Category Archives: Oaxaca recipes

Oaxaca Inspired Sweet-Savory Orange Chicken Recipe: Mango and Carrots

My first day back in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, after a six-week Durham, North Carolina hiatus. I had to drive La Tuga, my 2004 Honda Element to Tlacolula for clutch repair, so I handed 200 pesos (the equivalent of $11 USD) to Federico and asked him to pick up a few things for me at the village market. My cupboards (and refrigerator) were bare.

On the cook top, mango carrot orange chicken

I specified only a bit of chicken, some fruit and veggies. He returned with four carrots, four Ataulfo mangoes — now in season, two onions, one orange pepsicum, four red apples, four chayote squash and some limes. The key seemed to be the number four. Oh, yes, two chicken drumsticks and two thighs equal four.

So, I give you Sweet-Savory Orange Chicken with Mango and Carrots.

Utensils: four-quart, oven-proof clay baker or stainless steel pot, paring knife, utility knife, large spoon. You might want to use a slow cooker/crock pot. That would work, too.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken thighs and 2 chicken drumsticks, skinned
  • 2 teaspoons salt and fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 3 carrots, cleaned and peeled, sliced 1/4 inch thickness
  • 1 white onion, large diced
  • 2 Ataulfo mangoes, cut as shown in photo
  • 2 red apples, skinned, sliced thin
  • 1 orange pepsicum (sweet pepper), diced
  • 1 very small mild red chili pepper, seeded and stemmed
  • 4 cups water

Add salt (I prefer sea salt) and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Put pot on top of heat diffuser. Cook on slow simmer for two-to-three hours.  Serve first course as a consomme/chicken broth.  Serve second course of chicken with mango/carrot melange over steamed rice, accompanied by fresh steamed chayote or zucchini squash.

I bet you could make this in a crock pot, too.

How cut a mango: lengthwise to separate two halves from seed

Serves two to four, depending on appetites.

Some years ago, many, in fact, I owned a gourmet cooking school and cookware shop in South Bend, Indiana. It was called Clay Kitchen.  I contracted with famous chefs from around the world to teach, and taught a few classes myself. My preference, still, is to see what ingredients I have at hand and make something up. This one, today, tastes pretty darn good and you should smell my kitchen!

A remaining pepper from my winter terrace garden, seeded, crumbled

Clay Kitchen, Inc. is a memory. We were in business for just under five years during one of the roughest financial downturns of the early 80’s when interest rates on inventory climbed to over 20 percent. Pre-internet, a Google search only comes up with our Indiana corporation registration and dissolution.  There is no other documentation.

My business partner then remains an important friend now. We modeled ourselves after Dean & DeLuca in NYC and aspired to greatness. When we closed, we cried and moved on.

Oaxaca Tropical Fruit + Tomato Ginger Chutney Recipe: With Some Heat!

Tropical Fruit + Tomato Ginger Chutney atop Boulanc's walnut infused rye bread

Tropical Fruit + Tomato Ginger Chutney atop Boulanc’s walnut infused rye bread

I’ve been sequestered in my Teotitlan del Valle casita for some days now (without internet connection), more out of choice than anything. Best to hide from the heat of the day under the ceiling fan with a sewing or cooking project.

Saucepan with fruit and spices before taking the heat

Saucepan with fruit and spices before taking the heat

So, after a trip to the Tlacolula market on Sunday where I saw an overabundance of fresh mango and papaya piled to the rooftops, I had to have some.  Then, there were the tomatoes, everywhere.  Did you know that tomatoes are one of Mexico’s gifts to the world?

A full pot before the cooking begins!

A full pot as the cooking gets underway!

I went home and made up this recipe for a chutney jam that is great on toast or to accompany meat, poultry fish or top on steamed veggies and rice.

Lime juice and zest makes this recipe tangy sweet a la Oaxaca

Lime juice and zest makes this recipe tangy sweet a la Oaxaca

Ingredients:

  • 1 large, ripe mango, peeled and cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 small, ripe papaya, peeled, seeded, cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 small, ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled (score top, immerse in boiling water for 30 seconds until skin can be removed), and quartered
  • 2 medium white onions, peeled, julienne cut
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, whole
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 hot red peppers (see example)
  • 6 cubes of candied ginger, diced fine (can substitute candied kumquat)
  • juice of six small limes to equal 1/2 c. liquid
  • zest from 2 limes
  • 3 cups granulated natural cane sugar
I grow these peppers in a pot on my rooftop terrace. They add the heat!

I grow these peppers in a pot on my rooftop terrace. They add the heat! They are either Fresno or Serrano peppers. Not exactly sure!

Put all fruit and spices together into a six quart saucepan. Add lime juice and zest. Stir in sugar. Stir well. Put saucepan on a heat diffuser over low heat for temperature control and so bottom of pan doesn’t burn. Sugar and juices will dissolve together into a thin syrup with fruit floating around. Bring to simmer.

Note: Remove the peppers mid-way through the cooking process if you don’t like spicy.

Continue cooking on simmer, stirring frequently, until liquid reduces by 50% and thickens to a jam consistency. You can use a thermometer or test for doneness if liquid drops in thick globules from a metal spoon raised about 12″ above the sauce pan.

When it's done, it looks like this. Of course you can always sample for thickness.

When it’s done, it looks like this. Of course you can always sample for thickness.

We live at 6,000 feet altitude here in Oaxaca, so cooking takes time. The chutney jam was ready after about 2 hours on the burner. Patience here is a virtue!

The lowest flame on my stove. Note the heat diffuser.

The lowest flame on my stove. Note the heat diffuser.

Refrigerate to eat within the next week or two. Or, process for 10 minutes in canning jars in a water bath until the tops seal.

I'll freeze a small batch and eat the rest. Maybe you'll come for dinner?

I’ll freeze a small batch and eat the rest. Maybe you’ll come for dinner?

Tips: Last week I used cantaloupe and did not use tomatoes or pineapple. I also substituted kumquat for ginger. You could also add thin slices of oranges and lemons instead of the lime and use 1/4 c. vinegar. Muy sabroso!

Candied ginger, my stash from Pittsboro, North Carolina, used with consideration.

Candied ginger, my stash from Pittsboro, North Carolina, used with consideration.

I want to acknowledge two friends who gave me recipe inspiration:  Natalie Klein from South Bend, Indiana, and David Levin from Oaxaca and Toronto. Natalie is a friend of 40+ years who shared her tomato ginger chutney recipe with me and I have adapted it many times, even canning and selling it.

Close-up of the fruit and spice medley

Close-up of the fruit and spice medley

David (and friend Carol Lynne) returned from Southeast Asia a few months ago where they took cooking classes. David has made chutney ever since. He inspired me to try my own hand at the concoction.

Lime zest sits on pile of julienned white onions

Lime zest sits on pile of julienne white onions

More years ago than I care to count, I owned and operated a gourmet cookware shop, cooking school, and cafe. It’s in my DNA.

Private Cooking Class Oaxaca: mmmmGood, Molotes and Memelas

How many different ways can corn be prepared? Here in Oaxaca, Mexico, the options are so numerous, I could perhaps count to a thousand. On Sunday, in honor of Carol’s XX birthday, David organized a private cooking class for five of us. The kitchen is miniscule. The results were huge.

Cooking Best 27-23

The most important ingredient was Vicky Hernandez, who David invited to teach us how to make molotes and memelas.

Cooking Best 27-24 Cooking Best 27-19

These are two forms of the myriad ways to stuff or top corn masa.  Tortillas are the most familiar form. Vicky says memelas are a favorite Sunday after church meal for many families. Since it was Sunday afternoon, the analogy was good enough for us.

Cooking Best 27-8

In case you didn’t know, molotes are stuffed and deep fried torpedo shaped corn dough. For our cooking class, we stuffed them with a Oaxaqueño favorite: chorizo and potatoes. Chorizo, spicy sausage, came to Mexico with the Spanish when they brought four-legged creatures unknown to the New World.

Cooking Best 27-4 Cooking Best 27-5

Memelas, on the other hand, are pre-Hispanic and look like individual pizzas cooked atop a flat griddle, then spread with black bean paste, salsa and topped with shredded Oaxaca queso fresco, our famous soft cheese that looks a bit like dry ricotta. You can add shredded chicken or pork, if you like.

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Vicky lives in Monte Alban, a barrio of Oaxaca under the shadow of the famous archeological site. It’s likely her family has been preparing food this way for centuries.

The Salsa

When I arrived, the salsa was well underway. We had gone to Abastos Market the day before and I bought these gorgeous purple miltomate, otherwise known as tomatillos or cherry tomatoes. They were cooked whole in a saucepan along with chile pasilla, garlic, cilantro and salt.  Vicky says to use 5-6 large dientes (teeth) of garlic or 10 small teeth for this recipe.

Cooking Best 27-17 Cooking Best 27-16

It’s very garlicky and good. She probably had 2 cups of water, enough to cover the 5 or 6 chiles and an equal number of miltomate. You cook this at a simmer on the stove top until the mixture softens and thickens. Then you put it all into the molcajete and with the mano de molcajete you do a wrist-twisting motion to make sure you are smushing this and not pulverizing it. No luiquadoras (blenders) allowed!

Cooking Best 27-9

 

The Molotes

Okay. First you are going to take 4 medium size potatoes, peel and 1/4″ dice them, then cook them until just bite soft in a saucepan of salted water. Drain. Set aside.

Next, you are going to buy 1/4 lb. of chorizo. Back when I used to live in South Bend, Indiana, I had to go to the far corners of the west side of town to find the sole Mexican market where I could buy chorizo. Now, in the U.S.A., Mexican immigrants are everywhere, and thankfully, so is their food. Go find chorizo. Cook it in a fry pan until all the fat renders away from the meat. Drain. Cook again. Mix the drained, cooked chorizo with the potatoes. Do not salt or spice in any way. Set mixture aside.

Cooking Best 27

Make masa dough from the dried bag you buy in the Mexican food section of the supermarket. Or, buy it fresh from the local lady at my village market. Your choice! Cut 2 circles of plastic wrap about 5″ in diameter. Make a 2″ ball of masa dough. Put on of the pieces of plastic on the tortilla press. Sprinkle with flour. Put the dough ball in the center of the circle. Dust with flour. Cover with second plastic circle. Press the dough lightly until it expands to a 3″ circle. Flip the dough circle to the other side. Press lightly one more time. Peel the plastic off and lay one side of the tortilla in your palm. Peel the other plastic circle off. With your free hand, put tablespoon of the chorizo-potato mix in the center of the tortilla. Fold over the long side, then fold and pinch the short sides. Shape into a bullet or torpedo. Coat in flour. Pinch together any dough that may have separated. Drop into hot cooking oil and fry both sides until lightly browned. Drain and reserve. Keep going! One or two per customer …. or more.

Cooking Best 27-26

To serve: Rest the molote on a lettuce leaf. Top with shredded lettuce, salsa and guacamole just before serving. Roll the lettuce leaf around the tasty torpedo and bite. This is a finger food. It’s fine if it explodes in your mouth.

Cooking Best 27-21

The Memelas

For this you need a calc-coated clay comal and you need a charcoal brazier because you are cooking the tortillas on the comal that sits on top of the hot coals.  You could improvise, I suspect, by using a clay pizza round but your tortilla can’t be cooked in oil. It has to be dry cooked and can’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Cooking Best 27-25

Make the tortilla form as above. Put it on the clay comal. As soon as the bottom is browned, remove it from the comal. Pinch up the edges like you are forming a ridge around the circumference as if you were making a pie crust. Then, make a few pinches in the center. This is to hold the filling. This little dough circle is burning hot when you remove it from the cooker, so my thumb and forefinger weren’t used to the heat. Vicky did it in an instant, as if she had been preparing food this way for the last 40 years.

Cooking Best 27-27

Make a bean paste. You can use canned black beans and put them in the food processor or blender. Cook the bean paste with ojo de aguacate. That’s an avocado leaf. It adds an incredible flavor. Schmear the past on top of the cooked memela. Return the memela to the comal. Top with shredded cheese and salsa. Ready to eat when you see the beans and salsa bubbling.

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Guacamole

Most people here make a more liquid style guacamole, not the chunky stuff we eat in the U.S.A. for scooping up with tortilla chips (totopos). So, you can put your regular guacamole recipe into the blender and add a little yogurt or cream or water until it is the consistency of heavy cream.

At 5 p.m., when we finished eating, I was so stuffed with corn that I couldn’t eat a thing for the rest of the day. God bless Oaxaca, Vicky, Carol and David.

Cooking Best 27-11 Cooking Best 27-7

If you live in Oaxaca, I encourage you to call Vicky to organize your own private cooking class. It’s a lot of fun and bien rico (which means more delicious than you can imagine).

Vicky’s email is virginiahernandez2014@gmail.com  Telephone: 951 100 51 31  

Merry Christmas Oaxaca, Mexico Fruit Salad Recipe

Merry Christmas and happiest holidays to you and your family!  My gift to you is this delicious recipe for easy fruit salad Mexican style, using red and green skin apples and pears for festive color of Mexico to decorate your table.  Seasoned with lime juice, organic honey, and mixed with yogurt, it is a healthy holiday treat as a dessert or side accompaniment to your dinner.  I have made this multiple times recently, adapting a recipe I learned from my neighbor Ernestina, who uses whipping cream instead of yogurt. Let’s save the calories. Enjoy! From my Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, kitchen to yours.

XmasFruitSalad-5

 

Ingredients 

  • 2 red-skinned apples, Delicious, MacIntosh or Gala
  • 1 green-skinned apple, Green Delicious
  • 2 pears, ripe
  • 2 small red-skinned Mexican bananas, peeled
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans
  • juice of one medium lime
  • 1/4 c. organic honey
  • 1 c. natural yogurt (or more to taste)

Core and cut apples and pears into 1/4″ pieces.  Add to mixing bowl.  Slice bananas into 1/2″ pieces.  Add to bowl.  Add pecans.  Mix well.  Combine honey and lime juice.  Pour into fruit mixture.  Toss well.   Add yogurt.  Stir.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serves 6-8.

XmasFruitSalad XmasFruitSalad-2

Optional:  Add small pieces of diced candied ginger and/or 2 T. golden raisins plumped in hot water (drained).  You can also mix in 2 T. of your favorite preserves.  Kumquat, maybe?

Recipe: Making Authentic Mole Rojo in Teotitlan del Valle

 

My Australian friend Tracey Ponting came back through Oaxaca this week on her way from San Cristobal de las Casas to Distrito Federal and on to England to visit her parents.  Tracey and I met on the bus to San Cris in January when we stayed at the same posada.  From there we traveled together to Palenque.  I convinced her to spend a couple of days in Teotitlan del Valle for rest and relaxation before starting the next leg of her journey.  In April she will begin a seven-week pilgrimage on the Camino Frances part of the Camino Santiago de Compostela in Spain before going back to Perth.

What better way to relax than to settle in at Las Granadas Bed and Breakfast and get instruction from some of the best cooks in the village, the magic trio of Josefina, Magdalena and Eloisa?  Tracey asked for Oaxacan Mole Rojo, which is her favorite of Oaxaca’s seven moles.  I participated with her and I’m happy to share this incredible recipe (receta) with you!

 

Josefina Ruiz Vazquez’ Family Recipe for Mole Rojo 

  • 75 grams (2.6 ounces) ancho chiles
  • 26 grams (0.91 ounces) pasilla chiles
  • 55 grams (2 ounces) guajillo chiles
  • 50 grams (1.75 ounces) sesame seeds
  • 75 grams (2.6 ounces) raisins
  • 25 grams (.88 ounces) almonds
  • 4 to 5 medium sized fresh red tomatoes
  • 150 grams (5.25 ounces) tomatillos
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces) cooking chocolate, semi-sweet (preferably Oaxacan chocolate, which includes cinnamon, almonds, sugar)
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 pieces of dried ginger
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 5 grams (0.18 ounces) cinnamon sticks
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 20 grams (.70 ounces) garlic (or one small head)
  • 1 T. dried thyme (can use 2 T. fresh)
  • 1 T. fresh oregano
  • 2 slices toasted white or wheat bread or 1 toasted medium dinner roll
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 4-6 chicken thighs and legs
 
  1.  Toast the chiles over high heat on the comal, over a gas flame or in a shallow frying pan until charred and soft.  Remove seeds and stem.  De-vein.  Take about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of the chile seeds and toast them.  Set chiles and seeds aside in a bowl.
  2. On the comal, toast together the onion, garlic (with peel), sesame seeds, raisins and almonds until browned.  Add the herbs and spices to this mix.  Stir and toast.
  3. Cook the tomatoes and tomatillos together in 1 C. water for 10 minutes.  Reserve liquid.
  4. Peel the garlic after it is toasted.
  5. Soak the chiles in the tomato water until soft.
  6. On the metate (or in a machine) combine the raisins, thyme, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, peppers, raisins.  Once the paste is fine and all the ingredients are indistinguishable, add all the roasted sesame seeds.  Continue mashing until seeds are pulverized into paste.  You are looking for the consistency of clay.  Remove paste to a small bowl.
  7. In a 6 quart pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil with 1 T. salt, 3 cloves of garlic and 1/2 onion.  Add the raw chicken parts.  Bring water to a simmer, cover and cook for 30-45 minutes until chicken is tender. (Do not use breast meat, warns Josefina. It does not have enough flavor.  You can substitute turkey, but it will take 1 to 1-1/2 hours to cook.)  When finished cooking, remove chicken and reserve stock.
  8. Add onions, chile and garlic to the metate and crush.
  9. Grind bread into a fine crumb.
  10. Put olive oil into a large sautee pan or casserole over medium heat.  Add 1/2 C. of mashed tomatoes and mole paste to oil.  Sautee the paste for 2 minutes until oil is absorbed.  Strain the chile juice into the tomatoes and add this to the cooking paste.
  11. At this point, you can keep the past for 2 months in the refrigerator, but if you add all the tomatoes as follows, you will need to use immediately.
  12. Add a third of the mashed tomatoes and 2 C. of the chicken stock to the mole paste.  Continue adding the tomatoes in thirds, stirring until liquid is reduced.
  13. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the casserole.  Stir until dissolved. (Magdalena roasts her own cacao beans and makes her own chocolate.)
  14. Add 1/2 the breadcrumbs, stir and correct for thickness.  The mixture should be like a very thick sauce that sticks to a wooden spoon.
  15. Correct the seasonings. Taste.  You may need to add a little more salt, more chocolate or a tad of sugar according to taste.
  16. Toast 3 avocado leaves and add them to the casserole and stir.  If needed, add the remaining breadcrumbs.
  17. Serve with rice, tortillas and steamed fresh vegetables such as choyote squash, carrots, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower.
Serves 4-6.

Josefina attributes this recipe to her grandmother Rufina Gabriel and her mother Marina Vasquez Gabriel.  She knows her grandmother learned it from her mother and the mothers before her.  It is made completely by hand using the stone metate and mano de metate.  Less ambitious and weaker cooks will want to pull out a food processor or blender.  Just beware that the texture of the paste will be different, says Josefina.

 

She also notes that different families use different quantities and types of ingredients.  Some mole rojos are sweeter, some more picante, some don’t use organic vegetables.  Josefina prides herself on the face that she grows her own tomillo (thyme), oregano, tomatoes and onions.  Mole rojo is reserved for special occasions like Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Fiesta de Julio Sangre de Cristo (the village saint day) since it takes about three or four hours to shop for and prepare the ingredients.

Of course, we are wearing our Zapotec aprons (mandils):  left to right, Norma, Josefina, Eloisa and Tracey.