Mexico: One Plate at a Time

Mexico: One Plate at a Time

by Rick Bayless

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.

Rick Bayless has

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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.

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.

24 color photographs of finished dishes Photographs of Mexican location shots throughout

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Ira Glass Host of Public Radio International's This American Life Rick Bayless is like the hero of some never-made Saturday morning cartoon for adults: cultural anthropologist by day, top flight chef at night. I hope in his next book he also starts solving crimes and playing in a pop band. That's all his protagonist needs to make the jump from PBS to HBO.

Emeril Lagasse Rick Bayless's passion and thorough knowledge of authentic Mexican food has truly changed our minds and our palates! Great food!

Scott Simon host of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, author of Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan Rick Bayless sees in Mexican food the everyday personal celebration of life, art and friendship across a table. His recipes are lucid, allow for error and encourage innovation. I tried the chilaquiles recipe as soon as I opened this book. The results were delicious, my friends were delighted and we laughed and lingered late into the night. I think that's what Rick likes to help bring about with this lovely and lyrical book.

Gary Nabhan MacArthur Award-winning ethnobotanist and author of Coming Home to Eat Rick Bayless has the depth and breadth of knowledge about Mexican food traditions that most food writers can only dream of. Bayless is as vital to the culinary exchange between the U.S. and Mexico as Carlos Fuentes is to our binational literature. Viva Ricardo!

Sara Moulton host of Cooking Live with Sara Moulton Rick Bayless — one of the greatest teachers I know — has demystified Mexican cuisine for American home cooks. He demonstrates that there's much more to this great cuisine than nachos and burritos. Indeed, under Rick's tutelage it appears that Mexican cuisine is as vast and subtle as French or Italian.

Jim Harrison author of Legends of the Fall and The Road Home I have long admired the work of Rick Bayless. In Mexico One Plate at a Time he continues his passionate attempt to introduce us to a long-ignored cuisine. It is a splendid book and anyone who cares about world cuisine will want it in their library.

Jacques Pepin co-author of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home In Mexico One Plate at a Time, you will discover Mexican cooking as you've never had it in your life. Great dishes and easy techniques make this book a must.

Thomas Keller chef-owner of The French Laundry, Yountsville, California, and author of The French Laundry Cookbook Rick's question-and-answer portion not only touches on the history of a particular dish, but provides personal tips for home cooks to successfully re-create the recipes in their own kitchens. This is definitely the kind of cookbook one returns to again and again.

Daniel Boulud chef-owner of Restaurant Daniel, New York City, and author of Café Boulud Cookbook Rick Bayless has managed to make my mouth water and my mind leave New York (direction Mexico!), all in one book.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten chef-owner of Jean-Georges, JoJo, Vong and the Mercer Kitchen, New York City, and Prime, Las Vegas I just love how Rick has given not only his contemporary recipes but the traditional as well. It's one of the best Mexican cookbooks I have seen.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rarely has a cuisine been so epically dissected, analyzed, pined over and exemplified in the name of a tasty dinner. Indeed, cookbook is perhaps too tame a description for this latest venture from Bayless, the popular chef and author (Salsas That Cook, etc.). Each recipe begins with a stream-of-consciousness consideration that at times runs a bit too jolly. "No food translates into more carefree fun than a singing dish of queso fundido," declares the author. Following the lead-in, a paragraph provides the "Traditional Benchmark," wherein the ideal version of the dish is captured. Thus, readers learn what makes the perfect flan or Pozole (Pork and Hominy Stew). Next come a few words on "When to Think of These Recipes"--Chiles Rellenos when you're pulling out the stops, Tamales for hanging out with the gang. A third paragraph offers "Advice for American Cooks," such as what peppers you can substitute in your Adobado Chicken. Then, at last, come the recipes. Bayless provides both a traditional and contemporary version of most dishes. Among his many happy surprises are a relatively unknown "street-style" enchilada, which is dipped in chile sauce and quick fried, and a grilled Cactus Salad. Each recipe is followed by answers to Frequently Asked Questions. How saucy should the filling be for your taco? Or maybe just tune in and read along to the PBS version, with one of Bayless's Mango Coolers in hand. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Bayless (Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen) is increasingly seen as America's foremost authority on Mexican cookery, and this book, the companion volume to his currently running PBS television series, should further that reputation. Just as in his previous cookbooks, Bayless communicates the sense of joy, satisfaction, and community to be found in traditional Mexican cookery. But he also delves more deeply into the ingredients and techniques involved in producing a wide variety of dishes, from simple sopes (little "boats" made of masa, filled with salsa and cheese, and shallow-fried in lard) and quesadillas to imaginative ceviches and moles. For each type of dish, he offers both traditional and contemporary recipes, reminding us that the strength of a great cuisine is its ability to adapt and evolve. There are helpful questions and answers at the end of each section, based on questions generated by recipe testers, an addition that may be unique to the cookbook genre. There is much here for both neophytes and experienced cooks. Highly recommended for all public libraries.--Tom Cooper, Richmond Heights Memorial Lib., MO Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Richard Corliss
Was there ever a chef as passionate about a cuisine as Bayless is about Mexican food? Now that America is beyond the 'spaghetti-and-meatballs stage" of Italian cuisine, the award-winning Chicagochef is determined to move north-of-the-border cooks beyond the taco.

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Meet the Author

Rick Bayless has won our country's highest chef honors (James Beard Foundation's National Chef of the Year). He's also won our highest cookbook award for Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen (Julia Child/IACP Cookbook of the Year). His other cookbooks include Authentic Mexican and Salsas That Cook. His famed Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, have both won many awards, including the coveted Ivy Award. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Deann, and their daughter, Lane.

Read an Excerpt


Was there ever a fruit as sensual as an avocado? So rough-hewn, dare-to-touch-me masculine on the outside, so yielding, inviting, soft spring green and feminine inside? Writers have proclaimed that the avocado, tomato and chile are among Mexico's gifts to the world. And they name guacamole, where all three come together, as a perfect work of art.

It's no wonder that this perfect fruit begs to be mashed to enhance its melting, naturally spreadable quality. Early Spanish settlers called guacamole "the butter of the poor." The Aztecs recognized its possibilities when they coined the word "guacamole": "guaca" for avocado and "mole" for sauce.

Mashed avocado invites you to add flavors — think flavored butters here. Yet, considering how perfect it is in itself, the challenge is to exercise restraint. There are Mexican purists who stop at a sprinkle of salt on their avocado mash and call that guacamole. But I think you can employ a little creativity, setting some limits: no mayonnaise or sour cream. Avocado flesh by itself has an unctuous quality and subtle flavor — no need to dilute it. As for the add-ins, these flavor pinpoints seem more welcome when the guacamole is intended for chips. On the Mexican side of the border, guacamole's role is more as a salsa, something you spread on a taco. A smooth version blended with tomatillos can be a delicious drizzle over practically anything edible.

The second recipe here, the contemporary one, produces guacamole that is boosted with roasted poblanos, roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic. Roasting heightens sweetness, yielding a deeper-flavored guacamole. Though this contemporary version is good in and of itself, it is a perfect sauce for salmon steaks or grilled chicken. Whether you choose traditional or contemporary, feel free to pare these recipes down or add to them. They're yours to make your own.

Traditional benchmark: In my opinion, the best guacamole is a simple one — one that glamorizes the flavor of really delicious avocados, plain and simple. That starts with hand-mashing thoroughly ripe avocados to a chunky-smooth texture, then underscoring the avocado's natural richness with a little tang from lime juice, perhaps a little perfumy cilantro, maybe some crunchy onion and a hint of hot green chile. And tomato, too, might go in to boost the flavors with sweetness — though that's not always necessary.

When to think of these recipes: Guacamole is tremendously versatile. It almost defines the phrase "casual party food," but it's so simple to make that there's nothing to keep you from whipping up a batch for Wednesday night dinner, to spoon, say, onto a simple soft taco or over grilled chicken or fish. Guacamole in a warm corn tortilla is a favorite (if not totally balanced) lunch of mine.

Advice for American cooks: Decent avocados are quite readily available, but they're not always ripe. You may have to buy them a few days before you need them to ensure that they'll be soft-ripe.

Classic Guacamole

Guacamole Clásico

Makes about 2 1/2 cups, serving 6 as an appetizer, 8 to 10 as a nibble

Fresh hot green chiles to taste (about 2 serranos or 1 jalapeño), stemmed

1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup),

plus a little extra for garnish

6 ounces (1 medium round or 2 plum) tomatoes (you want

these ripe, though absolute red ripeness isn't as important

here as it is, say, for chopped tomato salsa)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus a little extra

for garnish

3 medium-large (about 1 1/4 pounds total) ripe avocados


1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

A few slices of radish for garnish (optional)

1. Roasting the chiles. Lay the chiles in a small ungreased skillet set over medium heat. Turn them every minute or so until they have softened (they'll darken in spots), 5 to 10 minutes. Mash them into a coarse puree, using a mortar, or finely chop them. Place in a large bowl.

2. More flavorings. Scoop the chopped onion into a strainer and rinse under cold water; shake off excess water and add to the bowl with the chiles. Chop the tomatoes into small bits — skin, seeds and all is my preference. You should have a scant cup. Add to the bowl along with the cilantro.

3. The avocados. To cut an avocado in half, you have to negotiate the large egg-shaped pit in the middle. Make a cut down the length of 1 avocado straight through to the pit. Continue cutting all the way around the pit until you wind up where you started. Twist the two halves in opposite directions and pull them apart. Scoop out the pit (the hueso, or bone, in Spanish) with a spoon. Then scoop out the avocado flesh from the skin and add to the bowl. Do the same with the remaining avocados. Use an old-fashioned potato masher or the back of a large spoon to mash the avocado flesh into a coarse pulp, mixing in the other ingredients as you go.

4. Seasoning the guacamole. Taste the guacamole and season with salt, usually a scant teaspoon, then add some of the lime juice and taste again. Continue seasoning with lime until the guacamole has enough zip for you. Cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface, and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

5. Serving. Unless you're serving guacamole dolloped on tacos or the like, the classic way to present it to your guests is in a Mexican lava-rock mortar (molcajete), sprinkled with chopped onion and cilantro. Sliced radish, if you have it, looks pretty here, and to the Mexican eye completes the very popular, patriotic red-white-and-green motif.

Working Ahead: Guacamole is good when freshly made, but, in my opinion, it tastes even better when the flavors are allowed to mingle for about half an hour before serving. If well chilled, it'll keep for several hours. After that, the flavors get out of balance and the avocado starts to turn brown.

Copyright © 2000 by Rick Bayless

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