Cooking Like A Mexican

BY: ALE BORBOLLA

Ale manchamanteles.jpg

Manchamanteles

May, June and July are the most popular months to celebrate weddings (last year, at least), and one of the most traditional dishes to be served in Mexican weddings is the mole. But, not only the mole that most restaurants offer in their menus, which by the way, blows my mind that only ONE type of mole is so commercial, you know the chocolate-spice dark red mole if there’s so many ... Especially now, when it is not as hard as it was before to find a large variety of ingredients in almost every supermarket in town. So, no, Mexican food is not, by any means, the limited selection you read in the Mexican food restaurants, but hopefully, you’re a regular reader and already knew that!

I have an American friend who has been here for years, and he told me that, only 15 years ago, if you wanted to prepare a salad, there was a good chance to find lettuce, but maybe not a tomato. A lot of people used to go to La Paz, by plane, to buy a decent selection of groceries. But now, in Cabo, with several supermarkets and all kind of stores, this doesn’t happen anymore, so it would be nice for the restaurant owners and chefs, to stop limiting our visitors to three or four Mexican dishes, but to give them the opportunity to try the real, vast, delicious, extensive and richness of Mexican food. Even the taco stands, they all serve the same boring kind of tacos, when there are dozens of creative kinds out there.

Well, going back to the point, there is a kind of mole that is called “Manchamanteles,” which literally translates to "tablecloth stainer." And the name comes exactly from what you are thinking. The tablecloth will have Mole stains all over because its consistency is similar to a broth.

This dish was born in the city of Puebla as many other traditional Mexican dishes, and the reason is that area had a mayor diversity of Mexican native groups, and also because Puebla was created for the Spaniards and their Mexican wives and their “criollo” descendants. The word “criollo” is baby with a Spanish father and a Mexican mother. Creole in English. And it was like this because no Spanish women traveled from Spain to America in those days.

So, this is the biggest example of the cooking culture. The moles and many other traditional dishes are the mixture or blend of flavors from the many varieties of chiles, turkey, peanuts, tortilla, cocoa, all of Mexican origin, and spices imported from overseas, as well as almonds, sugar, wheat bread with egg and sesame seeds, a mixture which has brought fame to this ceremonial stew, is eaten it on very special occasions in the Mexican households, like baptisms, weddings, anniversaries, and more commonly now for those great Sunday gatherings.

So, and I am sorry to insist, sometimes as a Mexican, I feel offended by the majority of restaurants in Cabo whose menus are so limited.  Mexican food is not, as some would say; the destructive-chile flavor crudely scrambled with tortillas and beans. Mexican cuisine is a way of seeing life, is the baroque pushed to its extreme, is a courtly etiquette that cannot live and the rationalists (sons of fast food) or the barbaric Puritans (children of low-fat food).

“Manchamanteles” is the greatest example of the magic of Mexican cuisine, the creativity of Mexican, and Creole women, who wanted for one, give good use to all the ingredients they had in their kitchen and in their cupboards, and for two, to please their husbands, children and even the Spaniard militaries. There were not male cooks or chefs in those times.

Ok, now going to the Mole. Before we go to the recipe, I will like to say that this doesn’t have to be spicy, it actually has some fruit. Remember that if you remove the seeds inside the chiles, you will get the entire flavor with almost none of the heat (depending on which type of chile too, and you should use gloves for this so you don’t end up with spicy fingers!).

It is a complete meal in one dish and great to serve as dinner in a windy summer evening.

Ingredients:

8 ancho chiles (ancho chiles are not too hot, but rather smokey and deep in flavor and color)

4 cloves of garlic

1 onion

6 tomatoes

1 ½ apples, diced

2 pears, diced

1/3 of a pineapple, diced

1 cup of almonds, peeled

1 tablespoon of sugar

3 pounds of pork meat

¼ cup of vegetable oil or pork lard

Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

Cook the pork in enough water, season with salt and pepper and keep the broth. You can add any herbs you like, like oregano, thyme, or whatever you have on hand.

Clean the chiles removing seeds and toast on a fat-free pan or comal. Then, soak them in a little bit of the warm broth, just enough to cover them depending on the container you are using. They will soften.

In a blender, puree onion, tomatoes, garlic, chiles and almonds. Blend into a paste. You might have to add a little liquid for the blender to run, you can add the broth you soaked the chiles in or regular broth from the cooked pork.

In a pot, fry the paste in a little oil or lard, and add broth little by little so it reaches a thick soup consistency.

Boil for about 20 minutes over medium heat and add the diced pork, pears, apples, pineapple, and let cook for about 10 more minutes.

Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Serve with some white rice! And some fried plantains if you like them!!

Enjoy! You can find me at ale.borbolla@gringogazette.com.