Chef Pati Jinich Celebrates the Scope of Mexican Cuisine in Her New Cookbook
There may be no better time to be cooking Mexican food than right now. For one, some of the cuisine's once hard-to-source ingredients are more widely available than ever. Second, it taps into many of our current vegetable-forward mindsets, offering recipes with depth and unique flavor that just so happen to be meatless. And third, Pati Jinich's new book, Treasures of the Mexican Table ($24.87, amazon.com), has just hit shelves—and it's indeed a treasure.
Jinich, a James Beard Award winner who was born and raised in Mexico City and now lives in Maryland, spent years working on this book, and it shows. The book dives deep into the dishes that have held families together and kept communities connected, spanning the country and showing us the range of Mexican cuisine. Jinich's PBS show, Pati's Mexican Table, provided her with the platform to do an incredible amount of research, as did her considerable connections in the Mexican community in the U.S., who shared recommendations on where to find the best street food in Guadalajara and helped introduce her to a woman in the small Sinaloa town of Mocorito who taught her the secrets of making authentic chilorio (adobo-seasoned shredded pork).
In Jinich's words, she sought out recipes that "screamed out the name of the region," ones that felt like the purest expression of the place. And once she found those recipes, she learned how to make the best possible version of those classics, ones that would be appealing to and doable for home cooks outside of Mexico. So, she offers ideas for substitutions when possible (for example, guajillos can stand in for colorado, and if you can't find Cotija cheese, you can swap in Romano or Parmesan). She explains how to fire roast poblano chiles under the broiler if you don't want to do it over fire. And she gives readers a balance of big-project recipes and weeknight meals to feed a family.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the book is its timeless feel. Yet the recipes, some of which go back centuries, feel relevant. On the vegetarian note we mentioned earlier, Jinich's book has an impressive array of meatless dishes. Take, for example, Green Beans in Corn Sauce with Pumpkin Seeds, a Mayan recipe where beans are cooked in a creamy fresh corn purée, topped with a chunky, spicy cooked tomato salsa, and garnished with pumpkin seeds. It's a terrific example of just how unexpectedly wonderful Mexican food can be.