Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow, and if you’re planning to celebrate, why not take it step beyond guzzling a bottle of cheap, nasty tequila, passing out in your foyer, and dragging yourself to work on Friday with a horrible hangover? Do something classy and geeky, and whip up a delicious meal with some Mexican flare.
The best part about the process is that it’s not as horribly difficult as you might think it is. In my kitchen, a couple of the spices required for Mexican flavor are staples. I try to make sure I keep them available at all times. That said though, it’s important to remember to keep those spices and ingredients fresh – you want your dishes to have some Mexican flare, not turn into a stop at Taco Bell.
So, with respect to Mexican food, Mexican flavors, and Mexican culture, let’s take a look at how you can satisfy your craving for Mexican food at home by modifying dishes you probably already know how to make, with ingredients you may not have known you needed.
Before we get started, let’s flash the credentials of the techniques we’re about to discuss. Straight from Kitchen Daily:
[Mexico City-native Roberto] Santibañez aims to show readers how much the seemingly disparate food of Mexico’s many regions actually has in common.
His home cook-encouraging revelation is the core of his new cookbook, Truly Mexican, which teaches fundamental Mexican flavors and techniques. And once you’ve learned how to roast, say, tomatoes and garlic-without oil-and toast dried chiles, you’re just an easy step or two away from so many dishes that you thought you’d have to travel well south of the border to find.
Now that we’re all on the same page and we understand that Roberto Santibañez actually knows what he’s on about, he gets us started with some of the basic ingredients we’ll need for our spice rack. First of all, we should pick up some dried chiles – not with the notion of adding heat to your dish, but to bring out some of the more complicated flavors you get from dried ones. Plus, a little toasting and then a soak in cold water, toss em in the blender and you have a delicious, thick chile paste to add to a stew, chili, or homemade marinade.
Also in spice rack: canela (also known as Mexican cinnamon,) Mexican orgeano, and my personal favorite, Mexican chocolate. Mexican chocolate is generally darker, unsweetened, and has a higher percentage of the chocolate that’s actually cacao than almost anything you’ll find made in the United States. The best part? Almost every grocery store – and especially those with a good wide latin food section – carries the stuff.
I’m a big fan of making sipping chocolate with Mexican chocolate: really deep, dark flavors but still deliciously rich.
Once you have the goods, there’s a good five recipes available that use at least one of the ingredients discussed, and walks you through the prep and cooking. You also get some tips on making sure you get the recipe right and bring out those authentic flavors you’re working so hard to emulate.
My tip? Try the Chile-Line Skirt Steak. It’s to die for. Enjoy, and happy Cinco de Mayo!