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Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America Hardcover – October 1, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Starred review. Well-researched, organized, and impressive, [Gran Cocina Latina] covers dishes from Mexico, Argentina, and the Hispanic Caribbean. This comprehensive collection is fascinating, informative, and stunning. (Publishers Weekly)

Starred review. This comprehensive and meticulously wrought reference book belongs in every library’s cookery collection. (Booklist)

This book not only answers the how but the why as well. Maricel is our bridge to the past, the history of Latin American cocina, describing the original connections to Spain and its cooking and then what has evolved... more aromas, more textures, more flavors, more sexy ingredients. We can now understand Latin America better because of Maricel and the amazing foods that tell its rich history. (José Andrés)

I know of no other book that approaches the scholarship, passion and decades-long dedication that Maricel Presilla has lavished on Gran Cocina Latina. (Rick Bayless)

Gran Cocina Latina is a book as grand as its subject. It’s a beautifully written distillation of Maricel Presilla’s decades of experience in the markets and kitchens of Latin America. I can’t imagine a better guide to this vast and underappreciated region. Maricel is a scholar, food importer, restaurateur, tireless explorer, and above all is passionate about everything she does. Gran Cocina Latina explains clearly how to bring the special flavors of Latin America to our own tables. (Harold McGee)

Books like this don’t happen very often so drink it in and know it will still be in your kitchen ten years from now. (Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Host of The Splendid Table®, public radio's national food show from American Public Media)

The food of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking New World is complex, intricate, and has variety and range, extending from Cuba to Ecuador and from Mexico to Brazil. Maricel Presilla, a chef and food historian, takes us through that whole continent in a comprehensible, intelligent, original, and delicious voyage. (Jacques Pépin)

[A] serious but accessible study. (Pete Wells - New York Times)

About the Author

Maricel E. Presilla is the co-owner of Zafra and Cucharamama, two Latin restaurants in Hoboken, New Jersey. She holds a doctorate in medieval Spanish history from New York University and lives in Weehawken, New Jersey.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 912 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393050696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393050691
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 2.2 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have loved reading and cooking from cookbooks for several decades now, and just last week completed the 6 month classroom portion of chef's school, which was located in the heart of Tex-Mex land. While we made a few enchiladas, tamales, empanadas, and salsas, we did not have a block of study devoted to the foods of Latin America. I was, therefore, amazed and very happily surprised by the encyclopedic cookbook and reference on the subject by Maricel E. Presilla, The Food of Latin America Gran Cocina Latina.

First of all, Presilla defines Latin America as the Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries that emerged from the disintegration of Iberian colonial power, which includes Mexico and spreads across the Caribbean to the three islands of the Hispanic Caribbean; Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. It continues through Mexico to Central America and South America, only excluding Belize, and Guianas since those countries were French, Dutch, etc. influence.

While I have read many cookbooks that were compiled largely from the author's study, Presilla is so well qualified to write such a culinary and historical book, that it will stand the test of time and be the expert book on the subject for decades to come. It is like getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes I and II, the enhanced and expanded edition (which never actually existed) all at once! The author holds a PhD in Medieval Spanish History, is the chef and co-owner of two pan-Latin restaurants, and was named Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region by the James Beard Foundation. Presilla spent 30 years traveling all over Latin America, learning recipes and cooking from the most humble dwellings to the nicest ones. The author came to the U.S.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is absolutely amazing. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I have other books on Mexican cuisine (Kennedy and Bayless) and a couple of Caribbean cookbook, but this book covers the varied cuisines of the Latin world with such incredible detail that it is easily my favorite on the subject. I had intitially imagined it to be like a Latin Larousse, but with its straightforward style and infectious enthusiasm for the cuisine, it is its own beast, and a beautiful one at that! While it does not offer a complete view of the cuisines of any one country (a little disappointed to not have a pipian verde recipe), I can't imagine any book coming as close to doing so as this one does.

The recipes are straightforward and presented with introductions that makes them hard to resist. Ever since I received the book I've been scouring the internet for different rare ingredients(Chiles chilhuacles, chiles mirasol, chicha jora, to name a few), but the book overs good substitutions for ingredients that you may have difficulty procuring outside of their native regions (I'm looking at you, chilhuacles negros!). I've already made a Peruvian adobo from the book and just finished grinding together chiles pequin and cocoa nibs to create in incredible Mayan seasoning brick that can be grated onto dishes as needed. I'm also gathering up the ingredients to make the epic Oaxacan mole negro for Halloween (I'm absolutely fascinated by the prospect of burning a bunch of chile seeds to carbon and using them to color the sauce- noxious fumes be damned!) Who knows, by next summer I may even be planting my own selection of chiles and herbs that I can make more of these fantastic recipes.

If you have any interest in authentic Latin cuisine, or are passionate about the art of cooking in any way, you need to buy this book. It will surely earn a prominent place amongst your cookbooks and on your kitchen counters.
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Format: Hardcover
From the other reviews, you already know that this book is comprehensive, amazing, and quite heavy!

You should keep in mind that it is encyclopedic and is also a first edition, so it contains a large number of typographical and other errors. At the same time, Presilla provides important and excellent suggestions.

For example, my wife and I decided to make Cochinita Pibil. Presilla suggests Yucatecan Saffron Rice, Yucatecan Refried Beans, and Yucatecan Red Onions Pickled in Bitter Orange Juice. The onion recipe declares them to be the obligatory accompaniment for the pig, so we added those to the meal. The recipe for the beans suggests the pig and rice. The rice recipe suggests the pig, beans, and onions. OK, so you're making all this as a meal, we decided.

For the pig, Presilla suggests country-style spareribs marinated for a couple of hours and that they be cooked at 425F for 35-45 minutes. This is just plain wrong.

The C/S sparerib is somewhat of an abomination: a piece of sparerib with an attached piece of chop. It is impossible for these two distinct cuts to cook at the time same rate. Plus, you have all the small, razor-sharp bones to contend with! A shoulder or butt is probably ideal for this; whole loin for a low-fat version would work OK.

If you look at your Bayless/Kennedy/etc collection and look online, you'll see that 4-24 hours marination is ideal. We ended up going 24 hours once we figured out that the cooking time was way off. Indirect gas or charcoal at about 300F for several hours, or braised in the oven (our choice) for several hours is what most people recommend. 45 minutes at 450F would produce nothing but shoe leather.

Anyway, this is first-edition type stuff!

As for the meal, the onions were...
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