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December 3, 2010

When I think about my mother, I think about her fava bean soup (fine, and a couple other things too…). That’s how strong an impact that soup has had on me.

But not many people are wild about favas, habas in Spanish. Different from pasta or potatoes, Favas haven’t gone mainstream.

Okay. I can see why.

First, the fact that they come in many forms can be confusing (fresh in their pod, fresh out of the pod, dried with their skin on, or dried and peeled). Also, the ways to cook them in their different forms haven’t been widely publicized. On top of that, favas have a strong flavor that can be overpowering, and to some, hard to bear.

Now, bear with me here. If you know what form of favas to get for which kind of dish, the confusion is almost gone. With the right recipe, the confusion evaporates further and their overpowering flavor is tamed. Thus… beloved cooks, favas become what they must:
filling, rich, wholesome and deliciously intense.

Continue reading Fava Bean Soup: Time to go Mainstream!


November 12, 2010

They go hand in hand, Autumn and Pumpkins.

In the US, I see them scary faced on Halloween, and then, sweetly dressed as pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Yet to me, one of their best impersonations is as Calabaza en Tacha: Pumpkin cooked in a Piloncillo Syrup.

Craving Tacha, I paired two things: The pumpkin I saved from my boys’ Halloween makeover and my new orange flamed French Oven.

It was a matter of time. The French Oven needed a sweet Mexican ride to become baptized in my kitchen.

Continue reading You have a Pumpkin? Turn it into Tacha!


October 15, 2010
Tomato and Bean Soup 2-thumb-510x343-1509

It is partly because of a soup like this, that I want to write a cookbook.

A soup that makes me feel all warm inside when I spoon it into my mouth.

A soup that has the earthiness and simplicity that grounds me.

A soup that, aside from having a comforting base, has layers of surprising life and color and crunch.

A soup that makes me want to eat nothing else for an entire week.

A soup that speaks of centennial traditions and is passed down through generations recipes.

A soup that is a pleasure to think about, to write about, to talk about, to prepare and to savor.

It is mostly because I want to share a soup like this with you, dear friends, that I am jumping to write this cookbook.

So with great news to share: I will be working with the delightful Rux Martin, editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to make this cookbook come to life.

In this book, I will write about -and tell you how to make- all of those foods that make me want to scream out of joy, along with the stories that revolve around them.

Continue reading On a Soup and a Book


October 1, 2010

This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had.

The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.

It’s become the trump card I pull out for guests that love unusual and authentic flavors from Mexico. The best part of it is, the hardest part about making it, is waiting for the brisket to cook on its own.

I first tried a version of it in Santa Fé de la Laguna, Michoacán. A popular dish in that region, it goes by the name of Carne Enchilada. A young and knowledgeable Purépecha cook, Berenice Flores, showed me how to make it at her home. When my whole family sat down to eat it, we kept asking her for more corn tortillas to wipe the sauce clean off the plates.

Continue reading Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce


September 17, 2010
Corn Ice Cream 15-thumb-510x342-1466

Right after savagely taking a bite into a fresh ear of corn, right in front of the cashier at the Farmers Market, I felt compelled to explain that its raw, sweet, flavor reminds me of the Corn and Cream ice cream from the Chiandoni heladerí­a in Mexico City. A staple from my childhood days.

With a bit of nostalgia washing over me and in the mood of snapping that last piece of summer from this year, I brought back a full basket of corn. I would make one last batch of summer flavored ice cream, just as the stores begin to sell Halloween decorations, shockingly early, if you ask me.

Continue reading Outrageous But Necessary: Corn and Cream Ice Cream


September 2, 2010

It seems that many people find chicken boring.

I happen to find it fascinating.

Not only because chicken is friendly enough to let you take it wherever your imagination can go and because it can be the juiciest and crispiest meal, but also, because of that story my mother told me when I was growing up.

When my mom was about 10 years old, my grandmother who came to Mexico from Austria in her early twenties having survived years of war, turbulence and the loss of most of her family, taught my mom a serious lesson: you can survive most hardships in life if you know how to cook, she had said, and mostly, if you know how to cook chicken from scratch.

Cooking from scratch really meant from scratch. No nonsense. So my mom learned how to kill, pluck and cook chicken a thousand ways.

Continue reading Deliciously Sweet: Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce


August 12, 2010

With a soft, crumbly and almost sweet dough that embraces a moist, tasty and meaty filling, it is hard not to eat one after the other. These Empanadas do have a curious name though. Especially when you consider their addicting nature.

I didn’t choose their name. No.The nuns from the Mexican Convent of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception are to blame.It all began with Beatriz da Silva, the Portuguese woman who founded the order in Toledo, Spain.

Known to be shockingly beautiful, although destined to be the companion to Queen Isabel from Spain, she was locked up because of the Queen’s jealousy and alleged admiration from the King. Legend goes, that when Beatriz managed to flee, she was more beautiful and had a new found strength she used to establish a new Conceptionist order.The three Conceptionist nuns who arrived in Mexico City around the 1540′s, were also known to be strong. If not as pretty.

Aside from trying to evangelize the population, they combined Spanish and Mexican ingredients in their kitchens, as most Spanish nuns, with an intense passion and a ton of imagination. As most Spanish nuns, as well, their cooking instincts were led by an insatiable sweet tooth. That may explain the sweet elements both in the dough and the filling of these Empanadas, that were served time and again to entertain guests in this convent.And now you know, where the name comes from…

Continue reading Empanadas of the “Immaculate Conception”


July 28, 2010

I am crazy for Tepache. Gently sweet, with an innocent hint of home brewed alcohol, a deep freshness and a gorgeous amber color.

Tepache: A home made fermented drink that comes from the state of Jalisco – also breeding ground of other Mexican symbols like Tequila, Charros and Mariachis. Tepache has a base of fresh pineapple, true cinnamon, piloncillo and water and has been drank in Mexico since Pre-Colonial times.

I have made it many times throughout my life.

First, when Daniel and I moved to Texas, to celebrate our finding piloncillo at a U.S. grocery store. Later, when we moved to DC, to soothe the heat of that first long summer and to make our new home, feel like home. A couple years ago, I brewed liters to share with a large crowd for a class I taught on foods from Jalisco.

Then, I forgot about it. Until this summer, when we moved, the heat started pumping up and I unpacked my old clay pot from Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. A pot that is perfect for brewing Tepache, which is so simple to make. That is, if you can keep an eye on it.

Continue reading Crazy for Tepache

Continue reading
Crazy for Tepache

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July 16, 2010

What to cook for the Today Show?

With so many options being juggled in my head, I was growing restless as the date got closer.

As I started exchanging emails with one of the producers, I began to throw ideas: what about different kinds of Salsas, variations of that irresistible cold and wet Tres Leches cake, funky versions of Guacamole, or a sample of fresh Ceviches…?

Or, wait. How about something easy, tasty and flashy like Tequila, Cream and Chipotle Shrimp? It’s so much fun to prepare, I told the producer. You ignite the pan, the flames come up right after the shrimp begin to brown, and then they wind down right before you pour the cream. Your guests feel special and impressed…

I had to agree that we were better off staying away from igniting anything on the set.

Oh, I got it! A chicken dish. Everyone wants a good chicken dish in their recipe box. And one of the tastiest ways to eat chicken in Mexican kitchens, no doubt about it, is Chicken Tinga.

Although it comes from the state of Puebla, it is so popular, that it is eaten throughout the country. So of course there are countless variations.

I have a favorite version. One that I have tweaked through the years until I found a balance of flavors that needs no more tweaking, if you ask me…

Continue reading Chicken Tinga for Today (Show) and Everyday!


June 26, 2010
plantain quesadillas

Each time I go back to Mexico City, even before the plane lands, I know there are some formal plans that can never, ever, be messed around with. They are all with my father and they all involve eating in the same places. Each single time.

One of the places is El Bají­o. If you know my father, you know he doesn’t let me order. You also know that he knows the Restaurant manager, waiters, bar servers and valet parking attendants by name. And they all know him too.

Continue reading Bossed Around at El Bají­o: Plantain Quesadillas


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