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Mexican Cooking Tools


rancho_gordo
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I'm wondering what tools others think are essential for Mexican cooking. I wouldn't live without my handheld lime squeezer, my blender, my big round wooden spoons from Guadaljara + the tight weave seive (although I often think a chinois might be more handy), my bean masher (for guacamole mostly) and a comal.

I've heard that a copper pot is essential for making carnitas. Has anyone had experience in this? Do you have great sources in the US? I saw some in a market in Mexico but they were so cheap I was suspect that they might be plated rather than solid. I use a Cruset pot now but I love a new toy.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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A tortilla press is great for homemade corn tortillas...

(IMO, worth the effort, unless you have a good local factory)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Mexicans have a short, clear answer. Give us a blender and a pressure cooker and we can do everything.

The blender makes the cremas (pureed vegetable soups) that start so many meals, the base mix for sopas secas (rice and noodles), and all the salsas except guacamole. The pressure cooker does beans and meats and chicken to give broth and deshebrados (shredded meat to be cooked in a sauce or used in all the family of taco dishes). And it makes the best flan.

For me: the lime squeezer, the molcajate for all kinds of spices, and . . .the blender and the pressure cooker,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I used to disdain the pressure cooker but lately I've been getting pretty good at it and actaully enjoying it. I find for beans, if you add unsoaked beans, sauteed onion and garlic, and water, cook under pressure for 20 minutes, release the pressure, then finish stovetop for another 20 minutes (when you might want to add some epazote), the beans are divine. And in less than an hour you have cooked beans after thinking about it.

I also find it's great for making stock and broth in a snap.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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* Immersion blender: easy to keep some texture in salsas and much easier than a molcajete (if you do get a molcajete, make sure it's a decent one; so many are too porous and brittle -- and remember you need to season them; you might be better off another type of stone mortar)

* Spice grinder: just a cheap coffee grinder with a tall lid, but warm your spices on the comal before grinding

* Comal: cast iron only! Lodge makes pre-seasoned ones for cheap. Essential for good tortillas and antojitos

* Dutch oven: either a Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron one for relatively cheap or a Le Creuset that's enameled for easy cleanup. Great for beans, frying, carnitas, etc.

* Tortilla press: the bigger and heavier, the better. So many are light and suck.

* Latex gloves: the unpowdered kind. I don't use them, but I think I've built up a resistence, though I still occasionally stick my finger in my eye after stripping seeds from rehydrated or fresh chiles and cry for the next half hour. Depending on your sensitivity and care, these can be a lifesaver. Even Mexicans will put a plastic bag around their hands often as they're going through and picking out chiles at the market

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  • 2 weeks later...

A new tool is just appearing in the markets reflecting the increasing use of sopes, huaraches and other molded masa snacks. It's a little wooden platform with a metal strip round the edge. You put your masa in this and then smooth it down with a little wooden mano. About $3 apiece. I'm not sure it's very necessary but it's a nice addition to odd ball specialist cooking tools,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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The pressure cooker does beans and meats and chicken to give broth and deshebrados (shredded meat to be cooked in a sauce or used in all the family of taco dishes). And it makes the best flan.

I missed this one. Do you have a recipe for pressure cooker flan? You would make my life complete! :biggrin:

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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I'm just leaving for the US. Will post a pressure cooker flan once I arrive. And I'll have some of those little tools with me if you want. They're definitely rough folk art,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I'm just leaving for the US. Will post a pressure cooker flan once I arrive.  And I'll have some of those little tools with me if you want.  They're definitely rough folk art,

Rachel

That would be great.

I'm a piece of "rough folk art" myself!

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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  • 1 month later...
<snip>

I've heard that a copper pot is essential for making carnitas. Has anyone had experience in this? Do you have great sources in the US? I saw some in a market in Mexico but they were so cheap I was suspect that they might be plated rather than solid. I use a Cruset pot now but I love a new toy.

I am oh-so-late coming to this thread, but I've been away from the forum for a while.

I bought my cazo de cobre (a deep solid copper pot with slightly flared sides and two big round brass handles) in a marketplace in Tonala, Jalisco, right outside Guadalajara. 15 years ago, it cost all of ten bucks. And it is, indeed, solid copper.

When I lived in Mexico, I was taught to use the cazo de cobre to maintain the bright green color while cooking vegetables. It does that beautifully. And, yes, it is the traditional pot for making carnitas, but to be honest, I prefer a large nonstick pot for that -- mainly because I don't want to lose one tiny bit of those wonderful little crunchies that end up at the bottom of the pot (can't remember what we called those in Spanish, but there is a specific name for them).

There is so much copper mined in Mexico, and labor is so cheap, that the inexpensive cazos really are made of solid copper.

God, I miss that place!

My husband, the chef, is there now visiting his mother. I have given him -- as always -- a long wish list of cooking equipment to bring back. Can't wait to see what goodies he'll bring -- besides my mameyes, maiz cacahuazintle (for masa), obleas, etc...

Barb

Barb Cohan-Saavedra

Co-owner of Paloma Mexican Haute Cuisine, lawyer, jewelry designer, glass beadmaker, dessert-maker (I'm a lawyer who bakes, not a pastry chef), bookkeeper, payroll clerk and caffeine-addict

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For making tamales, a 4" plastic plastering tool. Has a handle and a wide flat area like a spatula. Pick them up in a hardware store for about $4. Will cut your tamal making time in half. Just make a large mound of tamal masa, and use the tool just like you were handling wall plaster, except you're spreading the masa on the tamal husk.

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  • 9 months later...
A new tool is just appearing in the markets reflecting the increasing use of sopes, huaraches and other molded masa snacks.  It's a little wooden platform with a metal strip round the edge.  You put your masa in this and then smooth it down with a little wooden mano.  About $3 apiece.  I'm not sure it's very necessary but it's a nice addition to odd ball specialist cooking tools,

Rachel

Thank you for this thread. Rachel, What is this tool called in Spanish?

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I've got three molcajetes, collected over the years, now I use the biggest and deepest one.

My blender, that has replacement parts as needed - which I take to Mexico to get, because there is no such thing has blender replacements parts in Canada.

My cast iron griddles and pans have proven to be invaluable for toasting chilies or spices, making quesadillas, frying chiles rellenos or heating up tortillas.

Hand held lime squeezer in different sizes. The other thing I have purchased in Mexico are different sized sieves, ones I've never seen available here. They have worked magic for straining chile mixtures and juices. I do have a metal tortilla press, but desire a wooden one. Must make room next trip.

I could spend hours in the housewares section.

And now for a commercial break,

Oh, has anyone purchased, I guess it's pumice stone, used for scouring pots and pans? Wow, it is miraculous. No need to buy nasty chemical cleansers again. I watched a woman cleaning a pot in the market once with the stone and had to get some. And, it doesn't scratch! Grease and grim comes right off. :smile:

Jay Francis, - great post on the plastic plastering tool! That is creative thinking.

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Pumice stone! Yes indeed. It works miracles on the kinds of things you think will cause you to throw out the pot: burned rice, 'permanently' stuck food, etc. It also works miracles on skin, particularly on rough, dry heels. The stones cost centavitos and last forever.

The two stones that I have, one in the shower and the other in the kitchen, are about 5 cm across and 2.5 cm high. I might have paid 20 cents for the two--but it might have been less. I've had them for years.

Pumice stone weighs next to nothing, so have him bring at least a couple.

What's new at Mexico Cooks!?

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My neighbor goes to Mexico every other month, he has a ranch in Durango. He has brought back all kinds of things for me, including one of the big copper pots, which resembles a jam pot, it is unlined copper so can't safely be used for cooking many things. However I can get one for about $75.00, sometimes a bit less, sometimes a bit more, depending on the bargainning. He will be going down there week after next so if you want one let me know and I will figure a way to get it to you so you won't have to pay shipping costs.

I will take a picture of the one I have so you can see how big it is.

Hey, I already have a picture of it in my public album, with a ruler alongside of it and even with the dog in the way you can guess the size.

gallery_17399_60_1097800610.jpg

I have one of the huge enamel pots with a double decker rack inside for cooking large batches of tamale.

also the molcajete and one of the bigger flat ones for grinding corn or cacoa beans.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 5 months later...

I just got Rick Bayless's Mexico One Plate at a Time. It has got me really excited about mexican cooking. I have a few questions.

1: I need a tortilla press. What is a good source for them in the states and what kind is best. I found an 18 dollar metal one at The CMC Company. Is that good?

2: Can I just use my cast iron skillet until I get a comal, or should I find one now.

3: Rick Bayless never mentions dry epazote. Is it not even worth using. If I order seeds or seedlings from a seed catalog, will it live year-round indoor?

4: Is there anything else a mexican food novice should know?

Thanks so much!

-Becca

-Becca

www.porterhouse.typepad.com

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Lard needs to be stored in the refrigerator. It won't last forever though. I suggest making small batches.

In terms of equipment - cast iron will work just fine for heating tortillas or roasting and toasting chilies.

A blender is indispensible in the Mexican kitchen along with lots of wooden spoons. And yes, don't even bother with dried epazote. Its got to be the easiest thing to grow besides dandelions!

Hope you have as much fun as I do cooking one of the most fascinating cuisines of the world.

s

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I've frozen lard. Seems to work just fine.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I've frozen lard. Seems to work just fine.

Wow, really? Besides ice cubes and ice cream, I so rarely freeze things.

Okay, now that I've actually thought about it, I have bought frozen caul fat in the past, so yeah, why not frozen lard.

You know, I have to say, the Mexican forum is so relaxing. I have told you lately that I love you? :wub:

Edited by shelora (log)
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The only other tool, besides the molcajete that I've really fallen in love with is this double-sided cast iron comal we have. It's sort of like a sandwich griller -- and it does amazing things for heating up a quick quesadilla, or warming tortillas for the meal. I used to always use a little metal comal, but once arriving here, we had this -- it's fabulous because you just flip the whole thing by the handle, to turn it around -- and it is thick enough that they won't burn.

This is a reply to an ancient post by Caroline -- You're totally right about the blender and pressure cooker! That's so funny. I thought that was just a quirk of my family. We have two or three of each. Often there are two pressure cookers like a freight train in the kitchen, one cooking up beans, the other working the meat. The blender chewing through some sauce or other. Before I came here, I was really afraid of the pressure cooker...

Will Thomson

CookingFire.com

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