En la casa es la cocina. En tu cocina es Hali y Woody. Gracias, Chef Josephina.
From Playa del Carmen we took the ferry over to Cozumel for a weeklong visit. We’ve settled into our hammocks for some reading and writing and will take a communal cooking class with Chef Josephina. I can’t think of a better way to brush up on our Spanish, en la cocina.
Today we are sharing the kitchen with and breaking bread, or in this case, hand spun tortillas with Chef Josephina and her familia. We are cooking with Uncle (tio) Luis.
For us, coming to Cozumel is like coming home. We’ve been visiting Cozumel since the late ’80’s and except for the few all-inclusive resorts on the south side of the island, it hasn’t changed much. The town square is much the same. The little marketplace has the same vendors, familiar dive shops are scattered about town. Many of the same restaurants are still here. Some, like Woody’s, have just changed their name to lure the tourists from the cruise ships.
We started the lesson with a trip to the local market. Probably my favorite part of the day. Our shopping list was long and with the value of the Mexican peso in this market we were able to feed a party of nine, with margaritas, for about $20. We picked up everything from avacados to Dos XX.
Of the nine of us sharing the table this afternoon only three of us were staying on the island. Kudos to the other six for getting off the cruise ship for a few hours and seeing a real Mexican family kitchen and sampling authentic Mayan cuisine.
These “cruisers” were very well behaved and for what it’s worth in my book, adventurous. Except when it came time to chose what we all wanted to cook for our main entree: beef, chicken, pork, or fish. Majority went with chicken. I lost the debate. C’mon folks, we’re on an island. The island is surrounded by water. In that water is an abundance of fish. We just saw them unloading the fish from the boat.
Oh well, fish got only three votes. All three from the tourists staying on the island, me and Hali included. Rigged!!!
And the experience of shopping with a local in the village market is something you see from the travel cooking shows.
Back in the kitchen we all donned our aprons and began preparing cactus by “scaling” off the needles as you would the scales of a fish.
Our adobo marinated chicken was wrapped in banana leafs then into some foil and steamed for about 30 minutes. As our main course cooked, we prepared mayan squash with gouda cheese, a cucumber salad with jicama, and several salsas. We mashed our guacamole, blended tomatillo salsa verde, and puréed the pumpkin seed (pepita) dip alongside homemade tortilla chips.
This was all washed down with the refreshing hibiscus tea and margaritas made with tequila from the oldest distillery in Mexico City.
Hali’s favorite part of this cooking lesson was the hands-on tortilla dough. If I learned one thing, it was how easy it is to make your own corn tortillas: Masa (corn flour), salt, water. Then you make a Playdough consistency dough and roll and flatten into tortillas. Cook over a stove like a pancake. Pretty simple.
But knowing you can get a stack of these tortillas four inches high with a half chicken barbacoa, a pint of rice, and a couple sides of grilled onions and pico de gallo for 60 pesos ($3), a stop at the kitchen down the street to pick up our picnic at the beach is tops on our agenda mañana.
Thank you again Chef Josephina and Uncle Luis. Your kitchen was very warm and welcoming.