Saturday, November 16, 2013
So I've been working through Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday lately, and it's been a really excellent introduction to Mexican cooking (and first forays into Latin more broadly) so far. Because Bayless wrote this book with everyday cooking in mind, the recipes have been very accessible, yet still very flavorful. It actually fits well with my general approach to cooking in terms of the level of complexity: the recipes aren't for beginners or those who really only have time to unwrap and microwave a frozen entrée, but doable on a weeknight, or ahead of time making larger batches when you've a larger time window.
It's definitely helpful that I found a Latin grocery store nearby where I can buy most of the more specialized ingredients needed, a lot cheaper than I could in a mainstream supermarket, too (if they carry it at all). A lot of work with chilies, dried or otherwise, a lot of garlic, and other spices worked into salsa, marinades, and rubs, as well as salad dressings (though I'm guessing that's maybe more Bayless bringing Mexican into a more Western food context with salads?). I've worked with my food processor (well, the food processing attachment of my hand blender) a lot lately to make these sauces of various sorts.
The great variety in the flavor of the different chilies has been fantastic, and one of the big things that has struck me as I cook with the book. One of my favorite things about learning new dishes from various cuisines is that moment when I catch a whiff of a browning chili pepper, or sautéing dried shrimp and scallions, for example, and recognition of something familiar that I've smelled before in restaurants hits me.
It's great that you can make a batch of dressing and then refrigerate it for use over time, though. Very handy for time efficiency (as is making enough for leftovers broadly). Dressings (vinaigrettes mainly) have definitely been something I'd been meaning to explore more, as on a more conceptual basis, they are very versatile flavoring components. Reduce the oil content and you've got a marinade or sauce for cooking with. And other than oil and vinegar of some kind, you're really free to put in an infinite variety of things. Tom Colicchio's Think Like A Chef illustrated this concept for me, too, in the variations on vinaigrettes he presented (putting in roasted tomatoes, or braised artichokes, and other ingredients).
The photos in this post are just a couple of the (delicious!) things I've been making from Mexican Everyday. At the top is cochinita pibil on corn tortillas with lime marinated red onions and habanero hot sauce. The second is a great, homey chicken-rice with black beans and garlic tomato salsa. And the third is a sweet potato salad with carmalized onions and chipotle dressing over arugula.