Mayan Riviera – cooking at COCO’S and caramelized banana crepes recipe
The culinary scene is developing in Playa del Carmen. New restaurants feature sophisticated versions of Mexican foods, private chefs are available to cook in your home while you are on vacation and some will come to your house to teach Mexican cooking in your own kitchen. You can also attend cooking classes and learn how to cook authentic Mexican foods prepared with local ingredients in the traditional way. The best cooking school in Playa del Carmen is COCOS, run by the energetic and athletic Coty, a young Mexican woman who travelled the world learning to cook various cuisines until she recently returned to her roots to live where she is most comfortable, by the beach on the Mayan Riviera.
Three years ago Coty set up COCOS, an acronym for Cocina Cosmopolita (internatiional cuisine). It’s an apt name for someone who can cook Thai food as well as French, German, Mexican and Mediterranean. Yes, she has lived in and cooked in all of these places, including a long stay in Germany and Paris. Coty is also a caterer and private chef who has even cooked privately on yachts, but I think that teaching people how to cook is her first love.
COCOS is a beautiful school set on the ground floor of the condominium Aldea Thai building a block away from the beach off 28 street. The modern, spacious kitchen accommodates several students for a hands on or demonstration classes but I suspect that most of the classes are hands on. That’s what Coty herself likes and that is what she offers her students.
In season Coty conducts several classes a week, accomodating vacationing tourists by holding several of them at night so no one has to miss a day at the beach. The classes range from one course meal or two appetizers, to three course meal, drinking school and a 10 day intensive course that explores Mexican gastronomy in depth. This intensive program offers a representation of the most popular dishes in Mexican cuisine and you will learn about the ingredients, cooking methods, types of chilies, drinks, flour and corn tortillas, and many different types of sauces. An intensive course like that is sure to send you back home prepared to cook real Mexican foods with confidence.
I drove up to Playa to attend a class and was delighted to find this beautiful kitchen all set up for cooking, with the prep work already done and mis en place on the counter. Coty is friendly and informal and even though her leg was in braces as the result of a recent mishap, she was cheerful and energetic and made us all feel at home.
The red and white kitchen has a curved countertop that features 6 separate double burners spread around it plus an additional one on a smaller island set in the middle. Wall ovens are set on the back wall and a working/prep counter is built around the corner where several students can work simultaneously. There is a working kitchen at he back where a lot of the prep work and catering/private chef business gets done. For the class Coty had a kitchen assistant who preps, cuts, cleans and assists when needed.
The menu for the class was adjusted (for me) to accommodate my vegetarian preferences (she asked, I didn’t prompt it, but happily accepted).
Creamy corn soup with huitalcoche sauce and goat cheese
Chile rellenos stuffed with vegetables and Mexican manchego
Banana and coconut crepes with agave syrup
I have already replicated the chile rellenos recipe but didn’t fry it in batter. I floated it on top of Coty’s delicious simple tomato sauce and promise to post it soon. It really was delicious.
I thought I would post the crepes recipe because it was easy and delicious. We have a crepe making ritual here when we are in Mexico, whereby I stand in the kitchen with two skillets making crepes for the family until they had enough, which can take a while. I am even known to flip the crepes up in the air if I am out to impress. Most of the time it works.
I have permission from Coty to share her recipe and have already made it a number of times since the class. Her secret ingredient is lime juice squeezed over the filling and crepes once they are done. The slight tang is so refreshing with the sweet filling and reminds me of the crepes with sugar and lemon of the streets of Paris. Mais oui.
For more information on Coty classes at COCOS check her website and the course schedule here.
Condominio Aldea Thai Local 23
Calle Cozumel Mza 18 Lote 1
Playa del Carmen, Q.Roo 77710
Between 26th and 28th street just beside Playa Mamitas.
First street parallel to the beach
Telephone : +52 984 803 0743
Email : email@example.com
Banana Coconut Crepes with Lime and Agave Syrup
Serves 4 people (8 crepes)
1/2 cup AP flour
3/4 cup milk
tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon sugar
A pinch of salt
Butter for the crepe pan
4 bananas, peeled and sliced diagonally in 1/2 inch slices
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
Grated zest of 1 lime
4 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes
4 tablespoons agave syrup
Blend all crepe ingredients in a blender.
Melt a little butter in a skillet and pour in just enough crepe batter to swirl around and coat the bottom in a thin layer.
Cook until the underside is cooked and light golden, flipping once to cook the top side.
Remove to a plate and keep warm.
Melt butter in a skillet, add the bananas and cook until golden brown.
Add the brown sugar and let it melt and caramelizes.
Remove from heat and add lime juice.
Place a crepe on a plate, spoon some filling on the crepe and fold in half, pressing slightly to distribute the filling so you get some in every bite.. Fold the crepe into quarters.
Arrange two crepes per serving on individual dishes, sprinkle with the toasted coconut and drizzle with agave syrup.
Note: I did not have many of the ingredients for the recipe so I made another version with mini bananas cut in half, sprinkled the crepes with ground caramelized nuts and drizzled with condensed milk mixed with Mexican crema. It was delicious all the same. That’s what it’s like in the kitcehn. Always improvising.