Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Mexico: Cooking Classes in San Miguel de Allende
Lately, I’ve immersed myself in San Miguel’s cooking classes. I’ve written about four of them in this article. Many B&Bs also offer cooking classes so check with them if you’re staying in one.
MARILAU – Mexican Ancestry Cooking School
MARILAU, Mexican Ancestry Cooking School, is based on her family’s recipes, which date over 200 years old and were handed down to her from her grandmother and mother.
Marilau has been teaching traditional Mexican cooking in San Miguel since 1989 and has been cooking even longer. She keeps her classes small, limiting them to a maximum of ten people. The class that I attended had five people and one eater who just came for lunch. Lucky man!
Marilau demonstrated a traditional sopa (soup) and a sauce that is excellent over pork or chicken. Since nothing was prepared in advance, we learned the techniques of how to clean and use dried chilies, cook rice by boiling in oil, and use nuts to thicken sauces.
According to Marilau, Mexicans do not use olive oil or wine in their cooking because the Spaniards did not allow them to grow olive trees or vineyards; Spain wanted to control the pricing of those items. Consequently, in Mexican cooking, you use pork lard or vegetable oil, never olive oil or butter. You use beer, but not wine. And sauces are thickened by ground nuts, never by flour.
In the class, Marilau deftly demonstrated the traditional techniques while we sipped on Hibiscus water (Aqua de Jamaica). As a treat, she heated up some frozen mole so we could sample the sauce. After tasting her mole, I’m looking forward to her three-hour mole class.
The class that I took was demonstration only and cost approximately $65 USD per person per class. Marilau also offers hands-on classes at $99 USD per person per class and are available all year long. Payment is in American dollars or its equivalent in Mexican pesos.
Marilau holds classes Monday through Friday, beginning at 10:00 a.m. She offers an assortment of classes and will design a class specifically for you. The minimum enrollment is 2 students for hands on and 3 students for demonstrations classes. For more information, visit Marilau’s website (www.marilau.com) for class information and registration. You can contact Marilau by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and you may watch her presentation video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vckoZMzlTkg
La Cocina Cooking School
Kris Rudolph, owner of the popular El Buen Café in San Miguel, has written two Mexican cookbooks—“Recipes & Secrets from the El Buen Café” and “Eating Healthy: Mexican Light Cuisine for Today’s Cook.” In addition, she recently founded the La Cocina Cooking School. The cooking school is an expansion of her popular Tuesday and Thursday cooking classes, featuring contemporary Mexican cooking and great margheritas.
Kris has owned El Buen Café for 14 years and has been offering her Tuesday and Thursday Mexican cooking classes for ten of those years. She has a graduate degree in Hospitality and Restaurant management and knows her way around the food industry.
Kris’ Mexican cooking classes are limited to 12 participants, a number that her well-appointed teaching kitchen handles easily and efficiently. As participants settled themselves around the large preparation table, we were given Hibiciscus Water to sip.
At first, the class seemed like it was a demonstration-only class. Then Kris asked for a volunteer to chop some nopales (cactus paddles). As the evening progressed, the class became more and more hands-on and everyone, even the non-cooks, helped with the meal.
Chiles Relleno was on the menu and Kris demonstrated how to char and then sweat the poblano chilies. When the chilies were ready, each class member had the chance to clean the skin from the chile, stuff it, then lightly flour, and dip the chile in batter. Kris’ assistant fried each chile, allowing the assembly line to proceed easily.
During this time, Kris prepared margheritas for those who wanted one and we all sat down to a full, deliciously prepared, healthy Mexican dinner.
Kris offers her Tuesday and Thursday Mexican cooking class from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for most of the year in San Miguel. The cost is $500 pesos ($45 USD) and pre-registration is required. You may contact Kris by stopping by the El Buen Café (Jesus 23, San Miguel de Allende) or by emailing her at email@example.com. Kris also offers culinary tours to Mexican cities such as Dolores Hildalgo, Pozos, and Guanajuato, as well as tours to Italy. Kris is expanding her classes and will be offering a full slate of classes this summer. Check out Kris’ website www.mexicocooks.com for more information about her cooking classes and tours.
Patsy DuBois owns a beautiful ranch a few miles outside of San Miguel de Allende. She offers cooking classes, catering, special event planning, and a lunch every Sunday afternoon.
Patsy offers both one-day and three-day classes of traditional Mexican cooking. Classes are offered in her hacienda-style kitchen that is large enough to facilitate her hands-on cooking classes. Patsy’s introductory class is four hours and provides students with the basics of Mexican cooking. All vegetables used in her classes, as well as in her catering assignments, are grown in her gardens and greenhouse. The cost for the introductory class is $50 USD.
Patsy will also arrange, for groups of 4 to 6, a series of 3-day trips to surrounding markets and towns to experience Mexican food and culture.
You can contact Patty by phone 01 415 18 5 21510 or check out her website (www.patsydubois.com).
Reyna’s Cooking Classes
Reyna Polanco Abrahams has been teaching traditional Mexican cooking in San Miguel for 15 years. Reyna invites you into her home to learn about the foods from various regions of Mexico. During her highly acclaimed class, which is a mixture of demonstration and hands-on, you’ll help prepare a full comida, including dessert and coffee. The class is two hours and costs $35 USD. You’ll take away printed recipes of the food prepared that day. The class is limited to 15 people and requires a minimum of six people.
I enjoyed these cooking classes and learned about more than just the foods of Mexico. I learned about Mexican history and culture.
I’ve included a few recipes that typify Mexican cooking.
Cerdo en Pipian Rojo
Courtesy of Maria Ricaud
Pipian is a traditional Mexican sauce containing pumpkin seeds. Maria’s version also uses almonds and sesame seeds. Serve this dish with rice.
Serves 4 – 6
1 ½ pounds pork leg cut into cubes and boiled in 6 cups of water with ½ onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon marjoram, 1 tablespoon thyme and ½ teaspoon salt. Save the meat and the juices.
6 chilies guajillo or 3 chilies ancho, seeded, de-veined, and cut in chunks
1 thick slice of onion
3 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted and ground
¼ cup almonds, toasted and ground
¾ cup raw pumpkin seeds, toasted and ground
2 – 3 cups juice from the boiling pork meat
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon pork lard or vegetable oil
- Sauté chilies in 1-2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil. Remove and set aside.
- Add garlic and onion to pan, cook until translucent
- Return chilies, 2 cups stock/meat juices, salt paprika, cumin to saucepan.
- Cover and boil for 15 minutes, until chilies are soft enough for the blender.
- Put it all—onions, garlic, chilies, stock—into blender and blend until smooth.
- Strain the sauce into saucepan. Add 1 cup stock/meat juice. Heat mixture
- If seeds are not yet toasted and ground, do so now. You can ground the sesame and almonds together. Grind the pumpkin separately.
- Add sesame and almond paste to pot and bring to boil. Cook for 5-6 minutes. You may need to add some stock/meat juice
- Turn off heat and add pumpkin seeds, stir.
- Add pork and coat with sauce. Ready to serve.
Note: In class we used chicken thighs instead of pork. Boil the same way in the same ingredients as you would the pork. Leave the skin on and then remove before serving. I’m sure you could also make this with chicken breasts.
Chile Pasilla Salsa (Salsa Negra)
Courtesy of Kris Rudolph
Pasilla Chiles are dried chiles, which are long, thin and black in color. As a fresh chile they are called Chilacas, having a somewhat mild flavor. This salsa can be used for a dip, but Kris especially likes it with beef. The traditional way to serve it is stewed with chunks of beef or pork loin and made into tacos.
About 1 cup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 pasilla chiles, seeded and deveined
2 cloves garlic
¾ teaspoon salt or to taste
1 cup water
½ teaspoon cumin, toasted
1 teaspoon dried oregano
- After removing all the seeds and veins from the pasilla chiles, fry them in the oil for a few minutes, until they start to smoke. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with warm water. Let sit for about 20 minutes or until softened. Discard the water.
- Pan roast the garlic cloves until brown.
- Place the fried chiles, garlic, salt, water and spices into a blender and puree. If the salsa is too thick, add more water.*
*If using this salsa for a dip, the recipe gives you the proper consistency; however, if you’re making a stew, you will need to thin it out a little by adding water.
Arlene Krasner is a former high-tech engineering manager. She is currently living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.