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Traditional Mexican Cooking...I wanna learn.

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

I woke up in the middle of the night last week, in an Advil PM educed
coma, and thought, man...I REALLY wanna learn how to cook authentic
Mexican. I have a pretty big Mexican community in my little 1.1 square
mile town, and have access to most ANY ingredient you can think of,
with about 4 big mexican markets (and 5 little restaurants) within a few 100
ft. of each other.

Where do I start? (other than booking a flight) do you have any
suggestions for must reads, websites, books, etc.?? Splain' me the
regions...so I can start with one of them.

I thought about posting an Ad on Craigslist, as surely someone in my
town knows Mexican cooking, and since I fired my housecleaner, I have
a few extra bucks to spend, why not on cooking!

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post #2 of 32
I'm sure that many of the members here will be able to help.

Unfortunately, it is probably one of the few world cuisines which I dont like!
post #3 of 32
It's pretty regionalized. And I don't know of any good book that covers the regions.

The Yucatan with its habaneros can be blisteringly hot--too hot for me.

I tend to cook in a more tex-mex borderlands style and like that quite well. Bill and Cheryl Jamison have a cookbook for that fusion hybridized cuisine I've been pretty happy with. Something like the Borderlands cookbook.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #4 of 32
Thread Starter 
I stole a coupla recipes from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy, making the Salpicon De Res (Shredded beef cooked with tomatoes, chiles, and cilantro) taco style....it's on the stove now.

I'll post back when it's done. :) This book seems to be pretty good, a lot of from scratch recipes.
post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 
came out good.

I'm not making my own tortillas yet....

....but that's just because I haven't picked up a press. :D
post #6 of 32
I would agree that the habenero's can be blisteringly hot, but when used in a dish they take on a slightly different characteristic. To me, when eaten plain or whole in foods they're simply too hot.

But when used in a dish, cooked in a dish they act a bit differently. You've got the rest of the dish to balance the peppers out, which helps quite a bit. Also, the Habenero always gives me a different impression of it's heat. Some peppers like the Serrano, jalapeño and cayenne give me a heat that builds and builds and builds in my mouth. After some time it reaches break point levels, where I need to stop and take a break. But the habenero gives me all the heat up front and then dissipates letting the flavors of the meal come thru.

It's as if the other peppers let you decide how much heat you can take before your forced to take a break. While the habenero's are a bit more euphoric, hitting you right in the face with it's heat and then allowing the flavors of the meal to bloom behind it.

Well, that's how I see it. ;)
post #7 of 32
They use in a salsa condiment which I certainly can't spell off hand but I think the pronounciation is along the lines of xni pec. Brutal stuff.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #8 of 32
What would be your reply if someone from Asia posted and said they wanted to learn to cook authentic American? Mexican cooking is every bit as diverse. Kennedy's books are a good place to start but I'd submit to you that you ought to make friends with that big Mexican community and get some party invitations. Open your place for a get together and ask people to come and cook. The housekeeper might have been a good place to start.
post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 
Well---I'd list the most prominent of American cuisines, and say "which ones sound most interesting to you? and start there...eventually working my way around the country. Hitting the higher, prominent parts to start. Sure, we all know southern BBQ can be further broken up into 100 different things...but you can give someone a decent overview.

New England cooking - let's look at some chowder, some lobster rolls, some seafood
Mid-east - blue claw crabs, pit beef, and throw some NYC pizza making etc....you get the idea.

Also, I meant I fired my house cleaner (Polish--not Mexican) so I had some extra money to spare. Guess that read wrong haha.
post #10 of 32
Anything by Rick Bayless, of course, would be a good place to start.

travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #11 of 32
Thread Starter 
SO i have about 2 lbs of shredded pork.....

what to do?

post #12 of 32
You said you have a Kennedy cookbook, right? Okay, use the pork to make the meat stuffing (picadillo) for stuffed poblano peppers. She uses dried chiles, nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and so on. It's fabulous, and I have never had anything like it in any Mexican restaurant in the U.S. But when I served it one time -- and quite coincidentally a guest brought her Mexican boyfriend who turned out to be a hard-core foodie -- he was entranced, said it was a kind of blast from Mexico, the sort of thing nobody thinks of but is what for him Mexican food is really all about. I was rather stunned, actually. I mean, I love the stuff, sure, but I had no idea that it would hit a Mexican (Mexico City, I believe, but I have no idea where his family is originally from) as the sort of thing grandma used to make back in the old days, as it were.

You don't have to stuff peppers with it -- it's great on tacos with fresh minced onion, lettuce, radishes, salsa cruda, and so on. The peppers are great too, but a lot more work.
post #13 of 32
tamales would be my pick though picadillo rellenos are good too.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #14 of 32
Thread Starter 
Hmm, Ok so I'm looking for some authentic Mexican to cook this week, any suggestions for some recipes/meals I can research? basics?
post #15 of 32
tongue (lengua) tacos are one of my favorites. Chile Verde is worth trying, BDL posted a recipe a while back that looked worthwhile.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #16 of 32
Thread Starter 
hmm, I think that might be one of those dishes, that I'd rather have someone else cool right first, and try it, before I give her a whirl.
post #17 of 32
Empanadas are also tasty. bot the sweet and the savory versions.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #18 of 32
Thread Starter 
I'll have to check out Diane Kennedys recipe, I remember a squash blossom and ricotta one and I just made fresh ricotta...

hows working with the dough/masa? (I don't have a press yet)
post #19 of 32
Lots of them use a basic pastry dough and that's how I've made them.

But you can use lots of different doughs. I've seen masa ones and based on my tamale experience they shouldn't be too hard to do. I've also seen them made from mashed starch product like potato (think gnocchi dough) sweet potato, pumpkin, yuca and so on.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #20 of 32
mexico has a huge and varied tradition. ask some of the local mexicans where they are from and try and get a list from them 4 chicken dishes, 4 veggie dishes, 4 seafood dishes, 4 beef or pork dishes.

ask them to write recipes in spanish if they cant speak english sufficiently

many love scallops squid octopus mussels and clams in mexico too.

and it doesnt always have to be hot even in the yucatan.

ask for taco filling, what do they liek in taco al pastor or in carnitas taos

what do they make their enchilladas, what kind of sauce do they like with their enchillada

do they even like enchillada?

what about tamales. get some tamale recipes!

do they have a ceviche recipe or mole that they liike?

do they like to barbeque pork or beef or chicken or lamb and how do they do it and what do they eat it with?

do they have a desert they like?

do they like to bake leavened sweet or savory breads or rolls or pastries or pies?

what do they liek to put in a chille relleno?

do they like pulpo in su tinta (octopus in its own ink or in squid ink)

how do they like their scallops (callos)

how do they like calamar or camorones (calamari and shrimps)
there are some cool ingredients

tons of different peppers and also dried versions of most peppers.

a "mexican truffle" special fungus that grows on corn called huitlacoche



epazote -an herb

crema fresca or crema mexicana


blood oranges

cactus leaves



mexican cheeses : cotija, manchego, oaxaca

agave juice, agave syrup, tequila

coconut, fresh coconut water and jelly, coconut milk





chayote squash



soursop or guanabana

post #21 of 32
I'm not a chef just a home cook, but I love to cook, and trying new dishes in different cuisines is fun.

Personally I would start with simple dishes, home style food, rather than some fancy restaurant dish. Try cooking one or two dishes that taste authentic and those you serve give you real positive feed back. There are several things you need to do though.

• you need to know what the dish should taste and look like.
• you will need the ingredients and seasonings
• you will need whatever special equipment or techniques to cook the dish.

You said you live in a community where there are several choices for mexican markets.
That would mean there should be some taqueria or small family mexican restaurants.

go to 2 or 3 different restaurants and order dishes you want to make, they can be real simple. Pay close attention to details.

Simple stuff like quesadillas, are easy, and there are all kinds of variations you can expand with, but learn to make a basic cheese quesadilla.

Pico de Gallo, this is a staple of Mexican food either as a ingredient or as a garnish.
Salsas, learn to make 3 or 4 different types, don't think the better salsa recipes are loaded with ingredients. Authentic can be a simple as can tomatoes, jalapenos and salt.

Meat dishes, chicken or beef frajitas, chili colorado, carnitas.

Mexican or spanish rice

don't forget beans

What will happen after you have done one dish and want to try another, you will be stocking the spices and ingredients that will allow you to cook all kinds of mexican flavored dishes. The same goes with technique, you will learn some new stuff for cooking and then apply it to all kinds of dishes.

One small example. My wife and I have made quesadillas for our family for years. But we always used whatever cheese and ingredients we had around the house. My sis asked me to cook for her daughters Master Grad. party. It was a brunch. One of the items I cooked for 30 people was cheese quesadilla. I went to a MEX taqueria, a small drive thru with sit down, and a Mex restaurant, for taste and presentation tests. Each had a slightly different version of the basic cheese quesadilla. I then did a little research on the various Mex cheeses and spices used. Bingo, after a couple of practice sessions, I served 30 hungry people a mex cheese quesadilla that was a hit. That may sound extreme for such a simple dish, but sometimes the simple things can be elegant.

Good luck with your Mex food adventure...
post #22 of 32
One of my favorite things to do is going to a market, picking up a bunch of stuff and just taking a stab at it. i mean, thats got to be authentic. that is how recipes are made. those people took the ingredients from around them and made something edible with it. if you just pick up a bunch of ingredients form the same region and come up with something good, who cares if it is authentic?

the other thing that can be fun is to go to one of those restaurants and find somethign you like on the menu.then you can go home and try to make it yourself!

personally i find these kinds of discoveries to be more fun for me than copying a recipe from a book. unfortunately discovering things this way doesn't give you the education about the regional cuisine that a book would give you. using a combo is probaby the best way to do it.
post #23 of 32
I had the exact same desire. What I did was just ask them at the restaurant I eat at all the time if I could mentor in their kitchen for free. I go there when I have free time and have learned a ton. We to have a large Hispanic community and a few very authentic restaurants. I am also going to a small very authentic Italian place learning as well. I can't go to the local culinary school due to my rotating work schedule so this has been a great experience for me.
post #24 of 32
Thread Starter 
Perhaps that's an option I'll explore when I get back from Italy.

Made the simple Mexican rice recipe from Kennedy's book last night, came out good.

Question, it didn't seem like there was enough tomato in it, but maybe its because of the tomatoes I used?

I used 1 cup fresh diced tomatoes with the skin on, to 1.5 cups of rice.....seemed to dissapear, color wise. Still tasted great though.

post #25 of 32
Thread Starter 
Still on my Mexican kick, I made Pollo en Salsa de Fresadilla Y Chipotle from Kennedy's book. Fan-***cking-tastic. Just with whatever leftover corn and flour tortillas I had in the house. Dinner for 2 total+lunch tomorrow for 2....7$ and that's because I had to buy Mexican bay leafs and a bunch of extra garlic which will last me a while.

Tomatillos? 2lbs for 99cents and I needed only 1.5lbs.

Limes? 10cents at the Bravo Supermarket.

Chicken? 3.5lbs? 3.50.

I swear, next week, I'll attempt my own tortillas.

post #26 of 32
That looks delicious. Pretty sad though. I am so much closer to Mexico than you and your Tomatillos are half the cost of what I get them local for. I think I am going to do Tamales tomorrow. If not that it will be Peurco Guisado.
post #27 of 32
I was going to say as well, you rice don't look that bad to me. Wish I had a better pic of mine. I think mine is very close to any restaurant around here. I made up my mind for dinner tomorrow. It will be Peurco Guisado, rice, and beans. I don't think I am going to make the Spicy Jicima salad again even though it is fantastic. I made this menu about a week ago. The wife is craving it again.

post #28 of 32
Thread Starter 
THAT looks fantastic.
post #29 of 32
I second this.
post #30 of 32
When I think authentic Mexican the first thing to comes to mind is Mole.

Mole is one of those things what everyone make differently. They can have up to 200 ingredients and take over a day to make.

There are different kinds too, red, green, black, yellow. If made them all, and it can be done with just about any meat, however chicken turkey and pork are common.

The main authentic ingredients are probably mexican chocolate (in the red and black mole) and dried peppers. Sometimes I order specialty Mexican peppers here: Sweet Freedom Farm, Top Quality, Dried Chile Products, Rare Chile Seeds, Southwest Spices and Herbs

If you are interested I can dig up a mole recipe that a client sent from Puebla, the home of mole.

Ceviche is also good, but if I remember correctly you are not a huge fan of fish/seafood.

And sauces/marinades made with the dried chiles are also very authentic.
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