Our stay in Puebla last weekend was short but magical. We arrived Friday night and left Monday morning. During that time we stayed in a gorgeous historical inn, “discovered” an outstanding new restaurant and took two cooking classes.
First on the menu were chiles enogada. We took our chiles enogada class with the chef at our hotel, Mesón Sacristía. Chiles enogada, an iconic Mexican dish, are a seasonal but iconic Mexican dish birthed in Puebla. According to tradition, the chiles were created by nuns for the visit of emperor Agustín de Iturbide. The dish reflects the occasion. It is complex, multi layered, laborious and well suited for an emperor. To make the dish, a chile poblano is stuffed with a sweet and savory filling consisting of meat, fruit and spices. The chile is then coated with egg whites, fried and topped with a white walnut sauce. It is then sprinkled with a green herb, usually parsley, and pomegranate seeds, yielding the colors of the Mexican flag. The final result is beautiful.
This is the part where I have to admit that… I’m not a fan. Alright, Alright, they were good and I might make them again but not with the same exact recipe. The stuffing for the chiles, which consisted of pork, chicken, almonds, raisins, cumin, cinnamon and sugar, was sweet. You already know how I feel about sweet and savory. But, even when I got past the sweet-ish filling, the sweet sauce is what made the meal not really edible for me. The sauce that we made contained goat cheese, walnuts, and milk (so far, so yum) but then we also added rum and sugar (yuck). So I hope I am not offending any Poblanos, but I was not a huge fan of the overall effect. Luckily, the next day when visiting a friend in Puebla, his grandma informed that her walnut sauce recipe did not contain sugar and is more savory, so I may give her recipe a try when I get back home.
Our second class was on two Pueblan street foods, pelonas and chalupas. I’d tasted chalupas before and thought of them as small fried sopes with salsa on top. They are actually small tortillas, topped with fresh green or red salsa, raw onion and quickly fried in lard, resulting in delicious, crisp and soft disks of saucy goodness. Pelonas are small sandwiches whose name means “bald.” They have this name because unlike cemitas, another Pueblan bread used in a delicious Pueblan food, they lack sesame seeds. The pelonas we made were lightly fried, filled with meat, queso oaxaca, beans and lettuce and were delicious. This class took place in the home of Ale and Tere with whom we connected through Traveling Spoon. I loved that for this class, Nicole and I cooked in the backyard of a Pueblan family we would have otherwise not had access too. After the lesson, we sat together and conversed over our meal.
Apart from the classes, I also learned a lot about Mexican cuisine through the meals we had in Puebla. Our first day in Puebla we stumbled upon the beautiful open courtyard of a restaurant called Casa Barroca. Since Nicole and I are both foodies, we did what we normally do, we asked for a menu to scope out the place before sitting down. After a shorter look through the menu than usual, we looked at each other in perfect agreement, we wanted to eat there! I had read phrases like “black bean risotto,” and “chicharron crusted” on the menu and I was sold.
After deliberating over such an amazing menu, I finally settled on a green pipián, a thick sauce made with pumpkin seeds, served with a oaxaca cheese stuffed chicken breast over a bed of black bean risotto. This dish was delicious! Nicole, ordered a fideo soup with king crab, aged cheese and chorizo cream which was also tasty. For dessert we shared a Dulces Besos and a Vervena. The Dulces Besos was a pink pine nut mousse filled with chocolate cream, paired with fruit and horchata ice cream. The Vervena was a deconstructed lemon meringue pie paired with lemongrass ice cream, maracuya custard, and fresh citrus slices. The vervena was amazing.
Our love affair with Casa Barroca continued when we returned for breakfast Sunday morning. This time I had green eggs and ham (not actually called this) and Nicole had molletes with tasajo. Both were also outstanding! We did some research and found out that Casa Barroca is a historic building that dates back to 1541 which was recently renovated to house a beautiful new restaurant, hotel, and art gallery in Puebla. We haven’t heard much about it on the internet or yelp since it’s very new but you should definitely plan to go there if you’re in Puebla.
Finally, also of note, was the molten cake we had at el Mural de los Poblanos. The gooey oaxacan chocolate molten cake which smelled of cinnamon and citrus, paired beautifully with vanilla from papantla ice cream. The dessert was aptly named El Regalo de Quetzalcoatl. Do you know that both vanilla and chocolate originate from Mexico? (I know! More on this later)
It’s hard to synthesize what I’ve been thinking about these past two weeks but I am amazed by Mexican cuisine. I was telling my husband yesterday that throughout the 8 classes that we’ve taken so far, no dish has overlapped without us telling any of our instructors what we’ve already cooked. Mexican cuisine is so rich!
I loved a moment during a market tour when our tour guide went over 10 different salsa combinations using a handful of dried chiles, stressing how different each of the salsas would be using those same chiles and a few ingredients. Later that week we got to see this in action by making three different salsas using the same tomato base. By adding gusanos de maguey, cumin, and avocado leaves, we got three completely different salsas.
Chiles have always been a staple in my cooking but I’d never understood that dry chiles like pasilla, guajillo, ancho, and chipotle are simply poblanos or jalapeños before they are transformed into their new state by smoking or drying during different levels of ripeness. After trying dozens of delicious salsas and moles during this trip, I am determined to grow my own chiles next summer and start experimenting with new salsas and moles.
Overall, I am incredibly grateful for this experience and feel that I have already learned so much about Mexican cuisine in the past two weeks. The list of foods I want to cook as soon as I get home grows by the day. Excited to share about our week in Oaxaca soon!