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Cooking with Too Hot Tamales: Recipes & Tips From TV Food's Spiciest Cooking Duo

Cooking with Too Hot Tamales: Recipes & Tips From TV Food's Spiciest Cooking Duo

by Mary S. Milliken, Helene Siegel, Susan Feniger, Susan Feniger, Helene Siegel

At last, the eagerly awaited companion to the Television Food Network series Too Hot Tamales is here, capturing the sassy cooking style that Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's nationwide television audience looks forward to every day. In over 150 recipes, the engaging duo demonstrate their honed culinary technique, their commitment to the finest, freshest


At last, the eagerly awaited companion to the Television Food Network series Too Hot Tamales is here, capturing the sassy cooking style that Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's nationwide television audience looks forward to every day. In over 150 recipes, the engaging duo demonstrate their honed culinary technique, their commitment to the finest, freshest ingredients, and their enthusiasm for flavors from around the world. Using traditional Mexican, Brazilian, Cuban, and Spanish tastes and combinations, enhanced by their creative, modern sensibilities,Too Hot Tamalessatisfies any appetite. From Roasted Chile Frittatas to Turkey Tamales with Fresh Cranberry Salsa to milky, cool Horchata Ice Cream with Cinnamon and Pecans, this ultramodern pair create recipes that are honest and accessible, yet funky and fun.Open this adventure some book and explore a now world of Latin American and Spanish flavors and cooking techniques. There is an entire section on the vivid salsas that we've come to crave, including a Three-Minute Salsa for the time impaired and a bracing Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa for heat seekers. Entries run the gamut from the simple and delicate Pan-Fried Grouper with Almonds to the lip-smacking Barbecued Ribs with Red Chile Sauce and Baked Pineapple. As demonstrated throughout their career, Milliken and Feniger consider vegetables a priority. Vagetarians both strict and occasional will appreciate the full-bodied vegetable and grain-based dishes offered within these pages. Entries such as the hearty Vegetarian Black Bean Chili, the Tortilla do Potato, and an elegant Artichoke Stow with Pine Nuts are both healthful and satisfying enough to seduce vegetarian and carnivore alike. For lighter fare, exciting salads become the main dish as in the brightly dressed Wilted Spinach Salad with Pickled Shallots. Finally, for sweet seekers, Milliken and Feniger delight even the biggest dessert diehards with such toothsome treats as leche frita (fried milk custardsquares), Guava Pastry Diamonds, and Pumpkin Cheesecake Tarts with Gingersnap Crust.

As the fans of Too Hot Tamales have come to expect, cooking tips and strategies for success in the kitchen are sprinkled throughout. Packed with indispensable advice on everything from safe knife handling and balancing sauces to buying and storing vegetables and spices, plus countless ways to bring out the natural flavor of food, Cooking with Too Hot Tamales will undoubtedly become a favorite kitchen reference. Seasoned entertainers Milliken and Feniger also share their special-occasion recipes and expertise for throwing fabulous fetes. Unusual and exciting drink and hors d'oeuvres recipes such as fiery Chile Vodka, cool Refresco do Mango, and crunchy Quinoa Fritters are just a few of the exciting party offerings. Best of all while the flavors are intricate and exotic, the techniques are simple as can be, allowing cooks to enjoy their own parties and savor their own creations.

Editorial Reviews

The Tamales Heat Up De Gustibus

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger were among the chefs who came to De Gustibus. They demonstrated recipes from their newest cookbook, Cooking With Too Hot Tamales, and played to a packed kitchen.

About the Book

A companion volume to their popular TV Food Network show, "Too Hot Tamales," Cooking With Too Hot Tamales is full of simple, flavorful food from Latin and South America. Milliken and Feniger have traveled all over the region trying traditional dishes and learning about local ingredients, and they have done a great job of adapting them for the American home cook. They hang on to the key elements that give the dishes authentic taste but offer substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients and alternative cooking methods when necessary. Cochinita Pibil, for example, the wonderful slow-cooked pork stew the Tamales demonstrated at De Gustibus, is traditionally cooked in the Yucatán, where it originates, in a pit filled with banana leaves and covered with rocks and earth; though Milliken and Feniger encouraged the adventurous barbecuers in the crowd to give it a try, their method of slow oven-braising turns out a meltingly tender and flavorful dish.

About Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger

Milliken and Feniger first became friends more than 15 years ago, when they were the first two women to work in the high-pressure, traditional French kitchen of one of Chicago's finest restaurants, Jovan Treboyevic's Le Perroquet. They eventually made their separate ways to Los Angeles, where they teamed up to open their first restaurant, City Café, in 1982. They went on to open the Border Grill in Santa Monica, still one of L.A.'s hottest restaurants, and plans are currently in the works for new locations. They also have their popular show on the TV Food Network and a James Beard Award-nominated radio show called "Good Food," and they are the authors of two acclaimed cookbooks, City Cuisine and Mesa Mexicana. It's clear that Feniger and Milliken have developed a close and productive partnership over the years: They finish each others' stories (which range from an unfortunate encounter with a baby skunk to their experiences cooking in a minuscule kitchen with two burners for dozens of customers in City Café's early days), tease each other about their quirks, and good-naturedly agree to disagree when they have different views on any given topic.

About the Menu

The Tamales kicked off the class with a recipe for a refreshing Minty Lime Cooler (tequila optional) that would set a festive tone at any gathering. The rest of their menu fell into the category of ideal party food, first of all because the spicy, sweet, and piquant flavors are lively and just a little unusual, and second because Feniger and Milliken consider what will be realistic, and enjoyable, for the home cook to take on. "I'm always trying to find ways not to dirty up another thing in my kitchen, like a juicer," Milliken said while demonstrating a quick and easy way to juice a lime, rolling it on the counter before squeezing the halves using a fork.

Everyone in the class got to taste all the dishes the Tamales made, and they were fantastic. The plantain soup, made with ripe specimens of this mild bananalike fruit, was creamy and just barely sweet, its subtle flavor sparked nicely by the brilliant-colored blood orange-and-pineapple salsa. It's surprisingly quick to make: "You'll notice we didn't strain the soup," Milliken pointed out. "We really have rebelled against all that—peeling tomatoes, straining sauces. We've gotten into a more earthy, homey kind of cooking. When I'm at home, I have about 45 minutes to get dinner on the table; I can't be straining soups and washing strainers all night." An elegant spinach salad followed: Milliken and Feniger heated the dressing slightly on top of the stove in a metal bowl, then tossed in the spinach leaves to wilt them slightly, and added vinegary pickled shallots and creamy cheese, which contrasted perfectly with the nutty crunch of the toasted pumpkin seed garnish.

Cochinita Pibil, the main dish of the evening, was made with achiote seed paste, charred tomatoes, and onions, and baked for long, slow cooking that yielded meltingly tender meat. It was served with a simple, complimentary rice pilaf with corn and chiles.The finale was an odd-sounding dessert called fried milk, which turned out to be one of the most delicious things I've ever put in my mouth. Milk, cooked with cornstarch and sugar and chilled until it's thickened to the texture of firm Jell-O, is cut into squares, coated in bread crumbs, fried in butter until crispy on the outside and hot inside, and finally sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar—easy and totally addictive. Wines were served as well. We drank a light, tasty Chardonnay from the Fortant de France Winery with the soup and salad; then a nice Chilean Merlot from the Undurraga vineyard was poured to accompany the stew.

Tips from the Tamales

Milliken and Feniger paid special attention to pointing out time- and effort-saving tips as they cooked. "These are the kind of things that make doing the work in the kitchen painful if they take too long." Here are a few of the most helpful suggestions:

  • To quickly and easily clean sandy leeks, turn a leek upside down in a tall pot of water and push it up and down before chopping. The grit will be forced out.

  • Most avid home cooks know how essential sharp knives are to safe and efficient cooking, but they may not realize that peelers can be sharpened as well. Milliken said, "You know how frustrating it can be to have a dull peeler. We came up through the ranks of the [professional] kitchen, where you might have to peel 200 pounds of potatoes at a time." She demonstrated an ingenious way to sharpen a peeler by just scraping along both sides of its two cutting edges with the tip of a knife blade, getting rid of the burrs of metal that make it dull. "I never knew that either," Feniger interjected. "I learned that from Mary Sue. That is a great trick." As one of the audience members pointed out, the same trick works on blender blades as well.

  • And above all, the Tamales exhorted the audience, taste what you're cooking. "You have to taste all the time, and when you taste, it's important for you to stop what you're doing and completely clear your mind, and you want to smell it and taste it carefully. Then imagine what you're trying to achieve—if it's a soup, imagine eating 25 spoonfuls of it. If it's a sauce, consider how it's going to taste with what you're serving it with," Milliken said.
TV Guide
Praise for Too Hot Tamales: One of the 50 Great Things About Television Now.
Library Journal
Milliken and Feniger are the talented chef/owners of the Border Grill in Los Angeles and the authors of Mesa Mexicana. In this companion to their popular TV series, they feature traditional and new-wave Latin and Spanish cuisine, with an emphasis on spicy, robust, casual dishes, ideal for festive entertaining. The 150 recipes include tamales, of course, along with inspired appetizers; soups, salads, and brunch dishes; main courses such as Brazilian Marinated Steaks with Chile Lime Sauce and side dishes; imaginative desserts; and spirited cocktails.

The book is peppered with useful cooking tips, information on ingredients, and food anecdotes, and the style is personal and approachable. —Susan Lantzius, formerly with San Domenico Restaurant, New York

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt

Fresh cranberry salsa

Makes about 3 cups


1 pound fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
3 oranges, peeled, seeded, and diced
4 serrano chiles, stemmed and diced (with seeds)
1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped


Finely chop the cranberries in a food processor or by hand. Combine in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and mix together. Set aside at room temperature 1 hour and then chill until ready to serve. Store in the refrigerator as long as 3 days.

Meet the Author

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger have worked together since 1982 as co-chefs and co-proprietors of City restaurant and the Border Grill in Los Angeles, and are the authors of the acclaimed City Cuisine cookbook (Morrow, 1989). The Border Grill was chosen by Gourmet magazine in 1993 as one of the best restaurants in America. Milliken and Feniger live in Los Angeles.

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