Culinary Arts Project

Mexican Family Meal, Chayote, and the Head of a Pig – Day 46


  • A secret to making tasty beef for enchiladas are Ancho chiles and Spanish paprika “La Chinata”
  • Use Meyer Lemons to ‘amp up’ your citronette. Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin.
  • Don’t use cumin in Mexican food – lots of restaurants use it, but really it’s rarely used in Mexico.
Joe working the tilt skillet with enchilada meat
Joe working the tilt skillet with enchilada meat
Stewart crushin' garlic to infuse the Canola oil
Stewart crushin’ garlic to infuse the Canola oil

Today we served up traditional Mexican fare as family meal. Both Jess and I really had no idea what we were doing with the Chayote – a kinda cucumber/squash that looks like a pear. Chef B said to either roast, or sauté it. We had three huge hotel pans of the stuff, so we didn’t want to screw it up. We grabbed a small sauté pan, threw in some canola oil, onions, garlic, oregano, s&p, and then sautéed a few slices to see what it was going to taste like. Not bad…it had a subtle flavor that worked well. By the time the Chayote was sautéed, the onions and garlic had browned, so we decided we’d do the onions and garlic first infusing the oil, then take the onions and garlic out and sauté the Chayote in the oil. Our idea to brown the onions and garlic first turned out to be a good plan. It was cute seeing little Jess working the humungous tilt-skillet. I really learnt the lesson about properly prepping the food. Because the chayote slices weren’t all cut to the exact thickness, they weren’t all done to the proper doneness. We also poured a ton of seasoning. Chef Ben came over, tasted one, and gave us the ‘sprinkle sign’ – more salt. I can’t tell you how many times during the past 2 months have I heard “more salt”.

Today I ‘worked the line’

Geraldo crushing platains for tostones
Gerardo crushing platains for tostones
Deep fried plantain piece pre and post squishing into Tostones
Deep fried plantain piece pre and post squishing into Tostones

serving the Chayote, while Jess kept sautéing additional batches. I was quickly corrected on the pronunciation from the many Mexicans I was serving. It’s pronounced “Shyotay”. The chef’s usually come behind the line and grab their food. I learnt quickly that because ‘shyotay’ is such a delicate flavor it has to be cooked ‘perfect’ or it’s not so great. One chef came up and touched a thick slice, “not cooked enough”, another chef came up “let me taste it before I take it…… too salty”. Ugh, you can’t win! I was surprised by how many people in line knew of it, but many others didn’t want any, so I offered them one slice to get them hooked, and a lot then asked for more. Chayote is something that I would add as a small side balancing a spicy dish, but not as a main vegetable.

Another cool part of the meal were the Tostones. These are one inch pieces of plantain, that are quickly deep fried, them ‘flattened/smashed’ with a hammer, and then deep fried again. They were delicious.

Emma works the grindr
Emma works the grindr

Half way through the mayhem of putting together the Mexican meal, there was all this ruckus from the normally quiet charcuterie half of the class. They were making head cheese, which is not a cheese, but a terrine made from the many parts of a pig’s head. Apparently all parts of the head are used somewhere in charcuterie except the brain. The question is whether Vitor was using all parts of his head while dancing cheek to cheek with Ms. Piggy!

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