Santibanez approaches Mexican cuisine from another perspective. "Truly Mexican" (Wiley; $35) is more of a compendium about technique and sauce-making (with 140 recipes) than a book of dishes. If you learn to make a sauce first, you can serve it with fish, chicken, pork or beef, notes Santibanez.
Times required to make his recipes "vary enormously and range from 15 minutes to hours. Nothing is really easy, but the ingredients are all supermarket accessible," he says. You have to learn how to deal with ingredients (i.e. dozens of chiles) and get a handle on basic techniques (such as roasting a tomato in an oven, toaster oven or on top of the stove, which takes about 20 minutes), but once you have, things become simpler. "The everyday food of Mexico is as easy to reproduce as Italian food but demands different techniques.
"I grew up in a typical Mexican family in a household of fantastic cooks -- my mom, aunts, great aunts, grandmother." Everything revolved around food.
"My cooking style (today) is contemporary urban Mexican," says the chef/owner of Fonda restaurant in Brooklyn and culinary partner of The Taco Truck in Hoboken, N.J., who is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
"My food is based on traditional flavors, techniques, color and textures that I've updated." Having traveled extensively in Mexico, he will often pair a sauce from one region with meat or fish from another.
His five rules of great Mexican cooking include: buy the best ingredients; toast chiles and roast tomatoes; look, touch and smell; pay attention to the texture; and season to taste.
--1 ripe mango (peeled and pit discarded), diced (about 1 ½ cups) --2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, diced (about 1 ½ cups) --½ medium red onion, finely chopped --½ cup OR more coarsely chopped fresh cilantro --2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice --1 serrano pepper, minced (discard seeds and veins of pepper if you don't want salsa too spicy) --2 garlic cloves, minced --½ teaspoon salt --½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, combine mango, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice, serrano and garlic. Add the salt and black pepper and toss. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then taste to see if you need to add a bit more salt or black pepper.
Cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes or serve immediately. Makes 3 ½ cups. Serve with blue corn or other tortilla chips.
NOTE: Also good served with grilled meaty fish (mahi mahi, swordfish or salmon).
From "Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking: More Than 80 Everyday Recipes," by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee.
CHICKEN ENCHILADAS WITH GREEN CHILE SAUCE (ENCHILADAS DE POLLO CON SALSA VERDE)
--12 (5-to-6-inch) corn tortillas --Cooking oil spray --Vegetable oil --2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound), sliced into small strips --1 teaspoon dried oregano --½ teaspoon salt --½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper --1 onion, sliced --1 green OR red bell pepper, sliced --12 ounces queso blanco, grated --1 (28-ounce) can green chile enchilada sauce
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat each tortilla on both sides with cooking oil spray. Place the tortillas on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes to soften them. Remove from oven and set aside. Leave oven on, but reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
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