Positing that many Americans associate Mexican cuisine with shiny globs of orange cheese, Valladolid sets out to offer a broader, more diverse and healthier vision of south-of-the-border cooking. The Tijuana-born, Ritz-Escoffier-educated Valladolid is a young mother as well as a culinary television personality. As such, she values "weeknight" recipes that can be produced with a minimum of fuss and a few good flavors. Though Valladolid's mission is to educate readers of the world beyond Old El Paso taco kits, she distinguishes herself from authenticity-focused Mexican cookbook authors such as Diana Kennedy, allowing for looser, creative interpretations that befit contemporary eaters: osso bucco with lime zest and chilis; mascarpone-stuffed squash blossoms with raspberry vinaigrette; and the decadent Mexican cake, pastel de tres leches, made with Italian meringue as a substitute for the traditional raw egg whites. Using ingredients that are readily found in the U.S., her creations are reliable and at times wonderfully simple, like a bright slaw of jicama, arbol chilis and uncooked beets with toasted sesame oil, or baked cod with anchovies, lime and a few kalamata olives and capers thrown in for good measure. Home cooks will appreciate Valladolid's enthusiastic yet straightforward approach. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Valladolid, a former recipe tester/editor at Bon Appétit, was a contestant on Martha Stewart's The Apprentice, which led to her own TV show, Relatos con Sabor, for the Discovery Channel. Here, she offers contemporary recipes inspired by the dishes she grew up with in Tijuana, Mexico, and her experiences in the food world since then. A good companion to Lourdes Castro's more traditional Simply Mexican.
Read an Excerpt
Game Hens in Apricot, Tequila, and California Chile Sauce
3 cups chicken broth, or more as needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons golden tequila
Two 2-pound Cornish game hens, thawed if frozen
3 California chiles, stemmed and seeded
½ cup apricot preserves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh apricot halves, for garnish
This recipe is one of my favorites ever. It comes from my aunt Marcela, a chef who inspired me to enter the magical world of the culinary arts. We not only share the same name and the same career, we also agree that sweet and spicy is one of the best combinations when preparing Mexican food.
Store-bought apricot preserves, used here, work well; just be sure to buy the best you can find. A kitchen syringe is a useful tool for injecting the hens with a flavorful mixture of broth, butter, and tequila. The result is a moist and succulent dish.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Mix ½ cup of the chicken broth, the melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of the tequila in a small glass bowl. Using a kitchen syringe, inject the mixture all over the hens, about ½ inch deep into the flesh. (If the butter in the mixture solidifies, warm it in a microwave.)
Put the chiles and 2 cups of the broth in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the chiles. Then transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the chile mixture into a small bowl, pressing on the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard whatever is left in the sieve.
Mix ¼ cup of the preserves and ¼ cup of the chile mixture in a medium bowl. Season heavily with salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the hens, working some of it between the skin and the breast. Put the hens on a rack in a large roasting pan. Add the remaining ½ cup broth to the roasting pan.
Roast, basting with the pan drippings every 20 minutes, for 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into a thigh registers 160°F. Add more broth if the juices begin to dry out.
Transfer the hens to a platter. Strain the pan juices into a medium saucepan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons tequila, ¼ cup apricot preserves, and chile mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the hens, garnish the platter with fresh apricot halves, and serve.