Mexican Dinner with Susana Trilling, in Paris

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

The first time I went to Mexico was sometime back in the 1980s. And from what I’d heard, I was sure that I would never come back. Most stories suggested danger lurking from every corner of every city and town, even in the oceans, where who knows what could happen to you in there. Or at the very least, I’d certainly be laid up in bed, doubled over from accidentally drinking the water.

Since that first trip, where I happily found myself on warm beaches sipping Mexican beers and eating spicy ceviche made from seafood that the fishermen brought in each morning from the clear blue ocean, I’ve been to Mexico maybe five or six times, and each time, made it back just fine. (Except for once, when I had a rather unpleasant return flight, made worse by a full plane with one restroom that was out-of-order. Which might have been attributed to a run-in with some mezcal.)

Because I live farther away now, it was nice that a bit of Mexico came to me — and didn’t involve and unpleasant return on a plane. Susana Trilling was coming to Paris and my friends Kate and Judy urged her to get in touch with me.

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

Susana had invited me over for a homemade Mexican dinner at her friend’s place in Paris, where she and Jesse, her son, were staying. But having cooked in my share of Parisian kitchens, which are often tiny and not well-stocked for serving groups (or preparing Mexican fare), I invited her to my place to cook, since I pretty much have any kitchen tool and ingredient one could imagine. Including some Mexican ones.

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

She unpacked her haul from the market in Paris, as well as lots of little packets of spices, seasonings, and a box of stone-ground Oaxacan chocolate, ground with cinnamon and sugar. I couldn’t resist and tore into the box, pulled out one of the handmade bars, and took a sniff. I love the smell of brusque, coarsely ground Mexican chocolate, and I was happy to hear we’d be having a Mexican dessert Susana would be baking with it.

Since I was hungry, I was happy when we got to the actual cooking. Actually, it was Susana and Jesse doing most of the cooking, while I helped them acclimate to an unfamiliar kitchen. We played a pretty funny game of Susana asking me questions, like “Do you, by any chance, have whole allspice?”

And I’d head to the cabinet, and pull out a jar of the berries.

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

Then a few minutes later, it was, “David — do you happen to have anise liqueur?”

Yup, right here, bounding over to the liquor shelf.

A few minutes later…“Hey David, do you have timbale molds to bake the búdins?”

Heading toward the bin of pastry molds (yes, I have bins of those), I pulled out several stacks of molds, “Yes Susana, I’ve got ’em right here…” adding, “…in fourteen sizes. Do you want metal, silicone, or ceramic?”

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

Only when she asked me if I had a comal was I stumped. Fortunately I had my all-American cast-iron skillet, which Jesse used to crisp up tortillas they’d brought from Mexico, made from maiz Chaparita, corn that grows on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and only about knee-high. Because it’s so windy, the corn doesn’t get much higher in the intense winds. But let me tell you, like me, it’s a survivor (even in tough conditions) and makes some pretty mean tortillas. When I saw the two stacks they’d brought, I figured there would be plenty of leftovers. But within a short amount of time, it looked like we barely had enough. The truth be told, I think I ate at least three-quarters of them. (And if this isn’t grounds for a break-up, I just found out that Romain doesn’t like tortillas.)

The only thing I didn’t have on hand were a lot of avocados. Fortunately with the few ones I had, that I had bought at the market, Jesse and Susana made a nice batch of guacamole. And as everyone knows, the most important ingredient for good guacamole isn’t onions, or tomatoes. Or cilantro, or lime juice. (Or even margaritas, which I mixed up to go alongside.) It’s….

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

…grasshoppers.

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

Unfortunately I had forgotten to pick some sauterelles up at my Paris market, but fortunately, Susana had brought some with her.

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

As we munched on grasshoppers (which was another no-go for Romain), in my makeshift comal, Jesse toasted off pumpkin seeds for a spread known as pipian. The vendor in Paris had inexplicably sold them flat-leaf parsley, instead of the cilantro that they thought they were getting (which may have been especially confusing because cilantro is called coriandre, in French, which it technically seems to be.) And cilantro/coriandre is a pretty common herb at Parisian markets.

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

Then my skillet got use to griddle up some guajillos and chilcostle chiles, which are a speciality of Oaxaca.

Once toasted, and after I had raced to open the windows as my apartment had quickly filled with spicy, smoky air that was braising our windpipes and sending us into coughing fits (although I still prefer chile fumes to cigarette ones), the seared chiles went into a vegetable stock for rabbit segueza, made by poaching rabbit in stock, then adding charred tomatoes, roasted avocado leaves, and a bag of toasted and cracked corn, which was made from the same incredible corn that the (now, long-gone) tortillas were made from. Everything smelled amazing and I couldn’t wait to eat. And a heads-up: my next book is going to be called My Mexican/Paris Kitchen, featuring Susana Trilling, and Jesse.

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

Because we were on “Mexican time” (which is even later than “Parisian time”), we didn’t finish dinner until around 1am. Fortunately the warm búdins de chocolate Oaxaqueño, a very rich baked chocolate bread pudding with mescal-soaked raisins and cubes of bread, along with a red currant salsa and whipped crema, had just come out of the oven, and we each happily enjoyed our own individual dessert before turning in for the night.

But get this. Instead of hanging around, hunched over his phone with a cigarette dangling from his lips, like all the other teens these days, as soon as Jesse had arrived, he immediately sized up my kitchen, started chopping onions and griddling peppers, and went all-out making the dinner with his mother. And not only did he do an amazing job of cooking the food, he cleaned everything up, and didn’t leave until all the dishes were washed. ¡Beaucoup de gracias!

Susana Trilling Mexican Dinner

Susana promised next time that she’d make mole, which is one of my favorite dishes. And I hope next time, we make it together in her (truly) Mexican kitchen, in Oaxaca.



Related Posts and Recipes

Seasons of My Heart Cooking School (Susana Trilling)

Rabbit and Corn Stew: Segueza (Mexconnect)

Chocolate Mole

Carnitas

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Horchata

Chocolate and Dulce de Leche Brownies

Mil Amores Tortilleria in Paris

Mexican Food in Paris


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37 comments

  • October 27, 2014 10:36am

    Looks like a fabulous night! Got to say, I’ve never tried grasshoppers but they don’t look half bad here!

  • Eleni
    October 27, 2014 11:41am

    I was equally shocked to hear that my French boyfriend doesn’t like tortillas either! I’d bought the real ones from Mil Amores to try and he said he prefers the Old El Paso ones from Monoprix. Oh well, more for me I guess..

    My mouth watering from those photos btw.

  • October 27, 2014 12:21pm

    I am more than ready to contribute to My Mexican Paris Kitchen, because I could spend more time there with you! The local Parisian markets have a bounty of inspirational ingredients to play with too!

    I can’t wait to show you our Oaxacan markets, on your upcoming visit! It was truly a fun night and a great game of ” do you have” …….you have one of the most well-equipped kitchen we have ever worked in and also one of the most fun! Thanks for hosting us!

    • October 27, 2014 4:25pm
      David Lebovitz

      So fun to have you here! Thanks to you and Jesse for making such a great dinner here, and for being so much fun. Next time, I promise ice cream…although maybe not glace aux sautrelles! (At least not for Romain…) xx – david

  • Linn
    October 27, 2014 1:37pm

    I live in San Antonio and will be in Mexico City/San Miguel de Allende in April and was hoping Oaxaca was close by so I could visit Susana’s school, but after a quick look at the map realized it is too far away. However, hoping to visit Oaxaca and her school on my next visit — thanks for posting David. How fun to have Susana bring Oaxaca to your kitchen!

  • October 27, 2014 3:51pm

    What a beautiful experience, and a truly authentic sounding meal! She was lucky to have been in your kitchen (who else would have anise liqueur in their cabinet?) Though I have to say, I had to quickly scroll through the images of grasshoppers… They terrify me, and might be a bit too much for my Western palate.

    • October 27, 2014 4:23pm
      David Lebovitz

      They actually have a pleasant little acidic/lemony flavor that’s not disagreeable. I first had them in Texas, in Tacos. They’re kind of good to nibble on, but don’t suspect they’ll be showing up at Parisian markets anytime in the near future ; )

      • Susana
        October 27, 2014 4:31pm

        They are pure protein, very clean food actually! They live in alfalfa or corn fields. They are cooked with lime, garlic and chiles. Sometimes we add pecans to the saute mix, and of course our sea salt! You may actually start to like them if you had the chance to try them! :-)

  • Mary Beth
    October 27, 2014 5:03pm

    Any ideas on where to purchase the grasshoppers? On-line would be lovely unless they are a staple of Mexican grocery stores of which we have many here in Sonoma.

  • October 27, 2014 5:08pm

    David,
    While your site is always wonderful, this post is thrilling (Trilling?) as I love Mexican cuisine, your books and Susanna’s. Living part-time in San Miguel de Allende, I can’t seem to get enough of Mexico and it’s cooking. What enormous fun to have Susanna in your kitchen. BTW, if you need a place to stay in SMA, let’s talk! Thanks for your good spirit.

  • Sarah Astier
    October 27, 2014 5:19pm

    I am prepared to pre-order My Mexican/Paris Kitchen!!

  • Fantastic! I grew up in Mexico (Saltillo) and miss, miss, miss it so much. However I still have my comal and copious supplies of ingredients sent to me by merciful Mexican friends.

    The Mexican chocolate is so different- rough edged in a good way. I used to drink hot chocolate for my merenda and nibble the rim of the clay bowl I drank it out of., Sounds odd but the two tastes belonged together.

    Here’s my own childhood on a page (if leaving a link is okay?) http://goo.gl/BzUuvR

  • Terry
    October 27, 2014 5:54pm

    I have to admit, I’d be hard-pressed to try eating a grasshopper. I know it’s just a cultural bias and insects are excellent sources of protein, but – well, probably not. However the rest of the meal sounds and looks scrumptious! (And with a pleasant and helpful teenager? Get outta here!)

    But – I was looking forward to a picture of that chocolate dessert – I bet it got from fridge to tummies too fast to photograph. Thanks for sharing this lovely experience!

    • October 27, 2014 6:04pm
      David Lebovitz

      Unfortunately it’s getting dark in Paris pretty early these days – by 6pm, most natural light is gone. So it was hard to get good snaps the further into the evening it got. (The margaritas didn’t help!) So by the time we had dessert, it was super late. Susana does have the recipe on her site and it’s quite good.

  • October 27, 2014 6:00pm

    Now you have me thinking about running to the many Mexican grocery stores a few miles from here. (Haven’t made it to Mexico yet – partly because I am told I would never come back although everyone in Minnesota goes to Mexico in February and everyone comes back). All is scrumptious but I must side with Romain on the grasshoppers.

  • Tom
    October 27, 2014 6:10pm

    We tried grasshoppers in Oaxaca both regular and with chile. We now live in France, near Cahors. We were in a great shop we go to regularly and saw jars of roasted grasshoppers along side other jars of spices. We were very surprised and asked the guy working there and he told us they sold quite a few jars and that people had them with their appertives. Go figure

  • October 27, 2014 6:21pm

    Grasshoppers…hmmm…and it’s hard to imagine anyone not liking corn tortillas! So joyful to see a young man (Jesse) obviously doing something he loves – reminds me of my 14 yr. old nephew (half Italian and Spanish), cooking dinner every night for the family, and always in the kitchen.

  • October 27, 2014 6:31pm

    I’m looking forward to trying grasshoppers thanks to this article-they look delicious. I love Mexican food but only within driving distance of Mexico, so I would never think of trying Mexican restaurant in Paris. But it’s great that Susana Trilling filled the void.

  • Jessica
    October 27, 2014 7:12pm

    Personally, I’ll pass on the grasshoppers, but that’s not to say that they can’t be delicious. I’ve heard that ants are also quite nice. I have a thing against insects, living or dead. I travelled all through south-east and east asia eating a host of odd things. I made a point of not knowing before hand what I was eating. Otherwise, culture preferences would kick in. Insects might be the next big thing when it comes to providing protein to an ever growing world population.

  • Chantal Duvall
    October 27, 2014 7:44pm

    How lucky to have Susana (and Jesse) cook for you ! Susana is such a great chef and fun person!
    After 1 week at her cooking school in Oaxaca during the Dia de Muertos I was in love with Oaxaca cuisine, the city, the countryside, the crafts , the people …
    While Susana was cooking in your kitchen in Paris … I was cooking -again- at her school in Oaxaca, preparing the same chocolate dessert !
    They say that if you eat one grasshopper you will come back to Oaxaca ! I did and ate them many many times 2 weeks ago, in tacos, tortillas filled with the delicious Oaxaca cheese or just as a snack! Have you tried the “sal de gusano” (salt/chile/and worm!) ? It is now my “secret ingredients”. I brought all the ingredients to prepare Mole Negro
    back in the US … but not the worms strung on a tread by 100 !
    Another Seasons of my Heart cooking week with Susana … with dessert by David , would’t that be heaven ?

  • laline
    October 27, 2014 11:26pm

    You’ve succeeded in making me hungry for Mexican food just now (and I already had some yesterday). I totally did not expect to read “grasshoppers” in your dish which I’ve never tried. I heard that it’s just like eating beatles after all. I wonder if that special corn, maiz Chaparita, is sold in the USA. I too missed a photo of your chocolate dessert. Did you by chance make a hot chocolate drink from the Oaxacan chocolate?

  • Elaine
    October 28, 2014 12:35am

    You were so fortunate to have Susana & Jesse cook for you. I have been to her Oaxacan Home and cooking school twice and have wonderful memories of those times. It is great fun to go to the markets in Oaxaca City and in the countryside with her as she is so knowledgeable and helpful with all the different ingredients found there. My husband and I are very fond of Oaxaca – it’s food, culture and especially the people.

  • October 28, 2014 1:06am

    Wish I was there! We learned how to make moles, pepian and pasilla sauce when I went to cooking school in central Mexico (outside of Tlaxcala) but this pepian sounds different. From your post summary, I was expecting it to be the thing called Sik il pak, the Mayan pumpkin seed spread, but this sounds more like a sauce?

  • October 28, 2014 1:48am

    Sharing experiences of a Mexican dinner in Paris to American friends! Talk about being cultural!

  • Linda H
    October 28, 2014 5:31am

    My cats catch and eat grasshoppers. I’ve never thought of trying them myself.

  • Julia Williams
    October 28, 2014 5:57am

    Just this afternoon my husband and I were remembering a wonderful week we spent at Susanna’s cooking school. What a surprise to see her photo, cooking in your kitchen in Paris.

  • Susana
    October 28, 2014 1:01pm

    How nice to hear from so many people who love Oaxaca and Mexico, lindo y querido! And a big hug to all of you who have cooked with us at Seasons of my Heart! We have just started our Dia de Muertos course with a full day of cooking at the ranch. The fields are ablaze with colorful marigolds and cockscombs, and people are harvesting maiz, jicama, calabazas and cutting down sugar cane to build arches for the altars. There is the scent of roasted chiles in the air. I hated to leave new and old friends in Paris, with the remarkable chocolates, wines, cheeses and breads, but I am happy to return to this!

    It’s so interesting the reaction that people have to the grass hoppers – they are in high season right now in Oaxaca. During this time, it is not unusual to see a car pulled over on the dirt road below my house, doors flung wide open in the passion of the moment, and a whole family searching through the alfalfa or the milpas, hunting them with makeshift raffia bag “nets” to trap them. Laughter and excitement abounds! They are then cooked with our local chile pequin, garlic, lime juice and sea salt served with guacamole and home grown, hand made corn tortillas. Slow Food! This is an ancient classic Oaxacan dish, with a promising future as some of you have pointed out, and the locals are quite fervent in their love for them. Even the professional futbol team is called Los Chapulineros de Oaxaca!

    I find it intriguing that the French would be opposed to them, especially with what was breaking news during my trip http://nyti.ms/1xLrRUd. Go figure!

    And yes, Eva, the botana was a version of Sikil Pak!

    • Jessica
      October 28, 2014 3:49pm

      It’s quite odd what different cultures regard as edible and what is not. I’ve travelled, as I wrote in my comment, throughout Asia. At one point I was served dog (this practise is now illegal). Had I known beforehand what it was, I would most likely not have eaten it. It was ok, actually it was delicious. I are quite alot of things that wouldn’t be served in my own country, all were delicious (ok I could have done without the almost living squid). But there’s that cultural barrier. That in itself is an interesting discussion which would evolve into an essay ;), but it was interesting to read about the cooking and serving of grasshoppers :).

      • Susana
        October 28, 2014 3:56pm

        I totally agree. Its all relative and challenging all at once to be open to different cultures. Food is the most fascinating link intertwining cultures! We are blessed to be able to connect people through food!

  • Gary Stella
    October 29, 2014 12:20am

    Love the story, and maybe I should have tried the Mexicaine place in Salon de Provence last year
    …..what I really appreciate is the entire site/blog. I fell in love with France several years ago, but have no luck at all finding first rate food in Paris…..yes, yes, I know it’s there…..I just pick the worst possible choice every time….I’ve had ok food just not the quality I almost always find in the little places out in the provinces.

    So thanks for the restaurant stories and the blog. I anxiously await each new installment and make notes for my next trip.

  • Sylvia
    October 29, 2014 4:49am

    I’m just back from a wonderful week in Oaxaca. I tried the grasshoppers (well, one) and it was okay. As you would imagine, it had a nice crunch. But what I found really great was the chocolate grinders or “molinos”. You can go into a molino shop and have them grind cacao beans to your specifications: sugar? cinnamon? almonds? I made my own chocolate recipe (little sugar, some cinnamon) and have been enjoying hot chocolate on these cool Sonoma evenings. David, love your website and enjoyed meeting you in San Francisco a couple of months ago!

  • Johanna
    October 29, 2014 6:12pm

    Why on earth did it take you so long to find about your man not liking tortillas?? ;) ;)

  • Gavrielle
    October 30, 2014 11:14am

    In Commonwealth English, cilantro is called coriander too. (Actually, the dried ground stuff is “coriander” and the fresh leaves are “fresh coriander”). I hadn’t realised that in the US there wasn’t a connection usually seen between them.

  • Elizabeth Coleman
    November 1, 2014 10:56am

    I would also pre-order My Mexican/Paris Kitchen! Are you really doing it? I live in Geneva and desperately miss the amazing Mexican food 7 ingredients I could get in the US.

    But on another topic: What do the French call allspice? I see it translated into quatre-épices and I know that’s not right. Merci!

    • chantal duvall
      November 1, 2014 3:23pm

      Piment de la Jamaique = allspice

  • Elizabeth Coleman
    November 1, 2014 10:56am

    The 7 in my above comment was supposed to be &…

  • November 1, 2014 11:18pm

    …. hmmm, not so sure about those grasshoppers! But truly a delightful post. Fun to read Susanas reactions on the comments as well.
    When I met “my David” who spent his summers in Mexico, growing up… I did not know what a tortilla was. Grateful today to have been exposed to so much fabulous Mexican food. Learning more every day!