Category Archives: Día de Muertos

A Party to Die For: Negra Modelo Celebrates Día de Muertos with Rick Bayless

 

Photo: Neal Agustin
In Mexico, ordering a ´dead´Negra Modelo, means you are looking for a really cold one. Photo: Neal Agustin

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Undoubtedly, one of my favorite rituals of el Día de Muertos, is cooking with the family, along with setting up the ofrenda (literally, “offering”) in honor of those who have departed.  Ofrendas are created to remember, invoke and delight our deceased relatives, and are the centerpiece of this symbolicaly-rich celebration.

My maternal grandmother took this festivity very seriously, and since her unexpected departure a few years ago, my uncle and my mother make a yearly pilgrimage to my grandma’s native Puebla, to continue on this three-thousand-year old tradition.

Ofrenda in honor of my grandma Julia.
Ofrenda in honor of my grandma Julia.

I did not make it to Mexico this time around, but luckily for me, Mexico came to Chicago. I had the privilege to be invited to celebrate el Día de Muertos with one of my favorite Mexican imports, Negra Modelo.  Negra Modelo drafted no other than Chef Rick Bayless to delight us with a walkthrough of this fantastic Mexican celebration through a few dishes.

During the event, I had the privilege to chat with Bayless, and hear his point of view on Mexican food and its execution outside of Mexico. An anthropologist at heart, this celebrated ambassador of Mexican cuisine, understands the cultural forces that have shaped Mexican food across the US.

 After the mariachi serenaded guests, (what a perfect touch!) Bayless delivered a cooking demonstration from a stage designed to look just like an ofrenda.

Neal Agustin
Photo: Neal Agustin
Photo: Neal Agustin
Photo: Neal Agustin

Guests were later delighted with a variety of fantastic Mexican dishes from this presentation. We are very excited to share one of these recipes with you so that you can bring it to life in your own kitchen.

Sugar skulls are a ubiquitous element of el Día de Muertos. They serve as a reminder that death awaits us at any corner. Negra Modelo invited local artists to create personalized handcrafts for guests to take home.

I was already a fan of the creamy, malty flavor of Negra Modelo, and after this party,  I have no doubt I will continue to like it in the afterlife.

Disclosure: I am a blogger sponsored by Negra Modelo. All opinions are my own.

 

Estampas de mi Ciudad – Death is a Party

  

“The Mexican is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, and celebrates it. It is one of his favorite playthings and his most steadfast love.”   

-Octavio Paz

Photos: Lissette Storch – Puebla, Mexico

In modern Mexico exchanging sugar skulls is a playful part of the celebration of el Día de Muertos, a festivity as complex, colorful and surreal as the Mexican people themselves. It is also a clear illustrative of Mexicans’ ancestral relationship with death.

Death is a verb and a noun.

In Mexico, death is an ultimate experience of life, and in what seems to be a constant attempt to make it look approachable, we have made her look human and we have dressed her up; we have given her nicknames, le hablamos de tú*.

Death is a ‘she’.

Originally, sugar skulls were created as a reminder of the fact that death  awaits us at any turn, and it is one of  the many expressions of our inevitable relationship with “the lady with many names”: La Catrina (“the rich or elegant one”), La Tía de las Muchachas (“the girls’ aunt”), La Fría (“the cold one”), La Novia Blanca (“the white bride”). Death is a character that wanders amongst us.

Death is life.

Like any other Mexican celebration, food is at the center of el Día de Muertos. Along with pan de muerto (literally, “bread of dead”) and cempasúchil flowers, sugar skulls are staples of this festivity. It is virtually impossible to stumble upon any particular element of  el Día de Muertos that does not have a deliberate purpose or meaning. From the bread that symbolizes the circle of life and communion with the body of the dead, to the flowers that make a nod to the ephemeral nature of life, this ritual, especially in rural Mexico, is rich in both form and content.

I grew up in the city, and for the most part, I participated in these festivities as a spectator. It was not until my grandmother died a few years ago, when my uncle and my mother took over perpetuating this three-thousand-year-old tradition, that I became involved and more intrigued by it.

Year after year, the family travels to a small village in the outskirts of Puebla to  set up an ofrenda for my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and other deceased  relatives. They are remembered with their favorite food and dishes. My grandmother  for example, loved to cook, so aside from prepared meals, her favorite kitchen tools are also set around her picture.

Candles are used either as symbol of hope and faith, or as a way to light the path of the dead as they descend. Water is included to quench the thirst of the souls, and as a symbol of purity. With these ofrendas, the dead  are remembered and invoked.

The celebration continues in the cemetery, where the living and the souls eat together, listen to music, and even enjoy fireworks.

For a few days in November, in Mexico, death is a party.

The cementery of San Francisco Acatepec, where my grandmother is buried.
Hablar de tú‘ means to address someone casually, vs. the respectfully ‘usted’ that is reserved to address those who you don’t know or those who haven’t granted you permission to do otherwise.

 

Nuestra Mesa – Receta para Hacer Pan de Muerto

Foto: Manuel Rivera Ciudad de México, México

Con las celebraciones del Día de Muertos a la vuelta de la esquina, pensamos en traerles la receta para hacer un tradicional, delicioso e indispensable pan de muerto.

Esta receta requiere dejar reposar los primeros ingredientes durante un día, así que si piensan hacerla, les recomendamos prepararla con tiempo suficiente.

Rinde para 45 panes de 100 gr. cada uno o un pan familiar de aproximadamente 4.5 kilos.

Paso 1:

Ingredientes

  • 120 gr. levadura fresca (usa 1/3 de la cantidad si es que piensas usar levadura artificial)
  • 340 ml. de agua
  • 400 gr. de harina

Proceso

  1. Entibia el agua en el microondas
  2. Revuelve los ingredientes con el agua hasta formar una masa
  3. Deja reposar la masa por un dia entero en un recipiente engrasado con aceite. Cubre el recipiente con plástico y colócalo en un lugar fresco.

Paso 2:

Ingredientes

  • 32 huevos
  • 320 gr. azúcar
  • 2.250 kg harina
  • 40 gr. de sal
  • 1 kg. mantequilla
  • 4 cucharadas de agua de azahar

Proceso

  1. Incorpora los primeros cuatro ingredientes con el agua de azahar,  hasta formar una masa homogénea y que no se pegue.
  2. Agrega la masa que preparaste un día anterior sigue amasando hasta que este bien incorporada.
  3. Deja que la mantequilla esté a temperatura ambiente y  agrégala en trozos de alrededor de 100 gr.  hasta integrarla toda.
  4. Forma bolas  de 100 gr si quieres hacer porciones individuales y de 400 gr.  para hacer un pan familiar.
  5. Forma los huesitos con pedazos pequeños de masa, Las puedes rodar en la mesa y aplanarla con los dedos.
Foto: Manuel Rivera – Ciudad de México, México

6. Barniza con yema de huevo y deja fermentar durante una hora.

Foto: Manuel Rivera – Ciudad de México, México

7. Mete tu mezcla a hornear a 200 grados hasta que los panes estén de  color café claro

8. Saca tus panes del horno y déjalos enfriar.

9. Derrite mantequilla y barniza con ella los panes. Después espolvoréalos con azúcar refinada hasta que queden cubiertos

¡Acompaña tu pan con un buen chocolate!

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.