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Tim Chambers

Looking for books on modern Mexican cuisine

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I work in Seattle and recently got hired on as a lead line cook at an upscale Mexican restaurant. I was hoping to get some pointers on either books to read or places to do research about modern Mexican cuisine.

Thanks!

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First place I would start is with Rick Bayless. For most of the dining public, he pretty much invented upscale modern Mexican.

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Actually, if you want "modern," I would go to Bobby Flay's books: Mesa Cookbook and Bold American. They are excellent. Bayless is OK, but I prefer Diana Kennedy for the real deal. There are some other "modern" books, like Dos Caminos (restaurant) street food book and Santibanez, also updated street food. Check out Mark Miller too.

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Southwestern isn't Mexican. Flay and Miler are Southwestern cooks, even though Flay is a NYC guy.

I think Southwestern is more adaptable to "upscale" than traditional Mexican. Not looking for a fight here, just my opinion.

Kennedy/Bayless is indeed the real deal for Mexican.

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If you're serious, you should get Enrique Olvera's huge blue book. Larouuse has a dinky one that's fun but if you're really high end, you need to know what he is doing.

(P.s. I just got back from Mexico last night and bought a book on Modern food in the centro historico and I'll try and remember to post the name tomorrow.)


Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

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And please, tell me what that object in the center of the soup can be. :huh:

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Southwestern isn't Mexican. Flay and Miler are Southwestern cooks, even though Flay is a NYC guy.

I think Southwestern is more adaptable to "upscale" than traditional Mexican. Not looking for a fight here, just my opinion.

Kennedy/Bayless is indeed the real deal for Mexican.

Well, as someone who LIVES in the Southwest (50 mi from Mexico), is from NY, and very knowledgeable about Mexican food: Flay's food is way more Mexican than "southwest"

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Oh, I forgot Richard Sandoval. His Modern Mexican Flavors is a little dated with lots of stacked food and squirts of sauce from squeezy bottles but the idea of taking apart and then reconstructing classics seems like what might inspire.

Un-requested advice: Modern or traditional,(here's my broken record), the foundation of Mexican food is chiles, corn and beans. You need to know these three ingredients inside and out before you start exploring modern, regional or whatever. You need to play with nixtamal and see how it cooks, fries, heats. etc. You need a firm command of the chiles; frsh and dried and you need cook good beans from scratch. You should have tried working with a metate (to master it you'd have needed to start years ago) but you should be able to make a green salsa in a molcajete. If you combine all of this with your traditional European skills, you should be set to go.

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I think Southwestern is more adaptable to "upscale" than traditional Mexican. Not looking for a fight here, just my opinion.

Also not looking for a fight, but it's my impression that it's really the other way around. To me, Southwestern food is, in large measure anyway, comfort food. Not much room or need or desire there for upscale or modern. Insofar as "authentic Mexican cuisine" goes however, there are quite a few Mexican cooks/chefs that are doing utterly amazing things. I remember some meals in Mexico City that were crazy inventive; in particular, at Patricia Quintana's Izote. Authentic Mexican is a much larger genre - limitless in scope, actually. Southwestern cuisine seems far narrower.

As for "upscale Mexican" in the US, two names that are often mentioned alongside Frontera Grill are La Fonda San Miguel in Austin, and Hugo's in Houston. Best would be to visit, of course, but, if that's not practical, the proprietors of both restaurants have published cookbooks and I'd suggest a quick leaf-through of each for some ideas, menus, recipes, photographs, etc., as to how successfully "upscale Mexican" can be done.

.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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As for "upscale Mexican" in the US, two names that are often mentioned alongside Frontera Grill are La Fonda San Miguel in Austin, and Hugo's in Houston. Best would be to visit, of course, but, if that's not practical, the proprietors of both restaurants have published cookbooks and I'd suggest a quick leaf-through of each for some ideas, menus, recipes, photographs, etc., as to how successfully "upscale Mexican" can be done.

.

There might be some difference between upscale Mexican setting and upscale Mexican food, and my impression is the OP is interested in the latter. I grew up eating Mexican food in TX and make it quite regularly at home. I have eaten many times at Frontera Grill and Hugo's. I would describe both as upscale Mexican setting with traditional homestyle food. Great food, done very well with top quality ingredients - but everything at both I could make at home. To obtain similar high-quality food when I lived in TX, one typically needed to find the dumpiest restaurants verging on being shut down by the health department. That's where the really good stuff was, not at the places with clean plates and stuff! So Frontera and Hugo's seem upscale in comparison, but the food is very similar. Ditto for Bayless's books and his restaurant Xoco.

I would consider Bayless's restaurant, Topolobampo, to be both upscale Mexican setting and upscale (modern?) Mexican food. The plating and presentation are closer to what you'd get in a typical high-end restaurant, but with Mexican ingredients. It's good, but prefer Frontera Grill. Actually I prefer Hugo's to both, but they are kinda far apart!

I also enjoy watching Bayless's "Mexico: One Plate at a Time" on PBS. Past episodes have featured Topolobampo - I remember some kind of foam they were using for a modern quesadilla or something. Also, season 8 was set in Baja and was oriented more towards upscale (modern?) Mexican food than previous seasons. Some really cool stuff. I have them recorded, but they are often repeated.

Another cookbook I will add to the mix is the salpicon cookbook:

http://www.amazon.com/The-%C2%A1Salpic%C3%B3n-Cookbook-Contemporary-Mexican/dp/0811860469/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372684018&sr=8-1&keywords=salpicon+cookbook

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Pati Jinich's book "Pati's Mexican Table" is geared to home cooking. She also has a TV show of the same name on Nat'l Public TV. The former political analyst is now a full-time homemaker. It's a lovely book, very readable, with charming stories about her upbringing in Mexico City before coming to the U.S. as an adult. Her focus is "real" Mexican everyday home cooking, the kind she grew up with and now feeds her husband and three boys. I'm thinking it's probably not what a professional chef is looking for. Just MHO. :-)

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Pati Jinich's book "Pati's Mexican Table" is geared to home cooking. She also has a TV show of the same name on Nat'l Public TV. The former political analyst is now a full-time homemaker. It's a lovely book, very readable, with charming stories about her upbringing in Mexico City before coming to the U.S. as an adult. Her focus is "real" Mexican everyday home cooking, the kind she grew up with and now feeds her husband and three boys. I'm thinking it's probably not what a professional chef is looking for. Just MHO. :-)

HHMM,, Her sister is a chef, her Father owned restaurants in Mexico and SHE is a Chef

Host of the public television series Pati's Mexican Table, which premiered nationwide in April 2011, cooking teacher, food writer and official Chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington

I think shes quilified

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I work in Seattle and recently got hired on as a lead line cook at an upscale Mexican restaurant. I was hoping to get some pointers on either books to read or places to do research about modern Mexican cuisine.

Thanks!

Hi Tim:

As you see by the discussion above, mexican cookery (cuisine) is many things. However, could you elaborate on the mexican restaurant where you will be working (cost range, regular or high-end service). What kind/types of food do they currently offer? Your customer type? They may be used to something current and your direction should follow in the direction where you will still be selling your new dishes. I get excited over simple traditional dishes and new "modern" dishes, which really do not resemble anything I've eaten before.

Regarding what is more mexican, southwestern or yes, tex mex either are hardly Mexican. I'm from Texas and the closest I find in real Mexican food are moles, good enchiladas and a few other chile based dishes. Everything else falls under the Taco Bell column. :)

btw, I would follow ranchogordo's suggestions very closely.


Edited by lochaven (log)

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Sorry, but I wouldn't eat anything off Patti's Mexican table. IMH but very strong O. :raz:

I like the food shots on her website, but the cooking she does on the show hardly produce the same glamor shots. Have never cooked her recipes, but maybe it's time to try a couple.


Edited by lochaven (log)

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Sorry, but I wouldn't eat anything off Patti's Mexican table. IMH but very strong O.

From what I've seen, she's very capable as a Mexican chef. I'd like to eat a meal prepared by her.

Her book and TV show, however, are oriented to the busy people trying to get food on the table. Rick Bayless arrived first at getting authentic home style Mexican, and there was probably no market for her. Nothing wrong, but as said earlier not suitable for pro cooking.

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Actually, my mother arrived first when she moved to Texas from Mexico in the 1940's at getting authentic home style mexican food. :biggrin:

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The book is Sazones y andanzas por el Centro Historico by Victor Hugo Aguilar Morales.

sazones_1.jpg

It's very pretty without being silly.

That is a great looking book! Thank you so much for bringing it to our attention. There are lots of books on regional Mexican home style food, but very little (in english) on Modern Mexican fine dining influence by modern spanish and european technique. I will add a link to a short bio on the other chef you mentioned!

http://www.starchefs.com/cook/chefs/bio/enrique-olvera

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HHMM,, Her sister is a chef, her Father owned restaurants in Mexico and SHE is a ChefHost of the public television series Pati's Mexican Table, which premiered nationwide in April 2011, cooking teacher, food writer and official Chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute in WashingtonI think shes quilified

Whoa.... I never said she wasn't qualified. I was actually responding to Tim Chambers' request for 'upscale Mexican' cookbooks. I have her book, have read it from cover to cover, and think she would agree that the recipes in that book are hardly upscale--they aren't meant to be. The subtitle of her book is "The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking", and as I said in my prior post, that is her focus in the book (as she, herself, writes). I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone. BTW, her book just came out and she writes that she now lives in Texas with her husband and kids. She travels a great deal--to DC where, as official chef of the MCI, she often hosts programs, and to Mexico, where she visits family and also travels to towns and villages collecting recipes and traditional cooking techniques. All that in addition to her TV show and teaching! Mighty busy lady.

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AriadneArts?

No what you said was she was a STAY AT HOME MOM who pretty much wrote a book on home cooking and implied she wasnt very qualified as a chef

Right now at the Smithsonian Institute she is teaching a course on Asian-Mexican fusion cuisine

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GlorifiedRice: I am new here. That was only my SECOND post. Yes, I did say she was a full-time homemaker. Sorry, that wasn't totally accurate. You, on the other hand, said "woman now living in DC for the Govt" which is no longer the case. But I wasn't addressing your post at all. Maybe you should read her book. She writes that she spends MOST of her time at home with her family, and that she's happiest when doing so. I thought my third post would clarify my intentions to you, but it apparently did not. I'm sorry you feel I "implied" otherwise, but perceived implications are, at best, assumptions on the part of the perceiver. They may or may not be correct. I absolutely did NOT mean to imply that she lacked qualifications! As for me, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Won't you do the same for me? Thanks.

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She's teaching Asian-Mexican Fusion???? Holy cow!! she is really branching out! :raz: lol

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