The latest chapter of the Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Michoacán took place in Morelia, Michoacán during the weekend of February 27, 28, and March 1, 2015. It was this unique festival's thirteenth much-awaited edition. Attendance for the three-day weekend topped 30,000 people, who arrived from all over the world. More than 50 traditional Michoacán home cooks prepared their best dishes for competition and for sale to the public.
Traditional Michoacán cuisine is always the star of the event. This spicy and deeply flavored bowl of caldo de chile relleno (broth with a stuffed chile) was Mexico Cooks!' breakfast on Saturday morning. When I asked the cocinero for salsa to add to the soup, he pointed to my bowl. "See that yellow thing? That's a chile güero I cooked in the broth, you won't need more salsa! It's really spicy." You can see the chile güero floating in the bowl, at the bottom edge of the photo. And yes, it was just spicy enough.
Some of Michoacán's finest professional chefs have worked tirelessly for the benefit of not only the Encuentro, but also for the good of Michoacán's culinary traditions. Here, chef Lucero Soto Arriaga of Morelia's Restaurante LU receives recognition from Michoacán Governor Salvador Jara Guerrero, his wife Catherine Ettinger, and Lic. Carlos Joaquín, Subsecretario de SECTUR Federal.
Cynthia Martínez Becerril, the magnificently creative force in charge of Morelia's lovely Restaurante San Miguelito, receives well-deserved recognition for her twenty years of work in support of Michoacán's traditional cuisine. To her left in the photo are Roberto Monroy (Secretary of Tourism, State of Michoacán) and Sr. Ruiz.
Chef Joaquín Bonilla Calderón (second from right), of the renowned Colegio Culinario de Morelia, also received recognition for his untiring work training prospective chefs from the ground up, beginning with the basic tenets of Mexican cuisine in general and Michoacán cuisine in particular.
The theme of this Encuentro was El Ciclo de la Milpa (The Cycle of the Milpa). Ingredients from the milpa, such as corn, squash, beans, and chile, were featured in many of the dishes entered in February's competitions. These three tamales de la milpa, prepared by maestra cocinera Rosalba Morales Bartolo, were fresh and delicious. The tamal on the right, wrapped and steamed in red corn husks, also contains hueva de pescado (fish eggs).
At every edition of the Encuentro, the Colegio Culinario de Morelia offers cooking classes to the youngsters who attend. These delightful young chefs were hand-preparing fresh cheese!
Early Saturday morning at the Encuentro, before the crowds arrived. An hour later, every table was filled!
The Encuentro wouldn't be the Encuentro without the cocineras' wood-fired stoves, clay comales (griddles), and hand-patted fresh, hot corn tortillas. The evocative fragrances of woodsmoke and toasting tortillas waft into every corner of the event.
Mexico Cooks! has participated in the Encuentro over the course of many years. It is a source of great pride and honor to be closely associated with this unique and magnificent event. I've taken part in many ways; this February, I was asked to give an hour-long conference about the milpa as the ages-old bastion of sustainable agriculture in Mexico. Photo courtesy Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food.
The cocineras tradicionales compete in several categories at each Encuentro. This February one of the categories was for atoles--the thick, nourishing, sweet or savory hot drink that is traditional in Mexico. The sweet atole in the photo is made with Michoacan's zarzamoras (blackberries), water, sugar, and is thickened with corn masa (dough).
Capirotada, a traditional Lenten dish made with stale bolillo (crusty, dense white bread), jarabe de piloncillo (raw sugar syrup), raisins, cheese, and peanuts, is even more delicious when accompanied by atole. This beautiful capirotada was better than any I had eaten in prior years.
Benedicta Alejo Vargas won first prize in the category Best Salsas. Along with the governor and his wife, the director of DIF Michoacán, Sra. Mariana Sosa Olmeda, joins Sra. Alejo on the stage.
Sra. Paula Pascuala Campoverde de Anguiano of San Juan Nuevo Parangarícutiro receives recognition from the governor and his wife.
Toqueras con minguiche, a traditional dish prepared with a new twist, won first prize for Nidia Yunuén Velázquez from Apatzingán, in the category Best Dish of the New Generation. Cheese and cream--along with strips of roast chile poblano--bathe an unfilled corn tamal toasted on the comal. The flavors of the dish complemented each other to perfection--simply out of this world!
The Fourteenth Encuentro de Cocineras Tradicionales de Michoacán is scheduled for early October 2015. If you'd like to join me there, we'll know the exact dates very soon--and we'd love to have you with us!
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