Chile Rellenos and Attempted Tortillas at the Casa

Making tortillas at the Casa de los Artistas.

One of the highlights of this trip has been the food, created by the quiet dynamo Ruby and her assistant who come to the Casa each morning from their home in the native Mexican village of Tuito.

Rudimentary Spanish is exchanged by English speaking guests and the cook; Bob and Monica rely on their fluent daughters for longer conversations and more detailed translations.

Every morning we had a new breakfast surprise–my favorite were the fluffy thick wheat pancakes on the first morning. One day we spent some time learning how Ruby cooks a dish popular in Jalisco–chile rellenos. They began with gigantic peppers that were seared black on the stove top, then placed in plastic bags to help shed their skins. We watched as Ruby deftly whipped up a huge pot of egg whites, whipping and whipping before adding the yolks back in and then coating the big skinned peppers with the foamy mixture.

A sauce with tomatoes, chiles, onions, carrots and potatoes was cooked up to blanket the big chiles, which were stuffed with hunks of gruyere cheese and closed up with toothpicks. Then came the fun part, it was time to watch gringoes try and make that all important staple, the tortilla.

It seems easy–make a simple pancake from corn, white flour and water. Then put that little ball into a small wooden press, creating the familiar thin wafer that’s seen at every table, every meal in Mexico. Ok, now the part that takes practice: Curling it out from between wax paper, and laying it down perfectly to grill it on the hot skillet. Whoops! Time after time los Americanos created folds in the tortilla, we couldn’t get them to lie down perfectly flat.

But after all, tortillas are in most Mexican’s blood and it’s a time-honored tradition that isn’t learned quickly. We ate the bad ones anyway, which were delicious with the rich sauce of the chile rellenos.