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Truly Mexican: Essential Recipes and Techniques for Authentic Mexican Cooking Hardcover – April 19, 2011
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Santibañez, a Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef and owner of the Brooklyn eatery, Fonda, born and raised in Mexico City, didn't set out to pen a "comprehensive" guide to Mexican cooking or the rich history of the country's food, but instead focuses solely on sauces--from salsas to adobos to moles--emphasizing techniques that home cooks can master and use in various dishes. With the goal "to convert as many readers as I could from people who would love to cook Mexican food to people who cook Mexican food they love," the author lays a solid foundation with a chapter on ingredients, technique, and equipment. The 140 recipes include a selection of guacamoles including departures from the classic such as a blue cheese guacamole, an apple-tequila guacamole, and a seafood guacamole. Recipes for adobos lead readers to main courses featuring various proteins such as adobo-braised lamb or a grilled skirt steak marinated in adobo. While one won't find desserts or suggested menus, the author's expertise is conveyed in a straightforward and inspiring tone that will instill confidence in cooks eager to prepare Mexican meals at home, regardless of previous experience or skill level. (Apr.) (Publishers Weekly, March 2011)
From the Back Cover
Praise for Truly Mexican
"Roberto Santibañez is that rare bird—a great chef and a great teacher—and it's the combination of these talents that makes this book so wonderful. It's an excellent tutorial on Mexican sauces: the ingredients, the techniques, the multiple dishes you can make from each of them, as well as the lip-smacking side dishes that go with them. If you want to cook Mexican food at home more often—and who doesn't?—this is the book for you."
—Sara Moulton, author of Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners
"Truly Mexican breathes the soul and spirit of Mexican cuisine. It is an exceptional book that discloses the essence of Mexican cuisine, from simple street foods like tacos to complex masterpieces like moles. An essential work for anyone who is passionate about this amazing cuisine."
—Mark Miller, author of The Great Chile Book, Tamales, Tacos, and other books
"With this text, Chef Santibañez has moved the understanding of Mexican cuisine forward in a significant way. Although the recipes in this book are, by themselves, a wonderful collection, Roberto delivers them in a format that leaves the reader with true knowledge of the Mexican kitchen."
—Mark Erickson, Certified Master Chef and Vice President–Dean of Culinary Education at The Culinary Institute of America
"Roberto Santibañez's excellent Truly Mexican is a book that should be on the shelves of home cooks who really want to know what Mexican food is all about."
—Zarela Martinez, www.zarela.com
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I'm Mexican by birth, but I've been raised here all of my life. My mother was raised in southern Mexico, which does not mean she knew how to cook any of these recipes. Being Mexican does NOT mean we automatically know how to cook great Mexican food. Just like refried beans do not mean they are fried :P Anyway, I can't begin to express how thankful I am to the author of this book. Here are a few recipes that have saved my life and allowed me to enjoy one of my favorite hobbies (cooking, not eating):
Chicken (encacahuatado): so fun and the flavors are outstanding. I save this one for special occasions.
Oaxacan salsa- a favorite of my other half and mine.
Mexican fideo (as opposed to Spanish)- super spicy, DO NOT leave out the garnishes.
Which brings me to another point: don't leave out any ingredients, just don't. It's not that kind of book. Respect it. Treat the recipes like they're magic spells.
If you don't get the technique right the first time, don't give up. As with anything, it's all about practice. There is something very unique about Mexican cuisine (and healthy- just look at the Native's fertility rates), this book will allow you to explore it.
Warning: if you just want to learn a few good Mexican recipes, you might be better off with Mexican Everyday (Recipes Featured on Season 4 of the PBS-TV series "Mexico One Plate at a Time"), which I also own and am glad to have.
But, if you want to really learn the core concepts of Mexican cooking, and explore them in depth, maybe with the hope of being able to improvise well within the genre, this is a very good book for you. It uses a unique format: it explores Mexican cuisine in terms of sauces. Kind of like exploring French cuisine from the perspective of a saucier(what would you call it in Mexico? A Salsaero?).
The book is divided into only 7 chapters: Basics, Salsa, Guacamoles, Adobo, Moles & Pipianes, More Ideas for Using Mexican Sauces, and Sides. Since the book has 264 pages, you can imagine that each of these topics is covered in considerable depth.
For example, in the "basics" section, you will find several charts on the various chiles, their uses, heat index, flavor contribution, roasting notes for each type, an lots of other details. Also tips for roasting and peeling roasted chiles in general. Also how to find and select all of the various ingredients one uses, and also how to prepare them in different ways for their various inded uses. Also how to select and prepare store-bought tortillas. And, better, how to make your own torillas. And much more. All in exquisite detail, with plenty of tips and notes. The tips and notes are plentiful throughout the book, to help avoid common pitfalls and problems.
While there are plenty of recipes for all these different sauces, actual recipes for entrée dishes are relatively few, which is why I recommended Bayless' book above for those who want that(he has others out also, all good). I get the impression that the recipes which aren't specifically for a sauce are chosen to give the reader some idea about the applications or uses of the various sauces, and to assist in in your thinking about Mexican cuisine overall. I will say that for some reason, most of the Mexican and Latino cookbooks I own don't have recipes for tamales. This one does, with very good step-by-step instructions and photos for their prep. The author says in his commentary on the recipe that tamales really deserve a book of their own. I'm looking for that book.
So many of the recipes are mouth-watering: Pineapple and Cucumber Guacamole, Apple-Tequilla Guacamole, Blue Cheese Guacamole, Seafood Guacamole, to name a few in the Guacamole chapter, which is actually one of the shorter chapters in the book. It is divided in to two sections: chunky guacamoles and smooth guacamoles.
I don't have time to go into detail about every section, but I hope you get the idea. This book breaks each of the chapters into section, like the guacamoles were divided into chinky vs. smooth, the salsas are divided into raw vs. cooked, and so an. The basics are all presented in detail with extensive discussion on regional and personal variations, as well as the history of various dishes, etc.... Each chapter and section also has extensive discussion.
Photography: the book does a good job of straddling the line between coffee-table book and informative text. The pictures are beautiful AND useful. I like to know what a dish or sauce is supposed to look like when I'm done. I've bought other books which I thought would be informative, but they were all glossy photos with little information. In this book, all the photos are informative. Rough estimate -- one page in four has a picture, half of them are full page, the rest are various sizes depending on their purpose. All clear, and some quite beautiful.
I'm very glad I got this book. I almost didn't, and that would have been a mistake.
There are several easy recipes as well as several fairly complex recipes in this book. If for nothing else, buy this for the salsa and guacamole recipes! We also make the Pork Braised in Tomatillo Salsa quite frequently as it's very easy. The adobos are delicious as well. Really you can't go wrong with the recipes in this book. I frequently bring them out for dinner parties and have now even given copies to the rest of my family.
I love the fact that the author primarily presents everything as sauces. As he explains in the beginning, the root of mexican cooking is in its sauces. Everything else is just how you serve the sauces and what you cook in them. So find a sauce you like, tweak it based on his recommendations and then just put the meat into it! The author does include multiple suggestions for each sauce - how to cook with it, types of food to serve it with, etc. He also includes several recipes at the end for integration. I include this caveat because if you would prefer a cookbook with more specific recipes on each page, then this isn't your style of book. But I encourage you to take a look and give it a try - you won't be disappointed.
My only point of heartache has been finding all of the ingredients for each dish, as we live a little outside the city and don't have a ton of diverse grocerers around here. However, I kept the 5-star rating as a) that's our issue, not the book and b) the author does a great job of explaining how to substitute different ingredients for others and what each modification will do to the recipe.