You could say last week was the week of the dough.  While I left my partner Rick to chop, dice and mince, I tackled the doughs.

First, in my Cusines of Mexico class, there was the masa dough for the tlacoyos, then tortilla dough, and finally, tart dough in my Bistro class.

Here’s the run-down.

Say, what? or Cómo se dice?

Look, I don’t even know how to show you the phonetic pronunciation of tlacoyo, and I haven’t mastered the whole audio-visual thing, so just make up your own name for the damn thing.

What I can do is tell you they were interesting – in a good way.  They’re very similar to empanadas or pupusas if you’re familiar with El Salvadoran food, except that you use tortilla masa as the base, and part of your liquid is (or can be) a bean paste.  In our case, we simply used pureed black beans, which lent a nice rich flavor to the dough.  The key to the tlacoyo dough is to get it nice and soft, so you can’t feel the grain of the masa.  If it’s too wet or too dry, it will break when you try to flatten, fold and stuff it.

Here’s a basic recipe for Tlacoyos.

This is the finished tlacoyo, garnished with roasted tomato salsa and avocado cream

2 cups masa
2 T softened lard or vegetable oil
Sea salt to taste
1 cup bean paste

  1. Work all of these ingredients together until well aerated and very smooth. It should not feel grainy at all.
  2. Divide into 12 equal pieces (for a good size tlacoyo – if you want appetizer size, divide into 16 or 18 pieces, but not too small or they will be too difficult to stuff).
  3. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten with a tortilla press – not too thin!
  4. Stuff with a filling of your choice, and pinch seams together to seal.
  5. Deep fry in hot oil for several minutes.  The masa should be cooked all the way through and not have a grainy texture at all.

Good toppings and garnishes are diced white onion, queso añejo, and red or green salsa. The salsa you see on this plate was lovingly made by my cooking partner Rick – an awesome cook in his own right.

Rick and Estelle

These are a couple of my cooking buddies: Rick, who is with me in Mexican and French Bistro cuisines, and Estelle, who is not taking classes this quarter - boo! We miss her!

Here’s another more specific recipe from a site I follow with some regularity.

Our tlacoyo dough was very nice, but dried out a tad as it rested, and I had to rescue it with a bit of water as I shaped each ball.  Worked out pretty well.

Unfortunately, the fillings we used were from the cafeteria and not well seasoned, so when stuffing, I overcompensated with salt, and our finished product was too salty. Plus they weren’t cooked enough. I was quite disappointed at the time, but considering it was my first time making them, I’ve lightened up on myself.  I’m looking forward to making them again … maybe for my birthday …

The flour tortilla dough was uneventful.  Flour tortillas are really not all that common in Mexico. Corn tortillas are the vessel of choice, which makes sense because the holy trinity of Mexican cooking is corn (not wheat!), squash and beans.

Other dishes we made in class last week were Chiles Rellenos. Ours turned out beautifully.  The key to that

chile relleno

This is our completed Chile Relleno. Gorgeous, right?

gorgeous puffy coating, according to Chef Carlos, is beating your egg whites to soft peaks, then barely beating in the egg yolks!  Just a whisk or two, and you’re done, because you don’t want to deflate the whites at all.

The good chef also taught us a couple of tricks for a more beautiful presentation.

After you blacken the skin of the poblano, and peel the skin, don’t score it lengthwise.  Cut about a slightly diagonal slit at the stem end, and pull the seeds out through that slit.  You also stuff it through the same slit. It’s a bit fussy, but makes for easier cooking as well as a much nicer presentation.

Also, really pack in the stuffing, so it has a round and full shape when it comes out of the fryer.

There are tons of recipes out there for chiles rellenos, but you don’t really need one. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Blacken your pepper skins without cooking the pepper itself.  You can achieve this under a very hot broiler, or using the fire of your gas stove.  It probably would work with a blowtorch too, which would be totally gnarly! (Just kidding. Please don’t use a blowtorch.)
  2. Place the peppers in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for a couple of minutes, just to loosen the skins (not too long or your peppers will steam!).
  3. Peel the skins off, make a diagonal slit at the top of the pepper (stem end) and carefully pull out the seeds. Rinse under cold water.
  4. While the pepper dries a bit, make your egg coating.  Whisk 4 egg whites until they hold soft peaks.  Then add 3 egg yolks, and whisk just 4-5 times.  Even if it’s not fully combined, and you feel like you should keep going, don’t do it, man. You’ll regret it.
  5. Stuff peppers with filling of choice. Cheese (chihuahua or asadero would be good choice) or chorizo or a combination would be great.  Stuff it to the very top!
  6. Coat stuffed pepper lightly with flour, then dip it into your egg mixture until well coated. This takes some delicate handling, but it’s not too difficult.
  7. Dunk it in your frying oil (probably 350°), turning it to make sure the coating browns evenly.  When  it looks like our picture, pull ‘er out of the fryer, garnish and serve.  Yum!

Apple tart or cookie?

Here she is! Nice looking specimen, but would be even better had the apples carmelized a bit more.

I also made a dough for a Tarte aux Pommes.  We were supposed to make it with the food processor, but since all of the teams had to wait in line for one food processor, I decided to make mine by hand.

We’re not sure how they turned out yet, because Chef Coutrieux gave me his demo version to use.  I’ll let you know how mine turned out after this week’s class!

The tart turned out lovely, but I made a couple of errors, easily corrected for next time.

There was to be a layer of an apple puree as the base of the tart, which I made, but after baking it, I wish I had used more.

The other slight flaw was that I did not sprinkle enough sugar on top of the apples prior to baking, which is why they have very little color.

More sugar = more carmelization.

That said, the tart was absolutely delicious, but it was more like a cookie with apples on top.

Our other projects that evening were boiled chicken with vegetables and stuffing, which, well . . . you know, it’s boiled chicken.  I guess if you like that kind of thing, it was good.  I’m a roasty kinda girl myself.

There it is. Boiled chicken with blanched vegetables, a meaty stuffing and a lemony, eggy viniagrette (read: weird).

Chef Coutrieux plating our chicken.

We also did steak tartare.  Again, I’m partial to carpaccio, and I wasn’t even going to taste it, but pressured by the Chef, I did.  And of course, I liked it.  Ultimately, there is very little that I don’t like to eat!

steak tartare

Here's our plated tartare. Yes, that's an egg yolk on top. Other garnishes are minced shallots, cornichons, and capers. Also serve with hot sauce and worcestershire sauce. Nom nom.

Another report coming next week, and I’ll unveil the name of my fictional catering company.  Thanks to those of you who provided suggestions.

Until then, Bon Appétit!