For me, one of the highlights of our trip to Mexico was taking a cooking class at Casa Crespo in Oaxaca. Sure, I can make quesadillas and burritos, even fajitas, but the preparation is more Tex-Mex style. True Mexican cuisine is so different than what we’re used to in the U.S. and I wanted to learn. While a half-day cooking class barely skimmed the surface, I loved every minute of it and came away with a little more knowledge about Oaxacan cuisine, some basic skills in how to prepare several dishes, and the recipes.
Class started with deciding which of the many possible dishes we would prepare; no easy feat for our class of six. After we selected the menu, we walked with our instructor, Chef Oscar, to a nearby market to shop for the ingredients. As we walked through the many stalls, Oscar explained what we were seeing and buying – all the different types of dried chilies, the squash blossoms and epazote for the Quesadillas con flor de calabaza y quesillo, and the fruits, nuts, spices, and of course, chocolate for the Mole de Fiesta.
He bought fresh Oaxacan cheeses, meats and chicken for the various dishes, tomatoes to be roasted for the Sopa de tortilla and Salsa de jitomate asado, and small, fragrant limes for the Nieve de limón. He even brought a bag of prepared corn to the market to be ground into masa for the Tortillas de masa fresca.
We made two different types of tortillas and spicy salsas four different ways, tasting the subtle differences in flavors. We ground garlic cloves in a traditional stone morter and pestle for Guacamole con mango. And we prepared an authentic tortilla soup, poblano chilies stuffed with more than 20 savory ingredients, a rich, delicious, and complex mole sauce served over chicken, and for dessert, a light chili lime sorbet. Then we got to eat the feast which we had prepared.
Class was a bargain at $65 for the day, including the meal, and Paul was able to join us for lunch for only $25. It was a long, leisurely meal with good conversation and a little mezcal – a thoroughly enjoyable experience for both of us.