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Nov 19, 2012 02:12 PM

ISO best Mexican recipes for...

shredded chicken enchiladas with mole sauce and refried beans... Mexican rice recipe optional.

There are sooo many Mexican recipes out there that I don't know where to start and what/who to trust. I don't want to waste time on bad recipes, so I'm hoping for some expert advice on reproducing something somewhat sophisticated in flavour. Not looking for a Taco Bell experience.

If anyone asked me about chicken enchiladas, I'd think, "boring", but my inspiration came from Milagro (Yonge/Lawrence) - they were extraordinary. The delicate flavours, the subtleties... Indescribable.

A few notes... chicken was lightly spiced/seasoned (nothing stood out), didn't seem to have any other ingredients inside... covered in mole, vs. tomato sauce... Side of refried beans were insanely good... not your standard, dull flavour. Does anyone feel there is a significant difference between starting out with canned or dried black beans? I'm a big dry bean user, but frankly undecided if canned really makes a difference I saw some corn and peas on the plate... Might have come from the tomato-based Mexican rice (which I'm not really a huge fan). While I'd love to quit my job and learn the art of mole sauce, I would be happy with high quality, prepared/bottled recommendations, although I might attempt a recipe if it's a sure thing. While we have some nice latin grocers in Toronto, I'm going cross-border next week and can pick up some US Mexican brand products if recommended.

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  1. If you're headed anywhere in the US with a sizeable Mexican community, I'd buy dried chiles--most of what's available around the GTA are as dry as the ROM's mummies. "Fresh" dried chiles should still be a little pliable in the bag, not crumbly or crisp. They do have a shelf life and do lose flavor, if not heat, with age. Bottled mole sauces and concentrates are OK but not the same as the real deal. Try to find some unsweetened Mexican chocolate, too. Look at the mole recipes in Diana Kennedy's books for complete ingredients. With the the holidays approaching, keep in mind that turkey mole is killer--and a great way to diversify the leftover turkey menu, too.

    Pinto beans(dried)are all I use for refrieds.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kagemusha

      When you say unsweetened chocolate, would that Abuelita chocolate suffice? I know I can get that in TO (Kensington), vs. going to NY... As for chiles... What are the basic, key chiles I should get? Definitely want to take a stab at a mole, although, other than my splendid meal the other day, I have nothing else to compare to know if I'm making it right.

      1. re: Moimoi

        Not really since that's drinking chocolate. Good quality unsweetened Lindt comes close. Anchos and mulatos are good. Just make sure they're not totally dried out, OK? Mole should be very savory with a good blend of the chile, chocolate, and nut/seed flavors with modest heat on the back side.

        1. re: Kagemusha

          Thanks re: chile staples... As for the chocolate, you said unsweetened "Mexican" chocolate. Is there a specific brand I can get in TO, or just get the Lindt?

    2. Moimoi, Kagemusha has pointed you in a good direction above and I'd also suggest Rick Bayless as a tried and true source of authentic Mexican recipes. Rick is likely the best Mexican chef in the US and arguably one of the best chefs. Luckily many of his recipes are available online here:

      I have all Rick's cookbooks and have cooked many dishes over the years with great success.

      In terms of ingredients, I'd highly recommend a trip to the Kensington Market. La Tortilleria has amazing fresh tortillas and the freshest dried chilies I've ever found north of the border. There's also a great Latin supermarket where you'll find everything else you might need.

      Here's a link to some great spots I reported back on after getting some terrific recommendations here.

      1. Dried beans are much better than canned. Cook with epazote, white onion, chiles and garlic, then refry in a tasty oil--bacon fat, olive oil.

        1 Reply
        1. re: escondido123

          I like to throw some chiles arbol in the fat on lowish heat until they pinken it up, then spoon them out and start the refritos. Real leaf lard tastes good, too.


          I like Leslie Limón's site for English language MX recipes. She married a Mexican national and moved to his hometown in MX and learned traditional cooking there. (She is of Mexican-American heritage also, but she got into cooking MX foods after marriage.) Her blog is really interesting and her recipes are great. The recipes often give cultural food info, too. There are several chicken enchilada as well as mole recipes on her bean and rice recipes.

          Oh, and yeah, definitely stick with dried beans. Canned is for emergencies only. But there's lots more to explore as sides beyond rice and beans.

          2 Replies
            1. re: luckyfatima

              Thanks for the great link reco. So many food links, so little time, but in my ongoing quest for answers to the big questions in life, how would describe the taste differences between dry vs canned beans? Again, I'm also a dry bean (and canned) user but I've yet to recognize or appreciate the difference, other than the fact that I feel much more connected with the earth whilst preparing dry beans.

            2. Rick Bayless's books are probably the best overviews on Mexican cooking for North Americans. Diana Kennedy's have the unspoken assumption that you have a maid to go to the market and do all the more tedious prep work - and there's a lot!

              Making mole poblano (I'm assuming that's the one you mean, there are others) is a long process. I've done it, but I usually go with the bottled variety (Dona Maria makes one: it's OK, not great), or buying some from a local caterer who sells at the farmers' market.

              Making refried beans isn't hard, it just takes time. Make a pot of beans cooked with cumin, onion, garlic, epazote if you can find it. When they're done, fry them up in lard (traditional), bacon drippings, or chorizo drippings (vegetable oil works but it's not as flavorful),and mash them (I use a regular potato masher), adding some bean cooking water if they look too dry. Pinto beans are traditional for frijoles refritos, but I've seen black beans used as well. The beans in the local Mexican grocery are just garden variety pintos, the kind any grocer would stock.

              For mole poblano - and a lot of other Mexican dishes - a variety of dried chiles are used. The ones I have on hand right now are Pasillas and New Mexicans (a.k.a., the roundish ones and the long skinny ones) and chipotles. Preparation is key: I cut them open to remove and shake out the seeds, then toast them in a hot cast-iron skillet until the skin chars. Then I soak them in cold water for a few hours, and lastly run through a food mill to remove the waxy outer skins (the soaking water can be used to adjust the hotness later). If you're going to the Buffalo area, Wegman's would be one place to look for dried chiles, although I find their idea of where to shelve what bizarre. If they do carry them, get a wide variety and experiment with them - cascabels make fun garnishes!

              FWIW, the big variety of hot sauce currently the rage in Mexican restaurants here in California is Tapatio, supposedly a Jaliscan style made in California. I'm really fond of the Herdez brand salsas (made in Mexico), especially the 5 Chile Salsa, but I haven't seen it for years.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tardigrade

                Another vote here for Bayless, good and not too difficult mole recipes. And this website has great info and instructional videos including one for mole rojo.

                1. re: tardigrade

                  I know refried beans aren't difficult to make, but sometimes I find mess up the simplest peasanty-type dishes. I once made a simple south american beans and rice dish and it was so awful I closed the book on trying that dish again. Anyway, as for your reco, do you fry the onions, garlic, cumin before starting the water and boil process? Unfortunately I already started boiling the beans in plain water.