Monday, December 11, 2006

Una Fiesta Or Two Or Three, Or More

December is Fiesta Season here at Las Cuevas as well as in other parts of Mexico.
Our party season started off Sunday.
Susan and I had a few, mostly local, friends over yesterday for a "convivio", or get together, with a meal. This was the largest group we'd ever hosted in our little casa del campo.
Perhaps this should be posted on "My Mexican Kitchen" blog, but as it was social, I decided to post it here.
We had invited a lot of people, but the attendance was actually around 20 or so.
When planning and executing a party, there are always more small details that you didn't think of. That was true this time.

The culinary theme was "Italian, with Mexican touches"
My plan was to make a large pan of roasted vegetable lasagna and a few large pizzas with varied toppings.
Some friends were bringing dessert, salad, Italian style sausage, rice, beverages, (Ponche Navideño Caliente—more on that, later), etc. Another friend brought us a rented table and chairs, as well as desserts.
We had 3 tables, up to 6 ' long, and enough chairs for everyone.

Our work began Monday by making the sauce for the lasagna. I was interested in making this project relatively easy, so I was going to use no-precooking Barilla Lasagna sheets. These really work, but they are so thin, that I couldn't even use a up a 500 gram box for two very large pans of lasagna.
Tuesday I shopped for last minute ingredients . One item was queso requesón, which is an excellent substitute for ricotta.

On Friday AM, early, I seriously got to work. I prepared the lasagne, all the way through the baking.
The fillings for the lasagne were the aforementioned roasted vegs, corn, bechamel sauce and the homemade tomato sauce. The other cheeses were mozzarella, a little parmesan and some smoked provolone. A bit redundant, I think, but good. On Saturday, I assembled and baked them. The Monster Lasagna took an hour and a half to bake.

Before starting to bake pizzas, I divided the lasagnes up into smaller casseroles, so that they would warm more thoroughly in the oven, but could if needed, be zapped in the microwave. That proved to be a good move.

The pizzas presented a different challenge. I did not want to spend ALL my time rolling out dough, topping and baking pizzas, instead of (occasionally) visiting with our guests.
Thus, I decided to make up and pre-bake 7, 16" pizza crusts. At least that would cut the final baking time down. I was able to keep almost everyone supplied with pizza, but for a 15 minute gap.

We served everything with disposable picnic ware. Not ecological, but practical. Nevertheless, there were more than enough soiled pans and utensils to wash, to assuage our guilt feelings.

The Ponche Navideño Caliente, cooked by Doña Chucha in a huge stock pot , over a fire of ocote, was carried into the house by two strong hombres. It was colored like dark tea, and in its depths held a trove of sweet spices and tropical fruits. I had a bottle of dark rum alongside for those who wanted a "spike" in their punch.
Dessert were two "bought", but delicious and rich chocolate-cajeta cheesecakes. There was also panettone.

I think overall, our guests enjoyed themselves, and I enjoyed cooking for them. There were a few minor crises, but we overcame them. But, at the end of the day, we, the hosts, were seriously frazzled. I have promised Susan 3 nights in Zihuatanejo for recuperation. (And I am not fond of beaches.)

But first, we have to rest up and get ready for Thursday. We have been invited to the Fiesta in honor of the Virgen de Guadalupe, which will start with mass in the chapel down the street, followed by a community comida, a peregrinacíon and a baile. María and Rosa, our amigas of Las Cuevas Ladies' Sewing Circle, have offered to outfit Susan in traje tradicional. Vamos a ver.

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