Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cookingby Pati Jinich
The host of a highly popular PBS series, Pati’s Mexican Table, and a self-described “overloaded soccer mom with three kids and a powerful blender,” Pati Jinich has a mission. She’s out to prove that Mexican home cooking is quicker and far easier than most Americans think. Her dishes are not blanketed with cheese, or heavy/i>
The host of a highly popular PBS series, Pati’s Mexican Table, and a self-described “overloaded soccer mom with three kids and a powerful blender,” Pati Jinich has a mission. She’s out to prove that Mexican home cooking is quicker and far easier than most Americans think. Her dishes are not blanketed with cheese, or heavy and fried, or based on complex sauces. Nor are they necessarily highly spicy. Surprising in their simplicity and freshness, they incorporate produce and grains. Most important, they fit perfectly into an everyday family cooking schedule and use just a handful of ingredients, most of which are already in your pantry. Many are homey specialties that Pati learned from her mother and grandmother, some are creative spins on classics, while others are not well known outside of Mexico. Dishes like Chicken à la Trash (it’s delicious!), a one-pot meal that Pati gleaned from a Mexican restaurant cook; Mexican Meatballs with Mint and Chipotle; Sweet and Salty Salmon; and Mexican-Style Pasta can revitalize your daily repertoire. You’ll find plenty of vegetarian fare, from Classic Avocado Soup, to Divorced Eggs (with red and green salsa), to Oaxaca-Style Mushroom and Cheese Quesadillas. Your friends and family will enjoy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Pickled Ancho Chile Vinaigrette; Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli; and Chicken Tinga — (you can use rotisserie chicken), which makes a tasty filling for tortas and tostadas. Pati also shares exciting dishes for the holidays and other special occasions, including Mexican Thanksgiving Turkey with Chorizo, Pecan, Apple, and Corn Bread Stuffing; Spiral-Cut Beef Tenderloin; and Red Pozole (“a Mexican party in a bowl”), which she served on her wedding day. Desserts like Triple Orange Mexican Wedding Cookies, Scribble Cookies (sandwich cookies filled with chocolate), and little Apricot-Lime Glazed Mini Pound Cakes are sophisticated yet simple to make.
"Pati Jinich is a breath of fresh air in the food world . She's warm, beyond smart, she's funny and a generous and gifted cook. She knows Mexican food as her heritage and as a scholar, but knows, too, the realities of being a working mother. She never gave up on the tastes she grew up with, but she's got an uncanny way of streamlining how she recreates them. This is one of those books you'll be cooking and learning from for a long time ."
—Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Splendid Table host
"Pati Jinich has created the most delicious guidebook to the magnificent market-driven home cooking of Mexico that I've ever seen . This book makes it simple to create fresh and tasty Mexican food and inspires me to make soft fresh torillas, pickle my own jalapeños, and delight in Chicken Tinga with my family. This book will become a family heirloom at my house forever."
— Mario Batali
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Publication date:
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- Product dimensions:
- 8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.03(d)
Read an Excerpt
SHOW UP IN MY KITCHEN ANY DAY OF THE YEAR, AND YOU’LL FIND SOFT CORN TORTILLAS, refried beans, at least two different salsas, the fresh Mexican cheese called queso fresco, ripe avocados, and fresh fruit—essential ingredients for countless spur-of-the-moment meals. You are always welcome to join me, because I always cook more than we can manage to eat at one sitting—not out of carelessness, but because that is the practical way of Mexican kitchens.
Salsas are the maracas of my kitchen: They shake things up whenever I need an extra kick of flavor. They can be the base of a dish or the final stroke of genius, a condiment with mucho potencial: not always hot, but fruity often, salty, tangy, vinegary, or crunchy. Avocados are almost equally versatile: They can be pounded into chunky guacamole, of course, but also whizzed into a silky soup; tucked into thick, crusty rolls with potatoes and chorizo for a hearty torta, a Mexican sandwich; or buzzed together with milk, cream, and lime juice for an incomparably creamy salad dressing. Soft, mild, and teasingly salty, queso fresco can be sliced into sticks, or diced, or crumbled on top of soups, salads, tostadas, tacos, and enchiladas. The beans are waiting to be slathered on a roll when my voracious boys—I call them monsters—come home from school or play. And as for tortillas, they are the building blocks for so many dishes from breakfast to dinner every day of the week: wrapped around eggs, enfolding steak for tacos, holding together a casserole. Crisp them, and they become the sturdy base for ceviche tostadas or perfect scoops for salsas. Cut them smaller, and they are a crisp garnish for soups. And with fruits of all kinds—watermelon, mango, pineapple, and more—I make some of the most refreshing drinks ever, with and without alcohol.
I’m not sure that many Americans really understand Mexican home cooking. For me, it’s the everyday food I feed my family: the dishes I hanker for, the ones that make me feel at home and that, ironically, I mostly learned how to make while being away from the country where I grew up eating them. That food isn’t taco salads, nachos slathered with cheese, or overstuffed burritos. Nor, for the most part, is it the complex mole sauces that take days to prepare. There are, however, other traditional dishes that I serve over and over again, because they are fabulous, as well as new dishes with creative spins that keep Mexican cooking evolving.
Mexican home cooking is beautiful in its simplicity, tremendously convenient, and wholesome. Out of our kitchens come some of the tastiest salads, soups, and cookies that you will ever find. Our food also includes a boatload of vegetarian options: casseroles of black beans and tortillas in chile sauce, plantain quesadillas stuffed with refried beans, eggs poached in delicious salsas. Not every dish has chile in it, nor is a dish necessarily spicy when it does. For me, the best part is that this cooking fits our American lifestyle like a glove.
I didn’t set out to be an obsessed food professional, but I’m a Jewish-Mexican mother, so the obsessive part comes naturally. Originally I trained as an academic and got a job in Washington, D.C., at a policy think tank, where I focused on Mexican politics and history. Eventually, though, I listened to my husband, who kept asking why I persisted in working there when all I talked about were the foods of Mexico and all I did in my spare time was cook.
It wasn’t an easy decision to switch careers. I can still hear my dad’s jokes about how I wasted so many years: quemándome las pestañas como rata de biblioteca, which, loosely translated, means “burning the midnight oil as a bookworm,” or, more literally, “burning my eyelashes as a library mouse.” Yet I have no regrets. Those were not wasted years—they gave me great research skills and a deeper understanding
Today I’m a chef, food writer, and cooking teacher with a TV show, Pati’s Mexican Table, on National Public Television. But most of the time, I’m an overloaded soccer mom with three kids and a powerful blender. I continually travel between the Mexican, American, and Spanglish worlds. When I say, “We are Mexican,” my boys always correct me, “Mami, you are Mexican, we are American.” So we compromise: We are Mexican-American, we speak English, and we try to hold onto the Spanish, but truthfully most of what we do is embrace a Spanglish life. Food is the natural meeting point of our cultures.
On the weekends, we start our days late so we have time for a full breakfast with one or another version of eggs, like Scrambled Egg Packets with Black Bean Sauce. Sobre mesa, “after table,” we linger, sipping coffee and nibbling on crumbs of pound cake or cookies or slices of fruit.
We want our kids to have opinions about what they eat, and we urge them to choose their favorites. My boys always insist that their classic breaded fried chicken cutlets, Milanesas, be dressed with salty crumbled cheese and ground dried chile. They love green beans sprinkled with toasted pistachios and seasoned with orange. On cold days, they devour bowls of Mexican Alphabet Soup. On holidays, our table truly shows our dual cultures. Our Thanksgiving turkey gets rubbed with a pungent spicy paste from the Yucatán and is roasted in fragrant banana leaves, then served with a stuffing of chorizo, pecans, apples, and corn bread.
In this book, you will find recipes and ideas that have come to my table from many paths. I have been welcomed into homes and kitchens all across Mexico over the years, and a number of the recipes you will find here have been deeply influenced by those home cooks. My go-to Passover brisket recipe, for example, is my take on
Berenice Flores’s carne enchilada from the Purépecha region in Michoacán. I grew
up in Mexico City, a place that hums with food opportunities. Many of the dishes we now eat weekly, like Ancho Chile Burgers and Mexican Pasta, are foods I enjoyed there at home, in restaurants, or on the street. I searched out other recipes to satisfy requests from viewers of my television show and students. I worked for months to nail down the best version of Pickled Jalapeños and Carrots, and I perfected Piggy Cookies after getting dozens of requests for this traditional recipe. Now my family can’t live without them.
Thankfully, today the ingredients I use the most are widely available at the grocery store or with just a click online. Many, like tomatillos, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, and queso fresco are used in a number of recipes, making it worthwhile to stock up. That said, I always offer substitutes for specialty ingredients when possible.
In this book, I also share Mexican cooks’ tricks—simple lessons that were passed down from my grandmother to my mother and then to me. Many of the dishes in this book are even tastier when made ahead, adding to their convenience. All are magnets for bringing people to the table.
There is a saying that holds true for every meal in a Mexican home: “Tiramos la casa por la ventana” (“We throw the house through the window”), sparing no amount of money, time, or effort to supply a table full of soulful food. People may literally sell their furniture so they can feed an entire town for a wedding or a quinceañera, a daughter’s fifteenth birthday party. Our food is abundant, accommodating, and much simpler than you might think. Sharing it with my new country has become my mission.
A few recipes from the book:
pico de gallo
1 pound ripe tomatoes, halved, cored, and chopped (about 3 cups)
½ cup finely chopped white onion
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, halved, seeded if desired, and finely chopped, or to taste
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and top part of stems
2–3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
There are endless variations on pico de gallo, the trademark chunky raw salsa of Mexico. As you travel throughout the country, you will find picos made from vegetables like cucumber and jicama, all kinds of fruits, and even nuts and seeds. All are delicious. This traditional version is a combination of tomato, onion, cilantro, and chile with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some salt. Sometimes I add the oil, sometimes I don’t. Try it both ways and see which you like best. Then consider this recipe a starting point and branch out from here.
Pico de gallo translates as “rooster’s beak.” Why? It’s a mystery to me, and to every Mexican cook and culinary expert I’ve asked.
Place the tomatoes, onion, chile, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil (if using), and salt in a bowl and toss well. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
✹ MEXICAN COOK’S TRICK: Acidic fruits and vegetables taste much richer and fuller when served at room temperature, so take the chill off any refrigerated salsa before serving.
mexican chicken soup
" CALDO DE POLLO "
✹ MAKES ABOUT 8 CUPS BROTH AND 6 CUPS SHREDDED CHICKEN ✹ PREPARATION TIME: 15 MINUTES ✹ COOKING TIME: 50 MINUTES ✹ BROTH CAN BE REFRIGERATED FOR UP TO 4 DAYS OR FROZEN FOR UP TO 6 MONTHS; CHICKEN CAN BE COVERED AND REFRIGERATED FOR UP TO 3 DAYS ✹
1 3-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces, or about 3 pounds mixed chicken parts
3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 white onion, halved
3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
1 garlic clove
5–6 black peppercorns
5–6 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
3½ quarts water
I like to make caldo de pollo every Sunday, because it sets the right affectionate tone in the house as it wraps the entire place in its aroma, and it’s also the backbone of a streamlined week of eating. You get a batch of rich-tasting chicken broth that can be used in soups, stews, rice, and pasta dishes, plus generous amounts of moist cooked chicken that can be shredded or cut up for salads, sandwiches, tacos, tortas, casseroles, or Chicken Tinga (page 000). Drop everything into the pot, cover with water, and go.
1. Place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, skim off any foam, and simmer, partially covered, for 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool.
2. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a bowl. Strain the broth into a container, cool, and refrigerate. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken. Shred or cut the meat into chunks for future use and refrigerate if not using right away.
✹ MEXICAN COOK’S TRICK: Caldo de pollo cooks for less than an hour, much less time than a typical French stock. The Mexican way brings you a gentle, tasty broth, but most important, it allows the chicken meat to have a life of its own, since the briefer cooking doesn’t suck out all the flavor, texture, and nutrients.
" PESCADO RODRIGO "
✹ SERVES 6 ✹ PREPARATION TIME: 10 MINUTES ✹ COOKING TIME: 10 MINUTES ✹ SAUCE CAN BE MADE UP TO 24 HOURS AHEAD, COVERED, AND REFRIGERATED (MIX WELL BEFORE USING) ✹
½ cup thinly sliced scallions (white and light green parts only)
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons seeded (if desired) and chopped jalapeño or serrano chile, or to taste
1 tablespoon Maggi sauce (see page 000) or soy sauce
Kosher or coarse sea salt
6 tilapia fillets (about 6 ounces each), or other mild white fish fillets, such as sea bass, grouper, red snapper, or rockfish, rinsed and patted dry
¼ teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
All-purpose flour for dusting
12 corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade (page 000), warmed
Pescado rodrigo is a beloved dish in Mexico City, and I make it at least a couple of times a month. Fresh tilapia or other mild white fish, seared until crispy, then drizzled with a chunky citrus sauce, is the seafood to stuff into corn tortillas for tacos. This recipe comes from the Bellinghausen, a Mexico City restaurant established in 1915 and cherished by many families, including ours. Its classic hacienda style, complete with tiles and a working fountain, is so dignified that my sisters and I used to dress to the nines to eat there on Sundays. The menu never changes; it doesn’t need to.
The fish can also be served whole, with tortillas alongside.
1. TO MAKE THE SAUCE: In a small bowl, combine the scallions, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, jalapeño, and Maggi sauce, and stir to mix well. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. Season with salt if necessary to taste before serving.
2. Sprinkle the fish fillets with the salt and pepper. Spread the flour on a large plate and coat each fillet thoroughly on both sides.
3. Heat ¼ inch of vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the fish, in batches to avoid crowding, and sear for about 3 minutes, until thoroughly browned on the bottom. Don’t fiddle with the fillets; let them brown completely so they release easily from the pan. Turn and sear for about 3 minutes on the second side. The fish is ready when the thickest part is cooked through and it flakes easily with a fork. Put the fish on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in a low (250°F) oven.
4. Transfer the fish to a platter and pour the sauce on top. Or you can do as I do and flake the fish and serve it drizzled with the sauce, ready to make tacos. Serve with corn tortillas.
Meet the Author
PATI JINICH is the host of the popular PBS show Pati's Mexican Table going on its fifth season and resident chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute. She appears regularly on NPR, The Splendid Table, NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s The Chew, and CBS's The Talk. She hosts live programs for the Smithsonian Institution and has cooked at the White House for President Obama's Cinco de Mayo celebration. She lives in Chevy Chase, MD with her husband and three sons.
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<p>Pati Jinich, a native of Mexico City, proves a most engaging guide to homestyle Mexican dishes from street foods to colonial gems, Middle Eastern influences to comfort foods from across Mexico: you’ll find references to Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Michoacán, the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico City. Her PBS show Pati’s Mexican Table features two seasons of episodes that revolve around a certain ingredient, holiday, or theme.</p> <p>I was lucky to receive a review copy several weeks ago courtesy of Pati’s publicist, and in that time I’ve tried several recipes from the various sections, including two of the salads (red leaf, avocado, and grapefruit salad with olive-mint vinaigrette and the spinach goat cheese salad with caramelized pecans and jamaica vinaigrette), a soup (Mexican alphabet soup), several of the egg dishes (huevos rabo de mestiza, Mexican frittata with poblanos, potatoes, and feta), and two of the desserts (triple orange Mexican wedding cookies, Alisa’s marbled pound cake). I also made the tamarind, apricot and chipotle sauce for use with another dish.</p> <p>Pati’s easygoing manner and clear explanations translate well to the written page; many of the recipes in “Pati’s Mexican Table” come complete with a “Mexican Cook’s Trick” sidebar with the types of tips that add an extra layer of authenticity: you’ll find tips on enhancing the flavor of cucumbers by rubbing them with the cut ends, that your masa should have the consistency of Play-Doh, tips on working with tortillas before adding sauce, and using rice flour in tortes. These little tidbits are the types of things that you don’t often find in cookbooks, and it’s a nice touch that makes you feel like you’re being let in on a family secret.</p> <p>The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow. I loved the unique salad dressings like the olive-mint vinaigrette and the hibiscus flower vinaigrette; these will become a regular staple in my kitchen. I found that for two of the dishes I tried, the Mexican Alphabet Soup and the triple orange Mexican wedding cookies, that I made a few small tweaks to the recipes as written. The Mexican Alphabet soup only called for ¼ cup chopped onion, 1 clove garlic and 1 tsp salt for 8 cups of broth and a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes; I added more onion and garlic and sautéed them first before pureeing them. If you’re serving this to adults and not kids, I’d also recommend adding a reconstituted ancho chile to the onion, garlic and tomatoes before pureeing. The triple orange Mexican wedding cookies differ from the more “traditional” Mexican wedding cookie featured in episode 201, which called for shortening (or you can use lard) and ground pecans. The triple-orange Mexican wedding cookies in the cookbook have neither shortening nor ground pecans, which gave them more of a cakey texture than <i>polvorones</i>. I would also recommend adding ½ teaspoon of orange extract to bump up the orange essence. You may also want to try using half shortening and half butter (the recipe is written for 2 sticks butter).</p> <p>There’s a good sampling of recipes taken from the show’s two seasons; I did a quick scan on the show’s website, and it would appear that at least one recipe from each show made it into the cookbook. You’ll find show favorites like <b>Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce</b>, <b>Chicken À La Trash</b>, <b>Mexican Meatballs with Mint and Chipotle</b>, and <b>Steak Tacos with Jamaica-Jalapeño Sauce</b>, along with vegetarian-friendly recipes, kid-friendly recipes, and even a few gluten-free recipes to boot. There are also some international dishes like watermelon and tomatillo salad with feta cheese, tomato and mozzarella salad with pickled ancho chile vinaigrette, and crab cakes with jalapeño aioli that are given a fun Mexican-inspired twist. Gorgeous photography and a user-friendly bilingual index (Spanish recipe titles are printed in italics) round out Pati’s Mexican Table.</p> <p>Verdict: Fans of Pati’s TV show and those looking for an easy, tasty introduction to homestyle Mexican cooking will be sure to enjoy Pati’s Mexican Table (let’s hope there are many more seasons and a second cookbook to boot!). ¡Provecho!</p> <p>Review copy courtesy of Pati’s publicist – ¡muchas gracias!</p>
que puedo decir es la major forma de cocinar con pati todo es facil como 1 2 3 seguir sus recetas es una maravilla todo es muy facil teniendo una persona maravillosa que explica y es la major manera de preparer platillos divinos gracias PATI
I saw Pati on The Chew making Aztec Chicken Casserole which quirked my interest in her book. My sister, who also loves to cook, came from out of state to visit. I made this dish, refrigerated it over night and it was as good as predicated. Both our husbands thought it yummy too. The instructions were a bit hard to understand so I ended up re-watching the recorded episode. We normally eat Tex Mex so this was a pleasant change. If you are expecting Tex Mex recipes you will be disappointed. The book has a lot of photos of the dishes and also has descriptions of some of the ingredients along with hints of how to buy and prepare them. I plan on trying a couple more recipes soon.
It is smaller than I had hoped and so had fewer recipes. She is very clear on her instructions and the recipes are good and simple to make.
I have been watching the TV show for quite a while now & enjoying it. I like the way the food is presennted & just enjoy the overall tone of the show. So, I thought, why not get the cookbook. If you love Mexican food, if you don't want to spend hours in the kitchen but you want authentic Mexican cuisine, buy this book. Gorgeous photos, extremely clear recipes, ingredients that are obtainable in any grocery store, you absolutely cannot go wrong. I highly recommend this book, enjoyable to read, fun to cook with & your family & friends will thank you!!
Love the recipes and pictures in this book. This will be a keeper for sure!
Thank you Pati for bringing authentic Mexican food back into the kitchen.
Good basic Mexican dishes and good family stories.