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This Year’s Latin Flavors, American Kitchens Moves into the Pearl’s Restaurants


The seventh annual Latin Flavors, American Kitchens Leadership Symposium is returning to the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus Oct. 1-3, and for the first time, the festival will have events that are open to the public.

Roberto Santibanez at Latin Flavors, American Kitchens.

Roberto Santibanez at Latin Flavors, American Kitchens.

With seven successful years of bringing the world’s best Latin cuisine specialists to the Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference, Pearl and the San Antonio campus of The Culinary Institute of America are excited to present a unique opportunity to San Antonio’s diners. Experience a rare collaboration between our talented Pearl chefs and the most renown chefs from Mexico, Peru and Spain,” said Pearl Culinary Director Shelley Grieshaber. “The culinary magic created during our Latin takeover of Pearl on Oct. 2 and 3 will shine a light on some of the most creative culinary minds across several countries and continents. Don’t miss this opportunity to see what we cook up.”

On Thursday, Oct. 2, Nao will feature a special dinner with chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, one of Peru’s most prominent and influential chefs and member of the CIA’s Latin Cuisines Advisory Council. The five-course guest chef menu will feature Amazonian dishes, including camarones en textura de yuca and escolar in adobo with sweet potatoes. The wine reception begins at 6 p.m. and dinner starts at 6:45 p.m. The five-course dinner with wine pairings is $100 per person, plus tax with service charge, and reservations can be made by emailing info@naorestaurant.com.

On Friday, Oct. 3, renowned guest chefs attending the seminar will pair up with Pearl chefs for a Latin takeover featuring:

Jesse Perez, Arcade Midtown Kitchen:

Globally recognized chef Mark Miller joins Perez at Arcade Midtown Kitchen and will prepare some of his favorite dishes from his Red Sage and Coyote Café restaurants that will be offered as à la carte specials along with Arcade’s regular dinner menu. Dinner is available 5:30-10 p.m. and reservations can be made online at www.arcademk.com by calling 210-369-9664. As the à la carte items are limited, guests are encouraged to arrive early to ensure that they can experience the special menu.

Jeff White, Boiler House:

Chef Johnny Hernandez is opening Casa Hernan for one of the dinners.

Chef Johnny Hernandez is opening Casa Hernan for one of the dinners.

Boiler House executive chef White will team up with chef Roberto Santibañez for a three-course dinner including fluke tiradito for the appetizer and grilled adobo marinated skirt steak with smoky tomato salsa, refried beans, zucchini and corn with cream with warm tortillas for the main course. Santibañez, whose cookbooks have been consistently praised by The New York Times and Food & Wine, is the chef and owner of Fonda in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The three-course prix fixe dinner is $65 per person. Wine pairing is available for an additional fee, and reservations can be made through OpenTable or by calling 210-354-4644; be sure to request the Latin chef dinner at the time of making the reservation.

Tim Rattray, The Granary:

Together with Roberto Ruiz, owner and chef of the renowned PuntoMX in Spain, Rattray has created a four-course guest chef menu that will feature dishes such as red tuna tostadas and skirt steak barbacoa. The dinner, available from 6 to 10 p.m., is $50 per person with beverages and wine pairings offered for an additional fee. Reservations can be booked online at thegranarysa.com.

A host of Latin flavors and dishes await during the public dinners Oct. 2-3 at the Pearl.

A host of Latin flavors and dishes await during the public dinners Oct. 2-3 at the Pearl.

Johnny Hernandez, La Gloria/ Casa Hernan:

La Gloria’s Johnny Hernandez will host chef Miguel Angel Guerrero at his restaurant Casa Hernan, 411 E. Cavallos. Together, they have curated a four-course dinner that will take guests on a culinary adventure through Latin America. Menu items, showcasing the cuisine of Baja, include octopus tentacle wrapped in russet potato noodle with prosciutto and jalapeño aioli as well as double lamb chops in pomegranate sauce with grilled kale. Cocktails will begin at 7 p.m. with dinner to follow. The four-course dinner, with wines and cocktails, is $85 per person, and reservations can be made by calling 210-226-3670.

Andrew Weissman, Sandbar:

Named “Best New Chef” by Travel + Leisure in 2011, Diego Hernández-Baquedano and Weissman will offer dishes like lobster confit, served with heirloom bean sauce, salsa Mexicana, and tortillas as à la carte specials along with Sandbar’s regular menu that evening. Dinner hours are 5:30-10 p.m., and reservations can be made by calling 210-212-2221. As the à la carte items are limited, guests are encouraged to arrive early to ensure that they can experience the special menu.

For more information on Latin Flavors, American Kitchens, visit www.ciaprochef.com/lfak/. For more information on the guest chef dinners at Pearl, visit www.atpearl.com.

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Cool Off with a Refreshing Cucumber-Ginger Margarita


Cucumber Ginger Margarita

Cucumber Ginger Margarita

The thermometer is telling us that summer is fast approaching, so what better way to spend a warm Friday evening (or any evening, for that matter) than with a refreshing margarita?

Celebrity chef Roberto Santibañez isn’t content with a classic recipe. In his recentt cookbook, “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” (John Wiley and Sons, $19.99), he offers a variation made with cucumber and fresh ginger added to the mix.

When I tried it, I made two slight variations: I omitted the powdered sugar, because I prefer my margaritas tart, tasting of lime and, in this instance, ginger. I also chose not to strain the drink, so I could get all that chewy fiber from the  ginger and the cucumber peel. I will admit it made the drink chewier than you might expect, but it still went down easy.

Cucumber Ginger Margarita (Margarita de pepino y jengibre)

1 1/4 cups silver tequila
1 cup Cointreau
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 juicy limes)
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped peeled ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Ice cubes

Blend the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, cucumber, sugar, ginger and salt until smooth, about 45 seconds. Season to taste with lime juice and sugar. Strain the mixture through a sieve, if desired, and into a pitcher and refrigerate until cold.

Stir well, pour into 6 ice-filled glasses and serve immediately.

Makes 6 drinks.

From “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode

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Bring the Bold Flavors of Street Tacos Into Your Home Kitchen


Tacos de hongos (Mushroom Tacos)

Tacos de hongos (Mushroom Tacos)

Like to use smaller chiles for their great flavor and heat. Here’s a tip from celebrity chef Roberto Santibañez: Don’t seed those smaller chiles.

Anyone who has seen  Santibañez in action knows that he wants smaller peppers, from serranos to habaneros, cut up with the seeds and veins intact. That means a little extra heat, but that’s the point of the pepper, he says.

I was reminded of that when reading his recipe for Mushroom Tacos, which appears in his new cookbook, “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95), written with JJ Goode. The ingredient list calls for three chiles, serranos or jalapeños, “including seeds.”

Whether you include the seeds or not is up to you, of course. What will impress you, however, is not the chiles so much by themselves but the great array of street-food recipes in the book, such as the two recipes that follow for Mushroom Tacos and Tacos of Poblano and Bacon. One bite of either and you’ll likely return to this book often to make everything from Duck Carnitas Tacos to Tortas with Chicken in Green Mole or a Cucumber-Ginger Margarita.

For those of you who are diabetic or just avoiding corn and flour tortillas, you can use cabbage leaves or lettuce to wrap your taco fillings in, like I’ve done. They’re a great low-carb substitute.

Mushroom Tacos (Tacos de hongos)

“A little effort,  a lot of flavor. Multiple varieties of mushrooms (try cremini, oyster and shiitake) make for an even more exciting combination of textures, but even plain old portobellos become something special with the addition of chile, herbs and a touch of butter. Without the tortillas and condiments, you have a side dish that goes well with just about any taco or tamale you can dream up.”

Use a little oil at the end, instead of the butter, and you can make these vegan.

1/4 generous cup olive or vegetable oil
Generous 1 cup diced white onions
3 fresh serrano or jalapeño chiles, finely chopped (including seeds)
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 pounds fresh mushrooms, stems trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh epazote leaves or 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Mushrooms cooking for tacos.

Mushrooms cooking for tacos.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pan over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, chiles and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, toss very well to coat in the oil and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are cooked through and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the salt and cook for 2 minutes more, then stir in the butter and epazote until the butter has melted. Season to taste with salt.

Serve alongside 10 warm corn tortillas and top with crumbled queso fresco and sliced canned pickled jalapeño chiles or tomatillo-chipotle salsa.

Makes 10 tacos.

From “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode

Tacos of Poblanos and Bacon (Tacos de rajas con tocino)

“Crispy bits of bacon and a web of melty cheese nite strips of roasted poblano chiles in this incredible mixture that needs no salsa or topping. That said, tomato salsa certainly wouldn’t hurt and, if you really want a rich treat, stir in cheese until it melts.

1 1/4 pounds fresh poblano chiles (about 3 large)
6 thick-cut slices bacon (about 6 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 pound Chihuahua or provolone cheese, shredded (optional)

tacos, tortasRoast, peel, seed and cut the poblanos. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat slightly once the bacon renders its fat, until the bacon is uniformly golden brown and slightly crisp, about 8 minutes.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, then add the onion to the pan. Cook the onion, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper and cook 1 minute, then add the poblanos, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Cook until the poblanos are warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Add the cheese, turn off the heat, and toss until the cheese is melted.

Taste and season with salt, if necessary, since bacon varies in saltiness.

Serve alongside 10 warm corn tortillas and top with a smoky tomato salsa.

Makes 10 tacos.

From “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode

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Aguas Frescas Are Refreshing More and More in the U.S.


It’s better to put ice in the glasses, so your agua fresca isn’t watered down.

Aguas frescas need no introduction in San Antonio. They are a colorful, cooling fixture at many of our best taquerias and come in bold flavors, such as sandia (watermelon), tamarindo and horchata (rice).

The more these drinks become popular elsewhere in the United States, the more changes you’ll find.

During the annual Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference at the Culinary Institute of America’s San  Antonio campus, New York chef Roberto Santibañez offered a tasty mixture of tradition, limón and jamaica (hibiscus), with the decidedly different but no less welcome combinations of flavors, including  one that blends pineapple and lime with spinach.

Another sign of their growing acceptance is the MiFruta line of aguas frescas from Minute Maid, which come in a variety of flavors, including jamaica, strawberry-banana, mango-orange, pineapple, and strawberry.

Aguas frescas are easy to make in your own home, if you have a blender and plenty of ice to cool them down. Like smoothies, aguas frescas are limited only by your own imagination.

A refreshing agua fresca is a great way to stave off the heat.

These are not fruit juices, though they do use fruit as well as flowers, rice hulls and tamarind seeds among the flavors. But unlike orange juice, which proudly displays it pulp, most aguas frescas are filtered through sieves in order to be as clean and smooth as possible.

Take a tip from Santibañez’s recipes. Fill your pitcher only with the agua fresca, and leave the ice to the glasses. Otherwise, your refreshing drink could get watered  down all too quickly.

Following are five recipes that Santibañez, author of “Rosa’s New Mexican Table” and “Truly Mexican,” presented during the San Antonio symposium.

Mexican Limeade (Agua de Limón)

2 limes, rinsed, quartered and seeded
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups water

Combine the limes, skin and all, sugar and water in a blender. Blend until very smooth, then strain through a sieve into a large pitcher.

Season to taste with more sugar; stir thoroughly. Pour into ice-filled glasses.

Makes 4 servings.

From Roberto Santibañez/Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

Pineapple Agua Fresca (Agua de Piña y Hierba Buena)

Pineapple Agua Fresca

2 cups ripe pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
1/3 cup sugar, plus more, to taste
4 cups water, divided use
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
8 spearmint leaves (optional)
Ice cubes

Blend the pineapple, sugar and mint along with 4 cups of water in a blender until it is very smooth.

Strain the pineapple mixture through a sieve, smashing the solids to force out as much juice as you can, and into a large pitcher.

Gradually season the agua fresca to taste with more sugar and lime juice.

Chill the pitcher in the refrigerator, then stir thoroughly; add the mint sprigs, if using, and pour the agua fresca into ice-filled glasses.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From Roberto Santibañez/Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

Cucumber Agua Fresca (Agua de Pepino)

4 cups water, divided use
1/2 cup sugar, plus more, to taste
1 English cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup lime juice, plus more, to taste
Spearmint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Ice cubes

Blend 3 cups of water with the sugar in a blender until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 30 seconds. Add the cucumber and lime juice and blend again until it is very smooth.

Strain the mixture through a sieve and into a large container, and then stir in 1 cup of water. Gradually season the agua fresca to taste with more sugar and lime juice.

Chill the pitcher in the refrigerator, then stir, thoroughly, add the mint sprigs, if using them, and pour the agua fresca into ice-filled glasses.

Makes 6 to 8 portions.

From Roberto Santibañez/Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

Hibiscus Agua Fresca (Agua de Jamaica)

5 cups water, divided use
2 cups dried hibiscus flowers
3/4-1 cup sugar, divided use
Ice cubes

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized pot; add the hibiscus flowers, turn off  the heat, cover the pot,  and let the flowers steep for 20 to 30 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a sieve and into a large pitcher, pressing on the flowers to extract as much liquid as possible, and then discard the solids.

Add 3/4 cup sugar and stir until it dissolves.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From Roberto Santibañez/Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

Pineapple, Lime and Spinach Agua (Agua de Piña con Espinaca y Limón)

1/2 cup pineapple, peeled and chopped
1 lime, rinsed, quartered and seeded
1/2 cup baby spinach, lightly packed
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups water
Ice cubes, as needed

Combine the pineapple, lime, skin and all, spinach and sugar in a blender with 3 cups of water. Blend until it is very smooth, and then strain through a sieve into a large pitcher.

Gradually season the agua fresca to taste with more sugar and stir thoroughly, then pour the agua fresca into ice-filled glasses, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

From Roberto Santibañez/Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

 

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Griffin to Go: Take a Tip or Two from the Professionals


Get together a hastiness of cooks (yup, that’s the collective noun for those apron-clad folks) and you’ll likely learn more than a few tips to make your kitchen life easier.

Such was the case at the recent Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.

Here are few of the tips as well as some of the opinions and a few little-known facts that filled the demonstrations and seminars.

Vinegar isn’t vinegar

Not all vinegars are the same.

When you try a recipe from Mexico that calls for vinegar, don’t just grab your white vinegar and start to pour.

According to Iliana de la Vega, Mexican/Latin cuisines specialist for the CIA, white vinegar in the United States is made from potatoes. White vinegar in Mexico is made from cane sugar. The flavor of the former is more acrid, while the latter is sweet.

So, if you don’t have Mexican white vinegar on hand, use mirin or rice vinegar instead. Either is closer to the flavor that the recipe calls for.

Grill sense

“When grilling, tongs are better than your fingers.”

Sometimes, a little common sense goes a long way. Chef Robert Del Grande from Houston offered up some sage advice for grilling before making Beer-mopped Rib-eye Steaks with Bacon, Onions and Garlic.

Don’t build your fire until the entire grill, he said. If you do, you won’t have any place to move the meat. So, he likes to build the fire at the back of the grill for searing at  the beginning. As the cooking process goes along, he will move the meat to the front to finish it off.

This way you can manage the fire without letting the fire manage you.

The fire in the outdoor pit tried to get the best of Del Grande as he was demonstrating his recipe for Redfish Grilled on Banana Leaves with Avocado and Queso Fresco Relish. As he was speaking, the banana leaf caught on fire. The chef simply moved the fish to a cooler spot on the grill and tamped out the flame.

Using banana leaves on the grill does more than impart an flavor to the fish. It also prevents the fish from falling apart. Add a second leaf over the top toward the end of grilling and you’ll create a little oven where you let the fish “steam a little before finishing,” he said.

Herb mops

Herb mops

When Almir Da Fonseca of the CIA’s Greystone, Calif., campus demonstrated the way to make Rio-style Grilled Chicken, he used an herb brush to baste the meat with beer. The bundle of cilantro adds a light herb touch to the chicken.

This was a new technique to me, but not in the culinary world. Del Grande said his grandmother, who was Italian, would often use rosemary branches to baste with.

They have other uses, too. I saw one of the student chefs using an herb brush to brush salt water on the hot rocks used for the pachamanca.

And, yes, you can use an herb mop on Del Grande’s rib-eye recipe.

A little seedy

Roberto Santibañez, chef and owner of Fonda restaurant in Brooklyn, is on a mission to change people’s minds about all those seeds in small chiles.

You may have taken a cooking class or two in which the seeds and the veins of a habanero or serrano pepper were removed to make its heat less intense. That isn’t accurate, the chef said. If the heat of a small pepper is too hot, just use less of it. (Not large peppers like guajillos or anchos, he added.)

To seed or not to seed? That is the question.

“When you choose small chiles for any purpose, you choose it for its heat,” he said.

Removing the seeds removes flavor and half of its nutritional value, he said.

The seeds in chiles de arbol, for example, will cook and produce a different flavor, he said. If you find the seeds indigestible, simply pulverize them in a blender and you’ll be able to absorb the nutrients better.

Santibañez couldn’t get this message across to all of the students, some of whom seeded the chiles for his demonstration. “And again and again and again and again — do not seed the peppers,” he said.

It’s wasn’t entirely the students’ fault, as not every other chef at the conference agreed with this approach. The recipes from the women chefs of Guadeloupe all called for the chiles to be seeded before using.

Don’t want a lot of heat in your dishes but want some of the chiles’ flavor? Don’t cut them, de la Vega said. Use them whole and remove them before serving.

Salt, pepper and …

Think that the end-all of seasoning is salt and pepper? Not so, said noted Florida chef Norman Van Aken, who has long promoted Floribbean cuisine.

Salt, pepper and lime juice are the real foundations of seasoning, he said.

This is one we knew from eating at plenty of taquerias and taco trucks that include a bowl of lime slices next to the salt and pepper shakers. But it’s nice to hear it verbalized by a professional.

Chicago celebrity chef Rick Bayless was one of many more to sing the praises of fresh squeezed lime juice, as opposed to the stuff in the plastic green bottle or even the stuff in the market that was bottled earlier in the day.

Lime juice begins to change quickly, so its freshness is elusive. “Always take the time to squeeze your lime juice,” he said.

Another seasoning Van Aken used was yellow curry. It’s a spice blend that has its detractors. The chef tries to get around that by toasting it to let it cook out its raw flavor. You don’t want it to burn, so if you feel your saucepan is getting too hot, just pick it up off the stove and give it a good shake, he said.

Handling okra

Okra

Okra is one of those divisive vegetables that people either love or hate. And it’s easy to see why: it’s the mucilage that is sometimes produced when you cook it.

But there are ways around the mucilage, culinary historian Jessica Harris said.

One is to not cut the pods but cook them whole. Another is to soak them in an acid, such as lemon juice, before cooking. A third is to cook the okra thoroughly until it turns an olive green.

If the latter is unappealing, then divide the okra in half. Cook half “to the point of disappearing,” said Cuban-born culinary historian Maricel Presilla. Then add some blanched okra that had been soaked in lemon juice at the end.

Why is the mucilage “that thing that everyone in the United States seems to hate,” while the rest of the world loves it, Harris asked.

It’s cultural, of course. Yet that aspect of okra is what acts as the thickener that binds everything in the pot together and gives it extra body, Presilla said.

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Manzano Chile Salsa (Salsa de Chile Manzano)


CIASalas1Roberto Santibañez offered this recipe at his class Friday at the Culinary Institute of America’s conference, Latin Flavors, American Kitchens.

Manzano Chile Salsa

3 ounces manzano chile
3 small cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound fresh tomatillos, cut up into smaller pieces
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice, ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
2 scallions (green onions), sliced
Salt, to taste

Make sure all ingredients except onions and spices are carefully washed. Blend everything together until it is a smooth mixture.  Then season with salt, to taste.

Makes 3-4 cups salsa
From Roberto Santibañez

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Ranchera Sauce With Red Jalapeño Chiles


CIASalas1This smooth, tomato and jalapeño sauce, from chef Roberto Santibañez, is spiced with a little bit of cinnamon.

Ranchera Sauce With Red Jalapeño Chiles

6 pounds whole, ripe tomatoes
2 small white onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 red jalapeños, boiled, stem removed
5 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 2-inch long stick cinnamon
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Put tomatoes core side down on sheet pan and broil 8 inches from heat source until tomatoes are soft and skins are blackened and shriveled.

Once cooled, peel and core the tomatoes. Blend the tomatoes, onion, jalapeños and garlic until smooth. Tie cinnamon stick in a square of cheesecloth.

Heat canola oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato purée and bring to a boil. Stir in salt, sugar, if using and cinnamon bundle. Adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 hour. If sauce thickens too much before that time, lower the heat and add water, a half-cup at a time, to prevent sauce from thickening too much.

Makes 2 quarts.

From Roberto Santibañez

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Santibañez Goes In-Depth On Mexican Sauces


CIASalas2

A person familiar to Texas culinarians and New Yorkers alike took the stage at the Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference at the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio Friday morning.

Roberto Santibañez, formerly chef at Fonda San Miguel in Austin, is currently owner of Fonda Restaurant in Brooklyn, NY.  A native of Mexico City and an award-winning chef as well as author, consultant and teacher, Santibañez is currently working on a new book, “Mastering The Art of Mexican Cooking,” to be published in 2010.

The title of the book, of course, echoes that of Julia Child’s famous tome, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

“This is not out of pretentiousness, but out of a place of hope,” said Santibañez about the optimistic title. He wishes for it to open up the beauty and complexity of Mexican cooking in a way that Child’s book familiarized the world with French cooking.

He demonstrated making five sauces from a cuisine that offers hundreds, if not thousands of different ways to use chiles, spices, herbs, tomatoes, fruits and vegetables.

In addition to correct ingredient, Mexican sauces require specific treatments of the ingredients in order for them to taste uniquely Mexican, Santibañez says.

For example, as we sampled his Salsa Ranchera, a silky, red-orange tomato sauce with red jalapeño chiles, he pointed out that in this sauce, oven-roasted tomatoes are peeled and cored, then blended with fried onions, raw jalapeños and garlic – then cooked.

The method, he says, is “what makes the sauce taste truly Mexican.”

In his Cooked Tomatillo Salsa, he pointed out that the amount of time in the blender was of utmost importance to the success of this sauce.

“You want to see some of the specks of tomatillo and the cilantro in the sauce. If you blend it too long, the tomatillo seeds will grind up into a paste and turn the sauce paler and pastier,” he says.

The Veracruz Style Peanut Mole Rojo calls for an assortment of fruits, nuts, chiles, vegetables and spices. Each ingredient is treated differently. They are fried for varying amounts of times; they are toasted or soaked. The tortillas are actually singed.

The sauce, when it is all together, needs to be cooked for the amount of time called for — or longer. And, he says, when using a mole, for example, as an enchilada sauce, it’s important to use plenty of it. Six ounces of sauce, he says, is about right for an enchilada.

“We do use a lot of sauce,” Santibañez says. “That is part of our pride.”

Here are more tips from Santibañez:

  • Roast tomatoes in a hot oven without oiling them, leaving the peel on. Absolutely no oil, and no seasoning.
  • Chile, garlic, onion and seeds are the main actors in a good mole, with the spices in the background. You don’t want a mole that tastes like clove.
  • In Mexican cooking, (the amount) of our ingredients can vary enormously for one recipe. It might call for 20 jalapeños, or 60 jalapeños. That is because of the variation in spiciness of the chiles.
  • “I’d like to see more manzano chiles in this country. We need to ask for them. They are very spicy, and has a wonderful flowery, perfume-y flavor.”
  • “If you use avocado leaves in Mexican cooking, you can’t just use any avocado leaves. The tree must be the criolo avocado that grows in Mexico. The flavor it adds to cooking is light, somewhat anise-y.”

Click below for recipes from Santibañez:

Ranchera Sauce with Red Jalapeño Chiles

Manzano Chile Salsa

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