A cuisine dating back to the time of the Aztecs, everything old may be new again. David Mandich & Patricia Krajeski. Los Cabos Magazine Issue #16 Spring 2008.
One of the marvels of the Aztec Empire was its food. After the Spanish conquest, a friar noted that over 1,000 dishes were served at Montezuma’s palace. Delicacies including turkey pie; lobster with red chile; white fish with plums; stewed duck; frogs in green chili; roast quail; tamales with chili, meat, and sweet fillings; and, of course, chocolate. Chocolate drinks served in gold cups included honeyed chocolate, cinnamon, red, orange, rose, black and white chocolate.
Forget gold. Exotic foods and spices were the real riches of the New World. When Spain conquered Mexico in 1521, two culinary worlds collided. New flavors and cooking methods marked a perfect culinary meztisaje (blend) that has evolved into one of the world’s richest cuisines. Conquistadors eagerly adopted the curious foods and proudly introduced the new flavors throughout the rest of the world. Provisions that were gathered and brought back with the conquistadors included papayas, avocados, squash, sweet potatoes, beans, chilies, corn, pineapples, and tobacco. Chocolate, which the indigenous Mesoamericans made by grinding the dark seeds of the cacao tree, became a luxury in the Old World. Tequila made from the agave plant was considered nectar of the gods. European cattle and pigs were brought to the New World. Soon, the Aztecs’ maize, ground and flattened into light tortillas, was filled with spiced pork and shredded vegetables.
Mexican cuisine was added to and enhanced by both Spanish and French influences during their occupations, resulting in a kitchen as rich, subtle and complex as any in the world, well beyond that which many of us have experienced. Much authentic Mexican cooking has been cherished as family traditions and expressly prepared for special occasions. These recipes are almost never found in restaurants, so if one does serve versions of such treasured dishes, don’t miss out. With more modern and prepared foods, these genuine recipes cannot be duplicated.
Food experts identify Comida Mexicana as one of the world’s three true cuisines. Chinese and French foods are the other two. All three of these cuisines combine flavors, aromatics, spices and herbs to create their celebrity. Accordingly, the unwary diner can experience Mexican cuisine of heavenly delicate sauces and fiery chiles together in a single meal. Over 140 different species of chile; 200 varieties of corn, that are used to create over 100 corn-based recipes; 40-varieties of mushrooms, and innumerable spices, fruits, vegetables, meats, fowl and fish, are at hand in this gastronomic Garden of Eden. Today’s chefs have an abundance of ingredients to ignite irrepressible imaginations.
Often, Mexican foods we get outside of Mexico have only a resemblance to this classic cuisine. Several culinary “destination vacations” are available in several regions of Mexico. These adventures have been designed to teach and demonstrate the history and traditions of Mexican cuisine, using ingredients traced back to Mesoamerican times. In Todos Santos, our Pueblo Magico just an hour up the Pacific coast, you can experience the art and customs of authentic Mexican cooking and have hands-on cooking classes in small private classes.
Of course, in bygone eras, foods were prepared sans cookware. The tortilla was cooked over hot stones, the tamale wrapped in cornhusks buried in hot ashes. Today, we can use the tortilla itself as a plate, a utensil for picking up food, and even as a soup spoon if one is very, very adroit. The famous Mexican mole sauce, served most frequently on beef and fowl dishes, is rich and complicated, taking days to prepare from dozens of ingredients. Magical spices, nuts, chilis, sesame, chocolate, and tomatoes are only a sampling of the 32 ingredients that some recipes boast. You can impress your guests with a great Pollo Mole dish tonight with this recipe offered by a local Mexicana radio celebrity known for her sumptuous dinner parties: Buy a ready-mix Mole sauce off the shelf at your local grocery store. Ladle the heated sauce on boiled or baked chicken; sprinkle sesame seeds; garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve. This strategy may incite Montezuma to wreak a new revenge on you, so best that the mole sauce preparation be left to those who can lovingly dedicate three days of stirring the secret saucepot.
There are numerous simple, scrumptious, and satisfying recipes that you can serve, without having to hoodwink anyone or without taking special cooking classes. Try these two Mexican recipes that are easy to prepare and delicious to eat.
Oyster Soup – Sopa de Ostiones
• 4 Dozen oysters (canned or from a jar)
• 1 Tomato
• 2 Coarsely cut potatoes
• 2 Coarsely cut carrots
• 1 Clove of garlic
• 1 Tablespoon of flour
• 1/2 Glass of white wine
• 2 Slices of white bread cut up into small pieces
Disolve the flour in water. Toast and peal the tomato. Liquefy it in garlic and fry it in oil.
Add 6 cups of water to the potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, flour and salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Lower the flame, add the oysters and wine and cook for 10 more minutes.
Fry bread into croutons and serve with the soup.
Courtesy of mexgrocer.com
Buñuelos with Chocolate and Nuts
4 flour tortillas
• oil for frying
• 3/4 cup crushed nuts
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 4 oz. dark chocolate
Fry the tortillas in the oil until they form a buñuelo (fritter). Drain excess oil by placing on top of a paper towel. In another frying pan, melt the brown sugar with the chocolate and bathe the buñuelos with this mixture. Mix the sugar and crushed nuts together and sprinkle on top of each buñuelo.
Courtesy of Missions Tortillas