Authentic Mexican?

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Joined Oct 18, 2016
I am new to this site and am not a professional. I do, however, consider myself a competent home cook. My question concerns "authentic Mexican" recipes. I really love the dishes served at what are billed as Mexican restaurants (Not fast food junk like Taco Bell) but I am also aware that these dishes are, most likely, created to please the American palate and diverge significantly from authentic Mexican food. What I am interested in are some recipes that would be typical of dishes prepared by the Mexican people in their own homes for their own families. Suggestions?
 
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Mexican food is just like American food, it varies greatly by region.  It is also varied according to income and ethnicity.  
 
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Buy a book... The Essential Cuisines of Mexico or The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy. Traditional recipes from the many regions of Mexico. These are both informative books with foolproof recipes. Kennedy was perhaps as good a historian as she was a culinarian. Depending on where you are you may need to shop around for sources of the various chiles. These are older books so get a bargain at the online book resellers.

Rick Bayless has a number of decent books too. his older books are better than the more recent for the interest you express.
 
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7
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Joined Oct 18, 2016
Thank you for the response, it gives me a chance to clarify myself. I'm not looking for recipes from any specific region, ethnicity or income level. What I am seeking are recipes that could be found served in the homes of people who are born, raised and live in Mexico. The recipes can range across all of the regions, ethnicities and income levels. One restriction I would like to advance is that the recipes be kept to those ingredients which could easily be found in a Midwestern supermarket without sending me on a safari in search of exotic items like corn smut or grasshoppers. My own income level won't permit that. I want to experience authentic Mexican. Not Tex-Mex or American restaurant Mexican and especially not American fast-food Mexican. I would also like to avoid the recipes from restaurants in Mexico catering to tourists because I imagine that, like Mexican restaurants in America, the dishes served have been adjusted to suit foreign palates. Thank you for any suggestions.
 
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Joined Apr 21, 2015
This is a great question Paul. You are correct that many of the dishes prepared in Mexican restaurants are designed around the American palate and utilize American ingredients. I love Mexican food and like you, have made it my goal to find authentic Mexican recipes.
One of the great sources I've discovered is Diana Kennedy. She has traveled Mexico for over 50 years, writing many books and articles about the different cooking styles and cuisines of the various regions.
My advice is to not be put off by the authentic ingredients that you won't be able to find in American grocery stores. Learn to substitute (Try Diane's book; My Mexican Kitchen - Techniques and Ingredients). If you can visit Mexico, don't just eat at the tourist spots. Try the street food and the market stalls.
Here's a great article to give you a place to start - Diana on Mexican Cheeses. Provecho!!
 
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Snoop around for your local Mexican community. Even the Midwest has them! Explore the carneceria or mercado. Talk to them. If like mine, their English may be minimal or nonexistent and they may look upon you as an intruder... But don't be intimidated. Most will be selling cooked food: eat it. Don't mistake Salvadorean food for Mexican, though. Buy a variety of dried chile and get to know them. Rehydrate one of each, deseed, and have a tasting session. That will help with substitution since some chiles specified in recipes may not be available or may be identified by a different name. Enjoy... Mexican cuisine is one of the most enjoyable and can be quite affordable too.
 
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Hey Paul, Welcome to Cheftalk. You can find a lot of authentic Mexican food in tourist areas in Mexico. In most tourist areas it may be a short walk off the beaten path to find what you want. I also fine it in Old Town areas that have more of the Mexican population coming and going. The times I don't see it is in tourist hotel areas. Look up some Mexican food recipes you may be interested in on Youtube. I looked up a few recipes on Birria. This would be a good one to start with. The main problem may also be accessibility to ingredients. Like Brian Shaw said, check out books/recipes and youtube on Rick Bayless. He takes a real authentic approach to cooking Mexican. Most of the real world Mexican food cooked by home moms are a real simple approach to cooking and stewing. The Mexican people didn't have much money to buy the better cuts of meats. A lot of what they have is long cooking to tenderize. 
 
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These ingredients are always on hand but know that the modern Mexican household will also have processed junk food in the cabinets and fridge.

Very few kids stay at home in the small towns and villages anymore.

Whether it is to continue school or to work as doctors nurses architects journalists (you get the idea) their world has changed along with ours.

Beans...corn in all forms..chicken..beef and pork...lard...dried chiles .... lots of whole cumin (home toasted and ground)... oregano (Mexican not Greek) ... tortillas (corn is more common than flour but really depends on who's home you are at and what is being served) .... epazote is becoming easier to find so if you should run across some buy a grab and try in your beans (a little goes a long way)...fresh fish on the coasts ...tomato..onion...carrot..potato and fresh plump jalapenos... cilantro...LOTS of fruit (again in all forms  from chunks to juiced to frozen like a Popsicle) ... did I mention lard?

Rice plays a huge role whether you are drinking (horchata is not my fave but I hear it is super refreshing) stretching the protein or having dessert (love rice pudding with lots of cinnamon and raisins) and since we are touching on the sweet side don't forget a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk (really versatile).

Rip up a few stale (ish) corn tortillas (bite size works here) and soften in a bit of hot lard...add some eggs salt and pepper and scramble.

Serve with salsa or hot sauce along with a few tortillas (I like corn but would not turn my back on a couple of your abuelita's flour ones).

A couple of spoonfuls of refrieds made with leftovers from last nite's meal and you are good to go.

Sub out some prepped cactus for the stale tortillas (comes in a jar but advise doing your own at least once ;-) for a change.

Drooling here...

mimi

Make mole at least once in your lifetime just so you respect the amount of work involved.

m.
 
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mimi... you mentioned "fresh plump jalapenos" but lets not forget the many other fresh plump chiles!

... and to get your mouth watering more... how about chilaquiles: fried corn tortilla re-cooked in green or red salsa until just integrated (slightly soggy yet still with texture) and topped with queso fresco and crema. Add an egg or chicken and it transforms from breakfast to lunch.  Or how about Mollettes - refried beans smeared on telera rolls and topped with Oaxaca (or some other) cheese that has been melted. Both Mexican home meals that are cheap as can be yet delicious.

Now my mouth is drooling too!
 
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@BrianShaw  you sent me straight to comfort food land!

I have always been a carb junkie and with a dad in the oilfield we usually lived in the small towns of south Texas with more Mexican neighbors than gringos.

Until my mom put her foot down and we settled outside of San Antonio to go to "real" schools with football teams for my brothers /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif.

After school fridge spelunking at my friends homes rewarded us with little bits of this and that for homework snacks (but just as likely to open up a bag of taco Doritos and a coke as anything else ;-)

The simple at home dishes of the Mexican housewife most always keep great in the fridge and mix and match really well.

You hit on the cheese and that is an important difference as well.

Altho most everyone has some sort of cheddar or jack in the dairy drawer but a "real" Mexican cheese is so much lighter and a bit tangy while the melted cheese of TexMex is so greasy and heavy.

@ChefBillyB  the hunt has been too much fun to actually pull the trigger on one.

Was kinda hoping to find something after hurricane season and am thinking mother Africa will keep spitting those disturbances out until we run up on the new season.

@PaulEMeyers  great to have you here at Chef Talk!

/img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif

mimi

A priest and a soccer mom walk into a bar....

m.
 
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Don't forget the seafood.  This is one recipe for a dish that we have had from southern California to Cabo and all the way down the coast to Guadalajara.  We stopped a a little town and stopped at a street vendor and his version was very simple with just shrimp, cooked and raw.

Campechana

1 pound shrimp, cooked

1 pound seafood mix, cooked

(octopus, squid, oysters)

½ pound scallops, cooked

8 ounces raw

oysters

1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed,

finely diced

3

green onions, finely slice

1 stalk celery, finely diced

1 quart Clamato juice

1 cup fish stock or water

¼ cup chopped cilantro

hot sauce

Avocado

Mix all ingredients except hot sauce and

Avocado

. Chill. Serve with sliced Avocado

floating on top and hot sauce to taste.
 
7
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Joined Oct 18, 2016
Snoop around for your local Mexican community. Even the Midwest has them! Explore the carneceria or mercado. Talk to them. If like mine, their English may be minimal or nonexistent and they may look upon you as an intruder... But don't be intimidated. Most will be selling cooked food: eat it. Don't mistake Salvadorean food for Mexican, though. Buy a variety of dried chile and get to know them. Rehydrate one of each, deseed, and have a tasting session. That will help with substitution since some chiles specified in recipes may not be available or may be identified by a different name. Enjoy... Mexican cuisine is one of the most enjoyable and can be quite affordable too.
I have tried Salvadorean food. For a short time a family of Salvadorean immigrants had a restaurant in a nearby community. It was not what I expected, but very good.I do have a pretty good working knowledge of chiles. (Actually, I'm a chile head,)
 
7
10
Joined Oct 18, 2016
 
These ingredients are always on hand but know that the modern Mexican household will also have processed junk food in the cabinets and fridge.

Very few kids stay at home in the small towns and villages anymore.

Whether it is to continue school or to work as doctors nurses architects journalists (you get the idea) their world has changed along with ours.

Beans...corn in all forms..chicken..beef and pork...lard...dried chiles .... lots of whole cumin (home toasted and ground)... oregano (Mexican not Greek) ... tortillas (corn is more common than flour but really depends on who's home you are at and what is being served) .... epazote is becoming easier to find so if you should run across some buy a grab and try in your beans (a little goes a long way)...fresh fish on the coasts ...tomato..onion...carrot..potato and fresh plump jalapenos... cilantro...LOTS of fruit (again in all forms  from chunks to juiced to frozen like a Popsicle) ... did I mention lard?

Rice plays a huge role whether you are drinking (horchata is not my fave but I hear it is super refreshing) stretching the protein or having dessert (love rice pudding with lots of cinnamon and raisins) and since we are touching on the sweet side don't forget a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk (really versatile).

Rip up a few stale (ish) corn tortillas (bite size works here) and soften in a bit of hot lard...add some eggs salt and pepper and scramble.

Serve with salsa or hot sauce along with a few tortillas (I like corn but would not turn my back on a couple of your abuelita's flour ones).

A couple of spoonfuls of refrieds made with leftovers from last nite's meal and you are good to go.

Sub out some prepped cactus for the stale tortillas (comes in a jar but advise doing your own at least once ;-) for a change.

Drooling here...

mimi

Make mole at least once in your lifetime just so you respect the amount of work involved.

m.
 
These ingredients are always on hand but know that the modern Mexican household will also have processed junk food in the cabinets and fridge.

Very few kids stay at home in the small towns and villages anymore.

Whether it is to continue school or to work as doctors nurses architects journalists (you get the idea) their world has changed along with ours.

Beans...corn in all forms..chicken..beef and pork...lard...dried chiles .... lots of whole cumin (home toasted and ground)... oregano (Mexican not Greek) ... tortillas (corn is more common than flour but really depends on who's home you are at and what is being served) .... epazote is becoming easier to find so if you should run across some buy a grab and try in your beans (a little goes a long way)...fresh fish on the coasts ...tomato..onion...carrot..potato and fresh plump jalapenos... cilantro...LOTS of fruit (again in all forms  from chunks to juiced to frozen like a Popsicle) ... did I mention lard?

Rice plays a huge role whether you are drinking (horchata is not my fave but I hear it is super refreshing) stretching the protein or having dessert (love rice pudding with lots of cinnamon and raisins) and since we are touching on the sweet side don't forget a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk (really versatile).

Rip up a few stale (ish) corn tortillas (bite size works here) and soften in a bit of hot lard...add some eggs salt and pepper and scramble.

Serve with salsa or hot sauce along with a few tortillas (I like corn but would not turn my back on a couple of your abuelita's flour ones).

A couple of spoonfuls of refrieds made with leftovers from last nite's meal and you are good to go.

Sub out some prepped cactus for the stale tortillas (comes in a jar but advise doing your own at least once ;-) for a change.

Drooling here...

mimi

Make mole at least once in your lifetime just so you respect the amount of work involved.

m.
 
These ingredients are always on hand but know that the modern Mexican household will also have processed junk food in the cabinets and fridge.

Very few kids stay at home in the small towns and villages anymore.

Whether it is to continue school or to work as doctors nurses architects journalists (you get the idea) their world has changed along with ours.

Beans...corn in all forms..chicken..beef and pork...lard...dried chiles .... lots of whole cumin (home toasted and ground)... oregano (Mexican not Greek) ... tortillas (corn is more common than flour but really depends on who's home you are at and what is being served) .... epazote is becoming easier to find so if you should run across some buy a grab and try in your beans (a little goes a long way)...fresh fish on the coasts ...tomato..onion...carrot..potato and fresh plump jalapenos... cilantro...LOTS of fruit (again in all forms  from chunks to juiced to frozen like a Popsicle) ... did I mention lard?

Rice plays a huge role whether you are drinking (horchata is not my fave but I hear it is super refreshing) stretching the protein or having dessert (love rice pudding with lots of cinnamon and raisins) and since we are touching on the sweet side don't forget a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk (really versatile).

Rip up a few stale (ish) corn tortillas (bite size works here) and soften in a bit of hot lard...add some eggs salt and pepper and scramble.

Serve with salsa or hot sauce along with a few tortillas (I like corn but would not turn my back on a couple of your abuelita's flour ones).

A couple of spoonfuls of refrieds made with leftovers from last nite's meal and you are good to go.

Sub out some prepped cactus for the stale tortillas (comes in a jar but advise doing your own at least once ;-) for a change.

Drooling here...

mimi

Make mole at least once in your lifetime just so you respect the amount of work involved.

m.
I tried making mole once. I think I'll stick with the jars from the grocery store.
 
4,278
1,166
Joined Dec 18, 2010
 
With cheese being mentioned, is there an American cheese that substitutes well for Mexican cheeses?
Sure; its done all of the time (too often, in fact). Mozzarella (not the fresh kind, but the harder blob used for standard American pizza) is a good substitute for Oaxaca cheese. Jack is a good substitute for any cheese intended to be melted (like in a Chile Relleno). "Farmer cheese" or raw curd is a good substitute from Queso Fresco. Not a cheese, but sour cream can be substituted for crema. These are all good enough but if you can find real Mexican cheeses you'll be amazed at the subtle differences. I won't admit to this in public so don't ever ask me to repeat myself... but Kraft pre-grated "Mexican style cheese blend" makes a decent quesadilla, or compliment to a burrito filling, or topping on a taco.
 
4,474
422
Joined Jun 27, 2012
 
With cheese being mentioned, is there an American cheese that substitutes well for Mexican cheeses?
Sorry OT but had to slide this in....

My usual side for a skirt steak (or even beef fajitas...I don't care for the usual components that come with the order) is a simple cheese enchilada.

If you should be feeling froggy (I get this way after the first cold front) and are craving some cheesey oniony TexMex... the "deluxe" American cheese is where you should turn to fill those puppies.

Don't bother with shredding, just cut in small strips.

mimi
 
4,278
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Joined Dec 18, 2010
Hey Mimi. Here's something new I learned the other night: mulitas. Ever hear of them? Flat griddled tacos. Like a quesadilla of sorts bu with taco filling. Mine had cabeza in them. Yummy but apparently one of those traditional, native, home dishes from No Mexico that I somehow never heard of. I made something like that in the past and thought I invented something new. I guess I can flatter myself and say that I simultaneously invented an old classic! Now I find that several of our local taquarias make these... If you know enough to ask!
 
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