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Truly Mexican: Essential Recipes and Techniques for Authentic Mexican Cooking by Roberto Santibanez

I recently purchased this book at a thrift store at a very reasonable price. It seems a very good book, relying more on techniques on Mexican Cuisine. My expertise on Mexican food is limited to the basic salsa (which I just learnt from the book is actually "Pico De Gallo" :-)) and maybe some Taco's, Nachos, with store bought ingredients.

My question is, does any of the dear CH's own this book, if so, what are the recipes that you recommend. What's your feedback? Which is the most favorite recipe from the book. I want to so dive into this book, so please help!

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  1. I was wondering about this book as well since the Carnitas thread...


    30 Replies
    1. re: ARenko

      Thanks ARenko. But the thread talks only about Carnitas. Has anybody tried any other recipes from the book? Also wondering if I can substitute Pork Shoulders to Lamb Shoulders to cook the carnitas?

      1. re: Chowshok

        Lamb shoulders are usually stewed in Mexican borrego dishes, and mostly offered only on weekends as sheep are relatively uncommon there. I have never seen it substituted for carnitas.

        1. re: Veggo

          The first time we had birria, which can be made with lamb or goat, the server tried to convince it was lamb. Never saw any lamb bones like those :)

          1. re: Veggo

            Is borrego a different kind of lamb? I thought it was just Spanish for lamb.

            1. re: c oliver

              I understand borrego to be more mutton, more mature. My Mexican-Spanish dictionary says it's a sheep 1 to 2 years old.

              There's a famous taquería in Mexico City, El Borrego Viudo, which could be translated as "The Widower Sheep", and their logo is a ram with horns.

              1. re: c oliver

                In TM, 'Adobo-braised lamb' = 'Barbacoa de borrego'.

                Traditionally this is pit streamed/braised, though he uses a well sealed dutch oven or equivalent.

                He says 'birria' is the northern version of this.

                '... de res' is the beef version of these. Beef head is a particular favorite for barbacoa.

                Carnitas is meat braised and then fried (or braised/fried in lard the whole time). Pork is the normal meat for this. I've never seen lamb or beef suggested. I have though seen recipes that attempt to used chicken (esp thighs) in this way.

                There also pork dishes that don't have the frying step. This book has a dozen or so braised pork dishes.

                Pork, like chicken or turkey, can simply simmered till tender, and then served with the most elaborate mole.

                1. re: paulj

                  This sounds like a very good book. Oh no :)

                  1. re: c oliver

                    It is a good book, a very good book

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Oh, hell, it gets free shipping on Amazon :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Also, they have no cheap used copies, which means to me that people don't get rid of it.

                          1. re: PesachBenSchlomo

                            Good Mexican cookbooks are not the easiest to find, nobody gets rid of the good ones.

                          2. re: c oliver

                            If it isn't, Amazon is now selling a lot of small ticket items that can bring your cart total up to the required amount for free shipping. I buy all sorts of dried goods there, aluminum free baking soda (since its not available in my local stores), I sometimes buy seeds, spices at good deals, I've even bought nice dried chiles there. ;D

                            1. re: ePressureCooker

                              It's just a smidge over $25. It's in my cart but I haven't pulled the trigger yet. I have a Diana Kennedy and a Rick Bayless. Hard to justify...but then it always is :)

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Actually not. RS is somewhere between Diana and Rick. This is by far one of the best Mexican books to come out in the last 3 or 4 years. (And trust me on this...I have them all <gg>)

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Okay, okay --- you're so strict :) Looking forward to it. Thanks for the nudge.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Nah...I just like the book and want everyone else to as well :-D

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      Got a notice from Amazon that it's shipped! Looking forward to it. Thanks again.

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        Got the book today and what a revelation it is! Over 15 moles!!!!! And I love his building blocks premise and the fact that he began his career at Le Cordon Bleu after loving food always growing up in Mexico City. I'm looking forward to cooking from this and thank you a lot for twisting my arm. Just a smidge ?

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          :-). You're welcome.

                                          I have over 200 Mexican cookbooks by an assortment of authors and in multiple languages. If someone told me tomorrow I had to narrow it down to just 5, Truly Mexican would definitely make the cut.

                                          I've also spent time cooking with Roberto in Mexico and he is warm and friendly and really knows his stuff. I learned a ton from him.

                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                            I intend to take it with me when I go to my Latino market. There are a couple of ingredients he mentions that I'm not familiar with. And I saw at least ONE recipe where he calls for a pasilla and I KNOW he means that and not a poblano :) Chortle.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Yes, he means pasillas as in a dried chilaca :-)

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                For one of his adobo recipes he writes:
                                                'Pasillas and guajillos go beautifully together, but once you get the hang of adobos, you'll find yourself experimenting with other combinations as well. Perhaps you'll do what my mom does, peeking into the cupboard, grabbing a few bags of whatever chiles you've had around for a while, and whipping up something incredible."

                                              2. re: DiningDiva

                                                200? I'm jealous. You must have been collecting for a while (although if you read multiple languages that probably helps). I get just about every Mexican cookbook I can, and I couldn't approach that number... ;D

                                                1. re: ePressureCooker

                                                  Libros Mexicano para cocinar? Tengo tres....:)

                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                    I have three also but they're in English.

                                                  2. re: ePressureCooker

                                                    I've been a serious student of Mexican cuisine for nearly 30 years :-). I'd say about 85% of the books have been acquired over the last 15 years. Many are small, many are paprerbacks, some are devoted to regional cooking, some are general, some I cook from and some I just use for reference or inspiration. Out of these books the 5 that I would keep are:

                                                    * The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy
                                                    * Salsas That Cook by Rick Bayless
                                                    * Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez
                                                    * Veracruz by Zarela Martinez (this is one of the most underrated Mexican cookbooks out there; awesome)
                                                    * And either Mexico the Beautiful or La Cocina Mexicana by Marilyn Tausend

                                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                                      I'm glad to hear that, because I own at least four or five of the five you mentioned... ;D

                                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                                        I've been enjoying Zarela's Oaxaca book.

                                2. re: paulj

                                  Thanks for the clarification paulj. Will definately try the recipes out!

                        2. I don't own it, but have been hogging a library copy. I think its greatest strength is in salsas, both raw and cooked. They are also a good place to start.

                          1. I bought this book for the vast range of fresh and cooked salsas. I have made the cooked tomatillo salsa from it and one of the fresh tomato salsas (which one?)

                            I have yet to tackle the more involved recipes such as adobo. But, I think it is very authentic and well written.

                            I'll be interested to follow this thread to see how others review specific recipes.

                            1. I own this book, have cooked from it and love it. It is a really good book for a beginner because it does focus on technique, which in Mexican cuisine is different than traditional European technique.

                              Here's the link to a post I did shortly after I got the book - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/810372

                              And you've already seen my post about the carnitas.

                              * The fresh fruit salsas are all good, especially during the summer months when fruit is good. They pair particularly well with poultry and fish. The ones with pineapple and mango seem to pair reasonably well with beef

                              * Roasted tomatillo salsa with chipotle and roasted garlic is good with meat

                              * Classic guacamole is outstanding. It is more typical of what you'd find in Mexico than the U.S. as the recipe doesn't overload the avocado with lime juice

                              * Guacamole with Chicharrón...3 words...oh...my...god. This is outstanding, but you need to seek out real chicharrónes from a latin market. You can NOT use packaged pork rinds.

                              * Actaully all the guacamoles are really good

                              * Do not be afraid of the adobos, I've made a couple of them and they are easy and add quite a flavor punch to whatever they are used in. A little bit will go a long way. The technique is super easy...toast, soak, blend, blend some more, strain. You can prep the other ingredients while the chiles are soaking. It's been a while since I've made one of the adobos, but I think I made either the D.F. or 3-Chile adobo

                              * I've made the Encacahuatado Classico, classic peanut sauce. If you like peanuts this is indescribably good. Recipe calls for serving with chicken, I've successfully served it with pork or shrimp

                              * Pipían de Almendra is a rather elegant dish that incorporates the Spanish (via the Moores) influences that are typcially seen in some Mexican dishes. The sauce tends to look curdled, but it is not, it's just the sesame and nuts. Pipíanes are basically the simpler, more rustic version of mole. I tend to like them better as they are usually somewhat more interesting from the textural standpoint. They are easy to make and master. And, as an aside, both moles and pipíanes are mainstay Meixcan sauces, neither of which is based upon, or thickened by a roux.

                              * Pipían de Pistache...Pistacho Pipían. A friend made this for a dinner party I attended and it was superb. This is not a traditional pipían, but boy was it good. Easy to make. Just be aware that it tends to thicken when it sits (as do most pipíanes). Just thin it with stock or water

                              * Fideos Secos...Mexican-style noodles. So worth the effort and when you get all the toppings on the noodles, it can be a meal unto itself. A fried or poached egg on top is also nice. My "go-to" recipe for fideos has always been a Diana Kennedy recipe, but this one gives that one a really good run for the money.

                              This is truly a very solid Mexican cookbook. I have not had any dish I've made from it fail. It is an excellent starting point for cooks that are not familar with Mexican cooking as well as for diners not familiar with Mexican flavors.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                Thank you for that review. I think I may purchase this book.

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Thanks DD for the excellent review of the book. You have really motivated me to cook from the book. When I saw the picture of the succulent shrimps coated with crimson red sauce on the front cover of the book at the store, and marked for 10 bucks, I knew I had to get it. But was not sure where to start. Will definately start with the salsas and work my way through the adobos to the Moles. The noodles sound very appetizing. Cant wait to try it out!! Thanks again.

                                  1. re: Chowshok

                                    That cover dish is actually easier than you think. I could be wrong, but I think it's one of the adobe rubs that is on it that creates that fabulous color.

                                2. Want to comment that I love that the book has no dust jacket. And that the outside is high gloss so easier to keep clean. Not that I have a goal of keeping cookbooks super clean but I won't mind being able to run a damp sponge over.

                                  After lunch going to do some browsing at my Latino market. I've not had epazote that I'm aware of. And while he mentions hoja santa, he doesn't give a picture but I can ask.

                                  1. Hoja Santa is fairly perishable and not often found in markets, even Mexican/latin ones on this side of the border. It does, however, grow very readily in Califorina. The flavor is kind of like an herby/grassy anise. For some people (and I was one) it is an acquired taste. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_au...

                                    Mexicans wrap all sorts of things in hoja santa, including tamales, fish, chicken and so forth. It is edible. It is very fragrant and easily perfumes whatever it touches during cooking.

                                    Almost all Mexican markets carry fresh epazote these days (except the one in Sacto) and fresh is far superior to dried. Sometimes it will look a little witly in the market, but I've used it anyway with no loss of flavor. Some people think it tastes like turpentine. To me it doesn't, but I can't exact explain what it does taste like. I also cannot imagine cooking a pot of black beans without it as it's such an essential ingredient for proper black beans. It, too, is really easy to grow. Do not, however, let it go to seed or it will take over your entire yard. It is a weed and once it get's started it really takes off. It's been my experience at Mexican markets that a lot of the fresh herbs are kind of lumped together. Here's a photo of it -http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=h...
                                    A little goes a long way

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      Just back from the Asian, Latino and Middle Eastern markets :) At the Latino one she said they no longer carry Hoja Santo but I did get fresh epazote. Left Bob reading the book while waiting for my car to be done. He announced "Now I'm REALLY hungry." That was after lunch :)

                                    2. http://www.splendidtable.org/story/ho...

                                      Segment on this week's The Splendid Table with Roberto.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: paulj

                                        I'll have to go through this more carefully but there's some real sloppiness in what he says.

                                        Referring to Mesoamericans as "Mexicans"? I could almost forgive that as eliding for conciseness. No, I can't. It's sloppy.

                                        At the time Columbus sailed the Moors had been driven out of the Iberian Peninsula. The Spain of 600 years ago was not the Spain of 500 years ago, when exploration of the New World began. Lingering influence, sure. Domination, no.

                                        And then, "Every taqueria has a taco de alambre." What an absurd thing to say. One need only walk a couple blocks probably anywhere in Mexico to prove otherwise.

                                        Just sloppy. My first impression.

                                      2. I got this book for Christmas (it was on my list) and I am just starting to read it now ... Can't wait to try some recipes. One better hint, however, for a tortilla press is to use a large ziplock bag to cut 2 circles from. Have you made any recipes?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Mexijo

                                          I know its a very late reply Mexijo, but no, I have not tried anything yet, except maybe a Salsa. These past 8-9 months have been excruciatingly challenging with a sick mother overseas, loosing two of my father's siblings in a span of 3 months, along with extreme work challenges and studying for an exam. Cooking has been pushed to back burner. Hopefully will get to the book in a month's time. There is a lot of good info on this thread, which provides good starting points.
                                          Thank you all for your lovely inputs.

                                        2. Made Calabacitas con Crema, substituting Chihuahua cheese for chedder and using calabacitas (not zuchini). It was fantastic. Made it again for a pot luck the other night and got rave reviews. Everything I've made from this book is very good, but if you haven't tried this dish make it - you won't be disappointed.

                                          1. Made the pork shoulder braised in cooked green salsa, substituting green beans for the peas. It was very good.