More Mexican Everyday
By Rick Bayless
Norton & Company – £22.00
What I found most appealing about Rick Bayles’ More Mexican Everyday, was its seemingly suave and overtly sensible approach; especially with regards the second part of the book’s title: Simple, Seasonal, Celebratory.
After all, most cuisines of the world, with the possible exception of French, could just as easily be considered simple, seasonal and celebratory. Although, for some unbeknown reason (probably music, colour and a tempestuous history) said three words do sound resoundingly pertinent to that of yer Mexican design.
Whether or not this is due to much of Mexico’s approach to life in general being somewhat celebratory, or due to a large part of its gastronomy being relatively simple and of an obviously seasonal persuasion, is open to debate.
Moreover, what isn’t open to debate: is the vibrancy and acute, alluring zest of Mexican cooking – of which these 364 pages are a perfect example.
Broken into three prime sections (Part One: Simple Ways to Create Dynamic Flavour; Part Two: Vegetables at the Heart of the Mexican Kitchen; Part Three: Daily Inspirations for Busy Cooks), More Mexican Everyday really does traverse all areas of what one essentially needs to know in order to serve up a great tasting, Mexican meal. From rice dishes to skillet tacos to appetising soups (such as ‘Mustard Greens Soup with Poblanos & Almonds’ and ‘Creamy Rice Soup with Poblano & Spinach’), to surely two of the country’s most renowned and rewarding of meals: Carna Asada (Cena Completa de Carne Asada) and Pan-Roasted Summer Squash with Garlic Mojo and Guero Chile (Calabacitas Rostizadas al Mojo de Ajo con Chile Guero), there is herein, a grand variety from which to pick and chose.
And while the book itself is nicely laid out with simple to follow instructions, its ethos resolutely bows down to that of the author’s initial thoughts as elaborated upon in the book’s Introduction: ”I want you to cook more. It’s good for you […]. It allows you to feel the natural rhythms of life in a way that microwaved frozen dinners never can. And cooking often draws people to the table, encouraging dialogue and providing a moment to appreciate the good (and truly tasty) things in life.”
That More Mexican Everyday is clearly aimed at the American market, is evident from the outset, which, although some might construe as being a little awkward on occasion, I personally found was more than made up for amid the early chapter ‘Four Secret Weapons I Always Have in My Refrigerator.’
It covers a simplistic kitchen terrain of thought which at first, might not appear terribly important – but invariably will as time goes on.
For instance, of Green Chile Adobo (adobo de Chile Verde), Bayless writes: ”You’ll find this to be one of the most useful seasonings, because it offers a way to preserve fresh herb flavour […]. Think of it as a kind of Mexican pesto.,” while of Quick Red Chile Adobo (Adobo Rapido de Chiles Secos) he enthuses: ”In my opinion, dried chile sauces, whether simple or elaborated into complex moles, are the crown jewel of Mexican cuisine.” Finally, of Sweet-Sour Dark Chipotle Seasoning (Salsa Negra) the author readily admits: ”Don’t think of this Veracruz speciality as a typical salsa, in spite of its Spanish name; it’s more of a seasoning paste, with deep, dark richness and smouldering heat – just right for adding depth and complexity to the simplest of dishes.”
I always find such brief nuggets of culinary info to be more than helpful; because even though they’re not elaborated upon, they’re somewhat intrinsic when it comes to knowing what you’re doing: ”My wish for More Mexican Everyday is that it will be more than just a cookbook you turn to regularly for great tasting dishes. I want it to be your guide to becoming a more confident and less recipe-dependent cook. That confidence will enable you to approach the stove with greater ease, more creativity and playfulness, and, yes, more frequency. That’ll be your tastiest reward of all.”
Can’t argue with that.