Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cooking class: project Mexican food

This weekend I held my second cooking class for the local community center. This time I shared with them some Mexican recipes. Finding all the ingredients was a little bit challenging. Avocados and cilantro are kind of hit or miss at my local grocery store but refried beans, tortillas and green chiles required a special trip down to the International market in Azubu Juban (~45 minute train ride each way).
The class format is very informal. I basically provide the recipes and supervise and we all dig in and do the work together. Here folks are stuffing tortillas with shredded chicken and rolling enchiladas.
Now, this is the fourth of these cooking classes that I have either attended or taught. Typically there are about 12 retired ladies in the class, all of whom are primarily there for a social outlet and to have a good time. One thing that I have learned is that they really don't like anything spicy and aren't particularly adventurous (they hated the Thai food because it was too hot and in their opinion had weird flavors). For this reason, I wanted to keep things simple and homey and maybe even a little bit americanized. I decided to make White Enchiladas, the recipe for which I got from my favorite food blog, and which was a big hit with my family when I was home for christmas. The only spice comes from canned mild green chiles.

Well, it turns out that for this particular class, we had 20+ students, a couple of whom were ringers. This man below is apparently a french chef. Suddenly I became incredibly self conscience about my cream-bomb enchiladas and hokey casserole and really wished I would have tried a relleno or a mole or at least salsa verde from scratch. It didn't help matters any when, after I finished the sour cream-based white sauce, he asked to taste it and out of the corner of my eye I could see him grimace and wash his mouth out. Here he is dicing the hell out of that red onion for the guacamole.

For the second dish, I decided to go with Huevos Rancheros because they specifically said they didn't want a lot of meat. When I learned that I had 20 students, I decided that making so many fried eggs would be impossible, so I opted for a Huevos Rancheros casserole recipe that I found online. You put the corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan, then the beans, a little salsa, whisked eggs and finally cheese. You bake it for a half hour and then top with red sauce. Super easy and it tastes like the real thing even though it doesn't really look like it.

They always serve some sort of tea with the meal and when they asked which tea would go well with Mexican, I thought about how I really like horchata with mine. They have a rice milk drink called amazake, so I had them prepare that and I added a little vanilla and cinnamon. Amazake is far chunkier than horchata, but it had the same general sweet, cooling effect (although there was unfortunately nothing spicy enough in my menu to require cooling).

At the end we dished all the food out equally onto plates and sat down for a feast. Lots of second helpings on the guacamole made me feel good, as did the "oishee"s (which essentially means "yummy"), though maybe they were just being nice. Pretty fun day on the whole.

Next they want me to rope my Moldovan friend into things and have her supervise while I make Russian food. They really want some borscht and wouldn't be dissuaded by my saying that neither she nor I have ever made it. We'll see.

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