Pati Jinich, a native of Mexico City, proves a most engaging guide to homestyle Mexican dishes from street foods to colonial gems, Middle Eastern influences to comfort foods from across Mexico: you'll find references to Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Michoacán, the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico City. Her PBS show Pati's Mexican Table features two seasons of episodes that revolve around a certain ingredient, holiday, or theme.
I was lucky to receive a review copy of "Pati's Mexican Table; The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking" several weeks ago courtesy of Pati's publicist, and in that time I've tried several recipes from the various sections, including two of the salads (red leaf, avocado, and grapefruit salad with olive-mint vinaigrette and the spinach goat cheese salad with caramelized pecans and jamaica vinaigrette), a soup (Mexican alphabet soup), several of the egg dishes (huevos rabo de mestiza, Mexican frittata with poblanos, potatoes, and feta), and two of the desserts (triple orange Mexican wedding cookies, Alisa's marbled pound cake). I also made the tamarind, apricot and chipotle sauce for use with another dish.
Pati's easygoing manner and clear explanations translate well to the written page; many of the recipes in "Pati's Mexican Table" come complete with a "Mexican Cook's Trick" sidebar with the types of tips that add an extra layer of authenticity: you'll find tips on enhancing the flavor of cucumbers by rubbing them with the cut ends, that your masa should have the consistency of Play-Doh, tips on working with tortillas before adding sauce, and using rice flour in tortes. These little tidbits are the types of things that you don't often find in cookbooks, and it's a nice touch that makes you feel like you're being let in on a family secret.
The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow. You'll find show favorites like Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce, Chicken À La Trash, Mexican Meatballs with Mint and Chipotle, and Steak Tacos with Jamaica-Jalapeño Sauce, along with vegetarian-friendly recipes, some kid-friendly recipes, and even a few gluten-free recipes to boot. There are also some international dishes like watermelon and tomatillo salad with feta cheese, tomato and mozzarella salad with pickled ancho chile vinaigrette, and crab cakes with jalapeño aioli that are given a fun Mexican-inspired twist.
I loved the unique salad dressings like the olive-mint vinaigrette and the hibiscus flower vinaigrette; these will become a regular staple in my kitchen. I found that for two of the dishes I tried, the Mexican alphabet soup and the triple orange Mexican wedding cookies, that I made a few small tweaks to the recipes as written. There's a good sampling of recipes taken from the show's two seasons; I did a quick scan on the show's website, and it would appear that at least one recipe from each show made it into the cookbook. I did miss seeing a few of my show favorites like Juju's birthday cake and the blackberry pecan tamales, but you can quickly and easily print these out at the show's official website. Gorgeous photography and a user-friendly bilingual index (Spanish recipe titles are printed in italics) round out the book. No nutritional info is provided.
Many recipes call for a variety of fresh and dried chile peppers (poblano, jalapeño, serrano, guajillo, chipotles in adobo) and Mexican grocery staples like piloncillo, flor de jamaica and masa, but the majority of ingredients should be readily available in your grocery store.
Verdict: Fans of Pati's TV show and those looking for an easy, tasty introduction to homestyle Mexican cooking will be sure to enjoy "Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking" (let's hope there are many more seasons and a second cookbook to boot!). ¡Provecho!
Review copy courtesy of Pati's publicist - ¡muchas gracias!