes remove pork and slice thinly. pour left over liquid from the pot over top.
  5. Serve in tortillas topped with pico de gallo and salsa.

Provecho

Food, Living, Mexico

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde is perfect the perfect topping to almost any taco. The tangy tomatillos pair beautifully with pork, chicken and fish. This salsa recipe makes quite a bit but you can freeze half if you won’t use it all in the next week.

Salsa Verde:

2 garlic cloves

3 serrano chili peppers – check heat levels and use more or less depending on how hot you want to go

1 kilo (2.2 pounds) small green tomatillos, husks removed

3 cups water or chicken stock

1 cup cilantro

½ cup sour cream

Boil the garlic, chili peppers and tomatillos in the water or chicken stock until tomatillos darken in color but are still firm. Place garlic, chili peppers and tomatillos in a blender. Fill half way with water or chicken stock and blend. Add cilantro and blend. Let cool slightly and add sour cream and blend. Transfer to a pot and simmer on low until reaches desired thickness. Taste and add salt if needed.

For information on taking a cooking class with me, in-person in Huatulco, Mexico or online:

http://www.HuatulcoCookingClasses.com

chiles.chocolate@yahoo.com

Food, Living, Mexico, Uncategorized

Corn Bread Pudding with Poblano Cream

In last night’s online cooking class we made this sweet, yet savory, corn bread pudding with poblano chilies. I love this dish served with brunch or as a main served with salad. I originally came upon this recipe in a cookbook detailing Frida Kahlo’s favorite dishes.

For information about upcoming classes: http://www.HuatulcoCookingClasses.com Contact me to be added to our mailing list: chiles.chocolate@yahoo.com

Corn Bread Pudding

  • 4 tablespoons butter *half a stick *room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1.5 cups of corn kernels
  • 1/6 cup of milk
  • 1.5 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, separated

Mix butter and sugar together. Blend corn and milk in a blender. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and egg yolks together. Add corn/milk and sugar/butter. Mix well.

Beat remaining egg whites and when fluffy fold into corn batter. Pour into a oiled/buttered loaf pan. Bake at 175 C/ 350 F for 45 minutes.

Chiles in Cream

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 white onion sliced
  • 2 poblano chilies, roasted, seeded and peeled (If you cannot get poblanos you can use green peppers)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Sauté onion in butter on a medium heat for 10 minutes, add sliced poblanos and cream, turn heat to low and continue to sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Served corn bread pudding with poblano chilies in cream on top. Yum!

Food, Living

The love of good food

“The main facts in human life are five: birth, food, sleep, love and death.”  

E.M. Forster

This is my editorial from the August 2019 issue of the magazine The Eye.

http://www.TheEyeHuatulco.com

It’s our annual food issue! This month our writers explore lesser known ingredients and share their experiences of new food in new places. If you know me in person you know how important food is to me. I embrace the ethos that the best way to learn about a culture is through it’s food. So when I want to learn about people I ask ‘what are you eating?’

I just got back from a foodcation where I baked croissants in Paris and drank Pouilly Fume in the Loire Valley with a vintner whose family has been making wine for generations. I eased into long afternoon lunches of foie gras, leeks and red wine. Instead of post-meal siestas I took my cues from Paris’ best flaneurs and sat by the fountain in the Tuileries Garden people watching and enjoying the spectacle that is Paris.

Next I went to Delhi, India, where the chaos could not have been more different from the refined precision of Paris. I made butter chicken with chef Neha Gupta (www.saffronpalate.com) and while we made rotis we discussed what it is like to be women in business. This was especially interesting as very few women work in restaurants or hotels in India and the chance to interact with women was limited. Later in my journey, in Rishikesh, I was invited to join a home cook, Rashmi, while she prepared a feast of lentils and rice that was mouth-watering. It was an honor to be invited into her home and to participate in her everyday life.

There are many similarities between Indian and Mexican attitudes towards food as well a crossover of ingredients. Both cultures have a welcoming spirit and there is always enough to feed unexpected guests- the more the merrier. Ingredients seem to expand as you cook them and a small bag of groceries miraculously makes enough to feed a crowd.

While you may not be able to coordinate your own foodcation to Paris and India, you can have one right at home. Get together with friends, cook, explore new cuisines and new ingredients- invite the neighbors you never speak to over for paella or curry or tacos. Expand your palate and you will expand your circle of friends and knowledge of other cultures.

Happy eating and cooking!

Jane

Food, Living, Mexico

About the Pig… Happy Chinese New Year!

Took a bit of a hiatus on reposting my editor’s letters from our magazine, The Eye, but hoping to catch up in 2019:) Every January we theme the issue based on the upcoming Chinese New Year. For more great articles check out http://www.theeyehuatulco.com

If you love Mexico then you will love our content!

Editor’s Letter January 2019:

“Always remember, a cat looks down on man, a dog looks up to man, but a pig will look man right in the eye and see his equal.”

― Winston S. Churchill

I am really enamored with the idea of raising a pig. I would feed it green apples and then I would make bacon. There was a couple from Texas in my cooking class a few years ago and they told me that it was a rite of passage for their daughters to raise and slaughter a pig. While I love the idea of this I know that when the time came, I would falter and end up with a pet pig rather than pork belly.

Salt, air, time and quality pigs are the secrets to producing mouth-watering jamon serrano. I had heard of a man near San Jose del Pacifico who was curing ham and could not wait to try it. As I made the four-hour drive from Huatulco, I swapped the heat and humidity for crisp air and pine trees, adding layers of clothing as the car climbed from sea level to 10,000 feet to San Mateo Rio Hondo. 

Emiliano, originally from Spain, is making some of the most sought-after cured products in Mexico and he counts several Michelin starred restaurants as his customers. 

The adobe house nestled on a hillside, at the end of a narrow muddy path, is a bit of a trek to find. In the main house is a kitchen with a long table set up with marinated local mushrooms, quality olive oil and thick crusty bread.  A fire burns low in a fireplace, helping to cure the dozen or so hams that hang from the ceiling. 

We started with a tasting of jamon serrano, blood sausages and sobresada. Sobresada is a sausage made of ground pork and paprika that requires certain weather conditions – high humidity and mild cold. The sobresada was served on toast with local honey – it was fantastic and I have thought of it many times since I took that first bite. We washed down these culinary delights with a Spanish vino tinto. 

Out back is a rustic setup of pig pens. There were a couple of pigs in each spacious pen and several different varieties. The pigs came out to say “hi” as they sniffed my fingers, I wondered if they knew I had just been gorging on their cousins. The pigs are slaughtered at about 14 months old after subsisting on a diet of pine cones. They are hung in front of the fireplace to cure for about 18 months. 

Happy Year of the Pig! Make it a good one! Eat, drink, be merry and follow the adventures!

Jane

Food, Living

Coimbra, Portugal – An unexpected pleasure!

When I travel I am always looking for that one place that will beckon me to stop moving and stay a little longer.  It’s usually a small town, void of ‘hop-on hop-off’ buses or Michelin-rated restaurants, just something about the people that makes you slow down and pause. In Italy it was a place called Bevagna, in Mexico it was Mazunte and in Portugal it was Coimbra.

library-coimbra-interiorThe country’s former capital is home to the oldest university and has a mind-blowing library with an outstanding rare books collection, including several versions of The Bible form the 14th century.  One of the biggest “enemies” of the books is, apart from the humidity and temperature differences, the moths that feed on paper. The bookcases are made of oakwood which, apart from being extremely dense (making it difficult for the bugs to penetrate), has a scent that repels them. The books have yet another ally in this daily fight for conservation: the interior of this book temple houses a colony of bats which spend the night eating any insect that appears, thus freeing the books from their attack.

The Machado de Castro Museum was stunningly beautiful and while I usually tire quickly of religious art these pieces were so breathtaking that they seemed to transport you to another time, they beckoned silence and awe. The museum is built over a Roman crypt that you can visit- cool underground tunnels and arches.

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During my stay I had the privilege of participating in a private cooking workshop at the Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo. I inquired at my hotel and the owner went above and beyond in making this happen. I arrived at the school and was welcomed by the administrator and introduced to Chef Emanuel and his students Raquel and Rita. Chef explained the dishes we would be preparing; duck rice, octopus, bacaloa (cod), pork, Portuguese gazpacho, lemon rice pudding… just to name a few.  We worked in the commercial kitchen of the cooking school- all gleaming stainless steel and lots of space. The duck rice was phenomenal- rice that is cooked with duck stock and served with shredded roasted duck meat. The tender octopus was served with oven-roasted smashed potatoes and topped with a few splashes of olive oil and sea salt.  The rice pudding dessert was the perfect amount of sweetness and the creaminess contrasted perfectly with the bright lemon flavor. All served with delicious wine of course. Beyond the food, I loved the chance to talk with Raquel and Rita and to learn more about their lives in this region and what they hoped to do once they finished school.

Hands down this was the highlight of my journey!

Where to stay in Coimbra:  http://www.theluggagehostel.com/en/Utilities/Homepage.aspx

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Food

The Perfect Bite

I am a dainty eater. Maybe discriminating is a better word. I don’t like to feel full, definitely not stuffed. I like to stop eating at the point where I feel sated but I might have a little more room in case something else is around the corner. Going to a restaurant with me can be annoying, occasionally I declare myself done after consuming only a third of what’s on the plate. I am specific about what I want….. no buffets, no overstuffed American-style plates that could feed a small village, no coffee in glass cups, toast must be buttered when it is hot- is there anything more depressing than unbuttered toast with a little-frozen package of butter on the plate?

I don’t mind eating alone in restaurants. Books are always a good prop, I like the freedom to eat slowly and focus on the food. Especially if I am eating something so exquisite that it will make its way into my food memory hall of fame. Memories I pull out with relish and such detail that I can almost recreate the taste in my mind. So, despite being a dainty eater, I love food.  It’s that I am in such awe of those perfect bites; a moment on your tongue, swallowed and then gone- that’s why it’s important to pay attention.

People are always asking what I miss from Canada. Nothing really I say… but croissants. I didn’t even know how spoiled I was growing up in such an abundance of buttery lightness. My father would slip me a five dollar bill on Sunday mornings and send me to the family-run grocery store next door and I would come home with a half dozen croissants. This was our pre-breakfast… later would come brunch. The croissants were light and flaky, staining the brown paper bags they were served in and leaving crumbs between the plate and your mouth. These croissants didn’t need anything added; no jam or knives necessary- you pulled them apart with your fingers, the warm dough stretching and crumbling. Eating them was like not having a care in the world.

When my daughter was little and we spent summers in Montreal, we would stop by the bakery after day camp; an almond croissant for her and a plain one for me. We were such frequent customers that the counter girl visited us in Mexico a couple of years later.

Recently, a friend of mine was driving me through the streets of Oaxaca on our way to breakfast when, over the smell of exhaust and city fumes, I caught the beckoning odor of butter and baking. I turned and saw something fleeting out of the corner of my eye- a small doorway. I hesitated for a moment, like when you see someone you might know but haven’t seen for a while and you are not sure if you should say hi.

“Do you mind driving around the corner? Was that a bakery?” I said.

My friend drove around the block and double parked outside the small door.

“I’ll just be a moment,” I said.

Yes, the smell of baking and butter hugged me. Baguettes lined the walls like old friends. Not supermarket–style baguettes- these were long and thin like elegant Frenchwomen’s arms. Pastries sat in baskets in a glass case. One solitary croissant smiled up at me and whispered ‘bonjour.’ I ordered fast, randomly pointing to a focaccia, almond croissants, and a sourdough. All packaged up in brown paper bags.

Back in the car I pulled out the bag with the lone plain croissant and ripped off a piece for my friend.

“Here, try this!” I said stuffing a piece into his mouth as he drove, then I ripped off a piece for myself, leaving flaky buttery crumbs all over the seat. The texture of the croissant was perfect and when I put it in my mouth I thought… Am I going to have to share the rest of this? I did… but I didn’t want to.

Boulenc Bakery, Porfirio Diaz 222A, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, 01 951 514 0582 

Open 8am- 8:30pm

 

Food

Refreshing Cocktails!

While the classic lime margarita is always a good choice for summer, we have been looking for something a little more sophisticated- more Fresh than freshman. Huatulco’s tropical climate offers a plethora of fruits to play with.

My two favorite cocktails for the summer season are the Watermelon Aperol Spritz and the Grapefruit Habanero Margarita. I first discovered the Aperol Spritz in Perugia, Italy after a harrowing 63 km bike ride. As I walked through the main plaza it seemed everyone was drinking an Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an low-alcohol aperitif, bright orange in color and infused with herbs and orange. I drank it the rest of the trip and when I returned home to Mexico I explored every avenue to get Aperol in Mexico. For the past few years it has been readily available in Super Che. While I love an Aperol Spritz, I find the prosecco can make it a bit boozy for an afternoon cocktail when I am craving something lighter that won’t put me to sleep.

Watermelon and Aperol Spritz13442269_10154225051693373_5872964024642716742_n

Muddle chunks of watermelon

3/4oz simple syrup

1oz Gin

¾ Aperol

¾ oz Lime Juice

1oz Club Soda

Mix and pour over crushed ice. Garnish with watermelon.

 

For something more savory I love this Grapefruit Habanero Margarita!13939367_10154377928953373_6190189472420602480_n

1.5 oz Habanero infused tequila

3oz Freshly Squeezed Grapefruit Juice

1/2 oz.Lime Juice

1/2 oz. Simple Syrup

Mix and pour over crushed ice. Garnish with habanero and grapefuit.

 

 

 

Food

Mushroom Summer

In the same way the simple pleasure of Proust’s madeleine led him down the road of memory, I can trace my relationship with mushrooms, and my refusal to eat them, as a road map through my childhood.

My father, an animal psychologist and amateur mycologist was my first and best travel companion. He was often described as eccentric with his Albert Einstein hair, clothes that always looked as though he had just rolled out of bed and his plaid shirt pocket always with a Mont Blanc pen sticking out. When I was nine years old we rode the train across Canada to British Columbia where we stayed in a log cabin and he taught me how to fish. Before I went to University we explored the Cabot Trail and Peggy’s Cove and before my move to Mexico we went to Germany where we retraced memories of his childhood, eating in upscale restaurants and fancy hotels. “Always spend your money on good food” he liked to remind me when I was a struggling student.

Augusts were reserved for the cottage, cottage being a too quaint word for the large house that we rented each summer. The furniture was from the 1940s, there was a record player and black and white photos of the original owners decorated the walls. My older brother and sister would come and go, but I would spend the whole month lying on the dock with the friends I met up with each year. My father spent his cottage days foraging for mushrooms. He left early in the morning with his wicker baskets and his walking stick, limping his way through the village and into the forest. He had his spots. My sister and I accompanied him but it was soon clear that my sister’s interest and knowledge about mushrooms far exceeded my own and I soon drifted away from these expeditions. Mushrooming wasn’t as exciting as fishing or swimming across the lake or losing myself in the pages of a book. Opting out, I became the frivolous daughter, the one who preferred hanging out on the dock or going to parties with the summer kids.

My father and my sister would return in the afternoon, their baskets full with chanterelles and boletuses. There were stories of poisonous mushrooms that looked just like edible ones and of course there was Alice from Wonderland who found a mushroom that would make her grow bigger or smaller depending on which side she chose. I decided mushrooms were a very risky business and I refused to eat them. This presented a dilemma for my father who managed to incorporate mushrooms into every dinner. So for the month of August I lived on peanut butter toast, Bull’s Head ginger ale and the occasional all-dressed hot dog from Larry’s Snack Bar. My mushroom boycott was only second to my teenage vegetarianism as food protest, which ended our smoked pork excursions to Chinatown and devouring my father’s veal birds. Food was my teenage rebellion – that, and rolling my eyes at his repertoire of ‘fun guy- funghi’ jokes.

I have become less rigid in my eating habits; being in the food business, I will try just about anything, but mushrooms still have a special place of mystery for me. I am not alluding here to any psychedelic varieties, I mean regular old portobellos, shiitakes and chanterelles – whose earthiness transports me back to those summer days.

A few years ago when I first heard of the Wild Mushroom Festival in Cuajimoloyas, I immediately wanted to go. Each year, however, I found a reason that making the trip to Oaxaca for this two-day event, which includes mycologists, foraging and meals entirely prepared with mushrooms, was not possible.

This year I went. I kept my mushroom reticence a secret, which was fine, as I have always liked a good secret. I would eat everything and smile.

It was foggy and cold when we arrived in the town square of Cuajimoloyas that first day. I had travelled overnight and had been looking forward to ‘checking in’ to my cabin, but after a watery coffee we were asked to choose between the 3-hour or 5-hour walk and we were led into the woods. My inner voice was thirteen again but on the outside I smiled and walked along. The woods were like a movie set for a Grimms’ fairy tale, blanketed with pine needles, moss, lichens, succulents…. everything so moist and alive you could practically hear the mushrooms growing. Everyone in my group was collecting mushrooms with great enthusiasm. Within an hour our baskets were brimming. After five hours we gathered with the rest of the teams in a field for a picnic lunch. Each team’s mushrooms were laid out, examined and counted by the festival organizers and mycologists. My team collected over 223 different mushrooms – I didn’t even know such a thing was possible. Lunch was mushrooms in a red adobo sauce, which I ate with a smile, but was not enough to convince me that I could be a mushroom lover.

After a good night’s sleep in a cocoon of blankets, I awoke refreshed and ready for day two, which was a series of workshops, discussions with mycologists and cooking. Vendors had set up stalls in the town square and the products ranged from woolen hats (I bought one the first day and even slept in it) to organic chocolate, mushroom teas that held the promise of healing … well,  just about anything.

The cooking demonstration was given by Martha Contreras, a local from Cuajimoloyas. We prepared Amanita caesarea, commonly known in English as Caesar’s mushroom, a la Mexicana, by sautéing the mushrooms with tomato, onion and jalapenos in a large clay pot on an anafre (small tin charcoal brazier). A handful of epazote added a lovely top note and the mixture was rolled up in a potato tortilla. It was my ‘aha’ mushrooms moment. The flavors were so delicate and the mushroom still raw and fresh enough to not be chewy.

I came away from the festival with a healthy supply of dried mushrooms, ideas and an excitement for learning more. I met so many interesting people, as the festival attracts biologists, naturalist, birders and mycologists.

My father passed away just as I was making Mexico my permanent home, and while he was supportive, he was paternal in his concern. At his funeral, the rich chanterelle stews he was known for were served. A good measure for me is to wonder what he would think if he could see me now. As I trudged through the woods at the Cuajimoloyas festival, suppressing a craving for peanut butter and ginger ale, I think he would have loved it.

For information about next year’s festival or events in the area of Cuajimoloyas contact Expediciones Sierra Norte Oaxaca at www.sierranorte.org.mx

 

Food

Deep Fried Boletus’

I just had the pleasure of attending the Cuayimoloyas Mushroom Festival located 3200 meters above sea level and an hour away from the city of Oaxaca. The festival included a guided 5 hour foraging walk through the lush Grimms’-fairytale – like forest, a night in a cozy cabin and incredible local food. The festival attracts mostly naturalists, biologists, birders and of course mycologists.

The highlight for me was the cooking class led by Martha Contreras. One of the dishes she showed up was deep fried Boletus’- all done on an anafre of course!

1. In a mortar and pestle smoosh 10 small garlic cloves and a handful of fresh oregano until they form a paste. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and blend.


2. Slice Boletus’ into 3/4 inch pieces.

3. Add 1/3 cup of water to garlic paste mixture, 3 eggs and 1/2 cup of bread crumbs.

4. Soak pieces of Boletus in mixture for 10 minutes.

5. Fry in 1/4 of very hot oil until browned.

6. Serve with fresh tortillas.