Thursday, November 04, 2010 10:43 AM
The Little Mexican Cooking School Begins Season 2!
After a nice break for the hot summer months, The Little Mexican Cooking School in Puerto Morelos is back in action with a new Chef, a new curriculum and lots of new recipes! Recently, I invited myself to sit in on one of the first classes with Chef Pablo Lopez Espinosa and a group comprised almost entirely of media representatives and travel and food writers. Last year's Chef/Instructor had set the bar pretty high and I was a bit anxious to see what this new Chef would bring to the table. With an award winning restaurant under his belt and accolades from top food critics, he looked good "on paper" but would he have the passion and personality to keep the attention of this audience of seasoned professionals? Turns out, I had nothing to fear. After admitting that we DID in fact intimidate him, Chef Pablo laughed it off and settled into his presentation. He was charming and engaging and presented the information very well. Pablo has a smile that positively lights up the room. If he was nervous, we certainly did not see it.
We started with an in depth look at the many chiles, both fresh and their dried counterparts, that are a staple of Mexican cuisine. We had a chance to pass them around, feel and most importantly smell the subtle, and sometimes, not too subtle variations. As mole poblano was on the menu for the day, a dish that, when done properly can take many days to create, some of the components had been prepared in advance. We did a review of each of the individual ingredients which included, in this recipe, mulato, pasilla and ancho chiles, Mexican anis seed and good Mexican chocolate. We passed around a wide array of homemade spices, seasonings and
pastes, many of which were provided by the family of Lucy, one of the
cooking assistants who had returned after season 1. Again, we were
offered the unique opportunity to smell and actually taste each of
these ingredients, some of which I had never seen before in their raw
As we listened, took copious notes and snapped pictures, our host Catriona served us traditional "aguas frescas" of tamarindo, jamaica, and, my son's favorite, horchata. These were made from the popular and convenient concentrates readily available in any grocery store and certainly kept us well hydrated on this hot day. Each student learned to press their own tortillas and cook them on the hot comal. Chef Pablo showed us some fabulous, fresh homemade salsas to eat with our tortillas and the warm quesadillas with cheese and epazote prepared for us by Lucy and Daisy. The salsa pepitas made with ground pumpkin seeds was a big hit! Of course, we were treated to a complimentary shot of tequila, a little something to raise our already high spirits!
The final segment of our foray into the culinary world of Mexico? Lunch! We dined on a fresh spinach salad tossed with jicama, oranges and olives followed by a rich mole poblano over roasted chicken with Mexican rice and oven roasted chayote. Cat was quick to provide a big pitcher of tangy homemade sangrita to accompany this delicious meal and keep the conversation flowing. For dessert, Chef Pablo's irresistible Key Lime Pie!
If you are here on vacation and have grown weary of sitting on the beach, I can't think of a better way to
spend a day. Not only are the classes fun, they are informative and
give you something unique to bring back home rather than just a nice
tan. Armed with a little knowledge and a healthy dose of inspiration, there is no doubt in my mind that you will be looking for some of these newly discovered ingredients in your local grocery stores and coming up with your own recipes in which to feature their bold bright flavors. Gourmet chefs and home cooks alike will find something to love about these casual yet educational classes and I have been recommending them to local friends and travels looking for something new and fun. Classes are held three times weekly so chances are good you can find an open seat and some time in your schedule. I know I'll be back again soon!
Come visit The Little Mexican Cooking School on Facebook and be sure to visit their table in the Marketplace at Taste of Playa 2010!