Today is the day I have been looking forward to the most. It is precisely why I decided to come to Oaxaca and work at La Olla with Chef Pilar.
Mole, simply means thick sauce. There are many different types of mole, but the journey Chef Pilar took me on was that of Oaxacan Mole Negro. Every household has their own recipe of mole, but most recipes include all the same ingredients, just in different proportions. The mixture of a chiles, nuts, onions, garlic, chocolate, raisins, various spices, herbs and lard lead to this intense paste.
What I quickly learned was that the reason the flavor is complex is because the process is very complex. It is a process that takes a lot of patience, intuition and nurturing.
There are very important steps that should be taken when making mole negro. All of the ingredients are roasted over charcoal and in a “Comal de Barro,” a clay pot, which brings a very smoky flavor to the mole. Chef Pilar said that cooking these ingredients in a metal pot or on a stove top really takes away from the complex flavors. After separately roasting all the ingredients, the chilis are ground separately from the spices, nuts, raisins, onions, herbs and garlic into a fine paste. The resulting pastes are then mixed together with breadcrumbs, lard and chicken broth and simmered until the mole becomes think and pungent.
There were about 25 ingredients and over 15 steps in this process…Six hours later, with four people tending to the mole, we were done.
Today was an incredible experience, especially having such an expert teach me. Chef Pilar takes great pride in her Grandmother’s recipe and in the tradition of Oaxacan Mole making. It was an honor to be a part of it.
If you want the recipe you will just have to come to Oaxaca…or take it up with Chef Pilar.
Heart, Hand, Table
I have been waiting for this for a long time… and I have finally made it to Oaxaca City, Mexico to learn about one of the cuisines I love most.
I find that in New York City we lack good Mexican food. The Mexican flavors in NYC are muddled with cheese and sour cream, and an assortment of other toppings. The clean flavors that you find when you travel to Mexico bring to life the amazing and complex cuisine that is Mexican food, especially Oaxacan food.
About 6 months ago I wrote to Chef Pilar, Executive Chef and Owner of La Olla in Oaxaca City, Mexico. I asked her if she would allow me to attend her cooking school and in turn I would work in her kitchen for free for a month. She gladly accepted my proposal, but she also requested I prepare a daily Peruvian menu for her restaurant.
So here I am at my first day of work. I rented a little apartment 3 blocks for my restaurant and am living the life of a chef in Oaxaca City. What a dream come true!
Many recipes, menus and pictures to come!!!
Heart, Hand, Table
This month Hearth & Table celebrates it’s two year anniversary with reimagined branding and a new website. Here is the story of how our new image and identity all came together, as written by my husband.
“I met my now wife 11 years ago in Florence, Italy. She was a photography student at Saci where I was a Graphic Design Teaching Assistant. She was interested in possibly taking a design route in her studies and enrolled in a graphic design class, and I was her teacher. She did not end up becoming a graphic designer or even a photographer for that matter, but she did leave Italy with something else…me. So that is how our relationship started…in an environment of creativity and collaboration, which has always been a cornerstone of what drives us as individuals and as a couple. We push each other to think outside the box and inspire each other to keep growing.
Two years ago, Jess started her own catering company. Despite her determination to make her business a success she new it would take not just her incredible food to make it. She would have to create an image and brand that would tell people why they should hire her. Well, luckily for Jess she married me.
I came across Moo’s products in conversation with another designer who was raving about their Luxe products. I was working closely with my wife on a rebranding effort for her catering company’s 2 year anniversary. I thought Moo’s mission of “great design for everyone” aligned closely with Hearth & Table’s vision to “bring us, as a culture and a society back to the table” as Moo offers superior quality printing at affordable prices (great for a small business owner) and platform that champions new and exciting designers (great for designers and the design community as a whole). Moo’s is a culture that promotes design because “design helps us stand out”, which is exactly what Hearth & Table was looking to do with their updated identity. After 2 years in the competitive landscape of catering in NYC Jess wanted an updated, more exciting look that more closely associated with her vision and more in line with the caliber of clients she is now working with.”
The rebranding of Hearth & Table represents my aesthetic in my everyday life as well as the business that I’ve built. As I’ve grown my business I finally have a clear vision of who I am as a chef, and what my business stands for. With the help of Moo and my husband, my rebranding now represents that. What an amazing two years! Cheers, and thank you for all your help, inspiration and support!
Heart, Hand, Table