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Oaxaca was Wonderful, Set for Next Year in June 2020

By Jane Butel  March 20, 2019

All of us had such a fabulous fun time in Oaxaca!  We cooked, we ate, we saw, we looked, listened and shopped.  Oaxaca is so beautiful and peaceful.  Yet on March 17--our last day, there was so much going on--major musical performances, a relay race through downtown and lots of people out to see the sights.  It was the beginning of a week long celebration of Benito Juarez, who was their Governor before becoming President of Mexico.

We made and sampled many of the essential 7 moles of Mexico--all of us really liking them and each of us selecting different favorites.  We made two of them in our cooking classes with Susanna.  We made the Amarillo and the Negro.  The Negro Mole is by far the most complex with such a laundry list of ingredients, including the burning of the chile seeds.  So many people think all moles are dark and chocolatey.  Not so.  When made from scratch with a good recipe--they are totally amazingly delicious.  We were also treated to Cheese Making demonstration, which really amazed the class, in how fast 3 cheeses can be made from the same milk. (pictured)

In our third cooking class with Rosaurio in Teotelan,  we made  quesadillas with squash blossoms, a corn and herb soup that was thickened by charred white corn that was pulverized on the metate--quite a laborious way to get cornstarch and so much more flavorful.  Also, she showed us how they make tamales out of tortillas, mole Amarillo and rolled in a steamed green corn leaf...all so different than the tamales we have in the "States".  Also, Rosaurio and her husband, Edmundo demonstrated how they create their beautiful and award winning rugs by first carding the wool, then spinning it; followed by dying it in all natural dyes made from nut shells, the mite that grows on cacti and all manner of naturally growing plants.  Their designs are often quite complex and are all done on simple looms--most of which are outside as the weather in the area is almost totally predictably pleasant.  

The first day, we explored Monte Alban, quite an impressive pyramid housing the ancient Danzantes for 13 centuries from about 500 BC to 850 AD.   This was a very advanced development, which is so worthwhile viewing.  Their command of construction techniques, astronomy and life style was totally amazing and so well preserved and reconstructed.  It is listed as one of the 10 wonders of the Ancient World.  Following we had a wonderful lunch overlooking the moutainous area in the beautiful outdoor dining area of the museum for Monte Alban followed by a trip to Aztompa to visit their famous pottery collective.  Then we saw the bright and colorful Albrije wood carvings in another village before going back to Oaxaca.    

Our final night was capped off by a more than gourmet, 7 course dinner artfully created by the Master Chef Rudolfo .   Each course was a work of art to behold and a pleasure in the palate and paired with a complementary local wine.  his restaurant is called Oregens.

The week featured free time also for exploring the many  local treasures.  This year's photos have been posted in almost daily posts on my Facebook page, where you can see them.  By the way I would like to have you join my Facebook page if you would like.

I truly hope you will join me next year in June, 2020.   We will be featuring an Early Bird Special by the end of the month.

Here's 2 Oaxacan recipes from other years--

LEGUMBRES EN PIPIAN, OAXACA STYLE
(Vegetables in Oaxacan Pumpkin Seed Sauce)


Steamed vegetables, usually green ones are frequently served with Green Pipian Sauce, a delightfully spiced sauce thickened with ground, green pumpkin seeds. Sometimes the vegetables are cooked with epazote or avocado leaf to lend a slightly anise flavor or a small amount of ground anise can be used if desired when steaming the vegetables.

Yield: 6 servings

1 teaspoon salt
1 pound small green zucchini, thinly sliced or nopales, cut in thin strips
12 small red potatoes, halved and cooked until tender
2 cups fresh spinach or swiss chard
Pipian sauce, recipe follows
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted until lightly brown
Few sprigs fresh cilantro, optional

1. In a vegetable steamer or in a small amount of salted boiling water, add the zucchini or nopales and potatoes and cook until tender, about 6 to 10 minutes. Add spinach and steam another two minutes.

2. Then toss each vegetable in about a Tablespoon of pipian sauce, or enough to cover, and compose the vegetable dish by arranging each vegetable in a section or circle on the platter in an artistic arrangement and center with a bowl of pipian sauce. Serve with toasted sesame seed and cilantro garnish.

Pipian Sauce
Yield: 4 1/2 cups (approximately)

1 teaspoon dried or 2 dried chipotle chiles or 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
Water to cover
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 cup green pumpkin seeds or pipian
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup sliced scallions, including the greens
1/2 cup cooked or canned tomatillos, drained and chopped, or salsa
2 cups chicken broth

1. For preparing the chipotles, if a microwave oven is available; combine chipotles, vinegar and water in a quart glass measuring cup. Cover and simmer on HIGH power 5 minutes. Or, combine the chipotle chiles, vinegar and water in a small saucepan and simmer 30 minutes, or until flesh and skin are soft. Set aside.  (Or use our  Chipotle powder--it is just as good as the pods and much more convenient--1/2 teaspoon  equals a pod.)

2. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a hot skillet until they start to brown, taking care not to let them burn.

3. Combine the chile, toasted seeds, cilantro, scallions, and tomatillos in a blender along with 2 cups of chicken broth and puree until smooth. Keeps well in the refrigerator for two weeks or three months frozen in a sealed container.

OAXACAN STYLE MOLE or ESTOFADO

Estofado is one of the famous moles from Oaxaca. It is a home-style mole served with Mexican rice, hot corn tortillas, and jalapenos escabeche (pickled).

For the Chicken:

One 4 pound chicken, cut for frying into 10 pieces (no innards)*

2 quarts chicken stock or water to cover with onion, carrot, garlic and salt added

Splash jalapeno pickle juice

  1. Place chicken pieces in stock pot, add bouillon or water with the carrot, onion, etc. Liquid should cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook until tender, about 35 to 45 minutes.

For the Sauce:

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 pound tomatillos

4 to 6 tomatoes, to equal 1 pound

1 medium onion

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup white sesame seeds

1 cup graham or zwieback cracker crumbs

1/2 very ripe plantain (banana family)

2 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano

1 teaspoon thyme

2 one-inch pieces canella (cinnamon)

12 large capers

3 green olives per person

1/4 cup parsley

4 peppercorns

Salt to taste

1.  Roast the almonds on a comal, then boil them in 1½ cups water and boil the roasted tomatillos in 1½ cups water.

2. Parch the unpeeled tomatoes and onion on a comal or griddle until browned all over. Toward end of browning, add garlic. When done and slightly cooled, peel each and coarsely chop

3. Add the oil to a large skillet, then add the raisins and sauté until they puff up. Place in a bowl. Add the sesame seeds and cook them until they brown lightly. Add a teaspoon of salt as they are browning. When they are toasted, add the plantain sliced into ½ inch slices. Continue to cook until lightly browned. Then add the crackers and toast.

4. Place a portion of each ingredient (reserving the spices, chocolate and olives) in the blender jar. Make sure to have some of the more moist items, such as the tomato, with each batch and blend all the ingredients together, creating a smooth paste.

5. When all is blended, strain through a fine sieve and place in a large pot. Add 2 ½ cups chicken stock a little at a time until a sauce the consistency of thick soup is developed. Add the seasoning and olives, tasting to adjust seasonings.

6. Add the chocolate, broken into pieces, and whole parsley sprigs and cook to melt chocolate. Taste and determine if more chocolate is desired. Add chicken and cook together for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the sauce has flavored the chicken. Serve with fluffy rice.

*Option: Cook chicken whole, then peel and debone, leaving large pieces. Then add to the sauce as above.

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