RECIPE TITLE "Essential Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno suace from the stone mortar (Salsa de Melcajeta) "
from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant flavors of a World-Class Cuisine by Rick Bayless
... more great recipes by Rick Bayless on our GREAT CHEFS page!
makes 2 cups easy
The first time you hear that gravelly, rock-against-rock rotation of the mortar, the first time you smell the irascible aroma of crushed roasted garlic and chiles, the first time you taste the jazz band of seasoning playing through the juicy ripe tomatoes -- you've come face to face with the real Mexico. It's a simple first step, partly because it looks like what we think of as "salsa," partly because we can find the ingredients so easily. But do go to the extra effort to buy good tomatoes. Then roast them and the garlic and chiles with a confident hand -- that's the technique that sets these flavors apart. With a lava-rock mortar from Mexico, you'll feel centuries of tradition as your hands work the ingredients together.
1 pound (2 medium-large round or 6 to 8 plum) red, ripe tomatoes
2 large (about 1 ounce total) fresh jalapeño chiles
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Salt, about a scant 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 small (about 2 ounces) white onion, finely chopped
A generous 1/3 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
About 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar (optional)
1. Roasting the basic ingredients. The broiler method: Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a very hot broiler. Boast until blistered and blackened on one side, about 6 minutes; with a spoon or pair of tongs, flip the tomatoes and roast on the other side. The griddle method: Line a griddle or heavy skillet with aluminum foil and heat over medium. Lay the tomatoes on the foil and roast, turning several times, until blistered, blackened and softened, about 10 minutes. Don't worry if skin sticks to the foil.
Cool, then peel the skins, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes.
While the tomatoes are roasting, roast the chiles and unpeeled garlic directly on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet (you already have one set up if you've griddle-roasted the tomatoes) over medium. Turn occasionally until both chiles and garlic are blackened in spots and soft, 5 to 10 minutes for the chiles, about 15 minutes for the garlic. Cool, pull the stems off the chiles and peel the papery skins from the garlic.
2. Grinding the salsa. The mortar method: In a large mortar, use the pestle to crush and grind the chiles, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a coarse-textured paste (this will release a wonderfully pungent aroma), paying special attention to breaking up the chile skins. A few at a time, grind in the roasted tomatoes, transferring the ground mixture to a bowl if the mortar gets unmanageably full. The food processor or blender method: In a food processor or blender, grind the chiles, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a coarse paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Add the tomatoes and pulse a few times until you have a coarse-textured puree.
Transfer the salsa to a serving bowl, and stir in any reserved tomato juices.
3. Final seasoning. In a strainer, rinse the onion under running water, shake off the excess and stir into the salsa, along with the cilantro and optional vinegar. Add water, if necessary, to give the salsa a trickish, but easily spoonable, consistency (2 to 4 tablespoons is the norm). Taste and season with salt, usually a scant 1/4 teaspoon, and the salsa's ready to serve.
Advance Preparation -- This salsa comes into its own a few hours after it's finished, especially if left at room temperature. It can be made through step 2 a day or two ahead, covered and refrigerated. Add the cilantro and onion shortly before serving.
Other Chiles You Can Use -- Besides jalapeño, serranos (3 to 5 for this quantity) are also classic. It's also made with habanero (1/2 to 1) or manzanos (1/2 to 1). With habaneros, this typical Yucatecan salsa, called chiltomate, is frequently made without chopped onion or cilantro and is flavored with sour orange juice in place of the cider vinegar.
Traditional Dishes that Use this Essential as a Staring Point
Classic Red Tomato Rice; Rustic Red-Sauced Eggs; Seafood Rice Cazuela
Simple Ideas from My American Home
A Different (but Traditional) Guacamole -- Make the salsa as directed, but don't add any water. Coarsely mash 3 avocados, stir in a cup or so of the salsa, add a little more chopped cilantro if you wish, taste for salt and the guacamole is ready.
Spicy Chicken "Hash" -- In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, fry an onion (sliced) in several tablespoons of oil until golden. Add about 1 1/2 cups of the salsa and cook until thick and reduced, then stir in 3 cups of boiled-until-tender, roughly mashed red-skin potatoes. Keep frying and turning and working everything together until the potatoes brown and the mixture holds together. Stir in a cup of shredded smoked (or roasted) chicken and some chopped cilantro or green onion, warm through and the hash is ready.
Falapeño-Baked Fish -- Lay four 5- or 6-ounce fillets -- such as snapper, mahimahi, grouper or bass -- in an oiled baking dish in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Spoon 2 cups of salsa over them. Bake in a 400-degree oven until the fish just flakes when firmly pressed (it'll take about 8 minutes if your fillets are 3/4 inch thick). If you like richer flavors, sear the fillets on both sides in an oiled skillet over medium-high before laying them in the pan. If the sauce seems too juicy, pour it into a saucepan and boil gently until reduced. Sprinkle the whole dish with some chopped cilantro before serving.
What's Best? Mortar versus Blender versus Food Processor
Those chiseled-out bowls of basalt (lava rock) called molcajetes in Mexico -- the ones that sit on counters in taquerías, home kitchens, even fancy eateries -- are so tangled up in Mexican culinary history that it's nearly impossible to think there could be a replacement. But, in all honesty, for some jobs there is.
If you're talking about a chunky salsa made from roasted jalapeños, garlic and tomatoes, what you'll get from the mortar -- juicy, elegantly textured, clear in flavor -- is much better than the pulp you'll get from a blender or food processor that you've turned on and just let run. However, carefully pulsing a machine with sharp blades can yield a decent salsa.
Very few cooks these days (in Mexico or beyond) use a mortar (or its larger cousin, the metate) to make dried chile sauce; the chile skins are hard to grind. A food processor works remarkably well for such a sauce, as does a blender, though the latter usually requires the addition of a little extra liquid and repeated stopping to scrape down the blender jar. For sauces thickened with nuts and seeds (like moles andpipianes), the blender works far better than the food processor because its blades go faster and can pulverize even the smallest seeds.
I would be remiss if I didn't say that those who've been raised on mole de la abuelita (grandma's mole) say that when she grinds everything by hand the flavors and textures are better. This makes perfect sense: in the mortar or on the metate, you're crushing ingredients, hence extracting more flavor, rather than finely chopping them as you do in a blender.
Bottom line: I have a molar and I use it for grinding spices and for certain salsas (I've noted this in the recipes). The extra muscle power I expend is easily made up for by my enjoyment of the aromas and texture. In my recipes, I call for a mortar, blender and food processor; whichever I list first is my preference.
Choosing, Seasoning and Using a Mexican Mortar
It's not likely you'll find a good, heavy molcajete made of the densest basalt (lava rock) for sale in the United States, simply because the best ones weigh and cost a lot, and there's not a huge call for them here. Lightweight "tourist" models look nice on the shelf but are so rough and porous that you'll forever be grinding grit into your food. In Mexico, I suggest you search through the markets for a stall that primarily sells mortars and metates (the sloped flat grinding stones). Choose a heavy, compact, smooth-textured mortar -- the surface should look a little like unpolished granite -- that will hold three to four cups. I am partial to the ones with a decorative pig or ram's head carved on the side.
To season your molcajete, grind a handful of wet, raw rice in it once a day for several days, until you've smoothed out the roughest edges in the bowl and the rice no longer looks dirty. When grinding, hold the metlapil (the pestle) so that your fingers are parallel to its length (not wrapped around it), with the smallest end toward your palm. Keep your wrist rather loose to allow you to rotate the pestle easily around the bowl while exerting an even pressure from your palm.
When making salsa in the mortar, the idea is to work the ingredients together a little at a time. Start with the hardest (or most difficult to grind) items, then, work in the softer, juicier stuff.
|Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant flavors of a World-Class Cuisine
BURSTING WITH BOLD, COMPLEX FLAVORS, Mexican cooking has the kind of gusto we want in food today. Until now, American home cooks have had few authorities to translate the heart of this world-class cuisine to everyday cooking.
In this book of more than 150 recipes, award-winning chef, author and teacher Rick bayless provides the inspiration and guidance that home cooks have needed. With a blend of passion, patience, clarity and humor, he unerringly finds his way into the very soul of Mexican cuisine, from essential recipes and explorations of Mexico's many chiles to quick-to-prepare everyday dishes and pull-out-the-stops celebration fare.
Bayless begins the journey by introducing us to the building blocks of Mexican cooking. With infectious enthusiasm and an entertaining voice, he outlines 16 essential preparations-deeply flavored tomato sauces and tangy tomatillo salsas, rich chile pastes and indispensable handmade tortillas.
Fascinating cultural background and practical cooking tips help readers to understand these preparations and make them their own. Each recipe explains which steps can be completed in advance to make final preparation easier, and each provides a list of the dishes in later chapters that are built around these basics. And with each essential recipe, Bayless includes several "Simple Ideas from My American Home"-quick, familiar recipes with innovative Mexican accents, such as Baked Ham with Yucatecan Flavors, Spicy Chicken Salad, Ancho-Broiled Salmon and Very, Very Good Chili.
Throughout, the intrepid Bayless brings chiles into focus, revealing that Mexican cooks use these pods for flavor, richness, color and, yes, sometimes for heat. He details the simple techniques for getting the best out of every chile-from the rich, smoky chipotle to the incendiary but fruity habanero.
Then, in more than 135 recipes that follow, Bayless guides us through a wide range of richly flavored regional Mexican dishes, combining down-home appeal and convivial informality with simple culinary elegance. It's all here: starters like Classic Seviche Tostadas or Chorizo-Stuffed Ancho Chiles; soups like Slow-Simmered Fava Bean Soup or Rustic Ranch-Style Soup; casual tortilla-based preparations like Achiote-Roasted Pork Tacos or Street-Style Red Chile Enchiladas; vegetable delights like Smoky Braised Mexican Pumpkin, or Green Poblano Rice; even a whole chapter on classic fiesta food (from Oaxacan Black Mole with Braised Chicken, Smoky Peanut Mole with Grilled Quail and Great Big Tamal Roll with Chard with the incomparable Juchitan-Style Black Bean Tamales); and ending with a selection of luscious desserts like Modern Mexican Chocolate Flan with KahIua and Yucatecan-Style Fresh Coconut Pie. To quickly expand your Mexican repertoire even further, each of these recipes is accompanied by suggestions for variations and improvisations.
There is no greater authority on Mexican cooking than Rick Bayless, and no one can teach it better. In his skillful hands, the wonderful flavors of Mexico will enter your kitchen and your daily cooking routine without losing any of their depth or timeless appeal. More info
| Mexico One Plate At A Time
Rick Bayless has been acclaimed widely as America's foremost proponent of Mexico's thrillingly diverse cuisine. In this companion book to his 26-part Public Television series, he takes us, with boyish enthusiasm, through Mexican markets, street stalls and home kitchens to bring us the great dishes of Mexico, one "plate" at a time. And each "plate" Rick presents here is a Mexican classic. Take guacamole, for instance. After teaching us the essentials for a perfect, classic guacamole, Rick shows how to spin contemporary interpretations, like his Roasted Poblano Guacamole with garlic and parsley. Rick's cuisine is always lively, but rooted in strong traditions.
Always the teacher, Rick begins each "plate" with some never-before-found features: traditional benchmarks (Rick's idea of the best guacamole), when to think of the recipes (weeknight dinners or casual party food), and advice for American cooks (Rick's insight into the ingredients that make the dish). He rounds out each "plate" with suggestions for working ahead.
To complete the journey into the Mexican mindset, Rick, with help from his testers, ends each "plate" with a question-and-answer section detailing just about everything a home cook might want to know: What are the best cuts of beef for grilled tacos? The best cheeses for quesadillas? Is one grill better than another? Rick draws from his years of living in Mexico, pulling us into the Mexican kitchen, to teach us how to create authentic Mexican dishes in our American kitchens.
Rick is an Indiana Jones of the stove, a Julia Child of Mexican cuisine in black jeans and a T-shirt. Rick's goal: to enable folks all across the United States to create dishes that weave in the rich tapestry of Mexican flavor with ingredients that are widely available. He always provides ingredients that make the dish authentic, but he also delivers with the right substitute if an ingredient is hard to find.
Experience food you can't wait to make in a new and user-friendly cookbook that contains the full range of dishes -- Starters, Snacks and Light Meals; Soups, Stews and Sides; Entrées; Desserts and Drinks. Rick serves up such classic Mexican plates as Tomatillo-Braised Pork Loin, Quick-Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic, Chiles Rellenos, Cheesy Enchiladas Suizas, and Mexican Vanilla-Scented Flan.
And for an exciting taste of the unexpected, try Rick's contemporary interpretations of the classics -- Crispy Potato Sopes with Goat Cheese and Fresh Herbs, Grilled Salmon with Lemon-and-Thyme-Scented Salsa Veracruzana, Broiled Flank Steak with Tomato-Poblano Salsa and Rustic Cajeta Apple Tarts with Berry "Salsa."
Food and friends, food and family. Good cooking, for Rick, is the unspoken animator of friends and family as they gather to share a meal. Rick's recipes lend themselves to weeknight family meals or celebrations. Take part in a tamalada, the tamal-making party before the party, or the ritual of a barbacoa, an earthy experience that Rick has made possible with a kettle grill in the backyard. More info
|Mexican Everyday (Recipes Featured on Season 4 of the PBS-TV series In his previous books, Rick Bayless transformed America's understanding of Mexican cuisine, introducing authentic dishes and cooking methods as he walked readers through Mexican markets and street stalls.
As much as Rick loves the bold flavors of Mexican foods, he understands that preparing many Mexican specialties requires more time than most of us have. Mexican Everyday is written with the time sensitivities of modern life in mind. It is a collection of 90 full-flavored recipes—like Green Chile Chicken Tacos, Shrimp Ceviche Salad, Chipotle Steak with Black Beans—that meet three criteria for "everyday" food: 1) most need less than 30 minutes' involvement; 2) they have the fresh, clean taste of simple, authentic preparations; and 3) they are nutritionally balanced, full-featured meals—no elaborate side dishes required. Companion to a thirteen-part public television series, this book provides dishes you can eat with family and friends, day in and day out. Color throughout. More info
| Salsas That Cook : Using Classic Salsas To Enliven Our Favorite Dishes
Salsas That Cook is a breakthrough in contemporary American cooking. Here, Mexico's classic salsas get put to work in our kitchens in the same way we use a variety of international condiments, from teriyaki sauce to balsamic vinegar, to enliven and redefine the flavor of many American favorites. While most of us have enjoyed salsas as chip dips, salsas show great versatility when weaving complex flavor into simple dishes, from pasta to potatoes to meats, fish and vegetables.
Salsas embody the essence of Mexican flavor: the lusciousness of slow-roasted tomatoes, the full-flavored spice of chiles, the fragrance of cilantro and the mellow sweetness of garlic. Rick Bayless, the country's leading progenitor of real Mexican cooking, writes the six salsa recipes with such detail and personality that even beginning cooks will turn out masterful creations.
The uniqueness of this book, though, is in the way these six salsas are used. Here they give their pizzazz to chile-glazed roast chicken, grilled pork tenderloin and seared sea scallops with jalapeño cream. Familiar Mexican favorites have always used salsas for vitality, and many are here, from tangy guacamole to tortilla soup and grilled chicken tacos. In Salsas That Cook, the magic of Mexico transcends all borders. More info
| Authentic Mexican 20th Anniversary Ed: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico
Americans have at last discovered Mexico's passion for exciting food. We've fallen in love with the great Mexican combination of rich, earthy flavors and casual, festive dining. But we don't begin to imagine how sumptuous and varied the cooking of Mexico really is.
After ten years of loving exploration, Rick Bayless, together with his wife, Deann, gave us Authentic Mexican, this now classic, easy-to-use compendium of our southern neighbor's cooking.
This all-embracing cookbook offers the full range of dishes, from poultry, meat, fish, rice, beans, and vegetables to eggs, snacks made of corn masa, tacos, turnovers, enchiladas and their relatives, tamales, and moles, ending with desserts, sweets, and beverages. There are irresistible finger foods such as Yucatecan marinated shrimp tacos and crispy cheese-filled masa turnovers; spicy corn chowder and chorizo sausage with melted cheese will start off a special dinner; you will find mole poblano, charcoal-grilled pork in red-chile adobo, and marinated fish steamed in banana leaves for those times when you want to celebrate; and exotic ice creams, caramel custards, and pies to top off any meal. There's even a section devoted to refreshing coolers, rich chocolate drinks, and a variety of tequila-laced cocktails.
The master recipes feature all the pointers you'll need for re-creating genuine Mexican textures and flavors in a North American kitchen. Menu suggestions and timing and advance-preparation tips make these dishes perfectly convenient for today's working families. And traditional and contemporary variations accompany each recipe, allowing the cook to substitute and be creative.
Rick and Deann Bayless traveled more than thirty-five thousand miles investigating the six distinct regions of Mexico and learning to prepare what they found. From town to town, recipe by recipe, they personally introduce you to Mexico's cooks, their kitchens, their markets, and their feasts.
If, like the rest of us, you have a growing love for Mexican food, the reliable recipes in this book and the caring, personal presentation by Rick and Deann Bayless will provide meal after meal of pure pleasure for your family and friends. More info