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Mexico, One Plate at a Time: Soups, Stews, and Sides

November 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the soups, stews, and sides chapter of Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed

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  1. Sunday evening I made the carnitas, the country ribs with bone submerged in lard and cooked in lard to cover with lime zest until golden and succulent. It was served up with warm lightly warmed in lard corn tortillas and guacamole. Wonderful as always. The first time I made the dish I used lime zest. This time I used Boyajian lime oil in the lard. That was the better choice. Not in your face lime, but the fragrance was lovely.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Candy

      Sounds good (I like the tip of Boyajian - I might try the orange), but I can't find the recipe. What page?

    2. Mexican Beans - from the pot

      Simple and tasty. Used pink beans, bacon drippings, onion, and no epazote (couldn't find it). Definitely added much more salt than he called for. I did add crumbled bacon too since I had some left over from my bacon drippings. In the end, I thought it was good - subtly smoky and a touch sweet. However, my husband thought that it needed something extra - he is a big fan of borracho beans that have bacon, beer, and tomatoes. I could probably tweak this recipe to arrive at something similar...

      ***

      Classic Mexican White Rice

      Nice. I liked the addition of the fresh lime juice. My only critique is that the rice turned out a touch oily, but I did not measure my oil, so I could have put in more than what was called for. Next time I will be more conservative with that. Will make again.

      16 Replies
      1. re: akp

        Mexican Beans from the pot (p.187).

        I made these yesterday, and also plan on making refritos. I used pinto beans, bacon drippings too, onions, and no epazote. I have dried epazote, but in "Mexican Kitchen" he says not to use it. I also added a dried chili (ancho with stem and seeds removed) - a suggestion from MK that I always use when I make these tasty beans. They freeze well too, especially if using for refritos.

        Picture:

        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

        1. re: Rubee

          I'm curious, Rubee. In MK does he say not to use dried epazote at all? or just not in the beans? Very odd that in Authentic Mexican he implies it's okay to use dried epazote in cooked dishes, in MK he says it's not (at least, not in this one), and in OPAAT he doesn't address the issue at all.

          1. re: JoanN

            Yes, that is curious. In MK he says "in my opinion, dried epazote is right for medicinal tea, not for cooking". In "Mexican Everyday", he mentions that the dried epazote in Mexican markets is a medicinal herb, not culinary, and mostly consisting of stems, and that even dried or frozen leaves don't have much flavor. I did just check my Penzey's dried epazote, though, and the label says it's "user friendly epazote, very fresh" and "unlike" that sold at Mexican grocers. Hmmmm. Maybe I should have tried it.

            1. re: Rubee

              The Dried Epazote in Mexican markets is meant to be used as a digestive tea... definitely not for cooking.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                That's what I'm wondering - he says not to use dried epazote at all. But I wonder if he's just talking about Mexican markets, and not quality dried herbs like Penzeys?

                1. re: Rubee

                  I use the dried from penzeys in a pinch! It turns out just fine! :)

                  --Dommy!

                  1. re: Dommy

                    I must agree on not using the dried epazote from the store. I tried it a few times and didn't enjoy it. I haven't tried Penzeny's though. I've got a bunch of fresh leftover that I won't be able to use up, so I am thinking of drying it and then testing it out later.

                    1. re: nja

                      Freezing works okay... you will lose potency... but then you can just use greater quantity.

                      1. re: nja

                        After reading all this about dried epazote, I won't use the one I bought. It didn't smell 'right' for food I thought, but for a tea it would be right, I think. Will try that use instead. Thanks all.

                        1. re: nja

                          The penzey's is just as good as the one we dry at home when my mother gets the crazy idea to grow it (Like Cilantro, Epazote is a easy to grow, but can be a pain, it's best just to buy it from the herb vendor)

                          1. re: Dommy

                            Thanks, Dommy! I have barely used my dried epazote from Penzeys and will use it in the Bayless recipes if I can't find fresh.

                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              You can use it any time you make beans! I do!! Also it can be added to soups and other veggies. It's SLIGHTLY astringent though, so it takes some tinkering with when used in recipes... :)

                              --Dommy!

                            2. re: Dommy

                              epazote is waaay easier to keep growing than cilantro...cilantro bolts and you have to keep reseeding. epazote seeds itself and turns into a big plant...it's a pretty hearty weed!

                  2. re: JoanN

                    You should taste epazote before you add it to a dish. I bought a start one year, decided it was the grossest thing I ever smelled or tasted, and despite that the plant self-sowed and has been coming back every year since- and we've even moved! Someday I hope to find somebody who wants some so I can give them the fresh stuff. I can't even imagine making a tea with it.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      Epazote is a weed, it self propagates and is extremely hard to eradicate. It is definitely an aquired taste :-)

                  3. re: Rubee

                    I made plain black beans from the pot with a bit of salt at the end and everyone loved it - such simple but tasty and wholesome dish!

                2. Made the Classic White Rice too, it was good. I may cut back a tad on the oil as well. The rice reminded me of my grandmother's white rice. Used chicken stock. Forgot the parsley, but didn't need it.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: morebubbles

                    I thought about it and realized that I used freshly-made chicken stock (not defatted), so that contributed to the oil. Will chill & defat as I usually do next time & it'll be fine.

                    1. re: morebubbles

                      Made the classic white rice to accompany chicken w/ pumpkin seed sauce (see report on entrees thread) and it was very tasty. Used the reserved poaching liquid from the chicken. I skimmed off as much fat as I could and didn't find the rice too oily. Loved the aromatic chicken essence engorged in each kernel of rice. Omitted the parsley as well...

                      Photo:
                      http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        The rice is great on the reheat as well!

                    2. re: morebubbles

                      Same. I liked this much better than the tomato rice. I didn't use the parsley because it was raining and dark outside in the garden. But it tasted great. The time to cook was also accurate, also unlike the tomato rice. No picture because it was too white. It didn't look like anything but a white blob in the pot and on the plate.

                    3. Red Tomato Rice (pg. 174)

                      I served this with the Chicken and mushroom with chile. Like the entree, this was just ok. It took a lot longer to cook, which was very annoying because I had timed it to be ready when the chiles were. In theory, the tomato rice should have been delicious because the onions and garlic were pureed with the whole tomatoes and simmered with the rice. I wonder if I would have liked it better if I made this with a different dish. We ended up using the sauce from the entree and putting it over the rice. I also may have liked it better if it didn't take twice as long to cook as the recipe stated. It was pretty though.

                      http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: beetlebug

                        Hmmm... Oddly enough, as much as I have been urging people to make rice this month, this is the first time I have ever noticed that Bayless blends the raw onion and garlic into the tomato in this book. I've followed his White and Green rice recipes since those were relatively new to me, but I was already happy with my red rice before I got this book so I never read through all the steps in his recipe. I assumed he sauteed the onion and garlic just like he does in the white and green recipes. That's what I always do. In fact, here's a write-up.

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                        The flavor of sauteed onion and garlic should improve the results. I once forgot to add garlic to mine and the difference was obvious.

                        -Nick

                        1. re: nja

                          Thanks. I'll try it this way. I do like tomatoes and rice together, just not that recipe.

                        2. re: beetlebug

                          Red Tomato Rice - p. 174

                          beetlebug I truly wish I'd remembered this book was a COTM before I'd selected the recipe for my Cinco de Mayo menu. I couldn't agree more w you, this was hugely disappointing and bland. It's so rare that Rick disappoints me but this was just not worth all the effort. Like you, I also had an issue w the cooking time and mine took at least twice as long as Rick suggests. The only positive attribute of the dish IMHO was the textural element the carrots added. I didn't use the peas because I find they suffer when a dish is being held for serving but I'm glad to hear that even with the peas, the dish was still disappointing. I won't bother making it again.

                          Luckily the other dishes on our Cinco de Mayo menu were much better. Here's a link to my post and more photos if anyone's interested:
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8463...

                           
                           
                        3. Mexican beans from the skillet (Frijoles Refritos):

                          I adjusted his recipe since there were just two of us. Heated a cast-iron pan and added a couple of tablespoons of bacon drippings (enough to coat the bottom). I STILL haven't gone food shopping, so no onion. Added about three cloves of chopped garlic. Used a slotted spoon and added a few scoopfuls of the pot beans. Mashed with a potato masher. Had nice flavor from the garlic, bacon drippings, and the ancho I had added in the pot. They were a side dish to the chiles rellenos I made last night.

                          P. S. I have learned that the key flavor in beans that are not bland are the 'freshness' of the beans themselves. My husband and his family are Mexican, and when we would visit them in Texas, his sister made the best refritos but added no onion or garlic. I'd come home (buying dried beans from Stop and Shop or Shaw's) and mine wouldn't taste as good, no matter how much seasoning I added. Finally I stocked up on a local market the next time I went to Texas, including dried beans, and that made all the difference. I think the main thing is to find a market with a high turnover.

                          picture:

                          http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Rubee

                            I prefer my refritos without onion and garlic anyway. I find they get in the way of the flavor of the beans. Just salt, epazote, and maybe a few dried chiles in the water while boiling the beans, then refried in lard or bacon grease.

                            I also prefer black and peruano beans over pinto beans for refritos.