What We're Cooking Now

What We're Cooking Now - My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Monday, September 2, 2013

Pati's Mexican Table

Pati Jinich is a former political analyst specializing in Latin American Policy, and is now the official chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. We at FCOB are thrilled with this book. It along with The Farm (reviewed earlier) have become our favourite cookbooks reviewed to date.

Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home CookingPati's Mexican Table inspired a weekly fiesta night at our houses. We all love Mexican food. Every recipe we tried from this book yielded better, more authentic, Mexican food than any we've tried to make at home before.  
We really liked the Mexican Cook's Tricks accompanying the recipes and the green boxes with additional information. We were all surprised by her insistance on using white onions--but have now grown to love them for their sweet and mellow flavour.

We did experience some small challenges with sourcing some of the chile peppers and Jamaica flowers (hibiscus flowers) needed for some of the recipes. We are lucky enough in Toronto to be able to source Mexican ingredients at a number of locations (check the bottom of this blog entry for suggestions on where to buy). We also were bothered by Pati's use of Maggi  (yes, it does really boost the flavour, but it's pretty much MSG).

You'll also note that new to the blog is direct links to as many of the recipes as we could source. We hope to inspire you to delve into this wonderful, flavourful culinary journey to Mexico--Ole!

Charred Tomato Salsa "Salsa Roja" (pg18)
This salsa was good but not outstanding. We found it a bit bland, even with extra serrano chile added.

Cooked Green Salsa "Salsa Verde" (pg22)
This salsa has now become a permanent fixture in Julie's cooking arsenal. So inspired by the deliciousness of this recipe, I actually planted Tomatillos in my veggie garden this summer. Still waiting for the crop to ripen, but when it does...our freezers will be well stocked with this Salsa Verde!

Chunky Guacamole (pg38)
What would a Mexican cookbook be without a Guacamole recipe? And how to make this dish different from the hundreds of guacamoles we've already enjoyed? Surprisingly, there is no garlic in Pati's version--and we found it was very much to our liking.


Everyday Green Salad (pg44)

I loved that all of the ingredients for this salad dressing were already in my pantry. No fancy-pants champagne vinegar, olive oil from a single estate in Tuscany, harvested by monks at midnight. We are talking white vinegar here people. White vinegar…the kind that you use to clear clogged pipes. This salad dressing was so delicious that I now have a jar of it in my fridge at all times.  I love the texture the onions take on as they continue to marinate in the dressing.

The salad itself was also basic, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes…ok…and a bit of avocado. I guess she had to throw that in…it is a Mexican cookbook after all.

Avocado and Hearts of Palm Salad (p46)
None of us had ever had hearts of palm before trying this salad and we loved it. The tender creaminess of the avocado with the crunchy pumpkin seed, plus the sweetness of the corn was a fantastic combination.


Classic Avocado Soup  "Sopa De Aguacate"  (p64)
Super easy and refreshing.  The cheese and tortillas are necessary as it is a bit plain otherwise.  The recipe says it can be made up to 12 hours ahead, but I'd make it not more than 4 hours ahead as the top does tend to brown otherwise and that changes the taste slightly.



Divorced Eggs "Huevo Divorciados" (pg92)
A simple yet wonderful breakfast dish--but ultimately, it's all about the two salsas that accompany the eggs--the Charred tomato salsa and the Salsa Verde. So good!

Homemade Corn Tortillas (p94)

These are the real deal.  Homemade corn tortillas are SO much better than anything you can buy around here.  The masa is easy to find and easy to mix up.  It is important, as recommended, to keep it moist.  I bought a lovely, heavy cast iron tortilla press and used my pancake griddle to make 3 tortillas at a time.  My kids like making them so much, I have now given over the household tortilla making to them.

 Mexican Fritatta with Poblanos, Potatoes and Feta (p100)

A wonderful and easy brunch dish that would impress any guest. Julie was delighted at the consistency of the feta once it was fired under the broiler--somewhat marshmellow like. We also found that this dish kept well and would make a great light lunch served at room temp along side a salad.

Rodrigo-Style Fish (p131)

This is excellent and was loved by all, with the sauce.  It's pretty easy to make--but pretty plain without the sauce that is loaded with Maggi (aka MSG)...fair warning.

Sweet and Salty Salmon (p132)

This recipe is super easy and a definite keeper.
The marinade was easy to prepare and even with a whole seeded jalapeno was mild enough for kids.  It is nice to make ahead and pop into the oven 20 minutes before serving.  There's plenty of marinade, so this is a good one to enjoy with rice.

Shrimp Croquettes in Tomato Broth p124

croquette dough prior to frying
These little gems were amazing. At first my husband was sad that they were going to be ‘ruined’ with the tomato sauce. “Why can’t we just eat them as they are? They’re gong to get all soggy in the tomato broth.” But with his first taste he took it back. I think of all the recipes I tested in this book, this was his favourite (and that’s saying a lot as I also tested Pati’s rib recipe which was at the time dubbed “the best #*$# ‘ing ribs EVER”)!

Frying the croquettes
Finished croquette with tomato broth
Pati warns us to be ‘careful not to deflate the egg whites” after we add the shrimp, my egg whites were totally flattened the step before I added the egg yolks and flour. Despite that, the croquets were still crispy on the outside and tender inside. The tasty tomato broth they floated in was just the right hit of balanced acidity this dish needed. Really Really Good!

Chicken Tinga (p140)
How wonderful to incorporate a recipe that uses already cooked rotisserie chicken? We loved this dish-it was super quick to come together. Julie served it over "My Favourite Green Rice" (p221) instead of in a taco.


Honey-Chipotle Ribs -- AKA The best #*$#’ing ribs EVER (p172)
I will never spend another minute searching for another rib recipe in my life. I was skeptical because I really hate chipotle. I mean seriously---I’m supposed to get behind a flavor that has now become so ubiquitous that even “The Clown”  and “The King” serves it?

Well Pati showed me how to really use this potent and smoky chile…and the key here is to be subtle with it-she even advised to take the seeds out of the chile—a mucky business that I wanted no part of, so instead I used 2 instead of 3 chiles. These ribs are also no fuss-marinade them right on the roasting pan, then into the oven—no par boiling, then finishing in the oven or BBQ.


Shredded Pork in Ancho-Orange Sauce (p175)

This is very time consuming, messes a lot of pots, pans and bowls, and it ain’t pretty…have you ever seen a pork butt essentially boiled in orange juice?
Pork on a taco...delish!
Starting to cook..it will get ugly!
Shudder. But after you shred this and coat it with the chile pure, it becomes this crazy, vibrant colour. SO beautiful. And as Pati suggests, this is better the second day…in fact, we froze left overs, and agreed that yielded an even more flavorful result. This recipe makes a LOT—esp if you are being judicious as you fill your corn tortillas, so is perfect for freezing. Two of us tested this recipe, and we both agreed that the pork did not shred after 45 minutes of simmering so was kinda chunky.  The note at the end suggests trying the recipe with chicken, which Deb thinks she will try--but I think I'll stick to the pork.

Pork Tenderloin in Sweet Citrus Sauce (p177)
As per Pati's suggestion, I did make this dish and served it with "Everyday Green Salad" (44) and "Blissful Corn Torte" (p204). You already know how I feel about the salad. The Corn Torte? far too sweet for me--especially as an accompaniment to a savoury dish like this pork. My daughter ate it for breakfast for the next 3 days running and she still talks about how great it was. The pork itself was very good-the method of cookng (covered in tin foil...sorry no banana leaves on hand Pati) created a very moist meat. The reduced sauce was wonderful spooned over the meat when serving.

Ancho Chile Burgers with Lime Aioli (p186)
We all quite liked this spin on a classic hamburger. The addition of the anchos, mixture of beef and veal and the lime aioli were a good combo. I was disapointed that she used regular mayo, and did not suggest making your own. Easier, yes...but I think it would have been so much better with homemade mayo. Nice, but not something I’ll make again.


Picadillo Emapanadas p190
raisin, almond and meat stuffing
The pastry for the empanadas was so easy to work with, so forgiving, that even after rolling scraps multiple times, the dough kept coming together. The filling itself (p192) was simple and easy to make. But a couple of comments here. None of us cared for the amount of cinnamon in this recipe. Just not to our taste. Also, Pati calls for 2 cups of chicken broth in the meat mixture. Seeing that my meat mixture was holding together nicely, and was the right consistency for stuffing in the empanada pastry, I could not imagine making it more liquid—with 2 cups of broth, no less. It would have been soup! There is no S&P listed in the ingredients list, but I added both at the end of cooking. I froze both the dough and the filling—and even froze some completely stuffed and baked empanadas. All variations froze beautifully. A great thing to have in the freezer for a quick supper with a salad. 

Blissful Corn Torte p204
This was a very sweet cornbread—but with a fluffy consistency, largely due to the rice flour. I liked it when it was warm out of the oven, but found it too sweet. My daughter ate it for the next 3 mornings for breakfast. She tells me she still dreams about it.


Green Beans with Orange and Pistachios (p207)

Very easy to prepare and relatively quick, but not very
interesting to us.  (I added a bit of broccoli as I had a bit less than the called for full pound of green beans.)

Simple Beans from the Pot (p216)

I made this bean recipe with black beans and with pinto beans.  Both were great.  Almost effortless:  rinse beans, cover in water, add half a white onion and some garlic cloves and simmer for 1.5 hours.  Toss in cilantro and salt and 15 minutes later you're done.  Follow the advice because adding the salt at the end is apparently very important.  The Mexican Cook's Trick is also the key here.  Pureed beans were a hit in my house.  My kids LOVE refried beans and this puree satisfies that desire perfectly without actually refrying.

Refried Beans (p220)
This did not work out-and in the words of our tester was just too "gloopy" in the end.

My Favourite Green Rice (p221)
Originally tested by Julie-and now loved by all of us. It is a fantastic, fragrant, tasty rice that is a wonderful accompaniment to almost any dish you can think of.

Red Rice (p224)
This makes a VERY large batch of rice, so we suggest making 1/2 the recipe and reducing the cooking time by about 12 minutes. An excellent rice--but we still love My Favourite Green Rice better!

Triple Orange Mexican Wedding Cookies (p234)

The dough was super easy to prepare in a food processor, and it was nice to make ahead of time.  Unfortunately, the dough rolling was a bit time consuming as the dough became SUPER HARD in the refrigerator, and the cookies themselves were pretty boring.


Alisa's Marbled Pound Cake (p251) 

Excellent!  Rich and chocolatey.  Easy to make, this recipe used ingredients I had on hand.  It was pretty to look at.  Kids loved. Another keeper.


Berries with Lime Syrup (p262)  

Pati recommended serving this with the Marbled Pound Cake for guests so I threw it together with frozen berries.  I couldn't find the piloncillo so used demerera.  We thought it tasted like a really good lime Popsicle.

Jamaica Water (p268)
I had never cooked with Jamaica Flowers (hibiscus) and was intrigued.

The end result is a liquid that is so stunning looking—this amazing magenta/red/purple concoction. I drank it straight, and also served it with soda, and sometimes a little vodka. A really refreshing summer cocktail.


Tamarind Margarita (p274)
Fair warning here dear readers...this drink almost killed us. I served it at our meeting, and the meeting almost never happened. We all agree, that while the flavour was intriguing, the ration of mix to alcohol resulted in a VERY strong drink...too strong in our opinion.

Source Guide:
Fresh Corn Tortillas, Mexican cheeses, dried chiles, and Jamaica Flowers:

Mexican Groceries

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