January 3, 2010

Thanksgiving in San Miguel de Allende

One of the reasons I chose to come to Mexico was to learn more about the cuisine. Now, while this region of Mexico is not known for its cuisine, I repeatedly came across one name in particular: Kirsten West. Kirsten is known to be the local expert on Mexican regional cuisines, and while I was Googling every related key word and organization I could think of to find a contact number for her, I also discovered that she had worked with Diana Kennedy, the grand-dame of Mexican cuisine, and for Rick Bayless, the current reigning Top Chef Master.
Well, determination paid off and I tracked Kirsten down. I had also along the way found out that she was organizing a big Thanksgiving fundraising dinner for a local non-profit organization, CASA.* I knew what I wanted to be doing for Thanksgiving!
I met with Kirsten and offered my total commitment for the days leading up to the event. She welcomed my commitment readily-- although there promised to be a stream of volunteers, she could use a "sous chef" with some culinary background.

150 guests were expected to the dinner. Beginning on the Monday before the Thursday holiday event, we organized volunteers to scrub, peel, chop and I took my position at the stove, first by caramelizing more than 20 lbs of onions. Boiling sweet potatoes (camote) and blending the cooked tuber in 10 batches for soup , potatoes for a mash, and slicing carrots on the diagonal for the carrots glazed with piloncillo (brown sugar made from cane) side dish were among the other unglamourous tasks I accomplished in the 40 hours I worked with Kirsten.

When the guests arrived, they were greeted by the youth volunteers of CASA, dressed smartly in black and white with accents of purple. They circulated with trays of a selection of hors d'oeuvres:

Oven-baked tortilla chips with fresh requeson dip ( a soft, fresh local farmer's cheese)
Toast rounds with tomato basil concasse
Jicama sticks in lime juice with crunchy peanut chile dip

After drinks and mingling, the guests assembled in the main hall for dinner. The menu:

Corn-amaranth bread
Camote soup with rosemary croutons

Smoked Turkey with Mole Rojo
Mashed potatoes with caramelized onions
Piloncillo glazed carrots with sweet peas and herbs
Shredded beets with balsamic vinaigrette

and for dessert, apple crisp with pepita topping,
drizzled with cajeta de cabra (goat milk caramel)
and crema (Mexico's answer to creme fraiche)

*CASA is a nonprofit organization that has been serving the poor, particularly adolescents, rural women and their families, through health, social service, education, and environmental outreach programs since 1981. It created Mexico's first government approved Midwifery School, which has been cited as meeting international criteria for effective replication in countries worldwide.
Kirsten West (left) with Michael and Valarie Coon, two other volunteers

No comments:

Post a Comment