Guajolote Enchilado con Pasta de Frijol

September 11, 2014
0 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

{This is a first person biography of a Mexican restaurateur in Los Angeles that I published through AltaMed. It is one entry into a book that served as a fundraiser for uninsured individuals. The recipe is prepared by Rogelio Martínez and served at Casa Oaxaca in Culver City, CA and Santa Ana, CA.}

Casa Oaxaca
Rogelio Martinez Juarez
3317 West First Street
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Tel: 714.554.0905

I was born twenty minutes from the city of Oaxaca in a small town called Tlacochahuaya. My mother, Carmen, and my father, Ricardo, were native Zapotecos. I have six siblings and we all speak our native dialect as well as Spanish. My name is Rogelio Martinez Juarez.

I dropped out of school in the eighth grade. I decided at that time that I wanted to be a baker. I came to this decision because nobody else in town wanted to be a baker. It was considered the lowest of the low in the economic class structure of the town. To learn how to bake, I went to one of the largest hotels in Oaxaca, Hotel Victoria, and asked for a job. They saw my enthusiasm and decided that I would be a good employee. They taught me how to bake and also how to Cuchariar (perform spoon service) at the tables of their most important clients. Spoon service is the art of dishing the plates artistically while at the table in front of the client instead of preparing the dish in the kitchen. I enjoyed this very much and decided that in addition to being a baker, I would also be a professional server.

By the time I was 22, I had become a true professional in the food service industry. I had worked in all the fine restaurants in the city of Oaxaca and some in Mexico City. My eagerness as an entrepreneur was beginning to show in my character and I made the greatest venture in my life: I immigrated to the United States and established myself in Los Angeles. During this period, I never faltered in my desire to be a professional in food service. Among the finest of chefs in Los Angeles, who knew me as “Elvis” because of my hairstyle, I became known as the hardest of workers. I worked for Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton at Campanile and for Wolfgang Puck at Spago. I worked for many, many important chefs and restaurateurs in Los Angeles but the most significant for me was my relationship with Frederic Meschin at The Little Door on Third Street. In retrospect, I now realize that after so many years in L.A., my overwhelming drive and my crushing loneliness in Los Angeles led to me becoming an alcoholic.

In 1986, when President Ronald Reagan issued amnesty for immigrants, I applied to become a resident of the United States through La Hermandad Mexicana. By this time, I had married a woman from Santo Domingo Albarradas in Oaxaca, named Angelica and we had two children, Diana and Aldo. I petitioned and promised La Virgen de Juquila that if she allowed me to bring my family over from Oaxaca, I would stop drinking. I applied for myself and for my family and we were granted amnesty and residency in 2000. I stopped drinking to fulfill my promise to Juquila and we began to live together in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. Frederic at The Little Door helped me to purchase a triplex in the area. We were so happy. I was 36 years old.

In 2004, with the money we saved from my tips, we decided to start two businesses: ServiOax, an import/export shipping service and Siete Regiones, a bakery. The bakery was moving along slowly and closed after three months but ServiOax grew tremendously. On the days that I had off from my work as a busboy at The Little Door, I would fly back and forth from LAX to OAX with packages from all the Oaxaqueños in the area. I would carry up to seven boxes and suitcases myself. I did everything I could to make the business a success. One day, during a routine revision of all our shipments, we found contraband hidden in one of the packages. It was at that point that I became frightened with the business and decided to return to my original plan: Opening a restaurant.

Since my friend Fernando Lopez at Guelaguetza was operating and serving Oaxacan food in Los Angeles, I traveled south a bit and found a Mexican city in Orange County called Santa Ana. In 2007, I chose the first location that I was offered and leased 3317 West First Street and I called it Casa Oaxaca. After 17 years of working as a busboy in Los Angeles, I had realized my dream of owning my own restaurant. Angelica and her brother Gilberto became my financial partners and we braved the business of a small family restaurant.

The building at 3317 was formerly a house of prostitution and we discovered that someone had been killed in the restroom. The floors were uneven and nothing worked right but we were never detoured. We fixed it, cleaned it, painted it and designed it to be just like we were dining in our towns in Oaxaca. The menu, handwritten on a notepad, was a combination of seven dishes that we loved the most including our favorite moles and tlayudas typical of our towns.

It was very hard. I thought that since I knew the service side of the business, I could make it a successful endeavor but quickly I realized that I lacked business experience. I lacked fluency in English. I lacked capital. I lacked the close-knit community of Oaxaqueños that lived in Los Angeles. Even though I only went 45 minutes away, I was immediately forced to understand that I could not rely on that network to make this business work. It was just my wife and I and our faith in La Virgen de Juquila. Together, we built a clientele, as they say, slowly but surely.

In 2011, we finished the year with close to $500,000 in sales. We have ten employees and a Facebook business page and people on Yelp! seem to really enjoy our food. After years of financial mismanagement, we established a banking relationship with City National Bank and we bought our first iPad and were trained to manage our ADP payroll through an App! There are days when we think that we just can’t bear another day and there are days when we can’t believe our good fortune. I still bake our Pan de Yema daily and I perform spoon service for special corporate parties, weddings and quinceañeras.

There was one day this year that really made me reflect on my life and my chosen vocation. My mother, Carmen, died at the age of 86 in September. On Día de los Muertos in November, I went home to spend time with my father and to pay tribute to her contribution to my life. I was in the living room of my house in Tlacochahuaya with my father and we were eating a dish of Guajolote Enchilado con Pasta de Frijol in front of the altar we created for her. I remembered the taste of her food in that meal I realized at that moment that every day since I left my home in México at the age of 22, I have been attempting to feed that taste to all the people whom I have come across in my life at Casa Oaxaca.

Recipe Blurb:
This recipe is as authentically Oaxacan as they get. Mexico’s diverse indigenous ethnicities offer a striking variety of food. The turkey in dried chiles is a great example. The chiles in this recipe are very mild and simply give the turkey a nice smoky flavor. Using these types of chiles often constitutes a sauce that is called an adobo. What makes this dish stand apart is the avocado leaf. Used mainly in Oaxaca and a few other regions in Mexico, the avocado leaf adds a hint of anise and bay leaf flavor to the beans and the turkey. There have been concerns about toxicity levels in avocado leaves, but Mexican food maven Diana Kennedy puts it to rest in her 2003 book “From My Mexican Kitchen.” She said that toxicity reports stem from a 1984 study at the University of California at Davis, which showed that dairy goats suffered some toxic effects from ingesting very large amounts of avocado leaves (the toxic agent remains unknown). The crucial point, according to Dr. Arthur L. Craigmill, toxicology specialist at Davis and one of the authors of the study, is that the toxic effects were traced to the Guatemalan avocado (Persea American) and not Mexican avocado leaves (Persea dryminfolia), a different variety. So be sure to buy the Mexican variety from a specialty Mexican food market. This dish is a unique one that should be reserved for a special occasion or to impress your friends.

What You'll Need
  • 1 Large Turkey (Quartered)
  • 16 Chiles Guajillo (Roasted)
  • 1/2 Onion (Roasted)
  1. Liquefy the Chiles and the Onion for two minutes in a blender. Leave the sauce textured, not as a liquid. Salt to taste.
  2. Place a quartered Turkey in a vaporizer to steam on top of a bed of Avocado Leaf. Brush the Turkey with the textured sauce until covered. Cover the turkey with the Avocado Leaf. Steam on low heat.
  3. Serve with Pasta de Frijol. 2 lbs of Black Beans cooked with water and a clove of peeled garlic and half a white onion. Salt to taste. Toast 8 Avocado Leaves on Comal. Place the dry cooked beans and the avocado leaf in a blender and blend for two minutes until it becomes a paste. Fry with EVOO and mold to taste.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

0 Reviews