[MUSIC PLAYING] NARRATOR: Throughout history, food has served as subject matter, inspiration, and, of course, sustenance for artists.
Food has also been the art on a number of occasions.
Today, we're going to explore the recipes of an artist who closely identified herself with her birth country of Mexico-- its history, its vivid colors, and most certainly, its food.
You may have heard of her.
We're working from the cookbook, "Frida's Fiestas," compiled by Marie-Pierre Colle and Guadalupe Rivera, Diego Rivera's daughter, who lived with her father and Frida for a number of years.
Oh, and I have a helper today, the unrivaled Rosianna Halse Rojas.
Now, Frida liked to throw elaborate fiestas with multiple courses, but we're just going to make a few dishes-- two from the menu from Frida and Diego's wedding feast-- chiles stuffed with cheese and tomato broth, a.k.a.
chiles rellenos, and white rice with plantains.
And then, we're going to make a nopales salad from a different menu, which was enjoyed by Frida and Lupe and friends during a boat ride in the canals at Xochimilco.
And then we're going to cap it all off with a shot of tequila, because that's what Frida would have wanted.
And if we've learned anything from our cooking, it's to never cook hungry.
So when you go to your local Mexican grocery to buy our ingredients, stop by the bakery and grab some pan dulce to tide you over.
We're going to start by doing some prep for the tomato broth-- slicing our tomatoes in half, putting them on a cookie sheet and into a 425-degree oven to roast for about 30 minutes or until they look good and smell really tomato-y Then, we thinly sliced an onion, showing off our middling but sufficient knife skills.
And we give the same treatment to two carrots, knife work moderately improved but still not great.
Then, we move over to the stove top and get going on roasting our poblano peppers for our chiles rellenos, which we're going to do directly over the gas flame using tongs to awkwardly turn them this way and that, until all sides are blackened and blistered.
When I roasted chiles for our O'Keefe video, I pained many of you by subbing poblanos for New Mexico chiles, which I now know is sacrilege.
But I couldn't help, because I couldn't find them.
Anyway, last time I roasted them in the oven, but it made the kind of fall apart.
And this way, they stay together a little better.
And once they're blackened all over, put them into a bowl and cover them to steam so that the skin loosens.
This is going to take a million years, even using two burners at a time.
So let's throw out a story time.
Frida Kahlo did depict food in her paintings at times-- still lifes of brightly colored fruits cut open and displayed in such ways that they were often interpreted as erotic.
But she's mostly known for her outstanding portraiture, through which she explored a wide range of subjects and ideas, and very often, her own image in life.
Through her self portraits and in the way she presented herself to the camera, Kahlo demonstrated her clear and intentional expression of Mexican identity.
Her father was a German immigrant and her mother of Mexican descent.
And although she was strongly influenced by the European avant garde, she celebrated all things indigenous to Mexico, including folk art styles and practices, the traditional clothing of Zapotec women, from Tehuantapec, Oaxaca, and most certainly, cooking.
This was not just personal preference but also a political position.
She joined the Communist Party pre-Diego and throughout her life was politically engaged, attending rallies and meetings, and even feeding and harboring none other than Leon Trotsky.
Yes Frida suffered terrible pain throughout her life because of a street car accident when she was 18.
And yes, she married a scoundrel muralist who was recklessly adulterous but whom she loved anyway.
And yes, she also carried on many affairs throughout her life with men and with women.
And if you want more of that, go watch the movie.
Today, we're exploring Kahlo's celebratory approach to meals and to life.
And at long last, we have the chiles all scorched and steaming in a covered bowl.
And we're going to get the tomato sauce going.
We'll heat up a skillet and add two tablespoons of olive oil and then saute the sliced onions and carrots until the onion is translucent.
Now, we'll pull our tomatoes from the oven.
There are lots of different ways to do this, and the recipe isn't specific.
But we're going to hack at them a bit to remove the seeds, the little stem connector area thingy, and also peel off the skin.
I watched a lot of chiles rellenos experts make other videos on YouTube, and you should really watch those for tips.
But this is clearly not the most expedient method.
You'll then throw them into the skillet with the onions and carrots, along with the called for, but excessive, three tablespoons of sugar and a quarter cup of vinegar, which I made the executive decision to reduce from the requested half cup.
Salt and pepper to taste.
And here, you add two teaspoons of dried oregano, while I'm going to forget to do so.
Let that cook down, and then put on a big pot of water to boil for the nopales.
It's now time to prep for the white rice, which you'll do by grating half of a small onion or a quarter of the monster onions we have here in the US, bred by experts at Monsanto.
This one's a real tearjerker, by the way.
We're weeping as much or more than these coconuts she painted in 1951.
Then, we grate a garlic clove into the mix and set it aside.
While we're at the cutting board, let's prep the nopales.
We're asked to remove the needles, and I'm going to do that by using a trick I learned from You Suck At Cooking-- by whacking them firmly with a pan.
Then, we're going to use the magic pan once more to slice the pads into thin strips like this.
It's really the best way.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Then, we clear the decks and chop an onion for the salad, or a part of an onion that I'm guessing is equivalent to a 1929 onion.
Throw that into a bowl, and then, cut up the chiles.
She asked for three serranos or jalapenos, and because we're wussies, we're going with just two serranos.
And we're going to seed one of them.
Throw those in with the onion, and then chop up some cilantro and add that to the bowl too, adding two tablespoons of vinegar and half a cup or maybe a little less olive oil.
No judgment, Frida.
This is the point where you'll add a few medium chopped tomatoes, which I would do if I hadn't roasted all of mine and added them to the sauce.
But give this a stir, and set it and your regret aside.
It's now plantain prep time.
And you're supposed to pick ones that are really black on the outside, but these were the ripest I could find that weren't total mush.
So slice these on the diagonal and set aside.
I regret to inform you that it's now poblano peeling time, which takes forever.
Or at least, it takes us forever.
So let's return to our story for a bit.
Kahlo married Rivera when she was just 22, and learned to cook from both her mother's copy of "The New Mexican Cook," and in soul-crushing news, from Rivera's previous wife, Guadalupe Marin, the mother of our cookbook author.
Alas, this is how Kahlo learned to make Rivera's favorite dishes, which she would sometimes bring to him for lunch wherever he was off painting murals in a lovingly arranged basket, at least in their heady, early days.
But Kahlo and Rivera were known for their epic dinner parties, which she called "Dias de los manteles largos," or "The days of the long table cloths," entertaining artists, friends, and visiting dignitaries often in their house outside of Mexico City, La Casa Azul.
She constructed a vibrant world around herself, so much so that a friend once commented, "Every day, Frida made the table into a still life for Diego."
I think it's fair to say he was pleased with her cooking.
And after we're all peeled, you're going to make an incision in the side of each chile and scoop out the seeds and veins to the best of your ability.
This also takes forever, so let's speed it up.
When those are done, clean up the copious mess it makes, and move back over to the cooktop, where your tomato sauce has cooked down quite nicely.
Throw the nopales slices into the boiling water, which we're instructed to do to remove the slippery coating, and cook until tender.
For the white rice, heat a pan and add three tablespoons corn oil, then, a cup of rice.
This is jasmine, but it doesn't specify.
Saute the race for a minute or so, and then add the grated onion and garlic.
When it sounds like sand as it's stirred, they say, add a celery stalk, two cups of broth.
I'm using vegetable, but she asked for chicken, and the juice of half a line.
You'll notice that our menu today is vegetarian, and that's because we're still making amends for our horrendous futurist meat sculpture.
But Frida ate a ton of meat, and the dishes we're making would have been accompanied by various forms of protein, like a turkey or duck mole, or a braised pork stew, or both.
Bring the rice to a boil.
Cover to reveal your camera setup, and lower the heat, simmering until the rice is tender-- about 20 minutes.
You're doing a great job.
At this point, I realize our tomato broth isn't at all broth-like, so I follow the instruction of the chile rellenos YouTube experts.
Dump everything into a blender and puree, returning it to the pan like nothing ever happened.
Much more broth-like.
Our nopales are now good and tender meat.
So we pull them out, rinse them in cold water, and wrap them in a dish towel that has also been soaked in cold water.
Squeeze that, and then allow it to drain.
This is all to make them less slippery.
It's now serious chiles rellenos production time.
And while Rosianna stuffs each of the chiles with queso fresco, I'm making the batter we'll dip them in.
Separate the yolks from the whites of five eggs, and then beat the whites at a high speed.
While that's happening, whisk the yolks with a pinch of salt.
When the whites hold stiff peaks-- yeah, that'll work-- then turn around to check the recipe to see what it says.
And then, carefully fold in the yolks.
This is your very eggy-- in fact, entirely eggy, batter.
Then, we set up for some frying.
In a cast iron pan, we've heated about an inch of corn oil.
And in a smaller skillet, we have a slightly more moderate amount.
While Rosianna fries up the plantain slices, I lightly dust each chile with flour, dip it into the batter, and then place it into the oil.
In some cases, I stitched close the opening in the chile with toothpicks, but it didn't seem to really help that much.
You don't want to crowd these things in the oil.
And when one side is golden, flip it over and cook it until all sides are nice and lightly browned.
Then, remove and let it drain on a wire rack or on brown paper.
If you want to keep these warm as you go, stick them into a 250-degree oven.
Go through this process repeatedly, and while you're doing so, think about all of the aspects of Frida's work that we have not discussed here.
And go back and look at images of her work, because there's really so much there.
Her paintings are rich and compelling and disturbing, and have immeasurable depths to plumb.
The texture and history and vibrancy of her work was echoed in the life she built up around herself.
You'll have plenty of time to do this while you fry all of your chiles, or at least all of the ones that have the structural integrity to make the trip.
Here, you try but fail to resist the urge to mention that Frida herself didn't really have the structural integrity to make the trip of life, but she did so anyway, and with aplomb.
We pulled the plantains when they were nice and golden too.
It's time to assemble the nopales salad.
And we'll add our not too slippery strips to our onion mixture and toss together.
Because of our tomato error, we decided to add some avocado instead.
Is there anything that's not better with avocado?
Finally, we're ready to plate.
After discarding the celery from the rice, we put it in a bowl, placed the plantains on top, and served it up.
Then, onto the plate goes some tomato sauce.
I just can't call this a broth.
A chile and a little more sauce on top of that.
On goes the nopales salad, a little plate cleanup, and we're good to go.
Wait, after all of this hard work, we definitely deserve a little tequila, right?
Did you know that one of Frida's parrots was trained to squawk, "No me pasa la cruda," or "I can't get over this hangover,"?
It's really terrible.
Never make this.
It's super good.
You should make this and have a day of the long table cloths and share it with your friends and family as Frida would have.
And to close, I shall invoke one of the last paintings Frida ever made, "Viva la Vida."