Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico

Rick Martínez. Clarkson Potter, $35 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-13870-0

A 19-month culinary quest through Mexico results in this excellent recipe collection from erstwhile Bon Appétit editor Martínez, his debut. While he highlights the country’s most popular regional dishes, Martínez explains his recipes are guided, first, by his “own preferences”—which avoid labels of “authentic[ity]” (ones that, “as a public-facing cook in this industry,” he admits to being “complicit” in perpetuating), yet take a practical approach to ingredients. The native and hard-to-find chilhuacle amarillo chiles in Oaxacan mole, for instance, can be substituted with guajillos. Mexican basics such as tortillas, beans, and salsas are accompanied by a flavor-profile chart of dried chiles and helpful tips (to “coax a deep... and nutty flavor” out of arroz rojo, toast the rice until it’s “really browned”). Mexico City proved to be a melting pot of cuisines, and Martínez also shares recipes for the shawarma-like tacos Árabes he enjoyed in Puebla and a tamarind-infused sweet-and-sour shrimp stir-fry that nods to Chiapas’s Chinese immigrants. He also serves up an impassioned defense for cooking with lard (which is lower in saturated fat than butter) and cops to a favorite recipe: pollo al pastor, his chicken rendition of the classic pork dish. This intimate look at a country’s cuisine has as much spice as it does soul. (May)
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