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Internationally available Mexican cookbooks

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In the near future, a friend and I would like to do a Mexican themed dinner party. Any tips for internationally available Mexican cookbooks? I'd like something as "authentic" as possible (whatever that may mean ;-) – I should be able to get various dried chiles and other ingredients at the two Mexican supermarkets here in Vienna.

Is Authentic Mexican (20th Anniversary Ed) by Rick Bayless any good? His name does crop here quite often, but judgements regarding authenticity seem to be mixed ...

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Huge subject. Many opinions. Mine is that Mr. Bayless is fine, if you can't find something by Diana Kennedy.

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Huge subject. Many opinions. Mine is that Mr. Bayless is fine, if you can't find something by Diana Kennedy.

Oh, I can. Which titles in particular?

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any of Diana Kenedy's books are very authentic. you might have problems getting 100 % of her ingredient lists.

not to worry it will still be a good meal.

pay particular attention to the refried beans and the corn tortillas they make the meal.

lime and avocado and cilantro (fresh) and you are 50 % there.

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any of Diana Kenedy's books are very authentic. you might have problems getting 100 % of her ingredient lists.

not to worry it will still be a good meal.

pay particular attention to the refried beans and the corn tortillas they make the meal.

lime and avocado and cilantro (fresh) and you are 50 % there.

Yeah, but which ones should I get? The old books (Cuisines of Mexico, The Tortilla Book, Mexican Regional Cooking) or the new compilation The Essential Cuisines of Mexico? Or The Art of Mexican Cooking?

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Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayliss are OK in my book. If they have a defect, it's that they push a homogenized version of Mexican cuisine, the "beans and tortillas" that rotuts is talking about. There's a fantastic amount of regional/cultural variation in Mexico that shaped the way people traditionally cook, and there's Mexican chefs currently doing everything from molecular gastronomy to appropriating, err rediscovering, prehispanic cookery.

If you want to explore Mexican outside of what you might call U.S. Mexican Restaurant, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita's books are a great place to start. They're in Spanish but Amazon carries a few of them.

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It encompasses more than just Mexican cuisine, but Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel Presilla is a great resource. If you're interested in this kind of cooking you're sure to enjoy it. And I second the Kennedy and Bayless suggestions. Kennedy's Oaxaca book is particularly "authentic".

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well if Diana Kennedy has a compilation , then get those.

don't loose sight of your goal:

""" I would like to do a Mexican themed dinner party """

aside from renting a Private Jet and taking all the people you invite to say Oaxaca, would want a bit

of the flavors of Mexico.

what I said above stands as something do-able.

if you have a selection of dried chile look for some that have been smoked.

and look into Tequila ...

after a few of any Tequila Item, you could serve them something from McDonald's, with some

chile sauce on the top.

I favor the Jet to Oaxaca for authenticity as mentioned above.

You could pick me up ?

:biggrin:


Edited by rotuts (log)

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Hey, I'm not criticizing those recommendations. I'm just saying there's a whole lot more to the food of Mexico than what people here usually call "Mexican food." I'm from the Northeast and our cooking is pretty much ignored. Even the regions that get heavy coverage tend to have their cooking homogenized into a generic "Mexican" once they get into international cookbooks and restaurants.

As far as authenticity goes, I remember we had a thread about that years ago. Somebody (I don't recall who) suggested the term is contentious and misleading and we should drop it in favor of "traditional." I really agree with that. So I'm going to say that if the OP wants to throw a dinner party showcasing traditional Mexican cuisine, they could focus on one region.

Or just do the modern, homogenized thing. I promise I won't cry.

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Yeah, "traditional" is the better term. Anyway, I'd like a book with traditional recipes and some information on their cultural background. It does not necessarily have to be all from one region, but I should be able make informed choices based on where a recipe comes from (regionally, socially etc.). (What I don't want is modern(ist) Mexican cooking. I'm sure that those would be great, but I'd like to get a basic grasp of traditional cookery first. Then I can do my own riffs and modernizations if I think them appropriate or necessary.)

Please remember that I'm from Austria and pretty much the only thing anyone here knows about Mexico is that we once sent an emperor over there ... unsuccessfully ;-) OK, I'm joking a bit, but most "Mexican" restaurants here serve a cartoonish TexMex fusion. I don't think anyone among the guests (including myself) can appreciate the subtleties of a meal based on a single regional cuisine.

Anyway, I don't really read Spanish. I could probably do a simple recipe from a Spanish book, but any more information beyond the basic procedure would probably be lost on me.

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any of Diana Kenedy's books are very authentic. you might have problems getting 100 % of her ingredient lists.

not to worry it will still be a good meal.

pay particular attention to the refried beans and the corn tortillas they make the meal.

lime and avocado and cilantro (fresh) and you are 50 % there.

Yeah, but which ones should I get? The old books (Cuisines of Mexico, The Tortilla Book, Mexican Regional Cooking) or the new compilation The Essential Cuisines of Mexico? Or The Art of Mexican Cooking?

The first or the last on your list. First is best.

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The thing I like about Rick Bayless' food, and to a lesser extent his books, is that it's NOT about tex-mex or 'rice and beans'

Dinner at Topolobampo is anything but.

I wish I could read the Olivera book, but until it's translated, I think Bayless is the best available.

and plenty of good recipes on his website, without buying a book, for starters.

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Diana Kennedy's "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico" published in 2001 is a compilation of her first three books: The Cuisines of Mexico, Mexican Regional Cooking, and The Tortilla Book.

Here's a link to UK Amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Cuisines-Mexico-Diana-Kennedy/dp/0609603558

I can't think of a better place for you, or anyone, to start.

Plus, if you're at all seriously interested in Mexican cooking, sooner or later, you're going to have to read Diana Kennedy.

You might just as well get going on that now.

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I've ordered vintage copies of The Cuisines of Mexico and The Art of Mexican Cooking. (Did I mention that I'm also book person? I'm not very big on compilations, but I like old books.)

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I've ordered vintage copies of The Cuisines of Mexico and The Art of Mexican Cooking. (Did I mention that I'm also book person? I'm not very big on compilations, but I like old books.)

I think that's a perfect place to start. Mexican cuisine is such a wide and wonderful world that, really, any way you choose as your introduction is going to be terrific, and an excellent foundation from which to expand and grow (pun intended).

I sure hope you take us along on your adventure. In my view, there's no human journey so delightful as a journey of discovery. I've been cooking Mexican food for some 50+ years and, while I wouldn't really trade in that expertise, nor any of those terrific meals and memories, in a great many very real ways, I envy you.

Here's a thread you might enjoy: http://forums.egullet.org/topic/37928-mexican-and-diana-kennedy/?hl=%2Bdiana+%2Bkennedy

And this: http://forums.egullet.org/topic/18096-diana-kennedy-cookbooks/?hl=%2Bdiana+%2Bkennedy


Edited by Jaymes (log)
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Just be aware that Kennedy is not always easy to follow, and the recipes can be much more involved than they look. She's a bit Paula Wolfert in style, but even more so.

That's not a criticism, generally - in fact it's a compliment - but serious close reading is required, and I'm guessing that many if not most of the ingredients will be extremely hard to source in Austria. Will you be getting whole corn and cal and making fresh masa? Where will you find real manteca - or will you render it yourself? What about fresh epazote (pretty much impossible in New York City, for example)? Crema? Crumbly Mexican queso? Substitutions are possible but Kennedy rarely suggests them.

I haven't tried Rick Bayless but I understand that he's a lot more approachable for those of us without access to good Mexican produce and preparations, and less opaque in his instructions (try making Kennedy's tamales from The Cuisines of Mexico without a full understanding of masa… this was a serious learning curve for me, fortunately I had a friend who'd studied with her! The book was of very little help).

As I said, I'm a Kennedy fan. But at least The Cusines… assumes that you are pretty up to speed with Mexican basics, and have access to, and understanding of, crucial ingredients & techniques. Just my two cents.

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So, pep, since you said you're a 'book person,' you can always get one by Bayless as a backup and cross-reference. I have them all and agree they're good.

Or, as someone pointed out, you can find many of his recipes online.

However, I think I'll point out the obvious; which is, if you get stuck on something, or otherwise in a muddle, you can always come right back here where you'll find plenty of knowledgeable folks that are happy to help you out.

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Just be aware that Kennedy is not always easy to follow, and the recipes can be much more involved than they look. She's a bit Paula Wolfert in style, but even more so.

That's not a criticism, generally - in fact it's a compliment - but serious close reading is required, and I'm guessing that many if not most of the ingredients will be extremely hard to source in Austria. Will you be getting whole corn and cal and making fresh masa? Where will you find real manteca - or will you render it yourself? What about fresh epazote (pretty much impossible in New York City, for example)? Crema? Crumbly Mexican queso? Substitutions are possible but Kennedy rarely suggests them.

I haven't tried Rick Bayless but I understand that he's a lot more approachable for those of us without access to good Mexican produce and preparations, and less opaque in his instructions (try making Kennedy's tamales from The Cuisines of Mexico without a full understanding of masa… this was a serious learning curve for me, fortunately I had a friend who'd studied with her! The book was of very little help).

As I said, I'm a Kennedy fan. But at least The Cusines… assumes that you are pretty up to speed with Mexican basics, and have access to, and understanding of, crucial ingredients & techniques. Just my two cents.

I beg to differ. Kennedy is famous for her precision and step-by- step instructions. She tells you how to make crema from heavy cream--easy as pie, commercial ones are awful. She knows not everyone will make their own masa, but buy the Quaker brand and mix it up. She is clear that you can leave the epazpote out of your beans. Her ingredients are no less available than Bayless unless you are talking about her Oaxacan anthropological work. I have all her books, learned to cook Mexican from her books, she has the best recipes AND Bayless main book is sort of chaotic. I rarely touch it. That's my 35+ yrs of Mexican cooking experience. As for dried chiles: Internet!
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Hmm. Not my experience. But everyone's mileage may vary.

And maybe for a bit more detail… here is the documentation of my tamale experience via Kennedy:

http://matablog.matadorrecords.com/2010/02/07/chicken-tamales/

I will admit that once I managed to figure out what she assumed I already knew (!), the recipe was a massive success and I have since repeated it many times.


Edited by patrickamory (log)
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Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayliss are OK in my book. If they have a defect, it's that they push a homogenized version of Mexican cuisine, the "beans and tortillas" that rotuts is talking about. There's a fantastic amount of regional/cultural variation in Mexico that shaped the way people traditionally cook, and there's Mexican chefs currently doing everything from molecular gastronomy to appropriating, err rediscovering, prehispanic cookery.

If you want to explore Mexican outside of what you might call U.S. Mexican Restaurant, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita's books are a great place to start. They're in Spanish but Amazon carries a few of them.

Sorry, this is kind of odd to me.

The foundations of pre-hispanic, Mesoamerican cooking are corn, beans and chiles. Or beans and tortillas, as you say. There is nothing wrong with understanding these three ingredients inside and out before you move on. My personal pain in the rear is people talking about molecular gastro re Mexico without knowing the importance of nixtamal.

re Ricardo, is books are as basic (not in a bad sense) as anything by Bayless or Kennedy. I literally have them all. I can't think of one that isn't like Kennedy and Wolfert that isn't documenting classic Mexican food over creating fun new twists. His restaurants can be somewhat modern but nothing compared to Enrique Olvera or Daniel Ovadia (who has a new book out by the way if you want modern and theatrical food. It's fun).

I say Kennedy leans more indigenous roots along with the basics. Her joy is working with the women in simple kitchens and getting their secrets and making them rockstars for a moment. I think Bayless paints a more complete picture of contemporary Mexican food from all the classes. I'm happy to have them both!

But if you're having a party, why not get the Bayless party book?

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Also consider Frida's Fiestas. It's a little vague on the instructions but nothing I've made from this book has ever been less than great and you get a sense how to compose a proper Mexican comida.

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Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayliss are OK in my book. If they have a defect, it's that they push a homogenized version of Mexican cuisine, the "beans and tortillas" that rotuts is talking about. There's a fantastic amount of regional/cultural variation in Mexico that shaped the way people traditionally cook, and there's Mexican chefs currently doing everything from molecular gastronomy to appropriating, err rediscovering, prehispanic cookery.

If you want to explore Mexican outside of what you might call U.S. Mexican Restaurant, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita's books are a great place to start. They're in Spanish but Amazon carries a few of them.

Sorry, this is kind of odd to me.

The foundations of pre-hispanic, Mesoamerican cooking are corn, beans and chiles. Or beans and tortillas, as you say. There is nothing wrong with understanding these three ingredients inside and out before you move on. My personal pain in the rear is people talking about molecular gastro re Mexico without knowing the importance of nixtamal.

My personal pain in the rear is non-Mexicans acting like they're some kind of gatekeepers to my culture.

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Also consider Frida's Fiestas. It's a little vague on the instructions but nothing I've made from this book has ever been less than great and you get a sense how to compose a proper Mexican comida.

I love this book and it's beautiful too. I wouldn't suggest it for a beginner to cook from, though. A visit to Casa Azul is a must!

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Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayliss are OK in my book. If they have a defect, it's that they push a homogenized version of Mexican cuisine, the "beans and tortillas" that rotuts is talking about. There's a fantastic amount of regional/cultural variation in Mexico that shaped the way people traditionally cook, and there's Mexican chefs currently doing everything from molecular gastronomy to appropriating, err rediscovering, prehispanic cookery.

If you want to explore Mexican outside of what you might call U.S. Mexican Restaurant, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita's books are a great place to start. They're in Spanish but Amazon carries a few of them.

Sorry, this is kind of odd to me.

The foundations of pre-hispanic, Mesoamerican cooking are corn, beans and chiles. Or beans and tortillas, as you say. There is nothing wrong with understanding these three ingredients inside and out before you move on. My personal pain in the rear is people talking about molecular gastro re Mexico without knowing the importance of nixtamal.

My personal pain in the rear is non-Mexicans acting like they're some kind of gatekeepers to my culture.

I'm sorry if I came off as "sabe todo"! It wasn't my intention.

But it's a fascinating topic: Foreigners as experts in another cuisine. Sometimes I think it's actually easier to see it through fresh eyes. Sometimes natives are too close. Definitely up for discussion.

But I was offering opinions (perhaps too pedantically), but from where I sit Muñoz is more of a recorder than an innovator from what I can see. Which book are you talking about? I can see in the chiles rellenos book there are some modern twists but they're credited to others is my recollection. There's a good chance I'm wrong.

Again, sorry if I came off as a gatekeeper. Come on in! I'll just still offer my observations as I hope everyone does.

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