After just a few days in Mexico, we knew one thing: we had to take a cooking class! Mexican food is so varied, delicious, and unique that we wanted to learn some of the basics so we can try our hand at cooking it at home.
There are three things that we look for in a cooking class: a hands-on experience where you actually get to prepare ingredients and cook yourself rather than just watching a demo by the chef, the opportunity to learn something new rather than just being handed a recipe (whether it’s the history of the food, a new cooking technique or skill, the science behind a recipe, etc.), and recipes that are easy enough to repeat at home with the ingredients available to us there.
A Beautiful Kitchen to Learn In
The first thing that we noticed about Co.Cos upon arriving was the spectacular kitchen. It looks like something out of a TV show, it’s that beautiful. We couldn’t wait to get cooking at one of the six individual work stations!
We started by blistering the onions, tomatoes, and garlic that would form the base of our tortilla soup. It seemed wrong to let the vegetables develop black spots all over, but we learned that this technique is actually the base of a lot of Mexican cooking and lends a great smokey depth of flavor to the final dish. After blending these ingredients together, we let it simmer away for a while to reduce and concentrate flavors.
Next we worked on the chiles rellenos, or stuffed poblano peppers. We learned how to roast the peppers by putting them directly on the burner flame and occasionally turning them until the entire skin was blackened. We worked on the shrimp and cheese filling for the peppers and learned how to do a chiffonade, which is a really useful technique for finely chopping things like herbs.
Delicious, Complex Flavors
After cooking the filling, it was time to taste our tortilla soup. We started with a handful of fried tortilla strips in the bowl, filled it with the soup, and topped it with a bunch of amazing Mexican condiments: crema (sort of like creme fraiche), avocado, panela (a soft, mild cheese that doesn’t melt), chipotle in adobo, pasillo peppers, and lime juice. The combination of flavors and textures was incredible- spicy, acidic, smokey, creamy, crunchy. This is definitely a recipe we want to try out at home!
While waiting on our stuffed peppers to finish in the oven, we got a really great lesson on Mexican peppers. Coty showed us a dozen or so different varieties of fresh and dried peppers and explained how they’re each used in Mexican cooking. It was interesting to learn that you can buy some of the peppers either fresh or dried, but that their name can change depending on if they’re fresh or dried.
After plating our fancy looking (but easy to make!) stuffed pepper dish, we got to dig in. The combination of the cheese, garlic, tomato, and shrimp was great, and it’s something we could use in a lot of ways like as a taco or omelette filling.
Our final course was a banana dish which involved flambeing them with a Mexican liquor, rompope. We learned rompope is sort of like an egg nog made with alcohol, eggs, milk, and vanilla. The resulting dessert was creamy, caramelized and topped with some vanilla ice cream. Delicious!
Learning Much More than Just Recipes
To end our night we got a lesson in the similarities and differences in tequila and mezcal and got to pick one kind of each to sample. We even got to do the traditional lime and sea salt addition for the tequila, and an orange and worm salt addition for the mezcal. It was interesting how the flavors of the alcohol changed with the addition of the citrus, especially the mezcal- some of the smokiness was muted, with the sweetness of the orange coming through.
Overall, we had such a great time at Co.Cos. Coty is a really enthusiastic instructor who is so passionate about Mexican cuisine. But she’s also well-traveled and is knowledgeable about world cuisines and the influences they have had on each other. If you love cooking and food, Coty is the kind of person you just want to sit down and talk with for hours about amazing food. We had a really great experience in this class and highly recommend it for anyone looking for approachable Mexican recipes and techniques they can repeat at home. Now if I could only learn how to make tacos al pastor I’d be good to go.
We’d like to thank Co.Cos for inviting us out to enjoy one of their cooking classes during our stay in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It has definitely been one of our top cooking class experiences throughout our travels and we hope to return to take more in the future! As always, all opinions are our own.