Casa Jacaranda

Inside the beautiful Casa Jacaranda

Today’s adventures began just a few blocks away from our AirBnB at a little café called Alelí. One of my favorite parts about staying in La Colonia Roma is that you discover a new little shop every time you turn the corner. Alelí is one of those cute cafés with pretty plates of many designs hanging along its wall, a collection of fun cushions on the long bench, and tables with chairs of different sizes and colors.

Café Alelí on Sinaloa Street in la Colonia Roma

The breakfast menu was not super extensive, but all of the options looked delicious. I opted for the tosta dulce with pitaya (dragonfruit) and plum jam, a dish recommended by our waitress.

The bread was made fresh on site using a house sourdough, and it was toasted on a flattop grill to crisp it up. The fruit sauce was ladled over top and garnished with fresh blueberries. The sauce was tart and sweet and paired perfectly with the slightly crunchy grilled toast.

Tosta dulce with a pitaya-plum sauce and blueberries

After our breakfast, we headed to the Mercado de Medellín to meet up with our host, Beto, from Casa Jacaranda. In addition to Daniela and me, there were three other people in our group.

Beto began our class by explaining the history of this 130-year old market. It is officially called Mercado Melchor Ocampo, but everyone refers to it as the Mercado de Medellín because it’s located on Medellín Street. There are over 500 stalls in the market and more than 25 stands sell international products from countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Peru.

Beto proceeded to take us on an extensive tour of the market. He discussed the various types of Mexican chiles, took us to a artisan coffee stand to sample some brews, showed us a shop that makes flour tortillas (a common food in northern Mexico), had us taste three Mexican cheeses, and led us to a nearby stand that sold quesadillas and tlacoyos made with blue corn masa.

Flour tortillas (made with flour, water, lard, and salt) puffing up on the comal

Stacks of chiles guajillos at the mercado

Fresh chiles chilacas — when dried these become chiles pasillas

Mexican cheeses; Queso cotija (pictured closest), quesillo or queso Oaxaca (pictured left), queso Chihuahua (pictured back); ate de membrillo or quince paste (pictured in the middle)

Medicinal herb stand

Quesadillas and tlacoyos made with blue corn masa

We also stopped at the Tortillería Maizajo, a local shop that makes its tortillas using real nixtamalized corn. Only about 30% of all of the tortillerías in Mexico still make their corn using the ancient process of nixtamalization (you can read all about that here). I had been wanting to visit this place for quite some time now, and I was so happy that it was a stop on our tour. Maizajo was started by three chefs as a way to preserve the variety of heirloom corn grown here in Mexico and to offer good quality tortillas to the public. I was immediately in my happy spot surrounded by that distinct smell of corn cooking on the comal.

Beto bought some fresh corn masa for us to use later on in our class.

Beto outside of Maizajo Tortillería de Barrio

A lineup of heirloom corn at Maizajo

Tortilla press and bag of fresh nixtamalized masa at Maizajo

Mexico’s gem — heirloom corn

After we finished purchasing various ingredients at the market, Beto invited us back to his gorgeous house, la Casa Jacaranda, to begin the cooking class.

We started class by making some tamales using fresh corn, milk, tesquite (a Mexican ingredient that provides alkalinity), butter, sugar, and salt.

The tamales were wrapped in dried corn husks, then steamed for 45 minutes.

We topped them with cream, red salsa made in the molcajete, and queso cotija,

Ingredients for the fresh corn tamales

Masa for the fresh corn tamales

Corn husk wrappers for tamales

The finished product

We also made three different types of salsas to add to various dishes like our sopes, tacos, and tamales. The first salsa was a lightly smokey red salsa made with charred ingredients in the molcajete. The second was a light and fresh green salsa made with tomatillos, cilantro, serrano, onion, and garlic. Beto referred to the third salsa as liquid fire because it was made with charred habaneros, onion, and garlic. I absolutely loved its super hot, charred flavor.

Charring the ingredients for the red salsa on the comal

Using our muscles to work that molcajete

The finished salsa roja de molcajete

Red and green salsas red to serve; Cotija cheese for garnish

The black salsa in front is the liquid fire!

We used the fresh masa that we bought at the tortillería to make sopes, a type of thick tortilla with short walls around the edge.

Sope with refried black beans, chorizo, cream, guacamole, queso cotija, and chapulines (grasshoppers)

Halfway though our cooking experience, Beto also made us all a delicious drink called a paloma. It contained fresh lime juice, agave nectar, fresh grapefruit juice, sparkling water, and tequila. (Of course, I had mine with double grapefruit juice instead of tequila). He rimmed the glasses with freshly picked pink peppercorn, salt, and lime juice and garnished it with fresh basil and a grapefruit slice. It was truly heavenly.

The sexy paloma

Our main course was tacos de cochinita pibil, a speciality from the Yucatán peninsula. Roberto and I ate some pretty delicious cochinita when we honeymooned in Mérida last year, but I might have to say that the recipe we made today was even more scrumptious.

The cochinita was made with pork shoulder, loin, and rib and marinated with a sauce of bitter orange juice, achiote paste, and vinegar. We covered it with fresh banana leaves and cooked it in the pressure cooker for 1.5 hours. Then we shredded it, and finally sauteed it with lard, red onion, and some cooking marinade.

The final tacos were served with refried black beans on corn tortillas and topped with crispy red onions that had been marinated in vinegar, water, and habanero chiles. We added some liquid fire salsa and a squeeze of lime juice. My favorite part of the whole presentation may of been the cut out banana leaf used to plate the dish.

Ingredients for cochinita pibil

The pork in the achiote marinade

Tacos de cochinita pibil with agua de jamaica

I’m sad to say that I completely forgot to take a picture of our dessert, but it was the most perfect way to end the meal. Beto served us a half a mango slice with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. It was a lovely ending to such an exquisite meal.

I was extremely impressed by Beto’s generosity, patience, kindness, sense of humor, and amazing personality. He invited us into his beautiful home, and I felt welcomed from the moment we stepped foot through the door. Beto speaks Spanish and English in such an elegant way, and I would highly recommend his tour and cooking class to anyone traveling to Mexico City. He was such an incredible host!

Wind chimes and hanging plants on the top patio at Casa Jacaranda

Pretty plants everywhere you look

Sitting down to enjoy our meal

If you would like to see more pictures from today, click here.

CASA JACARANDA

Colonia Roma, México, D.F.

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4 thoughts on “Casa Jacaranda

    • Nicole says:

      The crickets were so tiny! They weren’t even chopped up. They were that small. I like that they just add a little touch of salt. The heirloom corn was awesome. I wanted to take the whole place back home with me.

  1. Roberto Reyna Canella says:

    La forma en que narraste este dia fue simplemente perfecta. Se me hizo agua la boca cada vez que leia una linea y veia una foto. Realmente parece haber sido una gran experiencia haber cocinado con y aprendido de Beto. Muchos lugares visitados y mucha comida cocinada. Me encantaria probar…. todoooo….. 🙂 Excelente trabajo!!

    • Nicole says:

      Hola amor…muchísimas gracias por tus comentarios. Me gustó mucho la experiencia y estoy segura que te hubiera gustado los tacos de cochinita pibil. Lo bueno es que Beto nos va a mandar todas las recetas para que podamos hacer todo en casa. No puedo esperar a cocinar contigo!

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