We are in Puebla where Mole Poblano rules and great cuisine is around most corners from the zocalo. For two nights running we gave eaten at El Mural de Los Poblanos. Hail to executive chef Lisett Galicia Solis who knows how to transform ingredients into sublime flavors. I would go to Puebla for no other reason than to dine in this restaurant!
This is Huaxmole season. For one month each year Poblano chefs and cooks prepare this Pre-Hispanic dish that originated in Tehuacan about an hour and a half from Puebla. Everyone has their own interpretation.
Huaxmole -- Goat Stew
Tonight I asked Lisette what are the secret ingredients. She said it is three things. You must wash the goat meat until it is white and scrub the bones. You must add the guaje seed to the tomato base and also small coriander seeds and greens. All the ingredients are prepared a day in advance and simmered until the goat meat falls from the bone. The broth is a rich tomato meat stock with a bite. Perfect for an early November night to take the chill off. Huaxmole is pronounced “wash- moh-lay”.
Here is a great photo of Chef Lisett Galicia Solis taken by writer/photographer Christine Zenino who traveled with me to Puebla. http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrissy575/5173992372/in/set-72157625267238771/
Below is a delicious sweet tomato, avocado and sprouts salad — with bite, crunch, and smoothness. Delicioso!
Tomato, Avocado & Sprouts Salad
Jose is with us today helping Stephen in the yard, clearing out the woodshed in preparation for winter, sorting through the detritis of a cluttered garden shed, and making a haul or two or three to the dump. He and his wife just had a new baby boy, his third, three weeks old. They named him for the king of birds. “It’s a Native American name,” he tells me. “Those are my roots. I am indigenous.” His high cheekbones and sculpted Mayan-like profile speak to that. Jose is from Veracruz, Mexico. It is a place I’ve never been, but he speaks of it fondly. His parents and some siblings are still there. He hasn’t seen them since he came to the U.S. some years ago. I suspect he is not documented, but it’s another version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” This is his third boy, age three weeks. All the children were born here in North Carolina and that makes them citizens. When we talk about this, I can see Jose is proud. The two older ones, age seven and eight are getting an education and there is hope that there will be work for them that pays a good wage when they come of age. Not like home.
We are talking about food. “Did you know chipil is growing in my garden,” he says to me, more of a statement than a question. Chipil is a green leafy herb that grows wild in the Oaxaca countryside. It is plentiful in our village of Teotitlan del Valle, is gathered and sold in the daily market, and used for flavoring much like cilantro. “I don’t know how it got there” Jose says. “Maybe a bird brought it in.” I think, perhaps, or another immigrant in his neighborhood missed this herb so much that he brought it back with him when he returned and the seeds scattered. I think of how indigenous people use what is given to them from the land — a centuries, millenia old practice.
Ah, chipil, I say. The aroma of a mint-like parsley comes to mind. That’s what is used to flavor tamales and squash blossom corn soup, yes? “Yes,” says Jose, and I see the faraway look in his eyes. Are you homesick, I ask. “Sometimes,” he says. “But, the work here is good and I am happy to be living here.” We are grateful for his work, too, and for his company. He is a bright, handsome young man who gives us a hand when we need it most.
The big looms are on the second story balcony of the Chavez house at Francisco I. Madero #55. They are 12 feet and 8 feet wide respectively. Two apprentices are here this week working at these looms. They arrive at 7 a.m. and leave 3 p.m. for comida. Yesterday, the younger one returned and worked until 10 p.m. The music from the boom box fills the entire space of the casa with blues and jazz repurposed in Spanish, and the beat beat beat of the looms shakes the underpinnings of the house. It is mucho trabajo, much work, constant work, long hours, and the finished 8 x 10 foot hand loomed rug made with naturally dyed 100% wool yarn will fetch about $1,600 USD. Not much for the labor involved. I am sitting on the balcony of my bedroom feeling the vibrations of the looms. The French doors are wide open and the grillwork casts a curly cue shadow across the floor. Beyond the geranium pots are courtyard upon courtyard of cooking fires, bleating sheep, cackling hens, tiled roofs, adobe walls, isolated pine trees, and in the distance the 9,000 foot high Sierra Madre del Sur.
The day is warm, 68 degrees. Nights are chilly, 45 degrees. The bougainvilla are blooming now. Roses twine over door arbors. White jasmine flowers drape across trellises providing needed shade. I can stand on the cobblestone street and in a matter of minutes a diminutive farmer, staff in hand, will guide his herd of cattle out from behind a walled fence, door flung open to the world, on their way to nibble alfalfa in the field beyond. I feel no need to do or see, only to be in this moment of tranquility.
There is a predictable pattern for each day in this Zapotec household. Arise. Sprinkle water on the courtyard floor. Sweep. Make coffee. Shower and dress. Weave a little. Climb into the blue camionetta (truck) for the morning trip to the market to buy food for the day. Visit there with village friends. Squeeze the pineapple or melon or papaya or oranges to test for freshness. Buy chicken breasts or tasajo (meat for grilling). Choose the tortillas from your favorite vendor: are they yellow, white or blue masa today? Stop for pan dulce (sweet bread). Put everything in your handmade woven basket. Come home, make fresh salsa. Sautee a mixture of diced carrots and potatoes and onions and chicken. Serve it on the table. Assemble a tortilla with the chicken mixture, add salsa, wrap it all and eat it. Drink coffee or hot chocolate. Dunk the sweet bread into your beverage to soften. This is a daily habit, a rhythm of repetition and comfort.
Still on the quest for the perfect Michelada and getting ready to host Cindy and Sue for dinner tonight to recreate our La Olla Oaxaca experience in the humble environs of my kitchen, I ventured out yesterday on Labor Day to the bustling metropolis of downtown Pittsboro, North Carolina, wondering if anything would be open. Perhaps Mexican immigrant shopkeepers don’t observe Labor Day, I hoped — just a normal Monday for them. Indeed, Don Pablo Mexican Tienda had their OPEN sign prominently displayed and the few cars on the mostly empty street were parked near the door.
I love the small Mexican market shopping experience. Indeed, there was the Maggi (pronounce it with a hard G), the secret ingredient for successful Micheladas. I knew that somehow substituting soy sauce was just not going to make it. The taste test at home later that afternoon proved me right. I also found limes — big juicy ones — 7 for $1.00. Compare that price with your local major supermarket. Then, there were the ripe bananas, huge beautiful onions, avocados ready for guacamole that very day, and packages of 50 fresh tortillas for $1.25. I picked up the last papaya (it must have weighed 7 lbs) and could smell its succulence. I piled my goodies on the counter in handfulls. There were no shopping carts.
You must like Mexican food, the proprietor commented. Yes, I said. I like Mexicans, too. Oh, that’s great, he said. Many people don’t want us here. I smiled and answered. Yes, I know.