French influence? [moved from Mexico]
Mexican food has been quite a big thing for me lately. Can anyone explain what the French brought to the table to Mexican cuisine?
I don't think very much. France only occupied Mexico for 7 years, and for half of that Maximilian was hanging on for dear life, and still ended up being executed.
I have heard of speculative french contributions of meat and fish stock, light cream soups such as squash blossom, avocado, and huitlacoche, and sweet bread or pastry, but I think all of those could have evolved without french inspiration. I can't even connect queso fundito with cheese fondue, beyond being participles of similar romance language verbs.
Maybe crepas de huitlacoche?
The french did equally poorly two decades later when they gave up on the Panama Canal and limped home after eight years there. Panama is not exactly brimming over with french cuisine, either.
I think perhaps you have to look beyond the Maximilian period and look at the Porfiriado, the period of Porfirio Diaz. Mexico has long had a tremendous "thing" for things French and it reached a high point during Diaz years. Personally, I think the bolillo and terla rolls probably owe something to French bread making.
(Veggo, if you haven't read it yet, check out The Life and Times of Mexico by Earl Shorris. It's a large - and rather non-linear - very goodbook about Mexico. He explains the French influence well, tho' it is more along the lines of thought, philosophy and culture than food)
Crepes are enormously popular here in Morelia--and all over Mexico. Friends of ours own a small, upscale restaurant called La Crepería, where everything that's served, from appetizers to desserts, is made with crepes. A Mexican woman is often at our neighborhood weekly tianguis (street market) selling crepes, ready to be filled at your home, for 25 pesos/10 crepes. And lordy, when I make crepes for a company dessert you should hear the raves I get!
Yes, we love crepas de huitlacoche--and this is the season for them.
I buy huitlacoche at the tianguis, either on or off the cob. I prepare it this way:
250 g fresh huitlacoche divided for two uses (100 g and 150 g)
1 chile serrano, minced fine, divided use
1/2 medium white onion, minced, divided use
1 clove garlic, minced fine, divided use
2 Tbsp corn oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt to taste
Sprigs of parsley
6 prepared crepes
Make crepes according to your preferred recipe.
In a sauté pan, heat the corn oil over a medium flame. Add the half the minced chile, onion, and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent. Add 100 g huitlacoche and sauté until soft. Add salt to taste. Set aside in a bowl.
Just before serving: in the sauté pan, heat the butter over a medium flame. Add the rest of the minced vegetables and sauté until soft and translucent. Add 150 g huitlacoche and sauté until very soft. Mash with a potato masher until you have a smooth sauce. Salt to taste. Keep warm over very low heat. If the sauce becomes too thick, add chicken broth and stir until it is the consistency you prefer.
Put a crepe on each of 6 plates. Spoon some of the reserved huitlacoche onto each crepe. Pour a bit of the sauce into the huitlacoche. Fold the crepe over the filling and pour a bit more sauce over the crepe. Garnish with parsley.
Serves six as a side dish.
I know there is plenty of french influence in mexican food, Maximilian, Porfirio Diaz, the art scene from the 1930 and immigrants who settled in Veracruz and Puebla (not many but enough to be noticed) The bread and pastries, desserts, or like the famous carnitas, meat slowly cooked in it's own fat, the use of milk in the hot chocolate, cream sauces. The first café in Mexico city was french (El Globo 1884) and started a big trend, many of the french cafés were later bought by chinese families and are known now as "cafés de chinos". I read a menu once of the food served at the Maximilian and Charlotte court and it had afusion feel to it, mixing very traditional french preparations with exotic (even now) ingredients.
Beginning in the Porfiriato and leading right into the present day, the midday meal for some upper-class Mexicans (and the service of that meal) has been French. It's only in recent years that traditional Mexican cuisine has become acceptable on society tables, and even now it isn't the preferred cuisine. Most Mexicans who can afford to dine in upper-end restaurants choose 'foreign' food, usually French, as their repast.
Interesting, cristina and DD. Numerous of the wealthy in Mexico with whom I am acquainted have cooks and entertain /dine at home as much or more than out. How would it come about that old fashioned mexican cooks would learn all this "new stuff"?
I understand that in Mexico as elsewhere that when people become more affluent they tend to drift away from a peasant heritage.