Should we go out to a restaurant or hire a chef to come in and…
My girlfriends and I were having lunch the other day. We thought wouldn’t it be fantastic to cook authentic Mexican food?
On our way to Cabo the next week we wondered, do they offer cooking classes there? Wouldn’t it be FUN to see how local Mexican cuisine is prepared – right in someone’s kitchen?
We googled “Cabo cooking” and decided to send an email to a cooking class at Casa de Colores in Cabo San Lucas.
TripAdvisor had reviewed Casa de Colores and with five stars and 187 great reviews – that was good enough for us!
There were several other choices for cooking classes at various resorts and restaurants.
Here’s a list of COOKING CLASSES in CABO:
Back to our memorable experience at Casa de Colores Cooking Class and our perfect day there!
The class met at a local mall called – The Patio Los Cabos mall near Donna – our instructor’s home. She then transported us back to her home. We, of course, had never met Donna and joked with our husbands, “now if should we be kidnapped, you’d better pay the ransom!” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Class started at 10 am and we didn’t leave until 3! Satiated with delicacies, we returned home with DOGGIE BAGS with salsa and leftovers.
The schedule said we’d finish by 2 pm but we didn’t wind things up until after 3 pm. She was going to teach us how to make FLAN as well, but her apprentices were losing steam, and she sensed it.
She covered so many points of interest it was impossible to recount it all! We toasted dry chiles on a comal, we learned some of the histories of Baja and made amazing salsas. She showed us how to make fresh guacamole, chile Rellenos and soup. We touched on how to make tortillas and corn masa dumplings, as well. She gave us tons of tips for freezing, mixing ingredients, travel and dining in Cabo too.
Donna’s home was on a stretch of gravel road up a hill, overlooking CABO. The view was lovely, and she couldn’t have been more personable or gracious.
It was a desert oasis, with breathtaking ambiance. As we went through her iron gate, we had no clue the delightful day that was in store for us.
To say we got our MONEY’S WORTH is an understatement!
Speaking of money, the class was $50 – which included a scrumptious LUNCH. Could it get any better? The four of us thought not. She can take up to 9 in a class and offers a huge range of choices.
Casa de Colores cooking classes sure beat taking a class at some cooking store.
This day was a vivid experience, with a woman who’s lived here for 42 years. Donna is in LOVE with CABO and lives half the year there and the half in Mexico City.
She says in her brochure, as a child she – “teethed on tortillas!”
Donna started teaching eight years ago. She spent a good deal of time telling us all about the history of Cabo and Mexico, in general. It was enlightening to hear that box stores or places that had quality food, or even toilet paper didn’t exist. She said, “we used to have to hoard our groceries and drive on a two lane treacherous road to La Paz, to get supplies.” Because it was so difficult to navigate, they only went during the day.
As new development occurred, people migrated in from south and south central Mexico. Choices became terrific. With an influx of people a community popped up with workers, middle class, and a Mexican upper class. Now, Donna has access to every possible ingredient she could want. Along with these changes, Cabo inherited the customs and treasures of their new inhabitants.
Here’s an excellent read on the history of Cabo from WIKI.
Why would I high recommend this class and cook? Check out what we learned and covered below.
20 major class takeaways:
1) When you buy AVOCADOS – buy them when still green. Look for round, shiny, hard, plump ones. Don’t squeeze them or they’ll bruise! Let them ripen on your counter, away from the sun. As they darken and are no longer shiny, put them in a refrigerator and keep them for 3-5 days, sometimes longer.
4) Buy a COMAL for preparing chiles for fresh salsas and sauces.
A COMAL is a smooth flat griddle used in Mexico and Central America.
The Comal is for charring vegetables for fresh salsa, thus caramelizing the flavors. They also use it to toast dried chiles and whole dried spices to make spice powders.
The Comal is a flavor building machine! Use wet/dry black sandpaper to clean it.
You don’t want to buy a nonstick Teflon one. Instead, buy a heavy duty iron one like this one from MexGrocer.com.
At $27.95 they are inexpensive and perfect for Mexican cuisine.
5) There are six primary kinds of cheese. They are Queso Fresco, quesillo de Oaxaca, asadero, Chihuahua, and panela. None of them are actually white cheese. They are natural, undyed cheese. White is a leaner cheese while the yellow one has more butterfat and thus is richer.
It was great to see the difference! Cheeses in the US and Canada are often dyed orange with annatto, which the Mayans use as a spice.
6) Don’t use CHILI POWDER – ever! Throw it out, Donna says. Use fresh chiles and work with them. The common fresh chiles used are serrano, jalapeño, and Poblano. The top dried peppers in Mexican cooking are ancho, guajillo, Mexican pasillo, and chipotle.
7) There is no such thing as “real” Baja Mexican food. The food in Cabo is representative of food from south and south central Mexico. Much of the food dates back 500 years, and many still make their cheese.
9) If you can’t get your hands on Mexican Crema – CRÉME FRAICHE is a fine substitute. But if either one has guar gum in it, don’t bother! They should contain cream and culture, period.
10) Stuffed peppers can be poblano, ancho or guajillo. You fill them with beans, cheese, fresh herbs, mushrooms, meat, shrimp or a crab salad.
11) The key to great CHILES RELLENOS is to prepare the chile by searing them to get the skin off. You must sever the
placenta of seeds with scissors, so the chile isn’t torn. Whipping the egg whites with a bit of sea salt till they form soft peaks. Then fold in one egg yolk at a time on low just until combined. Work fast to keep the eggs from deflating. As they cook in the seasoned oil, turn them while stabilizing the chili with a fork. Turn them one side at a time, so they turn into a golden omelet. We used three eggs for six chiles. Each chile may have to be rolled up to four times. It was quite fun and tasted supreme.
12) The key to Oaxacan BLACK BEANS is to add a whole white onion, roughly chopped and 3 toasted avocado leaves. These leaves add flavor much as a bay leaf does. As for PINTO BEANS, Donna said to puree a pot of well-cooked beans and poured them onto a SPLASH of heated cooking oil. Only use about the size of a quarter. This technique “frying” a sauce, or in this case, beans, is why they are “refried” beans. Fry them down until they are as thick as you like. Cooks only add more fat to add extra richness and flavor. Here’s a trick she told us – you can add a block of cream cheese to add depth of flavor.
13) Half the HEAT of a chile is at the stem. Cut off a half to an inch and leave it sitting on your cutting board. Then cut out the seeds and membranes, half to two-thirds of the heat, will be sitting on your board. This gives you control of the heat in any dish. She made the point, you can always add more, but you can’t take it out.
14) Hold salsa or salad with fresh CILANTRO only a couple of hours. Otherwise, it gets soapy and nasty!
16) A CHEF has had formal training – while a COOK has learned through experience. Donna has listened, observed, and cooked with women in South and South Central Mexico. She is a fabulous cook.
18) We made OMBLGUITOS – little belly-buttons with blue Mase Flour, and she showed us how to make tortillas as well. Donna emphasized using thicker plastic, i.e. sandwich bags not saran wrap, on a tortilla press. Otherwise, you will never get the tortilla off the press. It will stick, to the press, and you’ll have to scrape it off and out of the crannies and then start over.
We learned how pliable this dough is, and she referred to it like play-dough.
Mexican mothers let their children play with it. To make dumplings, we added water to form the dough to the consistency of pie dough. We then put in a pinch or two of sea salt and 1-2 T of butter. Then we pulled the dough apart to form the dumplings, about golf ball size pieces and shaped them. We placed an indentation with our thumbs in the middle of each. We dropped them into our soup to cook for 8-10 minutes. Donna spoke of a flavor that you can add instead of butter which is Asiento.
ASIENTO is sediment that filters to the bottom of the caldron. When they fry a pig – BACON CONCENTRATE settles, and it’s great for you BACON lovers! Donna said in Oaxaca; they spread Asiento on tortillas or bread – like butter. You can only buy it where they are making carnitas.
Our instructor also recommended a place for lunch called MICHOACANOS. You can buy a jar of Asiento is there as well.
19) We also learned about and sampled AGUAS FRESCAS. She gave us tamarind water. You can use ANY JUICY FRUIT such as cantaloupes or watermelon as well, blending them till smooth. She said that then you add enough water to make it the consistency of water. Of course, sweeten it with sugar – to your taste. Aguas Frescas is also made with grains. Donna said to buy 4-5 inexpensive glass pitchers for a variety fruit waters for a brunch or luncheon. I’m doing that!
20) We discovered CHILE CHIPS. It was astounding the intensity of flavors they brought to dishes with a little heat. It was simple. We fried peppers in infused oil or drizzling oil. The leftover oil makes great chile infused oils. We didn’t peel them just diced them. They can go in soups, stews, tacos, mashed and baked potatoes, roast chicken or pork and biscuits. Donna spoke of the importance of seeking a BALANCE OF FLAVORS as you cook and she had that going on.
Next time you head to CABO – COOK with Donna at Casa de Colores Cooking School
– she won’t disappoint!