Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Would You Like to Know the Real Secret to Mexican Cooking?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Would You Like to Know the Real Secret to Mexican Cooking?


We have been in the El Cid Resorts of Mazatlan, Mexico for six weeks now. Even if there are 9 restaurants of different cuisines (Argentinian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Mazatleca and four International), we have had a lot of Mexican food. Aside from La Cascada dedicated to Mexican food and Dona Sol dedicated to local dishes of Mazatlan, Mexican dishes are included in every buffet and special days are dedicated to Mexican cuisine in the international restaurants.

tinga de res

Desayuno, the Mexican Breakfast
chilaquiles

For breakfast, we have gotten to know staples like molletes, sopes, chilaquiles (verde o rojo), and huevos rancheros. There are American options: tocino (bacon), salchichas (sausages), pancakes, French toasts, waffles, papa bibil (hash browns), cereals, crepes, omelets, and huevos a gusto (eggs of your choice). I like it that they always have a pot of avena (oats) with amaranto, pasas (raisins), coconut shreds, granola, and cinnamon always available for sprinkling. Varieties of pan (bread) can be grilled or toasted with all kinds of queso, mantequilla y margarina, and peanut butter and jam for spreads. Frutas tropicales are all sliced up with cottage cheese or yogurt for toppings and all colors of gelatin on the side. Hot chocolate, coffee, tea, agua con hielo, and all kinds of jugos are always ready.


Comida o Cena, All-Day Mexican Food

sopa de mariscos

chile relleno
There are a great variety of main dishes for lunch (comida) or dinner (cena). Most of us already know the following from our Tex-Mex cuisine: enchiladas, burritos, tacos, gorditas, tostadas, and fajitas. But our six weeks in Mazatlan, Mexico has exposed us to so much more: carnitas, mole, barbacoa, pibil, tinga, cochinitas, asada, birria, menudo, campechanga, chamorro, and other dishes you rarely find in Mexican restaurants in the US. Apperitivos include all preparations of nachos with different types of salsa, guacamole, and frijoles. Carbs are either arroz (rice), tortillas (but mostly maiz and not harina), papas (potatoes), and all kinds of pan (bread). The soups we have come to love are pozole, mariscos, albondigas, elotes de crema, or sopa de ajo. Of course, we cannot resist the postres (desserts) like varieties of flan, churros, pasteles (cakes and pastries), and candied bananas or sweet potatoes. Bebidas are horchata, cebada, or tequila-based ones.

El Cid's Cooking Class

Activities provided for free have created a lot of value for our stay in El Cid. Enrique, the Activities leader, has done a great job of promoting the cooking class every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 pm, for example, for about 16-20 of us, eager students. We gather at La Concha which a lot of the hotel guests consider the best restaurant. In the class, we have learned how to cook international food like pasta marinara, paella Valenciana, sushi, Caesar’s salad, ceviche, fajitas, and sopa de mariscos. Next ones slated are pozole, enchilada, tacos, chicken tortilla soup, and so much more.

our cooking class by the sea

Chef Luis Villa
Interview with the Chef

I interviewed one of our very personable chefs/instructors, Senor Luis Villa. In spite of the fact that he knows very little English, he was always able to convey to us the ingredients, the steps, and the secrets of a dish, with Enrique at his side. I conducted this interview without an interpreter. After all, another activity I consider very valuable is the Spanish classes I am also taking. 

Senor Luis is forty-eight years old and has two boys, Luis Angel, fourteen and Eric, seven. Our featured chef learned how to cook at a very young age right at his home in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. His mother, Maria de la Luz, and grandmother, Felicitas, are both passionate cooks who made everything painstakingly from scratch. But when they were away, Luis cooked for himself. Now, after cooking assignments for eighteen years, he considers seafood and Mexican cooking his specialty

pescado zarandeado

His favorite Mexican dish is mole. It is also one of Bill’s favorites. When I asked him why he said it is because it is a complex dish made from a lot of ingredients that can number up to thirty. Thus, a creative cook can come up with many different flavors, using different types of chiles, for instance. And when I asked him what dish he would prepare for a special someone, he said he often prepares carne en su jugo (meat in its juice) for his wife, Erica. Actually, it reminds me of the popular sous vide cooking.

Mexican-style paella
tequila, sangria, y limon

When I wanted to find out the secret to Mexican cooking, he immediately said tiempo. It means time. In other words, the cook must have a lot of patience because it takes time for the flavors to come out, to fuse, and to intensify. He says it would be easy to take two, three, or four hours to prepare dinner, depending on the dishes one wants to prepare for the family.

For the last question, I asked him what advice he can give those of us who want to enjoy eating and cooking Mexican food. Just as easily, he said we have to learn to watch the chiles. Mexican cuisine utilizes them heavily and consistently. And there are many kinds of different colors, various flavors, and increasing degrees of spiciness. There is the jalapeno (green), poblano (green), guajillo (red), and wero (pale yellow) for flavoring, coloring, and mild spiciness. Then there is the small serrano for more spiciness. Finally, if you dare, there is the habanero, the hottest of them all. Of course, there are also Mexican spices.  

We have six more weeks to go. I will surely learn more. And I am so happy El Cid offers cooking classes with great chefs like Senor Luis and organizers like Enrique.

PINNABLE IMAGES

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54 comments:

  1. Nice article, but it makes me hungry! Luis has the ability to teach and to have fun at the same time. AND he can really cook!

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  2. Those cooking classes sound like so much fun! Enjoy.

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    1. Yes, they are so much fun. Worth so much and it's free!

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  3. Very nice I loved learning about the different techniques and the use of Chile’s in the food. Time sounds like that secret ingredient needed for success.

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    1. Thanks. Love our cooking classes and Mexican food!

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  4. I am obsessed with Mexican food. I am from California and admittedly spoiled. When I travel for long periods of time that is the one thing I miss the most. The first thing I do when I get home is hit up my favorite taco shop.

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  5. Then you should learn how to make it! I now regularly make tacos and enchiladas!

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  6. I am a huge fan of mole. Ever since watching Like Water For Chocolate, it has epitomized foodie adventures to me. I loved going to Nogales or TJ and going to the local markets for mole. Taking a cooking class el El Cid reminds me of that kind of adventure. I love it when the chefs bring their love of cooking to the class.

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    1. You will love it in El Cid then!!! Come on down!

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  7. I love Mexican food! It's always nice to learn more about cooking to really get a new appreciation for good cuisine. It's good to know the secret ingredient in good Mexican food is time and chiles. I think I have those two in my pantry. Now I want some Mexican food! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Great attitude. As in any cuisine or anything in life, practice makes perfect!

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  8. Everything looks beyond tasty Carol.

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  9. How fun that you can take cooking classes at your resort. I always equate mexican cooking with hot spicy food. So I guess I was not surprised to find that the chef uses them heavily. But for me, it would be good to know that your resort has so many options for food.

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    1. No, he doesn't use it heavily. He advocates the right use of chiles.

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  10. I enjoyed reading about the cooking school (what a great perk!) and your interview with the chef. I found it interesting, but I'll stick to eating and forgo the hours of cooking. I appreciate the guide on the peppers too.

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    1. Yeah, but my husband loves Mexican food so I really want to learn Besides, as retirees, we have lots of time.

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    2. My husband loves Mexican food. Besides, as retirees,vwe have all the time!

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  11. I love cooking classes, but don't seek them out nearly enough! Dave loves Mexican food, and we both like things spicy so these classes would be great for us to try out too. Looks like you had a fabulous time. Love the one by the beach especially!

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  12. I seriously love your site.. Very nice colors & theme.
    Did you develop this web site yourself? Please reply back as I'm trying to create my
    own personal blog and would like to find out where
    you got this from or what the theme is named. Thank you!

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  13. Asking questions are really fastidious thing if you are not understanding
    something completely, but this piece of writing presents good
    understanding yet.

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  14. Wow, that Mexican cooking class by the sea looks fantastic! I adore Mexican food--would love to take the class. And it sounds like you are indulging in some delicious meals. Verde chilaquiles and Mexican coffee would be my primo choice for breakfast.

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  15. Carol, everything looks so flavorful and fun. The food there must be amazing. Thanks for sharing with us a glimpse behind the scenes.

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  16. Yes, quite amazing knowing how they are made!

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  17. Up to 30 ingredients to make a good mole - wow! No wonder it is so complex and delicious. Thanks for sharing some great tips and a glimpse behind the scenes.

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    1. It was a subject that truly intrigued me as Mexican food us one of my husband's favorites.

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  18. I just love Mexican food. Love that you are learning to cook it ALL! What great insight from Senor Luis Villa - time and chiles! I definitely do not know my chili peppers... Will have to start there, I think!

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  19. Best place to start. I think I might ask him about other spices, too!

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  20. Great tips from the chef, especially about the importance of tiempo. It's also great that you're being exposed to so many foods beyond what one finds at Mexican restaurants in the U.S.

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    1. I know. We are being exposed to what they cook at home which are simpler, less expensive meald!

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  21. I just love enjoying traditional foods when we travel. I often try to recreate them when I've returned home. Some times it works and some times not so much. We really should take cooking classes more often.

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    1. We are so lucky we get to have these 26 free lessons!

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  22. Love cooking classes and learning how to prepare local cuisine. I think in almost every country, the secret to preparing the local dishes is, as in Mexico, time ... taking time to bring out the flavors and work with the local ingredients. And yes, knowing the various peppers ... soooo many varieties.

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  23. I love that this resort offers Spanish classes and cooking classes. I’m going to google how to make the Mexican-style paella, it looks amazing

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  24. It was a bad idea to read this post before lunch! Now I’m craving all things Mexican, but especially chilaquiles, one of my favorite meals of all. It’s true that time is the most important ingredient in this cuisine. I’ve heard many chefs echo that same sentiment.

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    1. My husband is like you. So he's having the time of his life!

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  25. I'm always a big fan of cooking Classes and this one looks really fun. I absolutely love Mexican cuisine though I have found everything you named around the Southern US (especially TX and NM) even recently. Still, nothing like having it in the mother country. ;)

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  26. Yeah, Texas and New Mexico must have them Arizona should,vtoo. Maybe we haven't looked enough!

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  27. Is it true you are *living* at the resort for a couple months?! Wow. Yes, many North Americans underestimate the variety in Mexican cuisine. I love the posole soup:)

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  28. Wow, I am so hungry now! I have been dreaming of mole since coming back from Mexico. Just like for you, it’s never on menus here. I’m sure I would have the patience to cook proper Mexican food If was taking 3-4 hours for dinner!!!

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    1. I just learned that there are so many kinds of enchiladas and I will make a great one when I go home!

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  29. I never thought of Mexican food as a slow cooking example before. Then again, I only ate it, never cooked it.
    I love how you're doing so much while traveling. Cooking classes, Spanish lessons, taking time to do inyerviews..

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  30. Yes, for three months of the year, every year. Yes, we only know the usual dishes of Mexican cuisine. There is so much more to it. My husband loves pozole, too.

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  31. While I'm not a huge fan of Mexican food, I always find it interesting to see how other cultural foods are made. I enjoy cooking classes too. Your chef was so nice and patient to explain everything to you! Also glad to see there are many options at your resort!

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    1. We love El Cid. They seem to know how to do all-inclusive2,inclusive stays well.

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  32. I dont blame you for sticking to authentic Mexican food, I would too! Where else are you getting the real fresh flavors of the locals cuisine?
    Everything looks so fresh that I can even smell the Paella!

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    1. Yes, everything us so fresh. Food here is great, especially the seafood!

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