More Mexican Everyday: Simple, Seasonal, Celebratory by Rick Bayless, EPUB, AZW3, 0393081141

February 28, 2017

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More Mexican Everyday: Simple, Seasonal, Celebratory by Rick Bayless

  • Print Length: 384 Pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Publication Date: April 27, 2015
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081145
  • File Format: EPUB, AZW3

 

”Preview”

This book is dedicated to all home cooks. It is because of your simple acts of nourishing creativity that folks are drawn together with delight and open hearts.

Contents

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Acknowledgments

Introduction

PART ONE: Simple Ways to Create Dynamic Flavor

HOW TO WIN A TOP CHEF QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE

My Most Relied-on Equipment for Creating Great Flavor

Balance Is the Key to Any Great Dish

My Most Relied-on Pantry Items for Creating Great Flavor

Four Secret Weapons I Always Have in My Refrigerator

• Green Chile Adobo

• Quick Red Chile Adobo

• Roasted Garlic Mojo

• Sweet-Sour Dark Chipotle Seasoning

GO-TO MEALS TO KNOW BY HEART

• Creamy Roasted Poblano Rajas and Two Delicious Dishes to Make from Them

• Creamy Zucchini, Corn and Roasted Poblanos

• Roasted Poblano Cream Soup

• Roasted Tomato Salsa and Three Delicious Dishes to Make from It

• Huevos Rancheros

• Salsa-Braised Fish (or Tofu or Eggplant)

• Tomato–Green Chile Seafood Rice

• Roasted Tomatillo Sauce Base and Three Delicious Dishes to Make from It

• Roasted Tomatillo Enchiladas

• Tomatillo-Sauced Chilaquiles

• Pork (or Chicken) with Roasted Tomatillos, Poblanos and Potatoes

• Carne Asada Dinner

• Skillet Tacos

• Pork and Black Bean Dinner

• Weekend Dish: Red Peanut Mole with Chicken

• Red Chile Roast Chicken

• Chipotle Meatballs

PART TWO: Vegetables at the Heart of the Mexican Kitchen

COOKING GREENS

• Greens and Beans with Red Chile and Fresh Cheese

• Mustard Greens Soup with Poblanos and Almonds

• Crispy Cakes of Greens, Potato and Green Chile

• Eggs Poached with Ancho Chile, Kale, Potatoes and Fresh Cheese

• “Sturdy Greens” Salad with Mango and Habanero

TRADITIONAL MEXICAN VEGETABLES, NEW IDEAS

• Roasted Chayote with Herbs and Tofu (or Goat Cheese)

• Fresh Corn in Spicy-Herby Broth

• Herby, Spicy Fried Corn

• Steamed Roots with Roasted Poblano and Tomatillo

• Grilled Tostadas with Bacon, Avocado Mayo and Heirloom Tomatoes

• Pickled Tomatillo Salad with Little Gem Lettuce and Pumpkin Seeds

• Roasted Knob Onions with Crema and Aged Mexican Cheese

• Four Seasons Grilled Salad with Smoky Knob (or Green) Onions and Sesame

• Jícama-Beet Salad with Radicchio, Peanuts and Lime

• Nopal Cactus and Poached Egg in Roasted Tomato–Chipotle Broth

• Fresh Fava Bean Enfrijoladas

WINTER SQUASH, SUMMER SQUASH, BLOSSOMS AND A RELATIVE

• Butternut with Bacon, Tomatillo and Chipotle

• Weekend Dish: Fettuccine with Butternut Squash and Red Poblano Crema

• Kuri (or Butternut or Pumpkin) Soup with Ancho and Apple

• Pan-Roasted Summer Squash with Garlic Mojo and Güero Chile

• Spaghetti Squash Fideos with Chipotle, Chorizo, Crema and Avocado

• Charred Cucumber Salad with Red Chile and Lime

• Squash Blossom Soup

• Ribbon Salad with Creamy Two-Chile Vinagreta

UNEXPECTED VEGETABLES IN THE MEXICAN KITCHEN

• Roasted Sunchoke Salad with Creamy Garlic Mojo and Herbs

• Grilled Asparagus with Creamy Pasilla Chile

• Weekend Dish: Shell Beans and Artichokes with Roasted Tomatillos, Cilantro and Añejo Cheese

• Yellow Mole with Grilled Fennel and Portobello Mushrooms

• Celery Root Pancakes with Chipotle Crema and Cilantro

• Tangy Sorrel Salsa Verde with Stir-Fried Shrimp

• Banana Pepper–Leek Soup with White Beans and Crispy Chorizo

• Spicy Chipotle Eggplant with Black Beans

• Braised Artichokes with Tomatoes, Jalapeños, Olives and Capers

PART THREE: Daily Inspirations for Busy Cooks

BREAKFAST ANYTIME

• Spring Green Licuado

• Stone Fruit (or Mango) Licuado

• Carrot, Beet and Orange Licuado

• Xoco’s Granola

• Open-Face Red Chile–Chard Omelet

• Open-Face Squash Blossom Omelet with Charred Tomato, Chile and Goat Cheese

• Open-Face Egg-Chorizo Tortas

• Cornmeal Pancakes

• Butternut-Pecan Muffins with Brown Sugar Crumble

• Horchata French Toast

RICE-COOKER SIMPLICITY

• Creamy Rice and Beans in Three Classic Flavors

• Black Bean Rice with Plantains and Smoky Pork

• Chorizo Rice with Lentils

• Herb Green Chicken and Rice

• Chipotle Rice with Shrimp

• Mexican Red Rice and Three Delicious Dishes to Make from It

• Creamy Rice Soup with Poblano and Spinach

• Crispy Rice Cakes with White Beans, Roasted Garlic, Aged Cheese and Smoky Chile

• Spicy Bacon-and-Egg Fried Rice with Pickled Jalapeños and Cilantro

SLOW-COOKER SATISFACTION

• Mexican Chicken Soup

• Red Chile Short Rib Soup

• Weekend Dish: Red Chile Pozole with Pork

• Weekend Dish: Pork Carnitas Dinner

• Five Simple Meals from a Pot of Beans

• Silky Tortilla Soup

• Scrambled Eggs with Beans, Green Onions and Avocado

• Plantain-Bacon Enfrijoladas

• Beans and Greens with Clams and Chorizo

• Cheesy Open-Face Mollete

• Green Chile–Braised Beef with Potatoes and Caramelized Onions

• Lamb or Beef Barbacoa

• Roasted Garlic Chicken with Mushrooms, Potatoes and Spinach

THE GRILL, STOVE AND OVEN

• Weekend Dish: Slow-Grilled Pork Shoulder with Ancho Barbecue Sauce

• Green Chile Chicken Thighs

• Weekend Dish: Grilled Red Chile Ribs

• Grilled Lamb Chops with Charred Eggplant Salsa

• Weekend Dish: Queso Fundido Burger

• Grilled Salmon in Toasty Peanut Salsa

• Spicy, Garlicky Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Browned Butter, Toasted Nuts and Tequila Raisins

• Grilled Fish with Creamy Cool Cucumber Pipián

• Chicken Barbacoa

• Beer-Glazed Beer-Can Chicken

• Cilantro-Poached Halibut

• Mussels (or Clams) with Salsa Macha, Mexican Beer and Ham

A DOZEN DESSERTS: MEXICAN CHOCOLATE AND FARMERS’ MARKET FRUIT

• Mexican Chocolate–Pumpkin Seed Cake

• Unbaked Mexican Chocolate Flan

• Nutty Triple-Chocolate Pudding

• Warm Rice Pudding with Mexican Chocolate and Toasted Almonds

• Mexican Chocolate Truffles

• Mexican Chocolate Sorbet

• Coconut Bread Pudding

• Farmers’ Market Fruit with Warm Tequila-Lime Espuma

• Mango Ricotta Cheesecake

• Plantains (or Fresh Fruit) with 24-Hour Cajeta and Bitter Chocolate

• Raspberry Soft-Serve Ice Cream

• Coconut-Lime Ice Pops

Index

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am a very lucky guy, surrounded as I am by inventive, tireless and enthusiastic cooks for whom the flavors of the Mexican kitchen are the flavors of life. From the crack of dawn until our restaurants serve their last guests, someone on our team is exploring, creating and sharing something beautiful and delicious. Perhaps it’s the development staff for the Frontera retail line, JeanMarie Brownson and Kelsey Coday, working on the best flavors for barbacoa done slow-cooker style. Maybe it’s the Xoco staff—Wil Bravo, José Ramírez, Alonso Sotelo, Isaac Magaña, Adrian Black—working through a new take on pozole or a delicious new muffin or mollete. Though Tortas Frontera, our quick-service airport locations, seem simple, Andrew Gietzen and Renee Ragin invest endless amounts of creative energy in figuring out how to get local farmers’ market ingredients into the terminals and onto full-flavored Mexican tortas. And the Frontera Grill and Topolo chefs—Andrés Padilla, Richard James, Jennifer Jones, Joel Ramírez, Lisa Despres, Jennifer Melendrez, Brian Pirronen, Hector Cotorra, Jim Ortiz—innovate continuously, and so much of the endless stream of wonderful food they’ve shepherded into existence has made its way into these pages. Maybe not in the elegant way those dishes are offered to the guests in their respective dining rooms, but created with the same spirit.

And then there are the cooks of Mexico, who have inspired, perfected and so generously shared the seminal flavors without which there would be no More Mexican Everyday. They are the true heroes here, because they responded brilliantly to what was right in front of them—the geography, the history, the quirkiness of culture—and turned it into something memorable.

A book doesn’t just leap into existence, though. It takes an incredible amount of dogged determination to progress from the opening sentence to the final word. Deann Bayless is the one who provides the energy, intelligence and wisdom that makes it all happen. She was backed up by David Tamarkin, who edited, organized and played pinch-hit writer as we moved from the inception to completion. Katy Lawrence cooked—and recooked and recooked—every recipe, shopping in groceries all over town, trying out all kinds of equipment, talking to all types of cooks, just to make sure these recipes will become your go-to favorites.

Turning a book from uninspiring black-and-white manuscript pages to a thing of beauty requires skill I can only admire from a distance. Maria Guarnaschelli, my lifelong editor, is one of the few truly great culinary editors, and I thank her for another inspired collaboration. I also thank the team at Norton, including Sophie Duvernoy, Anna Oler, Joe Lops, Nancy Palmquist, and Susan Sanfrey. Doe Coover—my agent, my friend—gets the grand prize for allowing me to carve out creative space while balancing the demands of publishing timelines. Liz Duvall beautifully polished my occasionally coarse prose. And, of course, without the brilliant photographer Christopher Hirsheimer and stylist Melissa Hamilton, you’d never be fully inspired by the vast beauty and satisfaction that simple, everyday food can offer.

Writing a book is a consuming, long-term project. Though for some it can threaten familial stability, I can say that I have never felt anything but support from my wife, Deann, and my daughter, Lanie. Again, I say: I am a lucky man.

INTRODUCTION

I want you to cook more. It’s good for you. You know exactly what you’re nourishing yourself with (which for me almost always includes a healthy dose of fresh vegetables). It allows you to feel the natural rhythms of life in a way that microwaved frozen dinners never can. And cooking often draws people to the table, encouraging dialogue and providing a moment to appreciate the good (and truly tasty) things in life.

I know: if I want you to cook more, I need to make it easy for you. And to my way of thinking, that means I need to help you with three things: First, I need to help wean you from a slavish dependency on recipes—I need to hand you a few go-to recipes that are easily varied depending on what you have on hand, and teach you to look at other recipes with an eye to how they can be varied to suit your own tastes and kitchen. Second, I need to help you know what ingredients and basic preparations to have on hand so that a good meal is never more than a few minutes away. And third, I need to help you know which kitchen equipment will enable you to create delicious food fast (and, of course, I need to guide you in how to use it to its best advantage).

I can do all that.

And if you like the vibrant flavors of the Mexican kitchen (which, I believe, is why you’re holding this book in your hand right now) and want to enjoy them more frequently, I can help with that, too.

If you cooked through the first volume of Mexican Everyday, you know that each recipe was created to utilize a small number of easily available fresh ingredients, to be completed in a half hour or so, and to be what I call “weekday lean”—the kind of simple, flavor-packed, healthy food I like to eat Monday through Friday. These dishes make a beautiful complement to the kinds of weekend celebration dishes I like to make for family and friends.

More Mexican Everyday follows pretty much the same guidelines, though it’s a little less restrictive, for two reasons. One, more and more Mexican ingredients are available every week all across America. And two, since many of you told me that you were using my “everyday” recipes for your weekend “invite the friends over” cooking, I felt comfortable including a new special category of weekend-friendly recipes—simple dishes that may take a little longer in the kitchen, use less-common ingredients, or are a little richer than those I typically think of as “everyday.”

My wish for More Mexican Everyday is that it will be more than just a cook-book you turn to regularly for great-tasting dishes. I want it to be your guide to becoming a more confident and less recipe-dependent cook. That confidence will enable you to approach the stove with greater ease, more creativity and playfulness, and, yes, more frequency. That’ll be your tastiest reward of all.

HOW TO WIN A TOP CHEF QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE

When I was competing on Top Chef Masters, especially during the Quickfire challenges, I began to see a pattern in the dishes that won. Chefs who seemed to have a knack for making something delicious, beautiful and quick nearly always relied on the same three things to create their winning dishes. And it’s those things—those principles—that guided me when I put together all the recipes for this book. First, the chefs who won always seemed to have a laser focus. They kept their dish simple and clear, meaning that they could describe their dish in a short phrase, and when you looked at the finished plate, it was precisely that description come to life. Second, those winning chefs seemed to know instinctively just the right pots and pans, blenders, whisks and knives to use to create amazing flavor in no time flat. Third—and most important—they understood flavor (how to concentrate and balance it) and texture (how to utilize it to enhance deliciousness). The first two principles—honing simplicity and mastering equipment—are building blocks that anyone can master with a little practice. The third one—wrestling with flavor and texture—is every cook’s lifelong pursuit. Those who cook enough to journey a long way down that path become the great cooks whose food we all crave. Plus, they tend to be the cooks who are most successful at introducing innovation into tried-and-true tradition.

Cooks who’ve mastered that flavor-and-texture thing usually understand (intuitively or in a learned way) how to capitalize on umami, the “fifth flavor,” which blossoms beyond sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It is a concentration of what the scientists tell us are glutamates that creates an aura of deliciousness in a dish. If this is new to you, think about it this way: umami is what makes us smile (or swoon) when we taste cured meats or aged cheese or slow-cooked mushrooms or tomatoes. Another thing those cooks have figured out is how to weave together contrasting tastes (the tanginess of lime-marinated fish ceviche with bits of sweet-ripe tomato, the salty sweetness of cured pork with the bitterness of greens) and textures (the crispy crumbs on baked macaroni and cheese, the dollop of creamy guacamole on the perfect steak taco). These things are what keep all the senses engaged, bite after bite.

My Most Relied-on Equipment for Creating Great Flavor

I know most people imagine that my home kitchen is filled with pretty much all the gadgets and appliances ever thought up by kitchen inventors. It’s not. In fact, I find most of those inventions kind of annoying, space hogs designed for single tasks I only rarely perform. To illustrate how basic things can get for me, consider my “travel kitchen.” If I have an idea that I may be asked to cook something when I travel (it’ll come as no surprise that people ask me to whip up a little something pretty much everywhere I go), there are just two things I pack: a large, heavy nonstick skillet and my chef’s knife. Those are my two can’t-do-without pieces of kitchen equipment. If I find a basic heat source, I can turn out some pretty wonderful meals.

At home, however, I want a really good heat source, so I have invested in a good stove, one with powerful burners that can be adjusted really low, too. I like to cook on gas or induction burners (I find electric burners a little hard to control), though I must say that electric ovens typically provide quite even heating, the heat being drier than that of a gas oven (good for pastries). Convection is a plus for ovens, and once I really learned how to use mine, I found it comes in very handy for quick and even browning.

Besides a good stove, a refrigerator, a sink and a small workspace (all of which I like to be only a step or two apart), the equipment I most rely on is:

SHARP KNIVES: For everyday cooking, I use an 8-inch chef’s knife, either the traditional curved-blade one or the straight-blade Japanese-style Santoku. Divoted blades are said to release the food effortlessly from the blade, though my experience says they’re not much more effective than flat blades. There are many websites that rate different knives, but I’ve found myself agreeing regularly with the ratings at cooksillustrated.com. Besides my all-purpose chef’s knife, I frequently reach for my pointy paring knife, my serrated bread knife and, because I like to bone meat, my boning knife. On special occasions I use a thin-bladed slicing knife for big cuts of meat, but I could slice almost as effectively with my chef’s knife. Of course, if my knives aren’t sharp, they’re either useless or dangerous (more people cut themselves with dull knives than sharp ones). I sharpen my knives with a steel nearly every time I use them—just a few licks on a steel from the same manufacturer as the knife. About once a year, when I notice that my steel is no longer getting them sharp enough, I get out my whetstone and bring them back to full-on sharpness. The Internet offers many tutorials on how to sharpen your knives with steels and stones.

A HEAVY 12-INCH SKILLET: The reason many cooks have trouble creating restaurant-quality flavor is that they don’t have a large, heavy pan. A small, lightweight skillet won’t provide you with the room or even heating to brown meat or fish or vegetables properly, at least without working in frustratingly small batches. I have an inexpensive 12-inch cast-iron skillet that I bought nearly forty years ago, and it’s so well seasoned that nothing sticks to it. Yes, it’s heavy and requires me to clean it carefully (no soap, no harsh abrasives), dry it over a burner and oil it before putting it away. But it’s an amazing pan to cook in. Much easier to work with (lighter, a breeze to wash and store) is my 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet. That’s the one I take when I travel.

A BLENDER: Many folks, unless they’re into smoothies or blended cocktails, put their blenders away a long time ago. That is, unless they make the moles, pipianes and red chile sauces of real Mexican food. Honestly, a blender is the most used appliance in my kitchen. It reduces the tomatoes, tomatillos, nuts and seeds, dried chiles and so forth to as smooth a texture as I want—smoother than a food processor will give me, especially when nuts, seeds or most dried chiles are involved. The reason is simple: the design of a blender causes food to be pulled into close contact with blades that whir at a much faster speed than those of food processors. An immersion blender isn’t nearly as effective, though I like to use one for some simple salsas, tomato or tomatillo sauce and certain soups. I know they’re expensive, but my life changed when I got my first high-speed blender (it was a Vitamix). A high-speed blender can create stunning textures in a flash.

A GRILL AND A GRILL PAN: I really can’t cook without a grill. We have wood-burning grills or ovens in every restaurant I own. I have so many grills at home that my wife made me build a lean-to on the back of the house so I could get them out of the garage. The fireplace in my living room is big enough for me to set up a little “Tuscan grill” in it. And I have a cast-iron grill pan to use on the stove when I’m in a hurry. Why? Because grilled food is just about the most elementally attractive and thrillingly delicious food in the world—smoky char, I’m assuming, connects us to our ancient roots in an undeniably satisfying way. And that grill pan? Yes, there’s no flame, no charcoal, no wood, but I’ve used it to convincing effect when no grill was in sight.

A MORTAR: I know, I know. Who needs a mortar in this day and age? Unless, of course, you’ve adopted the back-to-basics, hipstery DIY thing (I’m old enough to have participated in the first iteration in the late ’60s). Or unless you’ve tasted a dish that has fresh-ground spices or a salsa that’s made from mortar-crushed roasted garlic and serrano chiles. Once is enough to convince you that you need a mortar. Most of the Mexican basalt (lava rock) mortars (molcajetes) that have been available in the United States (except in a few Mexican grocery stores) have been what I call “tourist models”—the ones that look great on your mantel but are made of such soft, pitted and porous basalt that they are useless in the kitchen, unless, of course, you’re into grinding the soft stone into food. Lately, though, I’ve seen real kitchen-worthy molcajetes showing up in the United States. The best are a uniform gray, heavy and solid-feeling, smooth on the outside and a little rough on the inside, and hold about 3 cups.

A FOOD PROCESSOR: What can I say? I really like my food processor and I use it a lot. Sure, my blender can breeze through all the hard pureeing tasks, and I could do all the remaining chopping and shredding by hand, but when I’m cooking quickly, I turn to my processor for ease and speed. It also makes awesome pie dough.

A MICROWAVE: Not too many chefs admit that they use a microwave, but I do, especially at home (we don’t have one in our restaurants’ kitchens). I use my microwave at home extensively for quick steaming of vegetables (as a quick, no-fuss steamer, my microwave is unparalleled), for heating corn tortillas, for melting chocolate, for occasional dehydrating in the more modernist tradition, for warming plates and, just like everyone else, for reheating food. If you are microwave averse, feel free to steam-blanch vegetables I’ve microwave-blanched. Because of its ease and speed, the microwave is called for frequently in these pages.

A SLOW COOKER: My slow cooker is a favorite piece of kitchen equipment for three reasons. First, whatever’s slowly cooking away in it fills the house with such a wonderful aroma that it puts me in a great mood for hours. Second, the temperature is so even and low that practically everything you put in it turns out juicy and tender. And third, beans cooked in a slow cooker have a creamy texture that I never get using a pot on the stovetop. As long as you don’t try to use your slow cooker for foods that should be cooked quickly, like chicken breasts, fish fillets and most green vegetables, what’s not to like? Simple, delicious, satisfying.

A RICE COOKER AND A PRESSURE COOKER: Okay, now I’m sounding like a geek, especially for someone who said he doesn’t fill his kitchen with a lot of gadgets and appliances. And I could easily do without either of these. But I wouldn’t be honest if I failed to tell you that I use them both in my everyday cooking. A rice cooker keeps the rice or rice dish at the ideal temperature even when I’m not serving for some time. Plus, I never have to worry about whether I’ve adjusted the heat under the rice to the ideal low temperature to ensure a perfect outcome. Now, about the pressure cooker: that’s less of a necessity. I asked for one for Christmas, and I’m here to report that when I don’t have all day to turn out beans or lamb stew or beef tongue, I reach for the pressure cooker. Truthfully, though, I use it more to make the most beautiful chicken stock ever and a stunning “cheater” risotto in about 6 minutes.

Balance Is the Key to Any Great Dish

You can have the best-equipped kitchen in the world, but if you don’t know how to cook—if you don’t have a sense of how to choose, develop and balance flavors—the dishes you turn out won’t be delicious. Sure, you can follow recipes from cooks who understand both how to cook really well and how to write good recipes (two very different skills, neither of which is easy to master). But better still, you can learn what makes a good dish and bring that to any preparation (written as a recipe or dreamed up in your head) and turn out something folks will talk about for a long time. Here are what I consider to be the basic principles.

BALANCE FUNDAMENTAL FLAVORS. What I mean by fundamental flavors are those your tongue can perceive: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami. The first four are easy for us to think about; I tackle umami in the section below. When I’m developing a dish, I quickly scan the ingredients to determine if all the fundamental flavors are present. And if they’re not, I figure out how to weave in the missing flavors. Take tomatillo sauce, for instance: It’s all about the sourness of tomatillo, so I need to balance that with sweetness, which I do in two ways—roasting the tomatillos (which develops natural sweetness) and adding additional sweetness from roasted garlic and onion. Char on the roasted tomatillos, garlic and onion adds just the right amount of bitterness. Now, I know many of us think of bitterness as something to stay away from, but we shouldn’t. A little bitterness always adds depth and complexity; too much can throw a dish out of whack. There’s very little naturally occurring sodium in tomatillos, so I need to add salt to get the balance right—a task that takes experience and one that I find beginning cooks have trouble with, especially in dishes that celebrate tanginess. I’ve also come across cooks who praise dishes with low sodium as ones that are morally superior, but I don’t buy it.

UNDERSTAND HOW TO PACK A DISH WITH UMAMI. When you take a bite of something and find yourself completely captivated by it, it’s usually because the dish is packed with umami. Umami, a concentration of glutamates, is found in fish and shellfish, cured meats, aged cheeses, mushrooms, seaweed, stuff that’s fermented and—this is really important for the cuisine I work in—a lot of ripe vegetables, especially tomatoes. Think about where you find great flavors in your life. Off-season, store-bought tomatoes have nothing to offer compared with ripe farmers’ market tomatoes. Steamed green beans aren’t nearly as appealing as ones cooked with cured bacon and caramelized onions. A simple lettuce salad dressed with white vinegar and vegetable oil won’t be nearly as memorable as one dressed with aged balsamic vinegar, olive oil and aged Parmesan cheese. The reason Caesar salad has been such a staple is that it relies on both aged Parmesan and anchovy, an umami bomb.

BALANCE TASTE AND TEXTURE. The scientists tell us that taste is 10% fundamental flavors and 90% aroma. So as cooks, we always have to be attuned to the complexity we’re working with. In our restaurant kitchens, we’re always putting words to the aroma side of tastes: “It tastes like a forest floor smells,” “Wow, there’s a hint of fresh-cut grass here,” “There’s something in the taste that reminds me of a rose garden.” The more we can articulate those earthy, complex, herbal, floral, citrusy, meaty, smoky, whatever tastes, the more we can think of combining them in balanced ways to create the most complex and appealing dishes. Typically, I like to balance textures as well as flavors. That’s pretty easy: most of us lump textures into general categories such as soft, crisp, crunchy, juicy, meaty/chewy, brothy/saucy, bready/starchy. With a few exceptions, I’ve noticed that the more of these categories I incorporate in a single dish, the more engaged people stay.

WHY WE LOVE ENCHILADAS VERDES: A CASE STUDY IN BALANCE. We’ve already gone over the fundamental flavors of a great tomatillo sauce, one that balances the natural sourness of tomatillos with sweetness (from roasted onion and garlic), bitterness (from that hint of roasting char) and saltiness. When we ladle that saucy, spicy, citrusy-tasting salsa verde over the satisfying starchiness and whole-grain goodness of corn tortillas that have been rolled around meaty chicken and strewn with bright-tasting, crunchy raw onion and herby-fresh cilantro—well, we’ve got a symphony of flavors and textures. If we’ve brined the chicken, it’ll be juicier and we’ll notice its natural umami more. If we grill or roast it, there will be delicious browning with a hint of bitter complexity. And if we sprinkle those enchiladas with aged Mexican cheese (queso añejo), we’ve sprinkled on what amounts to irresistible umami dust.

My Most Relied-on Pantry Items for Creating Great Flavor

My essential great-flavor pantry items are mostly Mexican, though a couple can be used in any style of cooking. The Mexican pantry items—and there really aren’t that many—contribute an unmistakable flavor, one that Mexican food lovers will gravitate toward wherever they find it. It’s a Mexican pantry, however, not a Mexican-American one, so it relies less on cumin, sour cream, shredded melting cheese and sweet-tangy salsas. Here are the bare necessities, my “must have on hand” for a well-stocked Mexican pantry:

Dried ancho chiles, to add sweet-smoky complexity and a gentle spiciness. I always have powdered dried ancho on hand, too, because it comes in handy for making a super-fast red chile adobo and a few other dishes. Look for shiny, supple chiles with a lot of aroma and store them in a closed container for up to six months.

ancho chiles

Dried guajillo chiles, to provide bright earthiness and an attractive spiciness. In Mexican markets you can find powdered dried guajillo, which can be mixed into an adobo or sprinkled on pozole or fruit or a steak destined for the grill. Whole dried guajillos should be shiny, supple and aromatic. They can be stored for six months or so in a closed container.

guajillo chiles

Canned chipotle chiles en adobo, to introduce a whole host of sweet-smoky flavors and an invigorating spiciness. Once opened, the chipotles can stay for a week or so in the refrigerator.

Fresh hot green chiles (serranos, jalapeños or pretty much any other small green chile) to add that grassy-green-flavored bright heat. In the vegetable bin of your refrigerator, fresh hot green chiles will last a week or more.

Fresh poblano chiles, for that unmistakably complex green chile flavor and a gentle spiciness. Like fresh hot green chiles, poblanos will last for a week or more in the refrigerator.

poblano chiles

Mexican añejo cheese (or perhaps another garnishing cheese, like Romano or Parmesan), for a walloping punch of salty, complex umami.

Canned fire-roasted tomatoes, because besides being packed with thrilling umami, fire-roasted tomatoes resonate with the flavors of central and southern Mexico, flavors that taught me how delicious food could be. Unless it’s the height of the season and you can roast vine-ripened farmers’ market tomatoes, I suggest you buy some of the fire-roasted canned tomatoes on the market for the fullest flavor.

Dried shiitake (or other) mushrooms, because they (and their soaking liquid) add depth and savoriness at a moment’s notice. Because they keep for six months or so in a tightly closed container, I always have them around.

Fresh tomatillos, because without them it is impossible to create very many truly Mexican-tasting dishes. Tomatillos offer a bright and complex tanginess unlike any other; they’re not really citrusy or vinegary but offer a distinctive tang that’s unique to the Mexican kitchen. Choose unblemished ones and store them loose in your vegetable bin. Though the papery husk may begin to deteriorate after a week or two, the tomatillos can last a month or two, depending on how fresh they are when you buy them.

tomatillos

Masa harina, the dehydrated and powdered corn masa from which corn tortillas are made. While I’m not the biggest fan of tortillas made from the dehydrated stuff, I always have masa harina on hand to thicken sauces or warm beverages like atole and champurrado, as well as to make quick tamal dough. Store it well wrapped at room temperature if you’re keeping it for only a few weeks, in the freezer if it’ll be around longer.

Onions and garlic, for their complex sweetness, which forms the backbone of so many Mexican sauces and salsas. In Mexico, only white onions are used for general cooking. Garlic is often the more pungent purplish variety with rather small cloves.

Cilantro and other Mexican herbs, such as oregano, epazote, hoja santa and banana leaves, because without their beautiful herbiness, many of us wouldn’t recognize certain dishes as Mexican. Cilantro is most common; I like to store it (and fresh parsley) rolled up in a spread-out layer on barely damp paper towels, placed in a plastic bag and kept in the refrigerator. Epazote can be stored the same way, though it’s hard to find outside Mexican groceries (it’s very easy to grow, though); dried epazote is a medicinal herb and offers no flavor for cooking. Hoja santa is very common in southern Mexico but not in U.S. groceries, even Mexican ones. It grows wild in Texas, is available from some restaurant herb purveyors and can be grown in warm climates (mine resides in my small greenhouse during the winter); otherwise it’ll be beyond your reach. Banana leaves, however, are much more widely available at Mexican, Asian and well-stocked grocery stores, typically in the freezer section (they freeze well). Keep them frozen until you need them to add their special gentle herbiness.

hoja santa

Crema, crème fraîche or Greek-style yogurt, because they all soften and embrace so many of the bolder flavors of the Mexican kitchen. The best crema in Mexico is very much like the French crème fraîche; in Mexican groceries in the States, what’s called crema is often leaner, mildly tangy and artificially thickened. American sour cream is also leaner, but it’s way tangier than the Mexican classic. If that’s the flavor I’m after, I typically use Greek-style yogurt rather than sour cream (because I usually have some in my refrigerator) and thin it with a little milk if it’s going to be spooned on top of a dish.

Worcestershire sauce, because it adds something similar to Asian soy and fish sauces: that element that draws you back to a dish bite after bite, that indescribable depth and deliciousness. A little Worcestershire makes pretty much anything it graces that much more attractive.

Bacon, because—and I know I’ll get both lauded and slammed for this—bacon really does make most things taste better. Besides being an umami bomb, as is any cured pork product, it has a sweet smokiness that is welcome practically anywhere.

Four secret weapons (from left): Quick Red Chile Adobo, Green Chile Adobo, Roasted Garlic Mojo, Sweet-Sour Dark Chipotle Seasoning

Four Secret Weapons I Always Have in My Refrigerator

If you could buy these four preparations in the grocery store, I’d have listed them above with my essential pantry items. Though they’re not available (yet), each is very simple to make and they all keep for months in your refrigerator. Having them on hand means you can always have beautiful Mexican flavor at easy access. They include two marinade-like adobos (a green chile–herb adobos I think of as a relative of pesto, and a bright red chile adobos), a slow-roasted garlic mojo (which provides delectable oil as well as sweet garlic solids) and a sweet-spicy-tangy-smoky chipotle flavoring. They all have dozens of uses and make my simple, everyday cooking really outstanding.

GREEN CHILE ADOBO • Adobo de Chile Verde

You’ll find this to be one of the most useful seasonings, because it offers a way to preserve fresh herb flavor—underscored with a little spicy green chile and roasted garlic. Think of it as a kind of Mexican pesto. And since the marriage of green chile and cilantro is iconic in the Mexican kitchen, I find myself utilizing this seasoning frequently as a way to get those flavors into my simple everyday cooking. This recipe has a good amount of oil, which will rise to the top and solidify when the mixture is refrigerated. That oil preserves color and freshness. After removing a spoonful of the solids to stir into your eggs or toss with pasta, make sure to smear the oily part flat again (or add more oil) to re-create that protective covering.

Makes about 1½ cups

½ head garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves

4 to 5 fresh serrano chiles, stems removed

1 large bunch cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off), roughly chopped (about 2 cups loosely packed)

1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, thick bottom stems cut off, roughly chopped (about 2 cups loosely packed)

1 cup olive oil

2 generous teaspoons salt

Set a large (10-inch) skillet over medium heat. Lay in the garlic and chiles and roast, turning regularly, until soft and browned in spots, about 10 minutes for the chiles and 15 for the garlic. (If you’re really short on time, you can soften them in a microwave: Cut a slit in each garlic clove and combine with the chiles in a microwavable bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the top and microwave at 100% for 30 seconds.) Cool until handleable, then slip off the garlic’s papery husks. Roughly chop everything (no need to remove the chile seeds).

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic and chiles with the cilantro, parsley, olive oil and salt. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary, until nearly smooth (it should look a little like pesto). Transfer to a pint-size jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator, where it will last several months.

The Simplest Uses for Green Chile Adobo

1. Toss with pasta and a little grated Mexican queso añejo, Parmesan or Romano

2. Mix into eggs before scrambling or making an omelet

3. Mix into sour cream (and/or mayonnaise) for a dip or sandwich spread

4. Whisk into a simple vinaigrette or creamy dressing

5. Smear over grilled or roasted vegetables (especially any beautiful summer squash you find in the farmers’ market)

6. Drizzle on bean dip or hummus

7. Mix with sashimi-grade raw fish and lime juice for an instant ceviche

8. Stir into meatloaf before baking

Recipes in More Mexican Everyday that use Green Chile Adobo

Skillet Tacos (here)

Roasted Chayote with Herbs and Tofu (or Goat Cheese) (here)

Creamy Rice and Beans in Three Classic Flavors (here)

Green Chile Adobo (here)

QUICK RED CHILE ADOBO • Adobo Rápido de Chiles Secos

Any sauce or marinade made primarily from dried ancho or guajillo or pasilla chiles is destined to be one of my favorites. I’ll be bolder and say it straight out: in my opinion, dried chile sauces, whether simple or elaborated into complex moles, are the crown jewel of Mexican cuisine. Unfortunately, for most American cooks, the dried chiles used to make them either seem impossibly foreign or are just plain unavailable. That’s why I figured out this super-easy, super-useful version of the classic red chile adobo. This version makes that beautiful dried chile flavor easily accessible to any American cook. It relies on the easier-to-work-with pure ancho powder, which looks like regular chili powder but contains no extra spices—only the powdered ancho chile. (If you can’t find powdered ancho at the grocery store, you can easily order it online.) If you cover ancho powder with boiling water, a velvety texture returns. And once you’ve worked in the rest of the adobo ingredients, you’ve got a beautiful, complex, dried chile marinade/seasoning, almost indistinguishable from one made with dried chile pods.

Two notes: If you fall in love with this adobo, feel free to double the recipe. And if you like a sweeter, toastier flavor, roast the garlic cloves (still in their papery skins) in a dry skillet over medium heat, turning them regularly until soft and blotchy black, about 15 minutes. Cool, peel and blend with the other ingredients.

Makes about 1⅓ cups

A scant ½ cup good-quality ancho chile powder (the amount you’ll get from a typical 2-ounce spice jar)

8 garlic cloves, peeled

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1½ teaspoons salt

Scoop the chile powder into a blender or small food processor. In a medium saucepan, bring 1¼ cups water to a boil. Pour the hot water over the chile powder, loosely cover the blender or secure the top of the processor and pulse to create a smooth slurry. Let cool.

Collect the garlic in a microwavable bowl, cover with water and microwave at 100% for 1 minute. Drain and add to the blender or food processor along with the spices, oregano, vinegar and salt. Process to a smooth puree. If necessary, stir in some water, a splash at a time, until the adobo is the consistency of barbecue sauce. Transfer the adobo to a pint jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator, where it will last for a couple of months.

Prefer to work with whole dried chiles?

If you don’t have any pure powdered ancho chile, you can make this simple adobo from pods. Remove the stems and seeds from 4 medium dried ancho chiles and toast in a dry skillet over medium heat for a minute or so (until very aromatic). When they have cooled, tear the chiles into small pieces, scoop into a blender and proceed with the recipe, blending the pods with boiling water, garlic, spices, oregano, vinegar and salt.

The Simplest Uses for Quick Red Chile Adobo

1. Use as a marinade for fish, scallops, shrimp, chicken or pork destined for the grill or skillet

2. Mix with ground pork for a quick Mexican chorizo

3. Add to pretty much any brothy soup for depth and interest

4. Use to season sautéed greens or potatoes

5. Use in simple vinaigrette to drizzle over a salad made with tomatoes, melon or apples

6. Add a little to rice as it cooks

Dishes in More Mexican Everyday that use Quick Red Chile Adobo

Skillet Tacos (here)

Red Chile Roast Chicken (here)

Eggs Poached with Ancho Chile, Kale, Potatoes and Fresh Cheese (here)

Chipotle Rice with Shrimp (here)

Red Chile Pozole with Pork (here)

Lamb or Beef Barbacoa (here)

Slow-Grilled Pork Shoulder with Ancho Barbecue Sauce (here)

Grilled Red-Chile Ribs (here)

Chicken Barbacoa (here)

Quick Red Chile Adobo (here)

ROASTED GARLIC MOJO • Mojo de Ajo Asado

I’ve written many different versions of this super-useful sweet garlic seasoning, from the laborious hand-minced garlic version, simmered slowly and carefully in olive oil until soft and golden, to the whole-clove, oven-baked version, which requires little more than an hour of your time. This version illustrates another approach, this one the absolute simplest—and the most roasted in flavor. Simply roast unpeeled garlic cloves in a dry skillet, slip them from their papery skins and pulse in a food processor with oil and seasonings. Make it with the larger quantity of oil if you, like me, want plenty of the garlicky oil to skim off the top for sautéing potatoes, basting grilled vegetables, making an omelet or a dressing, whipping into mayonnaise—pretty much anything you can dream up. Most of my mojo recipes call for a little chile. I’ve left it out here, so that you can add whatever seems appropriate when you’re using it.

Makes about 2 cups

4 heads of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves

1½ to 2 cups olive oil

¼ cup fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon salt

Set a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Lay in the garlic and roast, turning regularly, until soft and browned in spots, about 15 minutes. Cool until handleable, then peel, place in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped. With the machine running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream. Stop the machine, add the lime juice and salt and pulse to incorporate. Transfer the mojo to a pint-size jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator, where it will last for several months.

The Simplest Uses for Roasted Garlic Mojo

1. Use the oil to sauté shrimp or chicken, then spoon on the garlic just before serving

2. Toss with pasta, chile flakes, a handful of arugula and a little grated Parmesan

3. Spread a little on bread before you grill it or before you use it to build a sandwich

4. Spoon it onto roasted or grilled vegetables (especially good on mushrooms with a sprinkling of cilantro and some crumbled goat cheese)

5. Drizzle on popcorn, then sprinkle with grated Mexican añejo cheese and cilantro

6. Stir into mashed potatoes (or any other mashed root vegetables or winter squash)

7. Mash with avocado and roasted poblano for a delicious winter guacamole

8. Use in pretty much any stir-fry

Dishes in More Mexican Everyday that use Roasted Garlic Mojo

Pan-Roasted Summer Squash with Garlic Mojo and Güero Chile (here)

Roasted Sunchoke Salad with Creamy Garlic Mojo and Herbs (here)

Roasted Garlic Chicken with Mushrooms, Potatoes and Spinach (here)

Roasted Garlic Mojo (here)

SWEET-SOUR DARK CHIPOTLE SEASONING • Salsa Negra

Don’t think of this Veracruz specialty as a typical salsa, in spite of its Spanish name; it’s more of a seasoning paste, with deep, dark richness and smoldering heat—just right for adding depth and complexity to the simplest of dishes. The traditional version of this salsa is so involved (oil-roast the chiles and garlic, soak in raw-sugar water, puree and cook slowly in an oily pan for an hour or more) that no one really makes it at home. Which is the reason I worked on a quick cheater version, but one that, to my taste, is pretty darn close to the original.

Makes about 2 cups

Two 7½-ounce cans chipotle chiles en adobo (canning liquid and all)

2 tablespoons molasses

¼ cup balsamic vinegar or sweet sherry vinegar

¼ cup (packed) dark brown sugar

¼ cup soy sauce

Salt

Place the two cans of chiles (and their canning liquid), molasses, vinegar, sugar and ½ cup water in a blender and process until completely smooth. Scrape into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Let the mixture come to a brisk simmer, then turn the heat to medium-low and continue simmering, stirring regularly, until the mixture is the consistency of tomato paste, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the soy sauce. If necessary, add some water, a splash at a time, until the salsa is the consistency of runny ketchup. Cool, taste and season with salt; it may not need any, depending on the saltiness of your soy sauce. (That said, keep in mind that salsa negra should be seasoned highly, both to preserve it for longer storage and to make it useful as a seasoning.) Transfer the salsa to a pint-size jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator, where it will last for a month or two.

The Simplest Uses for Sweet-Sour Dark Chipotle Seasoning

1. Spoon onto raw oysters or add to cocktail sauce for shrimp

2. Toss with nuts and a little oil and bake for a delicious nibble

3. Toss with shrimp or smear on chicken after sautéing or grilling

4. Use as a glaze for practically anything off the grill. It’s particularly good on tuna, mackerel and sardines, as well as eggplant.

5. Believe it or not, it’s good on peanut butter–banana sandwiches

6. Use instead of Worcestershire and hot sauce for a spicy bloody Mary

7. Stir into cream cheese with crumbled bacon for an amazing bagel spread

8. Stir into caramel sauce and use as a dip for apples

9. Add to the pot when braising shortribs

Dish in More Mexican Everyday that uses Sweet-Sour Dark Chipotle Seasoning

Spicy Chipotle Eggplant with Black Beans (here)

Sweet-Sour Dark Chipotle Seasoning (here)

GO-TO MEALS

TO KNOW BY HEART

Creamy Roasted Poblano Rajas and Two Delicious Dishes to Make from Them

Creamy Zucchini, Corn and Roasted Poblanos

Roasted Poblano Cream Soup

Roasted Tomato Salsa and Three Delicious Dishes to Make from It

Huevos Rancheros

Salsa-Braised Fish (or Tofu or Eggplant)

Tomato–Green Chile Seafood Rice

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce Base and Three Delicious Dishes to Make from It

Roasted Tomatillo Enchiladas

Tomatillo-Sauced Chilaquiles

Pork (or Chicken) with Roasted Tomatillos, Poblanos and Potatoes

Carne Asada Dinner

Skillet Tacos

Pork and Black Bean Dinner

Weekend Dish: Red Peanut Mole with Chicken

Red Chile Roast Chicken

Chipotle Meatballs

Creamy Roasted Poblano Rajas and Two Delicious Dishes to Make from Them

Rajas Poblanas con Crema

I could write riffs on this marriage of roasted poblano chiles and cream all day long. It can be made into the perfect creamy accompaniment to a piece of grilled fish or steak. It’s delicious spooned onto a grilled chicken taco. It’s perfect when blended with chicken broth (with maybe a little corn thrown into the blender) for a delicious soup that welcomes crispy tortilla chips or roasted zucchini or something luxurious like crab or shrimp. If you keep your creamy blended poblano mixture on the thicker side, it’s a crowd-pleasing sauce for crowd-pleasing sautéed chicken breasts. And when it’s made with the red poblanos that make an appearance at our farmers’ market every fall, the result is beyond delicious. You quickly get the picture: roasted poblanos and cream is one of the most versatile and delicious starting-point preparations I know.

An average poblano chile weighs about 4 ounces, and for every pound of poblanos (typically 4) you need about ¾ cup cream (Mexican crema, crème fraîche or heavy cream). That’s really all you need to know. Adding garlic, onions, herbs, other vegetables, broth—that’s up to your taste, mood and, ultimately, what role your crema poblana is going to play.

Makes about 2 cups

No matter how I’m ultimately going to use my roasted poblanos and cream, I start by making classic Rajas Poblanas con Crema. If a gas flame (or charcoal fire) is available to me, I roast directly over high heat, turning frequently,

4 (about 1 pound total) medium fresh poblano chiles

I want the heat intense so the tough skin of the chiles will blister and blacken before the flesh has softened too much. It shouldn’t take much more than 5 minutes to roast a chile on an open flame. (When using only one burner, I roast the poblanos in batches.) If only an electric stove is available, I heat the broiler, adjust the shelf as high as it will go, lay the chiles on a baking sheet and slide them under the broiler. As they blister and blacken, I turn them until all are uniformly charred, about 10 minutes. (Broiler-roasting works fine, though the chiles’ flesh tends to get a little more cooked and takes on less smoky flavor than when flame-roasting.)

Whether the chiles are broiler- or flame-roasted, when they are evenly blackened, I collect them in a bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel to trap a little steam to loosen the charred skin. (Some cooks put them in a plastic bag, but for me, that traps too much steamy heat, leading to flesh that’s softer—more cooked—than I like.) When the chiles have cooled enough to be handleable, I rub off their charred skin, remove the seedpods, then rinse the peeled, seeded flesh briefly under cool water. Last, I slice the roasted chiles into ¼-inch strips.

Roasting a poblano chile on the stovetop

Peeling the roasted poblano

Seeding the poblano

Rinsing the poblano

Slicing the roasted poblano

Poblano in all stages of preparation

To finish the rajas a la crema, I heat over medium-high in a very large (12-inch) skillet

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

When hot, I add

1 large white onion, sliced ¼-inch thick

Slicing a white onion

Sliced onion

and cook, stirring regularly, until the onion is richly browned but still a little crunchy, about 7 minutes. Then I stir in

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

½ teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

After a minute or so, when the garlic is fragrant, I stir in the chile strips and

¾ cup Mexican crema, crème fraîche or heavy cream (if I’m planning on turning the rajas into soup, Greek-style yogurt is also an option)

When the cream has thickened enough to coat the chiles nicely, which takes only a couple of minutes over medium-high heat, though they need to be stirred nearly constantly, I taste the mixture and season it with salt, usually about ½ teaspoon. This is the perfect accompaniment for grilled meat or fish tacos, for steak or pork chops, or for grilled, sautéed or broiled fish or chicken.

Ingredients for Creamy Roasted Poblano Rajas (here)

Cooked rajas mixture before adding the crema

A RECAP OF WHAT YOU NEED:

4 (about 1 pound total) medium fresh poblano chiles

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

1 large white onion, sliced ¼-inch thick

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

½ teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

¾ cup Mexican crema, crème fraîche or heavy cream

Salt

CREAMY ZUCCHINI, CORN AND ROASTED POBLANOS • Calabacitas y Elote con Rajas y Crema

Makes about 4 cups, enough for 12 generous tacos

When I want a vegetarian soft taco filling, I heat in a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

When really hot, I add

4 (about 1 pound total) zucchini, cut into cubes a little smaller than ½ inch

I cook the zucchini, stirring and turning the pieces frequently, until they are richly browned all over. That’s when I add

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

and I let that brown, too (which takes just a couple of minutes). I scrape in the 2 cups of rajas, along with

1 sprig epazote, leaves removed and thinly sliced (if I have it) OR ¼ cup chopped cilantro

When everything comes to a simmer over medium heat, I add a couple more tablespoons of crema (or one of its stand-ins) if I think the mixture needs it, taste the dish for salt and scrape it into a serving bowl. Though it’s not absolutely necessary, the mixture is delicious sprinkled with

¼ cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese

Creamy Zucchini, Corn and Roasted Poblanos

A RECAP OF WHAT YOU NEED IN ADDITION TO RAJAS:

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

4 (about 1 pound total) zucchini, cut into cubes a little smaller than ½ inch

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 sprig epazote, leaves removed and thinly sliced

OR ¼ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese

ROASTED POBLANO CREAM SOUP • Crema Poblana

Makes about 6 cups, serving 4 to 6

When I want a soup, I add to the skillet with the rajas

1 medium (4 ounces) red- or white-skin boiling potato, peeled and grated OR ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

and cook the mixture, stirring regularly over medium heat, until the potato is tender (the corn just has to heat through), about 4 minutes. Then I scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor, cover (loosely for the blender), process until smooth, scrape into a large (4-quart) saucepan and stir in

2 cups vegetable broth, chicken broth, seafood broth or milk

I taste the soup for salt (it usually needs ½ teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of the broth), set it over medium heat and decide what I want to add: vegetables, chicken or shellfish. You need about 2 cups total (a little more if you’re using shrimp). If you’re just adding one item, I’d suggest

2 cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely shredded, boneless grilled or rotisserie chicken

OR 2 cups vegetables (fresh or frozen corn kernels; steamed, cubed potatoes or zucchini) OR 3 cups (about 1 pound) peeled, deveined, and cooked small to medium shrimp or bay scallops

I’m sure you can think of other additions (cooked cubes of chayote or parsnips, coarsely chopped spinach or kale or chard, butternut or other winter squash when you make the soup with red poblanos). This is a very versatile soup, one that can serve four as a first course or two for dinner (with extra left over for lunch the next day).

I ladle the soup into bowls and top each one with one or more of the following:

Crisp-fried tortilla strips or broken chips

Crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese

Mexican crema, sour cream, crème fraîche or Greek-style yogurt

Roasted Poblano Cream Soup (here)

A RECAP OF WHAT YOU NEED IN ADDITION TO RAJAS:

1 medium (4 ounces) red- or white-skin boiling potato, peeled and grated

OR ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

1½ cups vegetable broth, chicken broth, seafood broth or milk

2 cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely shredded, boneless grilled or rotisserie chicken

OR 2 cups vegetables (fresh or frozen corn kernels; steamed, cubed potatoes or zucchini)

OR 3 cups (about 1 pound) peeled, deveined, and cooked small to medium shrimp or bay scallops

Crisp-fried tortilla strips or broken chips

Crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese

Mexican crema, sour cream, crème fraîche or Greek-style yogurt

Bonus: Simple Poblano Cream Sauce

For a smooth poblano cream sauce, I simply scrape the Creamy Roasted Poblano Rajas into a blender or food processor while warm, cover (loosely for the blender), process it until smooth, scrape it into a saucepan, thin it with a little more crema (or one of its stand-ins) or a little broth or water and taste for salt. (I know a lot of you might think that using water will result in a watered-down sauce. It doesn’t. In fact, using water gives the sauce the cleanest, toastiest rajas flavor.)

Simple Poblano Cream Sauce over chicken breasts

Roasted Tomato Salsa and Three Delicious Dishes to Make from It

Salsa de Molcajete y Tres Platillos Deliciosos que la Utiliza

In the United States, homemade salsa often means a chopped pico de gallo–style fresh tomato version. What we buy in jars is more like Mexico’s very common molcajete salsa, the best ones (in Mexico and in American jars) being made from roasted tomatoes, jalapeños and garlic. Given the fact that the best off-season tomatoes you can buy never compare with the farmers’ market variety, I only make chopped, fresh tomato salsas in the summer, when tomatoes are at their peak.

Roasted Tomato Salsa is something else entirely. Because we can all lay our hands on decent fire-roasted tomatoes in a can when farmers’ market tomatoes aren’t around, this is a recipe that can be made year-round. And besides being a good salsa for tacos and chips, it can be relied on for many other dishes such as great huevos rancheros, salsa-baked fish (or chicken or tofu or vegetables) or a simple but dressy arroz a la tumba (salsa-infused rice with seafood). Classic, available and useful—that’s why it’s one of my go-to recipes.

Makes a generous 2 cups

If I have fresh tomatoes, I heat a broiler, adjust the rack as high as it will go, and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet

1 pound (about 2 medium-large round or 4 to 5 plum) ripe tomatoes

3 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 to 2 small fresh jalapeño chiles, stemmed

½ small white onion, sliced ½-inch thick

After sliding them onto the high rack, I roast everything until the tomatoes are softening, blackened and blistered on one side, usually about 6 minutes, then I turn everything and roast the other side. The tomatoes, garlic and chiles should be soft to create the best texture and flavor in the salsa. When cooled, I roughly chop the chiles (no need to remove the seeds), slip off and discard the papery skin of the garlic and peel off most of the skin from the tomatoes. In the classic, 3-cup-capacity lava-rock mortar (molcajete), I crush the garlic and chiles to a paste. Then, one by one, I add the tomatoes and crush them to a coarse puree, adding any juices from the baking sheet. This takes a little patience (as well as practice), but you’ll get the sweetest and richest flavor by using a mortar. (No mortar? I pulse the garlic and roughly chopped chiles in a food processor until finely chopped, then I add the tomatoes with any juices from the baking sheet and pulse a few times until I have a coarse puree.)

I scrape the salsa into a bowl, then chop the roasted onion into small pieces (I like ones about ¼ inch) and stir them in. I usually need to stir in about ¼ cup water to give it an easily spoonable consistency. Last, I taste the salsa and season it with salt (usually about ¾ teaspoon)

For canned fire-roasted tomatoes, I follow all the same steps—broiler-roasting garlic, chiles, onions—but instead of the roasted and peeled fresh tomatoes I use

One 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

Raw ingredients for Roasted Tomato Salsa (here)

Roasted ingredients for the salsa

Peeling roasted tomatoes

Peeled roasted tomatoes

Roasted jalapeño and garlic in a molcajete

Crushing the jalapeño and garlic

Crushing in the roasted tomatoes

Salsa de Molcajete

A RECAP OF WHAT YOU NEED:

1 pound (about 2 medium-large round or 4 to 5 plum) ripe tomatoes

OR one 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

3 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 to 2 small fresh jalapeño chiles, stemmed

½ small white onion, sliced ½-inch thick

Salt

HUEVOS RANCHEROS

This recipe is about as archetypal as it comes. Most cooks either use steamy-soft just-baked corn tortillas for their huevos rancheros or they soften ones that have cooled and stiffened by quick-frying them on both sides in an oily skillet. Since most of us use cold corn tortillas, I’ve spelled out a simpler, less oily way to heat them. Top the tortillas with sunny-side-up eggs, spoon on warm Roasted Tomato Salsa, scatter on a few garnishes if that appeals and the meal is ready. In my opinion, huevos rancheros are perfect any time of day.

Serves 4

First I turn on the oven to 350 degrees, then lay out on my countertop

8 corn tortillas, preferably from a local tortilla factory

I spray or lightly brush both sides of each tortilla with a little oil, stack them up, slip them into a plastic bag, fold it over and microwave them at 100% for 1 minute. I let them stand for a minute (to uniformly absorb the heat).

Heated tortillas

In a very large (12-inch) heavy skillet (preferably nonstick), I heat over medium

Enough vegetable or olive oil to coat the bottom lightly

When it is quite warm—not smoking hot—I crack in

8 eggs

The fresher the eggs are, the less they’ll run, making them easier to fit into the skillet. (If I don’t have a 12-inch skillet, I do them in batches, sliding them onto a plate when they’re done, then reheating them in the oven just before serving.) I sprinkle them generously with salt and let them cook slowly, lowering the heat if necessary, until the whites are set but the yolks are still bright yellow and runny; that takes about 6 minutes.

When the eggs are ready, I open up the hot, soft tortillas, lay 2 tortillas overlapping on each of 4 warm plates and top with 2 eggs. I immediately return the skillet to high heat and add

2 cups Roasted Tomato Salsa (here)

When it comes to a boil, I stir in a little more water (usually about ¼ cup) to give it a saucy consistency, then spoon the sauce over the eggs, leaving the yolks exposed. Before carrying them to the table, I like to sprinkle the plates with

About ¼ cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese

A handful of cilantro leaves

Thinning Roasted Tomato Salsa with water

Finished Roasted Tomato Salsa sauce

Spooning on Roasted Tomato Salsa to make Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros (here)

A RECAP OF WHAT YOU NEED:

8 corn tortillas, preferably from a local tortilla factory

Vegetable or olive oil

8 eggs

Salt

2 cups Roasted Tomato Salsa (here)

About ¼ cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese

A handful of cilantro leaves

SALSA-BRAISED FISH (OR TOFU OR EGGPLANT) • Pescado Horneado con Salsa de Molcajete

This preparation, which might look like “smothered” fish if you were raised in the South, has a place among those I think you should know by heart, because you can make it anywhere that has a burner, any time of the year, with practically anything you can scrounge up to stand in the center of the plate: fish, shrimp, chicken, pork chops, tofu, vegetables. Though it’s hands-down the best with homemade salsa crafted from farmers’ market tomatoes, I’ve made it with canned fire-roasted tomatoes, or, in a pinch, good-quality jarred salsa. If you’re eating light, a salad alongside is enough. Usually I like to have rice or beans or roasted potatoes to fill out the meal.

Serves 4

First I choose what’s going in the center of the plate:

Four 5-ounce (1¼ pounds total) skinless fish fillets (snapper, halibut, walleye, even salmon), preferably about 1 inch thick

OR one 14-ounce package firm tofu, cut into 8 slices OR 8 slices cut from a medium (about 14 ounces) eggplant—2½ to 3 inches in diameter

In a very large (12-inch) skillet, I heat over medium-high

Enough vegetable or olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan

When it’s very hot, I dry off the fish, tofu or eggplant with paper towels, sprinkle it generously on both sides with salt and lay it in the pan. When it’s richly browned on one side, about 3 minutes, I flip it over and brown the other side. Then I spoon over everything

2 cups Roasted Tomato Salsa (here)

and immediately reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and let the fish/tofu/eggplant coast to perfect doneness, about 2 minutes.

I carefully scrape the salsa off the top and divide the fish/tofu/eggplant among 4 warm dinner plates. Usually the salsa in the pan has thickened more than I like, so I stir in a few tablespoons water, taste it for salt, then spoon it over the plates. This is best when sprinkled just before serving with

Several tablespoons chopped cilantro

Salsa-Braised Fish (here)

A RECAP OF WHAT YOU NEED:

Four 5-ounce (1¼ pounds total) skinless fish fillets (snapper, halibut, walleye, even salmon), preferably about 1 inch thick

OR one 14-ounce package firm tofu, cut into 8 slices

OR 8 slices cut from a medium (about 14 ounces) eggplant, 2½ to 3 inches in diameter

Vegetable or olive oil

Salt

2 cups Roasted Tomato Salsa (here)

Several tablespoons chopped cilantro

TOMATO–GREEN CHILE SEAFOOD RICE • Arroz a la Tumbada

The first time most of my American friends taste this dish, they describe it as a brothy paella: rice, seafood, some tomato, a little spice and herb and enough broth to make it soul-satisfyingly soupy. At my house, everything for making arroz a la tumbada is always there, except, of course, the fish, shrimp and mussels or clams, which I insist on procuring the same day I make the dish. For me, the mussels or clams are pretty much a must: as they open in the pot of cooking rice, they release their beautiful seaside flavor, making the chicken broth taste pretty much like fish broth. I have on occasion doubled the mussels or clams and skipped the fish and shrimp altogether. Everything else is up for grabs. If either the shrimp or the fish isn’t available (or doesn’t look like something I want to eat), I replace whatever’s MIA with more of the other. In just a few minutes more than it takes to cook a pot of rice, you can have a company-worthy dinner on the table, which is why this classic, Veracruz-style dish is one you should know by heart.

Serves 4

In a large (4-quart) saucepan, I heat over medium-high

2 tablespoons oil (olive oil tastes great here, but vegetable oil will do)

When it’s hot, I scoop in

2 cups Roasted Tomato Salsa (here)

and I stir it as it cooks down until the mixture starts looking shinier; that’ll take about 5 minutes. This fuses the flavors and enhances the sweetness of the tomatoes. That’s when I add

1 cup rice (my preference is for the meatier texture of medium-grain rice, though long-grain rice will work fine)

and stir it slowly for 2 minutes with a wooden spatula, scraping the bottom of the pan so that nothing burns or sticks. Then it’s time to add almost everything else:

4 cups chicken broth

½ pound meaty, skinless fish fillet (mahimahi, halibut, sea bass), cut into ½-inch cubes

12 big mussels (about 6 ounces) or small clams (about 12 ounces), scrubbed, any beards pulled out

1 big sprig of epazote (if I have it)

I season the whole thing with salt (about ½ teaspoon if the broth is salted, 1 teaspoon if it’s not). When the liquid comes to a simmer, I reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and set the timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, I taste a little of the rice: if it’s still a little crunchy at the center, I re-cover the pot and cook it for a few minutes longer, then test again. When the rice is just barely cooked through—don’t let it cook any longer, or both the fish and the rice will take on a mushy, overcooked texture—I turn off the heat and gently stir in

12 medium-large (about 8 ounces) shrimp, peeled and deveined, if you wish

I re-cover the pot, set the timer for 5 minutes, then give the broth a taste and season it with a little more salt if necessary. And if I didn’t use any epazote (or even if I did), I stir in

About ½ cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

After ladling the mixture into big bowls, I carry it to the table and serve it with

1 lime, cut into wedges

for each person to squeeze on al gusto.

Tomato–Green Chile Seafood Rice (here)

A RECAP OF WHAT YOU NEED:

2 tablespoons oil

2 cups Roasted Tomato Salsa (here)

1 cup medium-grain or long-grain rice

4 cups chicken broth

½ pound meaty, skinless fish fillet (mahimahi, halibut, sea bass), cut into ½-inch cubes

12 big mussels (about 6 ounces) or small clams (about 12 ounces), scrubbed, any beards pulled out

A big sprig of epazote (if you have it)

Salt

12 medium-large (about 8 ounces) shrimp, peeled and deveined, if you wish

About ½ cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

1 lime, cut into wedges

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce Base and Three Delicious Dishes to Make from It

Salsa de Tomate Verde Asado con Tres Platillos Deliciosos que la Utiliza

No other cuisine on our planet uses tomatillos the way Mexico does. In fact, most people don’t even know what tomatillos are, which to my way of thinking is a pity. They’re wonderfully citrusy and herby, with a nice amount of complexity, especially when they’re roasted. Plus, they create the most beautiful, near velvety consistency in any sauce they grace. For me, tomatillo sauce is an icon of the Mexican kitchen, and this base is the foundation of a great one.

Makes 2 cups

For any tomatillo-sauced dish, I first make a roasted tomatillo base. On a rimmed baking sheet, I spread out

1 pound (6 to 8 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed

4 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 or 2 fresh serrano chiles

1 small white onion, sliced ½-inch thick

I slide the baking sheet as close up under my preheated broiler as possible. After 4 or 5 minutes, when everything is blotchy black and softening, I turn the vegetables and roast the other side. I’m looking for everything to cook through (they should be soft) while taking on an attractive bit of rustic char. Once the vegetables are roasted, they need to cool a little on the countertop.

When the vegetables have cooled down enough to handle, I slip the skins off the garlic and pull the stems off the chiles. In a blender, I combine the tomatillos (and any juice on the baking sheet), garlic, chiles, onion and a scant teaspoon salt and blend everything to a coarse puree. I now have the base for a great roasted tomatillo-sauced dish.

To turn this base into a simple tomatillo sauce, I heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil over medium-high, add the base and let it reduce and concentrate for about 4 minutes. When it’s thicker than tomato sauce, I stir in 1½ cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water and ¼ cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley. I season the sauce with about ½ teaspoon salt, turn the heat down and let it simmer until I need it.

Raw ingredients for Roasted Tomatillo Sauce (here)

Roasted ingredients for Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

A RECAP OF WHAT YOU NEED:

1 pound (6 to 8 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed

4 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 or 2 fresh serrano chiles

1 small white onion, sliced ½-inch thick

Salt

ROASTED TOMATILLO ENCHILADAS • Enchiladas Verdes

Enchiladas, like chilaquiles and scrambled egg tacos, provide quick, sure-fire comfort for me. They’re the perfect balance of toothsome texture (supple corn tortillas and a little meat, seafood or vegetables), brightness (tomatillo sauce), savoriness (Mexican cheese) and freshness (onions and cilantro). Enchiladas, when well made, are simple perfection, which is why I’ve included them in my go-to meals.

Serves 4

First I make the sauce. In a large (10-inch) skillet over medium-high heat I measure

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, bacon drippings or freshly rendered pork lard

When it’s hot, I add

2 cups Roasted Tomatillo Sauce Base (here)

I let the sauce reduce and concentrate, stirring it frequently, for about 4 minutes. When it’s thicker than spaghetti sauce, I stir in

1½ cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

¼ cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley OR a large sprig of epazote

I season the sauce with salt (usually a generous ½ teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of the broth), turn the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer while I prepare the filling.

Though these enchiladas are good filled with 1 pound of raw ground beef, pork or turkey that’s been cooked in a little oil with chopped onion in a skillet until browned and seasoned with salt, I like them better with coarsely shredded cooked chicken, pork, beef or fish. Even shredded melting cheese or goat cheese is good. I measure out

2¾ cups (12 ounces) cooked, coarsely shredded, boneless chicken, pork or beef (this is a good place for rotisserie chicken or leftover roasted or braised meats)

OR 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (such as Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar OR 1½ cups (12 ounces) goat or dryish ricotta cheese

When I’m ready to start building my enchiladas, I turn on the oven to 400 degrees. I spray or brush with oil both sides of

8 corn tortillas, preferably from a local tortilla factory

Then I stack them up, slip them into a plastic bag, fold it over and microwave them at 100% for 1 minute. I let them stand for a minute (to uniformly absorb the heat) while I stir a little sauce into the meat to moisten it (the cheese needs no sauce). Then I lay out the tortillas on the counter, top them each with a portion of the meat or cheese, roll them up and fit them into a 13×9-inch baking pan. I spoon the hot sauce over them (covering the whole tortilla to keep the ends from drying out), slide them into the oven and bake just until heated through, about 4 minutes. Longer in the oven means mushy enchiladas.

To serve the enchiladas, I simply use a spatula to transfer them to dinner plates. They’re better, however, when I garnish them with a dairy product (for a little richness, umami and balance to the tomatillos’ natural tang), such as

Dollops of Mexican crema, sour cream, crème fraîche or Greek-style yogurt thinned with a little milk

OR A few tablespoons grated Mexican queso añejo or other garnishing cheese such as Romano or Parmesan

OR a handful of shredded Mexican melting cheese (such as Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar; you can sprinkle it over the enchiladas before they go into the oven

and a final sprinkling of

A few slices of white onion

A handful of cilantro leaves (if I have them)

 

 

The follow-up to Rick Bayless’s best-selling Mexican Everyday features a dozen “master-class” recipes you’ll want to learn by heart, more than 30 innovative vegetable dishes, Rick’s secret weapon flavorings to weave into your favorite dishes, and many other brand-new creations from his kitchen.

Rick Bayless transformed America’s understanding of Mexican cuisine with his Mexican Everyday. Now, ten years later, Rick returns with an all-new collection of uniquely flavorful recipes, each one the product of his evolution as a chef and champion of local, seasonal ingredients.

More Mexican Everyday teaches home cooks how to build tasty meals with a few ingredients in a short amount of time. Cooking Mexican couldn’t be easier, or more delicious. Rick generously reveals the secrets of his dishes—the salsas and seasonings, mojos and adobos he employs again and again to impart soul-satisfying flavor. He explains fully the classic techniques that create so many much-beloved Mexican meals, from tacos and enchiladas to pozole and mole. Home cooks under his guidance will be led confidently to making these their go-to recipes night after night.

“Everyday” Mexican also means simplicity, so Rick dedicates individual chapters to illustrate skillful use of the slow cooker and the rice cooker. Also included are a special variation of the classic chicken-and-rice pairing, Arroz con Pollo, with an herby green seasoning, and an addictive roasted tomatillo salsa that’s flavored with the same red chile seasoning brushed on his lush Grilled Red-Chile Ribs.

Rick loves to highlight the use of seasonal, diverse vegetables. The heart of this cookbook is devoted to modern creations that range from a Jícama-Beet Salad inspired by Mexico’s classic Christmas Eve salad to a sweet-and-tangy butternut braise. Rick’s flexible imagination also transforms breakfast into a meal for any hour. His Open-Face Red Chile–Chard Omelet is as great for Wednesday night dinner as it is for Sunday brunch. Not to be forgotten is Rick’s array of show-stopping desserts, among them Mexican Chocolate–Pumpkin Seed Cake and Fresh Fruit with 24-Hour Cajeta and Bitter Chocolate. In all his recipes, Rick carefully guides you through every step, suggesting ways to invent, adapt, and simplify without sacrificing flavor.

More Mexican Everyday invites you into Rick’s creative kitchen to enliven the way you cook and eat with friends and family.


 

Customer Review

Rick extends and enhances the philosophy he laid out in the first Mexican Everyday, with a streamlined, yet still complex and delicious approach to Mexican home cooking. Whereas the overwhelming majority of the first everyday book could be cooked from a standard issue american grocery store, with no special equipment, More Mexican Everyday explores the use of specific appliances like slow and rice cookers and a more complex range of produce that might require a trip to Whole Foods or a farmers’ market. Although this raises the requirements for home cooks, Rick is always there to explain how these recipes can fit into everyday life. Also, he includes recipes for 4 seasoning pastes and adobos (he calls them “secret weapons” and the total could be taken to 5 if you include the salsa macha recipe on page 333), which are worth the price of admission all by themselves. A great addition to my library of Mexican cookbooks!

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