Laura Anhalt is not your typical cooking diva. Laura’s job at the Red Cross takes up 40 hours of her week. Every Friday for the past 6 years, Laura taught cooking out of her own gourmet kitchen. “My co-workers used to ask me what real Mexican food was like. So I said ‘Let me show you.'” Little would she know, these magical words launched a side career for Laura that eventually led her to her own cooking book and a line of sauces.
Laura came here 9 years ago from Mexican City, Mexico. She barely has an accent other than when she rolls her ‘r’s. Her passion is in food and sharing her culture through her food. Laura was also a contributor and food writer for Buffalo Rising. The cooking classes was just something Laura did on the side, and as the years progressed, the cooking classes evolved into an large part of her life. “At first there were 12 people. I assigned different jobs, we cooked and ate together. Soon, people started to say, ‘Laura can I bring my friend next time.'” More and more people showed up every week, and ultimately Laura met Beverly Barry. Barry helped Laura turn her cooking classes into an organized business.
The proposal of a cookbook came from one of her students. At first Laura turned it down. Two years ago, things changed. After a philosophical conversation about life and death with her doctor, Laura went out and bought 4 notebooks– one for each of her kids. After she was finished writing in each notebook, she decided to combine everything into one book, and that became her cookbook, Mexican Flavors. “It’s hard to separate family and history from my food. I always tell stories and talk about history during the cooking classes.”
With this book, Laura wanted to share her childhood flavors, family history, and culture with not only the readers but also her children. “I called my friend Scott Gable and he said that he was ready to fly out anytime.” Three days later, Laura and Scott flew to Mexico and stayed for 2 weeks. “My mother and aunt cooked with me. Scott took beautiful pictures of where I grew up, the food, the people, and the fresh farm markets.”
Laura is a woman who simply cannot compromise her products. This includes her book. “I wanted to have every detail the way I imagined it. If someones says ‘Laura, you can’t do it’ I tell them ‘I CAN do it. I will find a way.’ The options for self publishing were horrible.” Laura shook her head and made a face like she just ate something bitter. “–So I established ‘House of Anhalt.'” Laura and her business partner took self publishing to a whole other level by establishing their own traditional publishing house to publish her cookbook. “If I can’t make something the way I want to, then why do it?”
Laura has also been working on her own line of sauces for the past 3 years. “They tell me, ‘Laura, you have to add preservatives so that you can put this in the jar” but preservatives change the flavors of the sauce. So for about a year, I played with the water content of the sauces, I played with the packaging, and at the end it passed all the health checks and I did not have to compromise the quality of the flavor.” Each sauce took about a year to go into production. These include the Governor’s Sauce, the Chimichurri Sauce, and coming soon, the Chocolate Truffle Sauce. “I wanted the sauces to taste as close to how they would if you came over for dinner and I cooked it for you in my kitchen.” Call her a perfectionist, call her stubborn, but Laura is not one to compromise even the smallest detail on her products.
At the end of this month, Laura will be teaching her last cooking class. It’s a bitter sweet feeling for her. “I’ll miss it, but they have gotten too time consuming. I’m working on a new web site that will have pictures, recipes and maybe a blog.” Laura is in the process of finalizing everything with her book, Mexican Flavors. Look for her cookbook to be on the shelves late February/early March.
Laura’s selection of sauces can be found locally at Dash’s Markets at all 4 locations, Chateau Buffalo on Hertel, Johnny’s Meats on Hertel, Country Peddler’s in West Seneca, Premiere Gourmet on Elmwood, and Adventures in Heat in Clarence.
From Laura’s kitchen, here’s something to hold over your cravings for now.
Lobster Salad with Guava Dressing
7 guavas (5 for the dressing & reserve 2 to garnish)
½ cup of cider vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup of heavy cream
1 ½ tablespoons of chicken bouillon (granulated)
1 head of Romaine lettuce (chopped)
1 head of butter or iceberg lettuce (chopped)
1 head of escarole (curly endives or chicory chopped)
1 handful of cilantro, finely chopped
3 lobster tails, cooked (boiled or steamed), shelled and cut into medallions
Purée 5 of the guavas with the cider vinegar, olive oil and sugar in the blender. When this mixture is completely smooth, add the chicken bouillon granules and the heavy cream and blend again until well incorporated. Cover and chill.
Lightly coat the lettuce blend with a bit olive oil and toss. Transfer to salad bowl. Right before serving, add the dressing, tossing to evenly incorporate and arrange the lobster medallions on top. Add the thinly sliced guavas and sprinkle the cilantro all over the top of the salad. Serve immediately
*You may also decide to prepare the salad and garnish it on the individual plates to ensure every guest receives the same amount of lobster.