Sorry....got a little side tracked there. Where was I? Oh yeah. Relaying some details about my recent Mexico trip....

Another activity I chose to do during my stay in San Miguel de Allende was to attend a cooking class. Sazon is a beautiful facility, offering all kinds of classes taught by a wide array of visiting and local chefs. The focus is most certainly Mexican, quite refined and elegant. The recipes, techniques and dishes are quite different from the popular, quick, cheap and easy street food I gravitated towards during most of my culinary mardi gras. It was exciting to be reminded that the world of authentic Mexican cuisine is stunningly rich and complex, while at the same time being simple and subtle. My day at Sazon turned me onto the fact that the world of modern Mexican cuisine is very much an exciting reawakening of culinary history, being celebrated by chefs from all over North America. Diana Kennedy, I learned, is certainly one of the biggest and best known contributors to this rediscovery. Now 84 years old, her list of published cookbooks is an impressive and inspiring body of work. The recipe below is from her book 'The Art of Mexican Cooking'. It was the first dish we made in class that day....light, delicate, and subtle.

Our class was lead by Chef Kirstin West, who relocated to San Miguel de Allende only 11 months prior, having been recruited from Chicago where she worked for American-cooking-Mexican chef / restauranteur Rick Bayless. One thing's for sure; there are a lot of people out there who are very excited to cook, eat and learn more about Mexican food.

Sopa de Fideo y Espinacas
(Vermicelli and Spinach Soup)

2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped, unpeeled
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 white onion, roughly chopped
small piece of chile serrano (optional)
1 tbsp lard or safflower oil
6 cups well seasoned chicken broth
1/2 lb spinach washed, stems removed, roughly chopped
sea salt to taste
2 medium eggs, separated
3 ounces fine vermicelli (dried)
3 tbsp finely grated queso anejo (optional- could sub with parmesan)
safflower oil for frying

Put the tomatoes, garlic, onion and optional fresh chile into a blender jay and blend until smooth. Heat the lard in a soup pot, add the blended ingredients and fry at medium heat, stirring from time to time and scraping the bottom of the pot, until reduced and thickened- about 4 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and stir for about 10 minutes. Taste for salt.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Beat in the yolks one at a time with a pinch of salt. When the yolks are well incorporated, crumble the uncooked vermicelli into the beaten eggs and add the optional cheese. Stir until the vermicelli is well coated with the egg.

In a frying pan, heat about 1/4" of safflower oil. When hot, add large spoonfuls of the egg, vermicelli mixure (make 12 of them, about 3" wide, in shapes similar to crab cakes or small hamburger patties). When they are pale golden brown on the underside-about 1 minute- turn them over and fry on the second side (if they become too brown, lower the heat). Drain on paper towel. There should be about 12. Place them in a single layer on the top of the broth and simmer, turning them carefully once so they do not break open- about 12-15 minutes. Serve in deep bowls, 2 tortas per person with a lot of broth.

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