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Dec 30, 2013 05:57 PM

Recommend me a taco-heavy Mexican cookbook

It's about time I got myself a good Mexican cookbook...can anyone recommend a great one...preferably taco-centric as that's the main thing I like to cook/eat.

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  1. Mexican food is so much more complex than just taco's. Rick Bayliss "Authentic Mexican" and Diana Kennedy "The Art of Mexican Cooking" books are really good for authentic Mexican food. Since you are asking about taco's specifically, maybe check out "Street Food of Mexico" by Hugo Ortega or "Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales" by Roberto SantibaƱez.

    If you are looking for recipes from the Southwest US, not necessarily authentic Mexican, I recommend "The Border Cookbook" by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison.

    1. Truly Mexican, also by Santibanez, is excellent with many salsas and beef, pork, and seafood recipes that can be used in tacos.

      1. Big second on the rec for Truly Mexican. It is an outstanding first book for people interested in getting into Mexican cooking. The salsa and guacamole recipes are very easy and yield excellent results. It also includes multiple recipes, both meat and vegetarian, that can be served by themselves or used as a taco filling.

        The book also does a very good job at explaining ingredients and cooking methods for the novice to Mexican cooking.

        I used to recommend Salsas That Cook by Rick Bayless as a good entry level Mexican cookbook, I now think Truly Mexican is a better choice.

        10 Replies
        1. re: DiningDiva

          I may have to check out Truly Mexican and other Santibanez books. Americans seem just too quick to cite Rick Bayless as the Mexican authority. From what I've seen, I think Bayless books are for people who have never cooked Mexican food before, and most of the recipes are not very original or involve ingredient twists on common Mexican cooking techniques.

          1. re: LorenzoGA

            While Truly Mexican has a large number of salsa recipes (cooked and not) I wouldn't describe them as original or having twists. It is still rooted in Mexican tradition.

            For some degree of originality two books come to mind:

            Aaron Sanchez's 'Simple Food, Big Flavors', which is organized in a 'one recipe plus variations per chapter' manner.

            Mexican Modern

            A book about/by up and coming Mexican cooks.

            1. re: paulj

              I like the Sanchez book, not so wild about the Dunlop book.

              A Mexican cookbook I like quite a bit but that doesn't get a lot of love is Salpicon by Priscilla Satkoff. Original and creative.

            2. re: LorenzoGA

              Actually, RBs first 2 books are quite good and not for someone who has never cooked Mexican before. His first book, Authentic Mexican is very traditional and was based on his living in Mexico for 5 years.

              Pretty much from One Plate at a Time his cookbooks moved into more commercial formats. The value in his early books is that the flavor profiles are right, the recipes work and he explains the techniques well enough for an average cook to understand and follow them.

              I think American's cite the Bayless books because he's now high profile (really, he didn't used to be) and approachable and his books are in English.

              I've spent time with, and taken many classes from, both Rick and Roberto (among others) and both truly do understand the traditional Mexican kitchen, but both currently make their living in alta cocina style kitchens (Rick more so than Roberto).

              1. re: DiningDiva

                Okay, admittedly the only Bayless book I own is Mexican Everyday. That's the one that I felt was pushing basic techniques with ingredients twists to people who likely had never cooked Mexican cuisine before.

              2. re: LorenzoGA

                Just to follow up on this, I just received Santibanez' "Truly Mexican" and "Tacos, Tortas and Tamales," and flipping through them, they look GREAT. That's the kind of no-nonsense Mexican cooking information I have been looking for. As I said above, Rick Bayless' "Mexican Everyday" seemed too simplistic or patronizing to me and just left me disappointed, though I admittedly haven't read his other books. Santibanez really seems to know what he's doing, and the recipes are likely to be useful to anyone regardless of the extent of their prior knowledge of Mexican cuisine.

                1. re: LorenzoGA

                  The carnitas recipe in Truly Mexican is outstanding,not to mention super simple. Also try the salsa verde cruda he recommends be served along side the carnitas. Fantastic combination.

                  The first cooking class I ever took with Diana Kennedy began with "preparing Mexican food properly is laborious"...and stretch out the word laborious. And having cooked traditional Mexican cuisine for the last 30 years, I'd definitely have to agree with her :-). The techniques aren't necessarily hard, but they can be time consuming. Mexican Everyday was RBs attempt at presenting recipes that remained true to the flavor profiles while making the preparation and cooking processes simpler, easier and more approachable. His intent was to give people an easier way to prepare and eat Mexican food more frequently in the hopes that they would incorporate the dishes they liked into the typical family rotation of standard dishes.

                  I think on that premise the cookbook worked beautifully. I've owned Mexican Everyday for many years and I like it. Is it traditional? No way. Are the flavors of the dishes true to what you'd find in Mexico? For the most part, yes.

                  Mexican's don't eat many salads in the way that American's do. The salad recipes in the first chapter are a nice blend of both cultures. I've made quite a few of them - and even taught them in a Mexican cooking class - and they are all quite good and go the extra step of allowing the cook to improvise and use the dressings as a base for other dishes.

                  Many Mexican dishes - the guisado category in particular - benefit from a long, low simmer. RB has several recipes using a slow cooker and others for which he provides directions for how to adapt the recipe to the slow cooker. Where there may be someone at home in a Mexican home to prepare and simmer a dish on the stove all day, most American women work outside the home and wouldn't consider leaving a meal on the stove to cook all day unattended...too dangerous as a fire hazard. They will (and do) use crock pots for the same purpose, so why not fill it with Mexican flavors.

                  I understand your points and disdain, but I think you're a little at cross purposes here. Mexican Everday was never intended as a straight traditional Mexican cookbook. It's intent was to take Mexican flavors and make them accessible and available to cooks in the American kitchen so that they could eat and experience truer Mexican flavors (than, say, Taco Bell) more easily at home. In that he was pretty successful

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    Okay, thanks for setting me straight about Mexican Everyday's goal. You state it well. For someone who has been eating and cooking Mexican food for 20+ years (not counting the pseudo-Mexican or Tex-Mex experiences of my youth), it just wasn't the right first Mexican cookbook for me. I learned what I know mainly from watching others and experimenting until I discovered what works. Honestly, I am not a fan of cookbooks, but after I have muddled my way through a cuisine for some years I tend to reach a point where I want to refine and expand my knowledge, and I relent and invest in a well-focused cookbook or two. So it was with Mexican. Over the years, it seemed like every Mexican cookbook I looked at was written by some gringo who came back from spending a few years in Mexico, thought they had learned it all, and wanted to present it to those of us north of the border who were assumed to lack all knowledge and access to traditional ingredients. Looks like the Santibanez books came out a couple of years ago while I was asleep (or at least not reading Chow).

                    1. re: LorenzoGA

                      What are you looking for in a Mexican cookbook? I've got close to 200 or 'em in both English and Spanish.

                      Truly Mexican is a really good basic, entry level cookbook. It hits a lot of the main categories and explains really well the techniques and ingredients.

                      For someone with some background and understanding of Mexican cuisine, as well as cooking in general, I often recommend Diana Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking. It can be - as can most of her cookbooks - daunting at first until you get used to her style, or improve your Mexican cooking skills :-).

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        200 Mexican cookbooks! Crikey! I don't think I'm looking for anything in particular. But the idea of learning to make some basic regional sauces that Truly Mexican conveys is a good place to start. Between those two Santibanez books, we (my wife and I) will have plenty to occupy ourselves for a few months.

                        We are hoping to hone our Mexican cooking skills this year. There is a plan afoot in our extended family to have everyone stay in a rented house in Mexico for Christmas this year (2014), probably in Merida. We hope to engage the whole group in cooking up a Navidad feast. We and most of the family are fluent enough in Spanish to do well with this. If you have any book(s) to recommend specifically toward this goal, please do.

                        Incidentally, I am a longtime occasional lurker on Chow but have only recently gotten back to visiting frequently and posting comments. I will check out your many posts on Mexican cuisine as time permits.

                        Also, I see you are in SD, which is where I lived for 15 wonderful years and spent a lot of time in Baja, eating, camping, kayaking and adventuring. I sure miss it.

            3. To a (good) taco is something I get in sets of 3 or more from a taco truck. There isn't much of a recipe for the taco itself - to corn tortilla, meat, and few garnishes. The meats may used on tortas (sandwiches), burritos, and several other bases. Same for the garnishes, and salsas.

              For a good list of the varieties of tacos, check the Wiki article. The list grows as street vendors innovate, trying to attract new customers.

              But I would agree with others that Truly Mexican is a good source. The focus there is on the salas, raw and cooked. They served a dip, garnish, and cooking medium.

     is another good source, with chapters on the variety of tortilla (and masa) based dishes eaten in Mexico.

              Antojitos is the term covering all of these Mexican street foods. There used to be a good glossary of antojitos on the web. Wiki may be the best now:

              2 Replies
              1. re: paulj

                Good call on DKs Tortilla Book. Is it still in print?

                1. re: DiningDiva

                  It's easy to find a used copy online.

              2. The Well-Filled Tortilla Cookbook by Victoria Wise & Susanna Hoffman

                2 Replies
                  1. re: sr44

                    I was focused on the "taco" part and not the "only Mexican" part......