Delving into Mexican Cooking

May 26, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Traditional Mexican Cooking for Aficionados
By Diana Kennedy
Clarkson Potter
496 pp. $30.00

Except for me, Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club members have put Mexican cooking behind them and have moved on to cooking soups, salads, and breads from our current cookbook. Everyone in the club loved The Art of Mexican Cooking, as you’ll read below in my review, but sentimental attachment is not the reason I haven’t yet let go. It’s the review—the task for each cookbook that I always save for last for reasons of objective synthesis (I need to wait until I hear what each member thought of the book), but also because review writing stirs a youthful condition I thought I’d long beaten into submission: procrastination. Perhaps that’s because when in school book reviews were one of many writing assignments that were generally dreaded, and because the activities of cooking, eating, and drinking Margaritas with club members are free of school days association. (If anyone has any book review writing tips to help me oust those “school assignment” feelings, please bring them on.)

In the meantime, while I work on casting out procrastination once and for all, here is my review of the third Dowdy Corners’ cookbook, starting with the food, the reason why we cook:

The Food

One of our members was initially lukewarm about the club’s choice of a Mexican cookbook; prior to cooking from The Art of Mexican Cooking, her only reference for Mexican cooking was Americanized food served in average Mexican restaurants, and she was not impressed. Now she is completely hooked.


A Mexican Potluck, and a Tortilla Demo by Melanie

May 17, 2011
By Holly Jennings

It’s easy for a potluck menu to come together seamlessly when everyone attending is cooking from the same cookbook, and particularly the same cuisine—in this case, Mexican.

Last week DCCC club members gathered at Dowdy Corners for a Mexican feast that consisted of twice- or thrice-tried favorites and dishes that were first-time try outs—all from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy, or almost all.

Our Menu

Margaritas, prepared by me. Though not authentically Mexican, and definitely not in The Art of Mexican Cooking, they taste good and are a good conviviality enhancer.


Photo Tech Stuff and the Moorish Impact on Mexican Cooking

May 03, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Photo by DCCC club member Melanie Considine

Melanie Considine is a fine art photographer with professional experience. Translation: she’s got the art part down and she knows what buttons to press, whether she’s using her low-tech 4 by 5-inch view camera for her artwork or her high-tech Nikon D200 for miscellaneous design projects (she’s also a web designer). Several weeks ago, to reciprocate a Greek rabbit dinner, she and her husband Matt had my boyfriend Mike and me over for dinner. Matt made homemade ciabattta bread (he is a dedicated amateur bread baker and has even built his own bread oven), and Melanie, a DCCC member, prepared Mexican food from The Art of Mexican Cooking.


Discussion Questions for The Art of Mexican Cooking

May 01, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Prior to the potluck for each DCCC cookbook, I post a set of questions to stimulate discussion and to make sure we don’t forget to cover some of the most basic discussion topics at our meeting—such as, “Which recipes does everyone like best?” and “Will members likely cook from this book again?”, and so on. These questions are meant to used by anyone or any club that has been reading and making recipes from The Art of Mexican Cooking. If you’re a member and have a question you’d like to add the list, please send it to me to include.

How would you describe Diana Kennedy’s writing style? Authoritative? Personal? Sensual? Humorous? Do you like her tone?

Did you get a sense of Mexico—it’s people, the place, and, of course, the food—from her writing?

What did you learn about Mexican cooking that you didn’t know before using this book? Were you surprised by anything? Before using this book, did you know, for example, that lard is a common cooking fat in Mexican cooking?


Lunch with Lynne: The Torta de Santuario and Salsa de Plaza

April 28, 2011
By Holly Jennings

This posting is for Robert Feugate, a sandwich lover and wiz-bang coder and problem solver who helped with some of the behind-the-scenes structural features of the DCCC blog. The Torta de Santuario, or “Santuary Roll,” from The Art of Mexican Cooking may not be what he had in mind when he asked me to write about a sandwich. It’s rather involved. But for hardcore sandwich lovers, for whom making the Vietnamese Banh Mi or the New Orleans Muffuletta from scratch is enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, this multi-step Mexican sandwich will be a feather in their cap.


Red, White, and Green: The Colors of the Mexican Flag and Table

April 26, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Shown above, clockwise from the top left, are bowls of Arroz a la Mexicana, or “Mexican Rice,” which, tinged red from tomatoes, could just as well be called “red rice,” Arroz Verde, or “Green Rice,” Arroz Blanco, or “White Rice,” and the Mexican flag held by a Day of the Dead figure, who would rather not be used as a flagpole so that he could get on with the business of drinking and smoking.


Tortilla Casserole of Chicken and Poblano

April 23, 2011
By Holly Jennings


I first learned of this dish, and the concept of layering tortillas with sauce, cheese, poblano chile strips, and chicken, a Mexican lasagna of sorts, from Carla Muñoz, a roommate from my Brooklyn days. (I owe a lot to Carla—she broadened my tequila drinking experience from just silver to reposado (rested) and añejo (aged), and introduced me to the joys of freezing homemade mole, which can be resuscitated with a little water for an instant sauce beyond compare.)


The Wide World of Mexican Eggs

April 20, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Mexicans must eat a lot of eggs. The range and styles of egg dishes available to the Mexican cook makes those of her American neighbors to the north seem bland and limited by comparison.

The basic cooking methods will seem familiar: fried, scrambled, poached, prepared as an omelets. It’s the south-of-border ingredients, and the treatment of them—such as broiling tomatoes or chiles to making a sauce with deep, roasted flavors—that make Mexican egg dishes an exciting change from our repertoire in the U.S.—and a more flavorful way to start the day. Some of the more transformative preparations, like Brick Layers Eggs, may even appeal to those who, claim they do not like eggs. (more…)

Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce

April 08, 2011
By Holly Jennings

I’ve been on a shrimp jag the last couple of weeks. It began with Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce, or Camarones Enchipotlados, from Diana Kennedy’s cookbook The Art of Mexican Cooking. This dish of perfectly cooked shrimp in a slightly sweet tomato-based sauce with spicy, smoky, roasted flavors can be served as a main dish, hot with white rice, or as an appetizer, hot or cold. I like the idea of serving the shrimp cold, as an alternative to the popular appetizer of boiled and chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce. In my fantasy, Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce are served on a veranda, preferably overlooking the ocean, with a cold beverage to women dressed in light cotton sundresses and men in sear-sucker pants and crisp, cotton shirts. (Because it was snowing where I live day before yesterday, it is indeed a fantasy.)


Peter’s Red Pozole

April 04, 2011
By Holly Jennings

Pozole, a traditional, broth-based Mexican soup, is healthy, nourishing and full of flavors and textures that vary with each spoonful. If you like the contrast of cold or raw toppings—some crunchy, like radish and shredded iceberg lettuce, and some soft, like diced avocado and crumbled cheese—with piping hot broth and tender pork—a veritable salad atop piping hot soup—you will love pozole. Think of the Vietnamese pho or Chinese wonton soup, and you get the idea. Except for the queso fresco, which may be difficult to find, depending on where you live, the garnishes are not optional—they make the soup. (Note: Queso fresco is not hard to make at home. See this recipe to find out how it’s done.)

This recipe is from my friend Peter McGann, who has traveled (and eaten) in Mexico, spent some time cooking in Mexican restaurants, and taken a workshop on Mexican cooking with Diana Kennedy, the author of DCCC’s current pick. (more…)