Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Little Mexican Cooking School

One of the main reasons I decided on Puerto Morelos for my Spring break getaway was The Little Mexican Cooking School. I had read about it on-line and since I love to cook, I thought it would be fun. It was. I signed up for a one-day class and here's a little bit about it.

This is it from the outside...

And this was the table set for us when we went inside...but that's for after we're all finished with the cooking.

And this is the chef, Claudia Garcia Ramos de Celis. Normally the school has from 10 to 14 students, but our class only consisted of three. This was good for us because it became more of a hands-on experience rather than just watching and learning. (By the way, the two girls behind Claudia are her very skilled assistants. I will talk about them later.)

First of all, she told us all about the different chiles...

From the medium and mild...

To the ones you don't even want to consider...

Next, we started making tamales. Since I've been living near San Antonio for the past six years, tamales to me consist of a very brown coarse mealy texture and I have never liked them. These were very different.


This is Sue and Tom. Our tamales consisted of a corn mixture, oaxaca cheese and a strip of a jalapeno pepper.

We wrapped the mixture into corn husks, folded the husk in half and tied the bundle together with a very thin strip of a dried corn husk. You'll see the finished product at the end of this post.

All the tamales were then put into a big pot where they cooked for the next few hours.

Then we started on homemade tortillas. After mixing the ingredients, Claudia put a golf ball-sized piece of masa onto the tortilla press...

And, voila! Tortillas ready to be cooked on a hot dry skillet.

We also got to try this out, too...

We were also shown how to cook a tortilla so that an air pocket forms in the middle, making a pita-like tortilla. You have to press down on the tortilla as it's cooking and an air bubble rises in the middle. These ladies were doing it with their hands on the hot grill....OUCH!

Getting roasted tomatoes ready for Salsa Roja...

Claudia told us she's had the mortar and pestle on the right in her family for many years. (I saw one like the one on the left at the Cancun airport when I was leaving and would have bought it if it hadn't weighed about 100 pounds. Didn't feel like carrying that on the plane. I'll have to look for one here at home.)

She mashed the tomatoes, garlic, jalapenos and onion in the bowl. One thing she did mention was that Mexican dishes don't use that much garlic.

We got to mash, too...

Here's the first round of munchies we got to taste...

Delicious! (By the way, that's Patti Murphy in the background...another member of the cooking school.)

Having fun while you're cooking is an important ingredient!

We got to sample this while we were snacking. It's xtabentun...a Mayan liqueur made in the Yucatan. Very smooth.

Claudia also made this little snack which is a quick fix. It's raw jicama with a little bit of chile pepper sprinkled on top. It was good...kind of a different taste which was unfamiliar to me.

Also on the menu was Mole del Olla. Although classified under "soups," it is really a stew served as a main course. Claudia already had all the veggies cup up for this (which is a LOT), and tossed them...

...into this which already had the broth inside. She told us about using these big clay pots for soup, and gave instructions on how to cure them before using them for cooking.

Here's the Mole de Olla cooking away...

Which also contains rice...

And when it's combined with this lovely colored pepper mixture...

It comes out looking like this. We were finally able to sit down and sample everything we had made. This Mole de Olla was absolutely wonderful. Such a rich, warm flavor...it would be great in the winter with all the veggies and would warm anybody up.

Here are the tamales we made. They were SOOOO different than any tamale I had ever had and I actually loved these. They had kind of a salty/sweet flavor and not nearly as heavy as the ones I'm familiary with.

Although we didn't help make the dessert, at least we got to eat it! A brownie made with chiles. What a wonderful little "bite" it had. You could definitely taste the chile, but it was very subtle...and the whipped cream was a great complement to it. Muy bueno!

Here are Daisy and Lucy...Claudia's assistants. These ladies movied gracefully around the kitchen, quietly doing all the chopping, blending and prep work so that Claudia could present the menu. They were definitely a great team and helped to make everything come together.

And here's Sue and me with Claudia at the end to prove I was actually there. I had a great time, learned a lot, and enjoyed talking with Claudia about all the great places there are to visit in Mexico. Thank you, ladies, for a wonderful time!

And here's their website if you want more information: The Little Mexican Cooking School

8 comments:

Life's a Beach! said...

Deb, all the food looks wonderful! We recently had tamales from a specialty shop in Phoenix at a dinner party and they were so fantastic. Then on Saturday, I had a tamale at a Mexican restaurant. No comparison. It was the heavy thick variety.

Looks like you had a great time and learned a lot!

Anonymous said...

no cilantro??? no cervaza???
carl/debbie

Jamqueen said...

That looks like it would be fun! Something that I would love to do.

Vee said...

I recently had the first tamales I've really enjoyed. A friend made them. Much better than what I'd had before. Those brownies sound divine. And the soup/stew - yum! I've never heard of the liqueur you sampled. Will look for it in May. Thanks for another informative post, Deb!

gil garcia said...

Good show. I laughed when you said mortar and pestle. It's called a molcajete. My mother has had one in our family forever. She used it everyday.

Claudia Garcia Ramos said...

Deb what a nice review!! I¨m Claudia the Chef I thank you for so nice comments I had realy a nice day with you 3 It was realy a nice day and a nice chat.
Thank you again for been whith us at the clas I will have you in my up date of what I do! and soon I will post you some of my recepies!!
Hugs and kisses Claudia

Isla Deb said...

Beck - I know what you mean. After having the tamales at the cooking school, I will never eat the other kind again. (Not that I was a big fan in the first place!)

Carl/Debbie - No cilantro in the salsa...that goes in the pico de gallo! And the Yucatan liqueur definitely made up for no cervesas!

Ann - You should check it out...it's definitely worth a trip!

Vee - All the food was great...and definitely check out the liqueur!

Gil - Okay, so I learned something new...molcajete it is from now on.

Hey, Claudia...thanks for checking out my blog. I agree...it was a fun day! I look forward to more of your wonderful recipes. Hugs back!

Nancy said...

Deb, thanks for the tip about pressing down on the tortilla to make it puff. I've been wondering how to do that so I can make panuchos. Also, I loved the action photo of the hand mashing the garlic in the molcajete.