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Mexico, One Plate at a Time: Recipe Selection and Recipe Links

November 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Use this thread to discuss which of Rick Bayless' recipes you are considering, get feedback from other chowhounds, and find out if anyone else has tried or is trying the same thing. Full length recipe reviews should be posted in the review threads-- this thread is intended for menu planning purposes. Have fun!

This thread is also the place to post links to recipes that are available online with the following caveat:

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Hi All,

    I've been anxiously waiting for this thread to go up, because I am really excited to try the recipe for "Classic Red Mole with Turkey" (p. 206). Is anyone else going to make this dish (or have you before)? I'm wondering if you think I can make it on the stovetop, instead of in the oven?

    Thanks and looking forward to hearing what you all are going to cook!

    3 Replies
    1. re: DanaB

      I used that recipe as my first foray into mole. It's a great dish.....make sure you have everything together and your kitchen ventilated well.

      You probably could do it on the stove top but the benefit of the oven is a steady constant heat from all sides. The turkey may not cook evenly on the stove top and you may risk scorching the mole.

      I recommend making the mole a day ahead.

      1. re: Dee S

        Dee, Could this recipe be made on an outdoor grill using a cut-up Turkey? I haven't bought the book yet, but I'm looking for a good Mole Turkey recipe for Thanksgiving.

        1. re: caitlin

          You probably could.....the mole and turkey preparations are separate, with a final finish in the oven together (flavor meld). The cookbook calls for turkey breast only. I'm sure parts would work too. I've not tried it that way.

    2. I can recommend the velvety mole verde made with pumpkin seeds in OPAAT p.218

      I also like Mexican Chicken Soup (p. 142) - not revelatory or anything, just tasty!
      Potato-Chorizo Tacos are super easy and delicious (p.96)
      as is the Skirt Steak Tacos w/Rajas (p.92)

      DanaB, of course you can do it on the stovetop if you have to - mole is one of those magically adaptable foods. I have not made that recipe, but I've made turkey legs in a dark mole. I personally find turkey too rich in this dish, and prefer chicken. Come to think of it, that's probably why Bayless calls for turkey breast here...

      as for me, I'm wondering if I'll finally try chiles rellenos at home . . .

      6 Replies
      1. re: pitu

        Seconding the mole verde with pumpkin seeds. Rather easy preparation but wow.....just the softest, silkiest, rich mole. It had a freshness to it....great recipe!

        1. re: pitu

          Chiles Rellenos are at their absolute best when cooked on the spot (rather than reheating). They are so much work (and their retail price so depressed), that virtually no restaurants in the U.S. make them to order... so you should note a very big quality difference when you make them at home.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            I love chiles rellenos more than life itself. I have a friend who makes them and then freezes them. They come out a bit limp and flat, but the flavor's still there and I'll make do. I make them about 3 times a year cause they're a pain...but worth it once in a while. I have to wear one of those masks because the chiles make me cough and sneeze - capsicum or whatever it's called.

            There's a place in Berkeley that uses fresh chiles. But their filling isn't great.

            1. re: oakjoan

              Joan... here is a trick, grill your Poblanos outdoors, then you wont get the smoke in your kitchen.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                Yeah, I know about the outdoor method and have used it. I still get coughing fits. I must be allergic. I now have purchased several of those masks that look as if they're made with Pelon lining material. I have 3 and alternate when I think some of the capsicum (sp?) is getting through. It helps a lot but not completely.

                What a curse! Wonder what the neighbors think seeing me outside over the bbq with my white mask on?

                1. re: oakjoan

                  That is most unfortunate, but it sounds like you are quite a trooper!

        2. There are some recipes on the Frontera website. Some of them use bottled salsas, and it's not always indicated what cookbook a recipe might be found in. But there is, at a minimum, a recipe for the Mexican chocolate streusal cake which someone mentionned in the previous picks and pans thread.

          http://www.fronterakitchens.com/cooki...

          1 Reply
          1. re: julesrules

            THe bottled sauces are EASILY replaced by home made ones...

            --Dommy!

          2. I'll be cooking from this Mexican cookbook--excited to be participating in this for the 1st time. Please tell me, is it preferred that we pick a recipe nobody else is trying? Or do most cooks want to compare notes? Thanks!

            1 Reply
            1. re: blue room

              You can just make whatever you want from the book. Important part is to report back here on the appropriate thread. Sometimes you won't get a response even though everyone is reading along or someone will respond a bit later after they've tried the recipe. Linking a photo is also a bonus. :-)

            2. I've bookmarked these ones to try though I probably won't get to all of them:
              - Almond Rice Cooler
              - Rice Pudding
              - Churros with Mexican Hot Chocolate
              - Mexican Chocolate Streusel Cake
              - Chicken Tostadas with Tangy Romaine and Black Bean Salsa
              - Chipotle Beans with Wilted Spinach and Masa Gnocchi
              - Gorditas with Classic Shredded Beef
              There were some others, but these are the ones I remember. I tried to talk my in-laws into having a Mexican Thanksgiving (my parents are always up for anything) but it got vetoed rather quickly! I might try to sneak some side dishes or a dessert in on them though!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Katie Nell

                The Chipotle Beans are awesome on their own. I've made them both ways and prefer them without the spinach and dumplings.

              2. I've cooked a good number of recipes from this book. Just about all of them are worth trying. A few thoughts...

                Though he provides about the best instructions possible for working with dry masa, I personally think that it's not worth bothering with dishes that require masa unless you can get fresh stuff instead, or make it from scratch from nixtamal. The results just aren't worth the effort unless you've got fresh masa.

                I suggest making rice and beans with every meal. Perfect your technique. Oh, and same with the margaritas...and make them first so you can sip one while making dinner. I suggest making a simple syrup for these purposes, as it'll incorporate into the liquids better and quicker than raw sugar.

                The pollo adobado is good, but you really need to marinate for AT LEAST 24 hours, then wipe off the marinade and let it air-dry in the fridge for several more hours. I prefer to reserve the marinade, then cook it for a few minutes separately and serve as a sauce, rather than use it to baste the chicken (the whole thing just tastes better with a dry-roasted chicken rather than a saucey/basted one). If you want it for Sunday night dinner, you better start prepping on Saturday morning or even Friday night.

                The Fish a la Veracruzana is not to be missed. Whole fish is best, but it's an excellent dish with filets too. An added trick: substitute fresh basil in place of the jalapeƱos, and you magically have a dish that tastes absolutely Mediterranean rather than Mexican.

                The only thing I've tried that I really disliked was the guacamole, the reasons for which I have written about several times on these boards before.

                A few of my adaptations of the dishes:

                Deep-fried quesadillas:
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                Arroz con leche:
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                I think I'll probably try the soups/stews, as I've been into that category lately.

                3 Replies
                1. re: nja

                  Why make Rice & Beans with every meal? Despite their popularity in downscale Mexican eateries in the U.S. its not very Mexican to do so. In proper Mexican cuisine... you typically only get one garnish with your Entree & its usually a more relish/salad like item... for example Guacamole. Beans in Mexico are usually served after the main course... for anyone that might still be hungry... particularly when dessert is just Coffee & a slice of sugared fruit etc.,

                  1. re: nja

                    Thanks for sharing your experience and insight, Nick. You talked me into the fish a la veracruzana. I forget what kind of fish the recipe suggests, but what kind of whole fish do you prefer?

                    I'm excited about getting into this book! It's a cold rainy night and I can't wait to curl up w/ it and bookmark some recipes to try. I'm def. going to do the chicken w/ pipian sauce.

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      There's a fishmonger near me that sometimes has true red snapper (huachinango), which is my first choice. I very much dislike the various fake snappers so I wouldn't use those. Bass works well but I haven't seen any non-farmed in a while. I tried tilapia once which I liked, but Erika didn't so I haven't used it again. Bayless also suggest pompano but I haven't tried that one yet. I tried trout once since it was the only fish I could find (gotta love the culinary wasteland of Simi Valley) and that was a disaster, it just turned to mush.

                      For filets, any fairly firm fish like halibut and mahi mahi are good (both of which I've used). While I haven't tried them, I'll bet sablefish/black cod and monkfish would be good too.

                      I'm sure that tuna and salmon would also have the firmness to withstand this approach, but they seem like they'd be too flavorful on their own so I haven't tried them.

                      Oh and by the way... You'll want lots of rice, tortilla, or other such things to sop up all the sauce. In fact I'll usually just make plain boiled rice with butter to go with this dish.

                      -Nick

                  2. "its not very Mexican to do so"

                    Not among the Mexicans in my family. It just ain't a meal without beans and rice.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: nja

                      In my family, it's not a meal without beans and tortillas. Rice is more of a special occasion sort of side dish.

                      1. re: antrobin

                        In Central & Southern Mexico where the vast majority of Mexicans live... you typically only eat Rice for a few reasons.

                        1) There is no affordable produce available.

                        2) You are preparing a dish that specifically pairs well with rice (Mole Poblano, Caldo, Mole de Olla)

                        3) You have strong Creole (Spanish) roots. Up until the last 90 years or so... people of strong Creole identity refused to eat corn based products (which they believed to be inferior) and it is they who consumed Rice with every meal.

                        Other than that Rice is more of a Mexican-American thing... it has a couple of common sources:

                        1) Mexican cuisine became popular at the end of the 1920's (Hollywood imported it from Tijuana) and specially during the 1930's when huge plates of exotic tasting food gave comfort during tough times. All the old school Mexican restaurants in L.A. would serve generous amounts of cheap rice & beans... to create a value proposition. Ever since then it stuck as part of what Non-Mexicans expect in a Mexican restaurant.

                        2) Mexican immigrants living in parts of the U.S. without adequate availability of Mexican produce could always find the ingredients for Rice & Beans.

                        Not only does Rice & Beans as the ubiquitous side dishes have very shallow roots within Mexico's 6,000 year culinary history... but they don't fit within the Mexican nutritional scheme & best culinary practices.

                        Now I am not saying Mexicans don't eat beans... we do... pretty much 2 to 3 times a day... but they have a very different context than in the U.S. where refried pinto beans are a default for just about everything. In Mexico there is a more nuanced & sophisticated use of them... when they go well (for example crispy white beans served with Ribs & Greens in Salsa Verde) they are served on the side... other wise they are served as their own course... allowing you to cleanse your palette & to adjust your satiety. And people in Mexico consume a wider variety of beans, with a very wide variety of preparations.

                        Finally, I would just like to note that Pinto Beans are almost non-existent in Mexico... they are sometimes confused with the popular, but creamier Flor de Mayo beans.

                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          My suggestion does come, in part, due to my experience eating with Mexican families in the United States (who, I might add, continue to make rice a staple despite access to plenty of Mexican produce).

                          The other reason I suggest making beans and rice (or sopa de fideo, etc.) with the meals this month is that it will provide a great opportunity for folks to try a variety of approaches and to perfect their techniques. I see posts on these boards all the time from people wanting to improve their rice and beans at home, or complaining about the quality of them at local restaurants. This month will be a great chance for everyone to help each other find what they want. I'd suggest making several different beans two different ways (black, peruano, pinto, etc. as de la olla and refried), then several rice/pasta recipes with a few tweaks each time (tomato rice, green rice, sopa de fideo, etc.). By the end of the month you'll have these down solid. Then you can decide in the future if and when to prepare each one with a Mexican meal. Personally, I'd be hard pressed to think of a meal where good rice and beans wouldn't be welcome.

                          -Nick

                          1. re: nja

                            Fair enough... I am zealous about cracking down on Rice for several of reasons:

                            1) I am offended about how it came to the Mexican mainstream (as a result of Creole snobbery).

                            2) Mexicans seem to be genetically pre-disposed to insulin resistance & thus adult diabetes. Nopales are the natural antedote for insulin resistance, but I find the rice crowds them & other vegetables out.

                            3) Rice & Beans as automatic side dishes are a cop out for not exploring all the relishes, salads, and vegetable guisos that Mexico has to offer.

                    2. "I personally think that it's not worth bothering with dishes that require masa unless you can get fresh stuff"

                      Well, that's a bummer. I have no experience at all with Mexican cooking but quite a bit of experience with dough and I was really looking forward to trying the gorditas. Your comment stopped me in my tracks. Except for heading out to Astoria, I have no idea whether or not any place in NYC even sells fresh masa. (If anyone knows a place that does, please share.)

                      So I started researching. In OPAAT, Bayless says ". . . we found that traditional sopes made from readily available masa harina . . . tasted just about as good as those made from the harder-to-procure dough-like fresh-ground masa." In Authentic Mexican he says, "While fresh masa is unsurpassed for taste and texture, masa harina makes good tortillas, though ones with a certain toasted flavor and a slight graininess." And Diana Kennedy, in The Cuisines of Mexico, says, "Quaker brand masa harina is the only satisfactory product that I have come across for making tortillas." (Of course, that was in 1972, before Internet mail ordering became ubiquitous; still, if it was good enough for Diana Kennedy, perhaps it will be good enough for me.)

                      I'm sure Nick is right that fresh masa makes the best tortillas, but I think it would be a shame for those of us for whom fresh masa just isn't availble to forego entirely the making of tortillas.

                      Another bit of research into hard-to-find ingredients. He doesn't mention it in OPAAT, but he does in AM: one generous teaspoon of crumbled dried epazote leaves (available from Penzey's) equals one branch--7 leaves--epazote. He says dried works best in cooked dishes, not, for instance, in quesadillas.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: JoanN

                        I'd like to use Bob's Red Mill masa harina--is this a big mistake?

                        1. re: JoanN

                          Thanks for all the info JoanN. There is no way that fresh masa is available here, so I disregarded the fresh masa idea a while back. We make do very well with the dry masa harina, I make tortillas all the time with it, I also know lots of other Latin Americans who use dry masa harina, for tortillas, tamales, etc.
                          I should add that the couple of people I know that make tamales use the regular masa harina & not the *masa harina for tamales* as recommended by Rick Bayless. Their results are fantastic & I image that it can only get better, if that's possible, with using the masa harine for tamales! I'm looking forward to trying it.
                          The epazote leaf info is v-e-r-y useful - thank you!!
                          BangoDin: I have never heard of Bob's Red Mill masa harina (I have used lots of their other products), but I don't see a problem - let us know how well it works!

                          1. re: morebubbles

                            Here's what I understand so far: masa is hominy, boiled in lime water, then ground to make a soft dough called masa. (Hominy is not regular maize corn, it's a little different, and does not make cornmeal.) It is boiled in lime water to make the tough outer husks separate from the edible part. Lime is a chemical/metal substance, NOT the little green citrus fruit. If the boiled hominy is dried first, then ground, it makes masa harina. Masa harina is hominy flour, fresh masa is hominy flour BEFORE the water was dried out of it. I thknk masa harina is close enough to fresh masa to not ruin a dish. Any experts please correct this!

                            1. re: BangorDin

                              In Authentic Mexican Bayless has a recipe for making your own masa from 1-1/2 pounds of dried white field (flint or dent) corn and 2 tablespoons of slaked lime. He admits the process is labor intensive and that it isn't nearly as much fun as driving across Chicago to his favorite tortilla factory--not exactly enthusiastic encouragement to give it a try, even if you could find the ingredients.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Thank you, JoanN, I think I'll do the best I can with the best I've got. It sounds like that's what Rick B. advocates!

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  That's what I used to do before my local mfg. of tortillas upsized and moved out of downtown Oakland. The guy there would always take pity on me and provide me with it.

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    Another option is masa flour of the brand 'Minsa' which labels itself as Nixtamalized Flour. If I remember correctly, Minsa was a brand used even in rural Jalisco in the 1970s by relatives who regularly ground their own Nixtamal.

                              2. re: morebubbles

                                I'm very pleased to hear that good tamales can be made without purchasing a separate flour for them. I swear, my tiny apartment kitchen--what with pastries, cookies, pies, pizzas--must have ten different kinds of flour hidden about. I'll pop for the masa harina for tortillas, but that's it. Enough already.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  My flour collection is a bit out of control as well!
                                  Just an aside, the people that I know that make tamales will use one entire bag of masa harina at one time (more than 100 tamales, 120 maybe?), one whole day of tamal making! Seems daunting to me, on the other hand, tamales do freeze well and make for convenient eating on other days when you don't want to cook.

                                  1. re: morebubbles

                                    The only way I ever make Tamales is if its going to be a huge batch... otherwise it is not worth it. They make a good Holiday gift for neighbors etc.,

                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                      I think I'll take one of his recipes (the first tamal recipe in the book-chicken green sauce?) and make that, as a starting point. Get comfortable, then go on from there. Who knows, maybe big batch tamales will be next...

                                      1. re: morebubbles

                                        Yeah, I guess its smart to start small, since it will be your first time & its blind (no live assistance).

                                        In addition to recipe, you might want to read up on Dianne Kennedy's tips. The nice thing is that once you are comfortable it becomes a line assembly thing & big batches are the way to go.

                              3. re: JoanN

                                Joan don't worry about it... all the masa items will be much better than average Manhattan Mexican food even if you use dry masa.

                                BTW, Greenpoint has a number of places that have fresh masa. I understand the Bronx does as well.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Now I'm feeling bad for being so discouraging. Sorry about that. Here's some perspective on where I'm coming from: I live in California and have access to plenty of great fresh masa as well as products made from fresh masa, both commercial and homemade. I've experimented with dried masa harina quite a lot, using advice from various sources such as Bayless and my family. While I can make decent products with masa harina, I personally have found that the added effort of getting fresh masa (which is admittedly minimal for me), and the far better end result, make using masa harina a waste of my time. I don't even keep any in the house anymore.

                                  On the other hand, for the sake of experimenting with this cookbook, and for those for whom fresh masa is hard go find, go ahead and try it. Your results should still be tasty and enjoyable. Then you can decide for yourself if it is worth your effort to continue to use masa harina.

                                  The item where fresh masa is going to make the most difference is with tamales. With dried masa harina, the texture is more homogeneous, dense, and chewy than with fresh masa. Masa Harina Para Tamales improves that a bit since it's somewhat coarser, but it's still a long way off from fresh masa. Personally I find the texture and flavor of a masa harina tamale rather unpleasant and only eat them if the filling is really good. But to me that kind of defeats the purpose of a tamale, since what I crave from them most is great, fluffy, coarse, heterogeneous masa. When my family or I make them with fresh masa, they need only a tiny bit of simple filling (a bit of cheese and rajas, or boiled chicken) to be delicious.

                                  I've never made fresh masa from scratch, but that would be an option for those lacking a source. It can be kept easily for up to a week in the fridge if tightly sealed (I would hold off on adding any animal fats until you're ready to use it). I have heard that it can be frozen, but I've never eaten anything made from frozen masa so I can't vouch for the results.

                                  -Nick

                                2. I'm going to pick 10 recipes, though not sure if I'll be able to do all of them:

                                  Roasted poblano guacamole with garlic and parsley
                                  http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/spe...
                                  Shrimp ceviche cocktail
                                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...
                                  Cheese and mushroom quesadillas
                                  Skirt steak and rajas tacos
                                  http://www.labellecuisine.com/Archive...
                                  Chiles rellenos
                                  Roasted red chile-marinated chicken with potatoes
                                  Roast duck with adobo sauce and jicama relish
                                  Roasted lobster with mojo mayonnaise
                                  Corn-flake crusted fish with tomatillo sauce
                                  Mexican chocolate streusel cake
                                  http://www.fronterakitchens.com/cooki...

                                  First up will probably be the chiles rellenos because now I'm craving them...

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Rubee

                                    I thought the roasted poblano gaucamole looked fantastic as well, but my husband doesn't like avocado- perhaps I'll have to make it for my mom this next weekend!

                                    1. re: Rubee

                                      The chiles rellenos are SO good - looking forward to seeing your report and picture!

                                      1. re: Rubee

                                        Wow, Rubee, you are a gem for finding and linking those online recipes! I have the book from my library, so no worries for me, but this should remind us that it's nice to paraphrase or link recipes when we can.

                                        I went through the book last night and marked a bunch of recipes I'd ideally like to try. I'm excited to try working w/ fresh masa for the first time and hope to make the sopes and gorditas. I'm lucky to live near a number of good Mexican markets, so I plan to make a visit to one this weekend to stock up on supplies and start cooking!

                                        Thanks again to redwood2bay and all the participants. I've been eating poorly and not cooking enough lately, and this gives me the motivation that I need!