Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets & Fondas, written by Lesley Téllez, was created as a way to highlight memorable dishes following her four year stay in Mexico City. Over 100 recipes are divided into five chapters based on her favorite areas: On the Streets, In the Markets, In the Fondas, In the Country, and At Home.
Lesley Téllez grew up in a Mexican-American family in Southern California, but moved to Mexico City in 2009 for her husband’s job. She immersed herself in the food over the next few years, including taking a 14 month cooking course at the Escuela de Gastronomia Mexicana (a diploma program for Mexican cooking). She now lives in New York City (Queens), has a food and travel blog (The Mija Chronicles), and returns to DF often for her food tour business, also with the name Eat Mexico. I particularly enjoyed looking through the articles she posted on Serious Eats while working on the cookbook.
Lesley begins with a quick guide to Mexican ingredients used in the book. This includes a full page photo of the most popular fresh and dried chiles, how to use the ingredients, and where to find them. She also discusses equipment needed to prepare the recipes and possible substitutions. Did you know chipotles are smoke-dried jalapeño peppers? I really had no idea.
For those wanting to make your own corn tortillas, the first chapter starts with step-by-step instructions along with tips and a troubleshooting guide. These corn tortillas have their place in many recipes, from quesadillas (corn smut, zucchini, hibiscus, mushroom, and shrimp!) to tacos (carrot, curried cauliflower, fish, al pastor, steak and chorizo, steamed), enchiladas, flautas, carnitas, and fajitas. There is a nice assortment of salsas and other condiments provided to accompany these recipes. I have two Chile de árbol plants in the garden just waiting to be used in the Salsa de Chile de árbol con Cacahuate (Arbol Chile and Peanut Salsa). There are also many recipes I have never heard of before, including Gorditas de Nata (Sweet Cream Biscuits), Licuado de Mamey (Mamey Milkshake), Tlacoyos de Frijol y Requesón (Bean and Cheese Tlacoyos), and Ensalada de Nopal (Cactus Salad). In addition to the authentic dishes showcasing the cuisine of Mexico City, Lesley has also included original recipes inspired by her travels and family in the final chapter.
Lesley describes her experiences in the beginning of each chapter. Every recipe also includes headnote with details of her inspiration for the food and notes about particular ingredients. Many of the recipes also have cooking tips and variations provided at the bottom.
There are beautiful photos by Penny De Los Santos of food-related scenes throughout the book. Many of the recipes include a photo of the finished product, some full page and some include step-by-step photos.
Measurements for the recipes are provided in US Customary.
I decided to try Chicken Tinga first. Chicken Tinga is a guisado, or stewed mixture, that originated in Puebla and is now popular in Mexico City. Chicken breasts are cooked in water (also creating a chicken stock), shredded, then simmered in a chipotle-tomato sauce. I served them on warm corn tortillas, but tostadas would also work well. I topped the tortillas with crema, the chicken mixture, sliced onion, avocado, and crumbled cheese.
Use the chicken stock created from boiling the chicken in the sauce. Store-bought or stronger chicken stocks will be too overpowering in this dish.
Chad took the extra chicken to lunch and mixed it with some leftover white rice.
Mexican crema is a dairy product similar to sour cream, but a bit thinner and more mild. It is available in some larger grocery stores and markets specializing in Mexican products. Lesley also provides a way to make your own: combine 1 cup warm heavy cream with 1 tablespoon plain yogurt and allow to sit in a warm place for 24 hours. Transfer to a refrigerator to thicken for at least 6 hours, then lightly season with salt to taste before serving. My crema in shown in the photos is on the thin side. My house is fairly cool and I just didn’t give it enough time to thicken. Chad gave me the idea of using the garage since it is currently summer and warmer in there. It worked! The crema has been the desired consistency during more recent attempts.
Lesley mentions for an added punch, mix a little of the adobo sauce from the can to the crema before spreading it on tortillas.
This can also be made vegetarian with 1 pound of shredded oyster mushrooms and by using vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock. Don’t cover while cooking and increase heat to medium after 5 minutes to evaporate the excess liquid.
I also made Agua de Piña con Perejil (Pineapple-Parsley Cooler), Quesadillas de Hongos (Mushroom Quesadillas), Huevos a la Mexicana (Mexican-Style Eggs), and Sopa with Spinach and Cheese.
As I was flipping through the book, I came across the recipe for Agua de Piña con Perejil and wanted to try it right away (the recipe directly below it for Agua de Limón is definitely next on my list). Pineapple and parsley seemed like such an interesting combination and a great way to use up the ton of parsley in my garden. It was ready after a quick spin in the blender. The parsley tends to settle with time, so stir before serving (or strain the mixture if you don’t care for minced parsley).
When I first made Quesadillas de Hongos, my often picky 3 year old grabbed Chad’s piece and ate most of it. I have made them twice since with the same result. Mushrooms are tossed mixed with garlic and chile, then sautéed before being sandwiched in a corn tortilla with cheese and epazote. I always get excited when I find a new way to get Evan to eat vegetables.
Chad invited some friends over for an impromptu brunch and I happened to have the ingredients available for Huevos a la Mexicana. The eggs are simply tossed with onion, garlic, chile, and tomatoes. I served them with salsa and corn tortillas. There wasn’t a single piece left on the plate.
The Sopa with Spinach and Cheese was a great weeknight meal with minimal (but full of vegetables!) ingredients. Small pasta shells are toasted, then simmered in pureed tomatoes. The pasta is then served on a bed of sautéed spinach and topped with Queso Fresco.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Kyle Books in exchange for my review. All comments and opinions stated are my own.
Chicken Tinga (Chicken in Chipotle-Tomato Sauce)
Adapted from Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets & Fondas
2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts
1/4 small onion
1 dried Mexican bay leaf
1 unpeeled medium garlic clove
6 ripe roma tomatoes (or 32 ounces whole, peeled tomatoes)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
1 medium garlic clove, minced
2 chipotles en adobo from a can, minced with the seeds and 2 teaspoons of the sauce
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 cup Chicken stock
Salt to taste
2 cups Mexican Crema
12 torillas or tostadas
1 onion, sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
Queso Añejo or other aged, crumbly cheese
Remove excess fat and skin from the chicken breasts. Place the breasts in a large pot and add cold water until just covered, along with the 1/4 small onion, bay leaf, and unpeeled garlic clove. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to lowest possible heat, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts and allow to cool until able to be handled. Use your hands or forks to shred into small pieces. Strain the broth and reserve.
For the sauce: For fresh tomatoes, slice in half and discard the seeds before coarsely chopping. For canned tomatoes, drain and pulse in a food processor until chunky. If still watery, drain again.
In a large skillet, drizzle canola oil over medium high heat. Once the pan is thoroughly heated, add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes for canned or 5 minutes for fresh, until they are heated through and start to soften.
Mix in the shredded chicken, minced chipotle plus 2 teaspoons sauce, oregano, 1/4 cup of the reserved stock (more will be needed if using fresh tomatoes), and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Taste and add more chipotle if desired. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. If there is still a lot of juice, remove cover and increase heat to medium to evaporate the extra liquid.
Smear a thin layer of crema on tortilla or tostadas. Cover with chicken tinga, then onion and avocado slices. Top with crumbled cheese and serve immediately. Freeze any remaining chicken stock.