Learning To Cook Archive

How to peel walnuts for chiles en nogada, 19th-century nun style

Once I decided I was going to make homemade chiles en nogada this year, I became obsessed with peeling my own walnuts. Skinless, pristine walnuts are a requirement for the nogada, the creamy sauce that covers the Poblano pepper. The sauce must be white to reflect one of the colors of the Mexican flag; walnut

Calling all experts: How do you cook maguey flowers?

In the past six months or so, I've become a little obsessed with flowering maguey. The maguey, also known as agave, blooms when it's mature, a process that can take anywhere from 6 to 28 years depending on the plant. Weirdly, the flowers don't sprout from the leaves themselves -- they grow on a trunk-like

Five truths about tamales

The more I learn about Mexican food, the more I realize I’ll never know enough. So many things just simply aren’t written down: recipes, techniques, the names of regional chiles from tiny villages. Really learning this cuisine means traveling to cities and towns and tasting as many things as possible. Or at least studying with

Understanding Mexico’s seasonal produce

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a neat little pamphlet put out by SAGARPA, Mexico's agriculture ministry. Transparency around food isn't exactly common here, so I was surprised to see a neat, organized chart listing the seasonal availability of some of Mexico's most popular ingredients. I checked out the accompanying website when I got

How to clean huauzontles, and prepare them for cooking

I'm glad y'all are excited about my Week of Huauzontles. Well, except for Don Cuevas, who compared them to "bottle brushes." But that's okay. I still heart you, Don. My first post is about how to clean the vegetable. As I mentioned yesterday, it's an involved process. You might want to have a radio or

How to season a molcajete, when you’re absolutely tired of grinding

During my last cooking class, Yuri announced that we were taking a break from the metate. Instead, we’d cook up a few antojitos -- corn-based snacks -- which we'd then get to eat. This was cause for rejoicing, because we hadn’t eaten anything in the past two classes, despite marathon-amounts of grinding. On the menu

A quick guide to Mexican beans

Amid all the recent talk of beans, guess what I found yesterday? An entire page devoted to Mexican bean varietals, on the June page of my 2010 Mexican gastronomy calendar. (Yes, I'm a food nerd.) I had the calendar turned to March for some reason, so I'd been staring at a dozen varieties of ollas.

Dear clay bean pot: I love you

Remember the bean pot I bought last week? Here it is. My mom wanted me to make sure and tell you that it's lead-free. Too much lead in one's system can lead to neurological problems. So. I used it on Saturday for the first time. Well, actually, on Friday, per the seller's instructions, I filled

Live blogging: Stumbling my way through one dozen tamales

This weekend I'm hosting a bunch of women for a tamalada, or tamale-making party. Seeing as I haven't made tamales in like three years, and the last time was with a cooking course -- when they chopped everything for me and cleaned up -- I figured I should try a practice batch today, just to