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*March 2010 Cookbook of the Month: The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, Kennedy*

Caitlin McGrath Feb 28, 2010 08:24 PM

Our March Cookbook of the Month is The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, by Diana Kennedy, which integrates the recipes from her frist three books, The Cuisines of Mexico, The Tortilla Book, and Mexican Regional Cooking

How Cookbook of the Month works:

Preliminary discussion of the book: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/689269

Please use this thread for general discussion, menu planning questions, and linkd to online sources.

Please post your reviews in the threads linked below.

Appetizers, Soups, Soup Stews

Masa Fantasies, Tortillas and Tortilla Dishes, Tamales

Beans, Rice, and Pasta; Sauces and Relishes

Egg Dishes and Light Meals

Salads and Vegetables

Pork, Beef, Assorted Meats

Poultry and Seafood

Sweet Yeast Breads, Desserts, Drinks

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.

  1. t
    twilight goddess Jul 18, 2011 09:26 AM

    Catching up on my NPR food podcasts over the weekend, I heard this breezy interview with Diana Kennedy, a lively discussion of her new book, Oaxaca al Gusto (from Oct 2010). Having spent a summer bopping around Oaxaca, I am cheering wildly for her choice to compile this book from the perspective of a food anthropologist. Maybe that's also b/c I, too, am an anthropologist!

    "She is cooking to preserve, to document dishes from remote parts of Mexico that are usually made entirely with local ingredients."

    Here's the story -- click the button at the top to hear Kennedy's excitement as she wanders around her garden and cooks beans with hierba santa...


    1. greedygirl Apr 3, 2010 04:07 PM

      OK, some more questions from a total noob when it comes to cooking (and eating) Mexican food.

      I can only get canned tomatillos - do I need to cook them or can I use them straight from the can like you do tomatoes?

      Poblanos - hard to find in the UK and probably only available online in cans. Any substitute possible?

      Crema - I plan to use creme fraiche instead, or even creamy Greek yoghurt. Thoughts?

      More to come, probably! I plan to tackle enchiladas next.

      3 Replies
      1. re: greedygirl
        DiningDiva Apr 3, 2010 04:22 PM

        Canned tomatillos do not need further cooking, except for the sauce you're putting them into. Also, taste them first when you open the can. Tomatillos can be a bit sour or bitter, if the canned ones you have are, add a couple pinches of sugar. Tomatillos are acutally a part of the gooseberry family.

        Poblanos are kind of the workhorse fresh green chile in the Mexican kitchen. If you can get them canned, depending upon the recipe, that would probably work. They're a meaty chile with a moderate amount of heat and bite, but not stingingly so. Hungarian chiles can sometimes substitute, but they tend to be a little bit too hot. Once again, depending upon the recipe, you might be able to use a combination of green bell pepper and hungarian pepper. If you're looking at chile relleno recipes, some of the hybrid jalapenos that are big and fairly mild would be a good sub. Stuffed jalapenos are common in Mexico, especially in Veracruz.

        Creme Fraiche is the perfect sub for crema.

        Good luck.

        P.S. I love your avatar :-)

        1. re: DiningDiva
          greedygirl Apr 3, 2010 09:15 PM

          Thanks for that.

          Unfortunately, jalapenos aren't that common either and I've never seen the big ones! As our most common ethnic food is Indian, cayenne chiles are the norm here. Maybe I will try using them instead. They're generally pretty mild.

          The ingredient thing is actually a big obstacle to cooking Mexican in the UK. You can get most of the dried chiles if you hunt around but things like epazote, masa harina and jicama are pretty hard to find, especially outside London. Even chipotles en adobo are difficult to source.

          I've just ordered a copy of a book by a British writer who's championed Mexican food here (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mexican-Food-...) because I really liked the look of it and obviously she is catering to an audience who aren't that familiar with the cuisine. Needless to say, her cooking hero is Diana Kennedy!

          1. re: greedygirl
            hari mirch Oct 12, 2010 11:31 AM

            There are a few places in the UK where you can buy Mexican ingredients. They may also be able to point you to places where you can get fresh poblanos etc. E.g.:


      2. greedygirl Mar 26, 2010 03:05 AM

        So I'm preparing to dip my toe into the very unfamiliar world of Mexican cooking, and I'm wondering what to substitute for queso fresco, which I've never seen in the UK. Ricotta?

        13 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl
          Gio Mar 26, 2010 05:22 AM

          When I need to I substitute a mild feta. That seems to work quite well. Queso fresco is a bit denser than ricotta.

          1. re: greedygirl
            DiningDiva Mar 26, 2010 10:07 AM

            Gio's suggestion for mild feta is a good one. Fresh mozzarella is also a good substitute.

            Ricotta = Reqeson in Mexico
            Feta = good substitution for crumbly Cotija
            Jack = decent sub for Chihuahua
            Mozzarella = good sub for queso fresco and/or panela, especially where it needs to melt

            Cheddar in any shape or form is not typically used in Mexico. However, if it's the only thing you can source, the best option is probably a mild white cheddar that melts.

            1. re: DiningDiva
              Caitlin McGrath Mar 26, 2010 10:56 AM

              A good idea I picked up from another thread that might also be an option for greedygirl in the UK is subbing paneer for queso fresco. at least in aplications where it doesn't need to melt.

            2. re: greedygirl
              jen kalb Mar 26, 2010 12:04 PM

              queso fresco is a fresh white cheese and mostly used grated and melted. I am sure you could find a similar french, spanish or italian cheese.

              cotijo in my experience in NY is a salty dryer version of the same sort of thing., a little tangy. also mostly used grated. Some of the dryer italian cheeses from the south that basically are like an aged mozzarella or say ricotta salata, could work. Feta is pretty different.

              Wouldnt worry too much, just get something that is more milky flavored than strong and has the texture desired.

              1. re: jen kalb
                greedygirl Mar 27, 2010 03:44 AM

                Thanks everyone for the helpful suggestions. I seem to remember reading somewhere that cheshire (a mild white cheese) is not a bad substitute so I'll experiment with that.

                1. re: greedygirl
                  moh Mar 28, 2010 10:52 AM

                  Greedygirl, I think Cheshire would be a very reasonable substitute. It has a similar slightly chalky quality, and the flavour of Cheshire is mild enough that it will not clash with the mexican flavours. I would also agree with others about the mild feta.

                  Gosh, I haven't had Cheshire in ages. I really miss those great English farmhouse cheeses. I need to get my butt that way again.

                  1. re: moh
                    oakjoan Apr 1, 2010 01:05 PM

                    moh: Or if you have the big bucks and live near Oakland and Berkeley California, you can buy all the English farmhouse cheese you want at $17.95 per lb. Sigh.

                    That Neal's (Niels? Neils?) Yard Cheddar is always calling out to me: "Buy me! Buy me! So what if you can't afford gasoline! How good does gasoline taste?"

                    1. re: oakjoan
                      moh Apr 1, 2010 07:00 PM

                      I have definitely noticed that there are many places in the States that you can get Neal's Yard cheeses, and I agree, they are incredible! I adore English farmhouse cheeses. It is so funny, I live in a place where we have incredible french and quebecois cheese, our selection of raw milk cheeses and of rare cheeses like Vacherin Mont D'or is amazing. And yet, it is very hard to get good English farmhouse cheeses. We can find it, but not as easily as in Toronto or in other places. I realize I am not going to get a lot of sympathy! I am very lucky as a cheese lover to live where I live.

                      "how good does gasoline taste?" - love it - that is how I feel about good quality cheddar too... At least cheddar is a renewable resource.

                      1. re: oakjoan
                        greedygirl Apr 2, 2010 12:57 AM

                        oj - you really need to get yourself over here one of these fine days. As it happens, on a trip to California in 2001, we were offered Neal's Yard cheeses "all the way from London" in a deli in Yountville. How we laughed (while gobbling it up).

                      2. re: moh
                        greedygirl Apr 2, 2010 12:58 AM

                        moh - yes indeedy. Come and visit and I promise you all the farmhouse cheeses your heart desires.

                        1. re: greedygirl
                          moh Apr 2, 2010 06:32 AM

                          Cheers greedygirl! I'm always angling for an excuse to head east. I have a desperate hankering for real fish and chips, those fabulous cheeses, and many other fine gastronomic experiences. This may sound hard to believe, but I was even waxing nostalgic about those farmers plates ( i think that's what they were called) they used to offer for lunch in English pubs, with the salad and the salad cream, and the Branston pickle, hunks of cheese and some cold cuts. It's been years since I've had a proper one. I've tried recreating it at home, but it doesn't seem the same.

                          1. re: moh
                            greedygirl Apr 2, 2010 06:37 AM

                            I think you mean a ploughman's lunch. I like them too, and you still get them in most places that haven't been gastropubbed.

                            1. re: greedygirl
                              moh Apr 2, 2010 06:56 AM

                              That is indeed the correct term! it has been a while. Glad to see they are still around. Really good memories of lunches in English pubs with friends....

                2. LulusMom Mar 13, 2010 10:33 AM

                  It's killing me that I have so little time to cook this month. Those of you cooking - most everything sounds wonderful (and impressive, given the work some of these things take).

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: LulusMom
                    DiningDiva Mar 13, 2010 11:08 AM

                    In the very first class I ever took with DK (back in 1992 or 93) the very first words out her mouth were "Mexican food is very laborious". And over the years I've discovered that (sadly) truer words were never spoken.

                    Really good Mexican food *is* laborious. BUT, I've also discovered that if I read the recipe through 3 or 4 times before I even start cooking, two things happen. First, I can find a way to simplify a step or two without harming the overall recipe. Or, second, once I start cooking, the recipe goes together a lot quicker than I originally thought. The directions that Diana gives with each recipe are pretty detailed, and thankfully pretty easy to follow. To be that detailed takes more words than not. Some of her recipes that seemed a little daunting at the beginning actually turn out to be fairly simple once the cooking gets underway.

                    Most of her salsa recipes go together in less than 15 minutes. Most of them, especially the ones made with dried chiles hold in the fridge for up to about 3 weeks. A spoonful of salsa added to many other dishes while cooking, or used as a table condiment, can add some variety and dimension to the dishes we cook most often. For folks with limited time, this is probably the easiest and quickest way to experiement or play with ones food ;-)

                    The soups are also pretty easy and not so time consuming. Though I really think most of the ones in this book are probably better in the summer when the produce is better and there is a wider selection available. Once you get the hang of toasting, soaking and blending, even that can be accomplished pretty quickly. The rest of it is usually just chop, sautee and simmer.

                    The structure of DKs recipes is really solid. They work almost without fail. This makes them ideal for adapting to ones own particular situation with regard to cooking and time. I, too, have been enjoying reading about what everyone has been cooking, how they've changed or modified things and the results they've gotten. :-)

                    1. re: DiningDiva
                      LulusMom Mar 13, 2010 03:23 PM

                      It isn't only the labor involved ... we've been away once already this month, and are leaving again next week. And my husband was away for a week, which leaves me very little inclination to cook (especially since he treats my daughter and me to dinner out whenever he's away on business). But this is one of my favorite cuisines, and I do think it would be worth the time and effort to make it myself. Just kicking myself about the timing.

                      1. re: LulusMom
                        Rubee Mar 13, 2010 03:48 PM

                        I haven't been able to cook out if as much as I planned, so feel free to join me - I'll be cooking out of it next month too. : )

                        1. re: Rubee
                          yamalam Mar 22, 2010 11:26 AM

                          As will I!

                  2. c
                    cpw Mar 12, 2010 06:16 AM

                    I have the book from the library from almost a week now. I have barely sat few times with the book and chalked down few recipes, and the only thing which seemed simple to me were few chicken recipes. I do not have much time in the weekend, as I am preparing for job interviews, but would still like to cook something from the book. Anybody has suggestions on few simple recipes to start on the book?
                    I went shopping last night for different chilies and tamale masa, so pantry wise I think I am okay. TIA

                    1. Katie Nell Mar 9, 2010 01:43 PM

                      Are there any pupusa recipes, or is a pupusa too specific to Honduras/ Guatemala?

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: Katie Nell
                        Rubee Mar 9, 2010 02:10 PM

                        Right, pupusas aren't Mexican. As you mentioned, I associate them with Honduras/Guatemala and El Salvador. Mmm..now I want one, preferably with queso con loroco!

                        I'm thinking you could make them using a technique for thick, stuffed corn tortillas, and maybe use a tortilla press to flatten? I may have to try that.

                        1. re: Rubee
                          Katie Nell Mar 9, 2010 02:38 PM

                          I'm obsessed with them! Had my first one on our family "taco" crawl last October! I've been looking for a Honduran/ Guatemalan specific cookbook, but haven't came up with anything yet.

                          1. re: Katie Nell
                            JoanN Mar 11, 2010 08:54 AM

                            My Guatemalan friends tell me that the most authentic Guatemalan and Mayan cookbook in English is "False Tongues and Sunday Bread" by Copeland Marks. I've had it for years, but truth to tell have never cooked from it. I do, however, look stuff up in it all the time after trying something new in Guatemala and then say, nah. Not gonna bother. I'll just go back to Guatemala. ;-)

                            Looked it up on Amazon so I could give you a link and nearly flipped out when I saw the prices! Geez! I may have to rewrite my will. Maybe you can find better prices elsewhere?


                            1. re: JoanN
                              buttertart Mar 11, 2010 09:44 AM

                              I looked it up on Abebooks and Betterworldbooks and the lowest price was $43.00. Crikey!

                              1. re: JoanN
                                Katie Nell Mar 11, 2010 03:04 PM

                                Eek! That is a lot, but I love the title! I did find a lot of recipes online though: http://recipes.wuzzle.org/index.php/58 But, no pupusas. Sorry, I've really taken over this thread. Oops!

                                1. re: Katie Nell
                                  JoanN Mar 11, 2010 05:01 PM

                                  Not at home; no access to the book for at least another couple of weeks. Will try to remember to see if it has a recipe for pupusas. If I forget, nudge me.

                                  1. re: Katie Nell
                                    oakjoan Apr 1, 2010 01:10 PM

                                    Katie: There are lots of online recipes for pupusas. Check them out.

                                    1. re: Katie Nell
                                      JoanN Apr 9, 2010 04:05 PM

                                      Back home for a few days and “False Tongues and Sunday Bread” does indeed have a recipe for Salvadoran Pupusas. Here it is:

                                      Mix 2 pounds masa harina with water according to package directions. Use two full tablespoons of masa to make tortillas about 2-1/2 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Spoon a tablespoon of stuffing into the center of the tortilla, top it with another tortilla, and seal the edges with a fork. Bake in a skillet or on a hot griddle over moderate heat for 6 to 8 minutes until brown on both sides.


                                      Chicharrone Stuffing
                                      1/2 pound chicharrones
                                      1/4cup chopped sweet red pepper
                                      2 cups sliced ripe tomatoes
                                      3/4 cup sliced onion
                                      1/2 teaspoon salt
                                      Process in a food processor to make a paste. Refrigerate 24 hours before using.

                                      Cheese Stuffing
                                      3/4 cup farmer cheese
                                      1/4cup feta cheese
                                      Mix together and refrigerate for at least several hours before using.

                                      Black Bean Stuffing
                                      1 cup Frijoles Volteados (Black Bean Paste)

                                      Recipe for Black Bean Paste

                                      1 pound dried black beans
                                      6 cups water
                                      1/4 cup chopped onion
                                      1 garlic clove, chopped
                                      1 teaspoon salt
                                      1/4 cup onion crisps (fry 1/2 cup finely chopped onions over low heat in 3 tablespoons corn oil until light brown; drain on paper towels)
                                      1 tablespoon corn oil
                                      Soak the beans overnight. Cook beans with onion, garlic, and salt until soft, about 1-1/2 hours. Puree and press through a sieve. Mix in onion crisps. Heat corn oil in a skillet over moderate to low heat, add the bean puree, and stir with a wooden spoon as the puree thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the skillet. It should be thick enough to be able to be formed into a roll and sliced.

                                      1. re: JoanN
                                        The Dairy Queen Apr 10, 2010 06:02 AM

                                        Oh, I'm so thrilled to have this, thank you. Feta cheese is a surprise to me--is that typical?


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                          JoanN Apr 11, 2010 01:43 PM

                                          He doesn't say, but I'd guess that feta is a readily available substitute for what is usually a locally made queso blanco.

                                        2. re: JoanN
                                          Katie Nell Apr 10, 2010 08:15 PM

                                          JoanN- thank you so much! My personal favorite is bean and cheese, but I'm betting that my husband would really love the chicharrone stuffing! Thanks for posting the recipes!

                                      2. re: JoanN
                                        oakjoan Mar 12, 2010 02:08 PM

                                        Oooh! Another Guatamala fan! I haven't been there in years We took the train and bus from Calif/Mex border all the way to Tapachula and then the bus over El Tapon. I remember this trip more than any other. Fantastic. I'll have to look up this cookbook. Maybe the Berkeley library has it!

                                    2. re: Rubee
                                      DiningDiva Mar 9, 2010 02:51 PM

                                      Rubee's right, pupusas aren't Mexican. BUT...you could try sopes or groditas as an alternative.

                                  2. Rubee Mar 8, 2010 01:20 PM

                                    Thought I'd post some of the dishes I hope to make this month in case others plan to also, and welcome any tips from our resident expert DiningDiva!

                                    For fillings/toppings, etc.

                                    Chilorio (Chile-Seasoned Pork), p.18
                                    Mochomos Sinaloenses (Sinaloan Shredded Beef), p. 19

                                    Salsa de Albañil, p. 22
                                    Enchiladas Verdes de San Luis Potosi (my husband's grandmother is from San Luis Potosi so I hope to make quite a few of the recipes from this region).
                                    Chilaquiles Veracruzanos, p. 71
                                    Menudo Colorado Norteño, p. 131
                                    Sopa Seca de Fideo, p. 166
                                    Albondigas in Chipotle Sauce, p. 306
                                    Frijoles Maneados Sonoresenses
                                    Mole Poblano, p. 325
                                    Orange Flan, p. 412

                                    I just made the sauce for Carne de Puerco en Chile Colorado (p 259) for later this week. Dinner tonight is Pechugos de Pollo con Rajas (p. 347). With margaritas or Tequila Sunrises (p. 446) to start ; )

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Rubee
                                      DiningDiva Mar 8, 2010 02:28 PM

                                      Rubee, I'm coming to your house for dinner! MMM..mmm..MMM

                                      I've made the Sopa Seca de Fideos and posted something about that on the thread for that topic. This is one of my favs.

                                      Please post about how your pechugas come out, I've been eyeing that recipe as a possibility for this weekend :-)

                                      1. re: DiningDiva
                                        Rubee Mar 8, 2010 03:42 PM

                                        Will do! Though I picked that recipe so I wouldn't have to run the store (haven't made it to the Mexican market yet) and going to have to use sour cream, which she says will curdle.

                                        A couple of questions:

                                        I'm using 4 poblanos - charred, unpeeled - I had in the freezer. Her recipe (which I am going to halve) calls for 2-1/4 pounds. Any idea what 4 good-sized poblanos would be (a pound?).

                                        Also, she says not to buy the Mexican crema in glass jars. Our local Mexican market, however, has many types in both jars and plastic containers, as well as in tubs available by weight at the 'dairy counter'. Have you found anything like these to be good quality?


                                        1. re: Rubee
                                          DiningDiva Mar 8, 2010 08:24 PM

                                          Rubee, I've never weighed poblanos but I'd be willing to bet that if you had 4 good sized ones you had a least a pound, maybe a little more, and probably more than enough for a half recipe. I'll be interested to know how the half recipes worked out. Her recipes are very easy to expand and still retain their integrity but I've not had so much luck shrinking her recipes.

                                          DK is a real purist and stickler for tradition. Me? not so much. I buy crema in plastic jars. Here in SoCal I think the Cacique brand is quite servicable.We also have about a gazillion different varieites of crema and I'm not sure what or why they're different. Our big Mexican market here has a huge cheese counter with all kinds of interesting stuff including several varieties of crema. I haven't tried them yet, but my guess is they're just bulk versions of what's in the jars. I think the best advice is to probably just find a crema you like and stick with it.

                                          1. re: DiningDiva
                                            Rubee Mar 9, 2010 10:18 AM

                                            Thanks so much for your help!

                                            The chicken with poblanos was delicious. My husband had thirds. I'll report on it when I can upload pics ; )

                                            Making sopa seca de fideo for lunch - will have to check out your tips!

                                            1. re: Rubee
                                              DiningDiva Mar 9, 2010 11:01 AM

                                              Hope you've got a crowd for lunch :-). It makes a lot. The left overs are good but tend to get a little mushy when reheated

                                              1. re: DiningDiva
                                                oakjoan Mar 9, 2010 03:26 PM

                                                Yeah, but as with leftover chiles rellanos, in my op., mushy is okay. So is room temp. ;+)

                                    2. luckyfatima Mar 4, 2010 08:28 AM

                                      May I use any of Kennedy's major books? I can't get the COTM but I know they have one of her books in the library.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: luckyfatima
                                        Caitlin McGrath Mar 4, 2010 01:11 PM

                                        The COTM contains recipes from The Cuisines of Mexico, The Tortilla Book, and Mexican Regional Cooking, so recipes in any of those are part of it, if they're available. Also, if you are able to access the link in my first reply in this thread, there a lots of recipes from the book available there.

                                        1. re: luckyfatima
                                          Caitlin McGrath Mar 9, 2010 02:06 PM

                                          In past months (like the Sahni/Jaffrey month), people have started supplementary threads to report on cooking from other books by the author than the ones voted in for COTM.

                                        2. e
                                          ElenaRose Mar 2, 2010 10:05 AM

                                          Alot of her recipes call for lard, in most cases I can probably just substitute oil, but what about tamales? And are there other recipes for which the substitution isn't that easy? Would crisco be better?

                                          I do not eat pork, so lard is not an option, and I would rather not use animal fat at all - I keep kosher so for a lot of dishes I'd rather keep the dairy in it than use animal fat.

                                          Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: ElenaRose
                                            DiningDiva Mar 2, 2010 11:03 AM

                                            Yes, you can use Crisco.

                                            You can use corn or canola oil to sautee things she suggests cooking in lard

                                            1. re: DiningDiva
                                              ElenaRose Mar 2, 2010 11:07 AM

                                              Thanks Dining Diva! Would I use the same amount of crisco as she uses lard in the tamales?

                                              1. re: ElenaRose
                                                DiningDiva Mar 2, 2010 09:16 PM

                                                Yes, use the same amount, it's a one-to-one substitution

                                            2. re: ElenaRose
                                              walker Mar 2, 2010 09:23 PM

                                              For tamales, instead of lard I use unsalted butter -- delicious.

                                            3. Caitlin McGrath Feb 28, 2010 08:26 PM

                                              There are a ton of recipes from the book available via the Google Books link:


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