In which I find recipes for love as well as quail in rose sauce
Title: Like Water for Chocolate
Author: Laura Esquivel
What it’s about: A beautiful story about love, family, and food, Like Water for Chocolate mixes actual recipes with the story of a family in early twentieth-century Mexico. Tita is the youngest of three daughters and grows up in the kitchen under the tutelage of the elderly cook Nacha. When Tita meets her true love, Pedro, she discovers that her mother will never allow her to marry–not Pedro or any other man–as she is expected to stay home all her life to care for her mother. Tita is devastated and her sorrow only deepens when Pedro agrees to marry her sister Rosaura. He swears to Tita that he is motivated only by a desire to be close to her always. Thus begins their lifelong love affair, at first only desire from afar and later stolen caresses complicated by the watchful eyes of Mama Elena and the cold presence of Rosaura. Tita pours her turbulent emotions into her wonderful cooking, with sometimes mystical results. Her sister’s wedding cake, mixed with Tita’s bitter tears, causes all the guests to become violently ill, while her quail in rose petal sauce, made with the flowers Pedro gave her, causes unbridled lust in all who eat it.
The book is a great romance and a very easy read, perfect for those looking for a summer beach read. Esquivel has obviously been influenced by the magical realism style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (see my review for One Hundred Years of Solitude, one of my favorite books!). But the book also reminded me of the more recent Chocolat for its focus on food and culture. Both books also made excellent films. The recipes also sound amazing. The techniques aren’t overly difficult, but some of the ingredients are out of the ordinary and might be hard to find. My book club had planned to try some recipes out of the book, but we all fell back on our own Mexican favorites for lack of various Mexican chilies or oxtail at our local grocery store. I would like to try the quail dish some day (although I hope the results aren’t quite as strong as Tita’s . . .), perhaps substituting game hens or even chicken thighs (I think white chicken meat would be too different in flavor to substitute). I think I could find extract of rose, but the pitaya might actually be the hardest ingredient! I’ve included the recipe below for those who are curious or have suggestions for substitutions!
Quail in Rose Sauce (from Like Water for Chocolate)
12 roses, preferably red
2 tsp. butter
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 drops extract of roses
2 tbsp. anise
2 tbsp. honey
2 cloves garlic
Brown the quail in butter and season with salt and pepper.
Remove the petals carefully from the roses. Ground the petals with anise in a mortar. Separately, brown the chestnuts in a pan, remove the peels and cook them in water. Then puree them. Mince the garlic and brown slightly in butter; when it is transparent, add it to the chestnut puree along with the honey, the ground pitaya and the rose petals, and salt to taste.
To thicken the sauce slightly, you may add two tablespoons of cornstarch.
Last, strain through a fine sieve and add no more than 2 drops of extract of roses. As soon as the seasonings have been added, remove sauce from heat. The quail should be immersed in this sauce for 10 minutes to infuse them with the flavor, and then removed.
The quail are placed on a platter, the sauce is poured over them and they are garnished with a single perfect rose in the center and rose petals scattered all around.
Would I recommend? Yes! Cooks and romantics will love this book and it’s a perfect light summer read.