MEXICO ON THE INSIDE

It would unwise for anyone to defame or dismiss the so-called Tex-Mex style of cooking in front of its millions of advocates, defenders, practitioners and passionate fans. Even the snobbiest culinary scholars should see in its intense gravies and undeniable multi-cultural goodness the same things that happen when French and German foods get together along shifting borders, or when Chinese meets Indian and Thai.

Fusions, we might all agree, happen first and foremost with geographic proximity. And they are enriched, year after year, by the mixing and mingling that comes with immigration. Think of the specific dishes within Indian cuisine that are mostly popular among non-Indians in Great Britain, or of the Turkish dishes that have evolved over decades among Turkish workers living in Germany. Fusion is not simply something we can do – it’s something we usually can’t stop.

Still, we have been fascinated in recent years by what most often is called “interior Mexican cuisine.” Though the words occasionally refer to cuisine away from the coasts – Pacific, Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico – they usually mean cuisine away from the border shared so profoundly with the United States. At least in the popular oversimplification, Tex-Mex is the food of that border (especially the part touching Texas), while interior Mexican food is everything that’s everywhere else.

Beginning Wednesday January 17, our Culinary Adventure Cooking School will explore this very different cooking style through a series of monthly classes taught by veteran restaurateur and sommelier Donn Wagner. Now a resident of Fredericksburg, Wagner has served as a chef and even owned restaurants elsewhere specializing in interior Mexican cuisine, especially the mole-rich styles found in the long-remote region Oaxaca.

While recognizing the remoteness of this beloved region, Wagner also maintains the belief that Oaxacan flavors created by grinding a variety of chile peppers into a sauce known as a mole have influenced most other regions in Mexico. No, mole doesn’t always have chocolate in it, as many insist, though chocolate did originate in Mexico among the Aztecs, along with oh-so-convenient cinnamon and vanilla.

For the first class, Wagner focuses his years of travel and researching on producing a four-

course menu he calls Mexico’s Central Valley. An antojito kicks off the evening with a tostada with pan-seared chile morita shrimp, followed by classic tortilla soup. The main course is chicken breast given dramatic life by a mole of chile amarillo. Dessert is a sour cream cake with cajeta and almonds. Red and white wine will be served.

After Wednesday’s debut, these Donn’s Dinners switch to Friday evenings: Oaxaca City feasturing mole chile poblano on Feb. 23, La Cuidad Norte featuring mole verde on March 16, Veracruz featuring Veracruzana-style fish on April 27, Tuxtepec/Puebla Veracruz Style featuring mole manchamantles on May 25, and 

La Familia featuriong mole coloradito on June 22. All bookings can be made following the links to Cooking School on www.jelly.com.    

PECHUGA DE POLLO CON MOLE AMARILLO

Here is a terrific chicken recipe from the first class Donn Wagner is teaching at the Culinary Adventure Cooking School, Wednesday evening January 17. It will be the first of at least six classes devoted to foods of the Mexican interior.

4 each 4/6 ounce chicken breast (ribs removed)

6 chile gaujillos (1 ounce)

2 chile ancho

5 chile costeno amarillos (less than an ounce)

3 cloves garlic

3 allspice

3 black peppercorns

1 teaspoons Mexican oregano

1 pound Roma tomatoes

5 large tomatillos, husks removed

1 white onion, cut into chunks

¼ cup masa harina

2 or 3 leaves hierba santa ( dash of anise will substitute )

4 cups chicken stock

In a 4 quart stock pot add 2-3 cups of chicken stock and chicken breasts. Poach for 15-20 minutes or until done. Internal temperature 160 degrees. Remove breasts, cover and set aside. Reserve all chicken stock. In the saute pan toast the cloves ,allspice, peppercorns and oregano until they give off a nice scent. Remove a place in the blender.

In two cups of boiling water add tomatillos and roma tomatoes. Cook until the tomatillos change color to a light green and the skins on the romas can be removed. Remove the skins and discard from the red romas. Add to the blender with garlic and onion and the spices. Add one cup of hot chicken stock and puree until smooth. Pass through a food mill or chinois to remove a seeds or skin.

Place all chiles in 2 cups of boiling water and allow to get very soft. Add chiles to blender and 1 cup of the chicken stock and puree until smooth. Pass through a food mill or chinois to remove any skin and seeds left over. Combine with the tomatillos tomato puree. In the heavy stock pot heat lard or sunflower oil until smoking hot. Add the blended mixture to the pot and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. The mixture may be thick so you can add hot chicken stock. The result should be a mixture that coats the back of a spoon.

Warm serving plates and chicken breast. Slice breast cross ways to serve 4 ounces per serving. Place on plate and spoon Mole Amarillo the top. The serving can be sided with rice and garnish such as Pico de Gallo.


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