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Cooking with "Eat Mexico" by Lesley Téllez


Chris Hennes
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Has anyone else picked up a copy of Lesley Téllez's new cookbook, Eat Mexico? I've long wanted to take a culinary tour of Mexico City, but I still haven't made it down there; this book is doing nothing to calm that desire! There are quite a few ingredients in it that I am going to have a hard time getting my hands on, but I thought I'd give some of the recipes a try anyway. Is anyone else cooking from it yet?

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Salsa Verde Cruda (p. 26)

 

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The first thing I made from the book was a salsa to accompany this dish from Bayless's More Mexican Everyday. It's made with completely raw tomatillos, and she suggests using the tiny ones (sold here as "miltomates") which I had never used before. It also calls for nine fresh árbol chiles to ten ounces of tomatillo, which had me a bit nervous about the heat level. In the end it turned out very spicy, but not outrageously so. I was glad I grow árbol's though, since I've never seen them sold fresh. I think the tiny tomatillos are more tart than the big ones, and leaving them raw definitely gives the salsa a very acidic edge, which I thought was great.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Tacos al Pastor (p. 49)

 

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I've never been to Mexico City, so my comments on these recipes are by definition just my personal taste, not a comparison to some "gold standard". I figured I'd start out with something that I've at least eaten several times at various taquerias so I had something to benchmark against, however, and tacos al pastor is ubiquitous. I've had versions I liked and versions I loved, and my taste runs toward the high ratio of crispy bits to chewy bits when it comes to the pork. So I cooked my pork on the grill over high heat, and let it char a bit more deeply than the recipe might suggest. But otherwise I stuck to the letter of the thing. The marinade and marination time were great, giving the pork a deep achiote flavor without completely losing the pork. Without a side-by-side comparison it's hard to say if this was the best I've ever had (though ultra-fresh tortillas certainly swing things in my favor...) but it ranks right up there, despite not being slow-roasted on a vertical spit. A very solid first attempted recipe for this book.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I don't have the book but I'll follow along...




...and this time I won't try to participate. I don't want to be responsible for killing two good discussions. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Pambazos (Fried Chorizo and Potato Sandwiches) (p. 70)

 

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These were particularly interesting to me in their construction technique: the outside of the bread is brushed with a thin guajillo chile sauce before being fried in lard. This gave a nice burst of flavor even before you hit the chorizo and potato filling, which itself is one of Mexico's greatest culinary creations. I used the house-made chorizo from tour local mercado, which was terrific. I'm sure the iceberg is an authentic touch to this street food, but I do like her idea of replacing it with radish greens and cilantro, which I think I will try next time.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Chris,

Can you say more about the bread? It looks very interesting. Was it purchased?

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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The rolls are called "telera rolls" and they were purchased from (and baked at) the mercado where I get the bulk of my Mexican ingredients. They are similar in texture to a supermarket-style "French bread" but are perhaps a bit sweeter. The ones I can buy look pretty similar to the ones pictured in the book, but at Tortas Bayless uses what I presume to be a more "artisan"-style version that is a bit denser and crustier.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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The rolls are called "telera rolls" and they were purchased from (and baked at) the mercado where I get the bulk of my Mexican ingredients. They are similar in texture to a supermarket-style "French bread" but are perhaps a bit sweeter. The ones I can buy look pretty similar to the ones pictured in the book, but at Tortas Bayless uses what I presume to be a more "artisan"-style version that is a bit denser and crustier.

Thank you. That would explain why they looked rather unfamiliar to me. But I'm quite intrigued by the process of brushing them with the sauce before frying them. Seems perfectly adaptable to other sandwiches.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sopa Seca de Fideo (p. 102)

Fideo Noodles in Chipotle-Tomato Sauce

 

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I think once you've got the avocados on there this is fair game for a main course, which is how I served it. I really like fideos, particularly the spicier varieties like this one, featuring a lot of chipotle chiles and then cooled off with cheese and crema on top. I've never served it with avocados before, but they were good. The recipe also calls for an optional topping of chicharrones, which I didn't have, but will probably make a point of including next time.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Tacos Campechanos (p. 80)

Steak and Chorizo Tacos

 

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The beef I buy here in Oklahoma City labelled "cecina" is I think actually just the base product used to make what Téllez describes as cecina in the book. Mine was neither salted nor dried. I am not sure how much this mattered, I simply salted it myself and then cooked it over very high heat on the grill until it got sort of crispy and charred. It's served with chorizo and a very spicy Pico de Gallo. In a dish like this one I am particularly thankful for the amazing chorizo at Morelo's (if you are in the OKC area you should come down to Moore and check it out). Overall the dish was excellent, and also very easy to make on a weeknight.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Hibiscus Flower Quesadillas (p. 164)

 

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Normally I think you use hibiscus flowers to brew a liquid, and then discard the flowers (at least, that's how I've used them in the past). In this recipe, you actually use the flowers themselves. First they get rinsed, then steeped for three minutes, then rinsed again, and finally sauteed with onions and Serrano peppers before being finished in the oven with jack cheese and pitas. It's an interesting idea, that unfortunately didn't work for me. In particular, the flowers were still much too chewy and firm after only the three minute steep. I thought maybe they'd improve over the course of the rest of the cooking, but they didn't. It's interesting to me that Téllez even comments that US hibiscus flowers are softer than the ones she can get in Mexico, and that she prefers the firmer texture she gets there. I wonder if the flowers I've got were firmer than the ones she is used to using in the US. The flavors were fine (not awesome, but worth eating), but the texture really dragged this down into the basically inedible category.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Enchiladas Verdes (p. 50)

Green chicken enchiladas

 

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Her version of Enchiladas Verdes is pretty typical, except that hers aren't rolled. She also demonstrates her fondness for "picante" with the inclusion of two unseeded serrano chiles, which definitely add some kick. I thought that making it with a quick stock while cooking the chicken worked reasonably well and overall kept the dish feeling light, with a bright acidity and spiciness. 

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Cochinita Pibil (p. 121)

Slow-Cooked Citrusy Pork

 

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This was amazing. The best cochinita pibil I've ever had, and one of the best things I've ever cooked. In her version of the dish Téllez first has you salt and pepper the pork and roast it in banana leaves without any other sauce. Honestly, I almost stopped after that step the pork was so good just roasted in the banana leaves. Instead, I carried on with the recipe and made the citrus and achiote sauce and gently simmered the pork in it before serving with pickled red onions and a ludicrously spicy habanero salsa. I am so glad there are leftovers. I sense a midnight snack coming. This recipe is worth the price of admission.

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Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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If you haven't visited the DF don't wait. SW airlines flies direct from San Antonio. We went in March. Check out our trip photos on the Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen on the Facebook page. You won't be sorry.

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Pasta with Ancho Chiles, Mushrooms and Garlic (p. 178)

 

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The last chapter of the book contains recipes she has developed upon her return to the US, but obviously heavily influenced by her time in Mexico City. This is a very saucy, intensely flavorful pasta dish, with almost as much sauce as there is pasta. Overall I like it, though I was a bit heavy-handed with the salt this go-around. 

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Chris Hennes
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Champurrado (p. 55)

Thickened Mexican Hot Chocolate

 

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Not much to look at of course, but this was a pretty good hot chocolate. The thickened texture was interesting, and the flavor of the cinnamon (Rancho Gordo Canela, of course) was quite prominent. I used the Taza Puro dark chocolate, which I like a lot. All told I didn't find the finished product to be quite as rich as the description led me to expect, but since my normal hot chocolate starts with a heavy cream ganache, maybe my expectations are skewed.

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Chris Hennes
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 Enchiladas Potosinas (p. 116)

Cheesy Enchilada Pockets

 

I did not actually have these enchiladas for dinner. What I had, in the end, were sopes made with the same ingredients.

 

The problems began early, when the recipe called for the blending of three soaked guajillo chiles with three tablespoons of the soaking liquid. I gave it a shot, of course, but no surprise that three tablespoons of liquid was not anywhere near enough to get things moving in my blender. I wound up getting something sort of resembling motion in there at about six tablespoons, so I buzzed it for a while and then strained it.

 

I'm not as dumb as I look, I obviously wasn't going to add that much liquid to my masa, so I decided to go with three tablespoons of the puree, which seemed to me to be a pretty conservative approach. Not conservative enough, as it turned out. The recipe stated that at this point the masa would be "sticky" -- mine was probably more "soft" than "sticky" but it didn't seem so far out there, anyway. I let it rest as instructed, and then followed what seemed to be normal tortilla-making instructions in the recipe, pressing the dough out between two sheets of plastic, then (attempting to) peel it away and slide it onto the griddle. Well, there was to be no "peeling away" of the plastic. The dough was simply too soft, and refused to release. I tried a number of different tricks (making them thicker, greasing the plastic, even pressing them out on the griddle itself with the bottom of a pot). Nothing worked.

 

So I gave up and turned them into sopes. Which were delicious, by the way.

 

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Chris Hennes
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