the appetizer

Mexican cuisine combines the traditional indigenous foods of the Aztecs and Mayas, like chocolate, corn, tomato, avocado, beans and chile peppers, with the meats, rice and garlic brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadores.

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Grilling Techniques

By Reed Hearon

After the first accidental falling of food into the fire and the first necessary burned tongue came the discovery that food cooked in fire tasted good. Then came the slow evolution of cooking utensils. At first, food was probably simply thrown into the fire. Then perhaps it was suspended above the fire on a green stick. Eventually, people must have realized that the stones around and in the fire got very hot. These stones became the first grills and griddles. Later, clay was used to form pots and comals for cooking. With the introduction of iron to Mexico by the Spaniards, the grill as we know it arrived in the New World. A magical change it was.

Mastering the Mexican approach to grilling is a matter of understanding a few basics. Once those basics are mastered, anyone can turn out delicious grilled foods. Beyond the fundamentals lie hundreds of tricks that come to the practitioner over time. I will try to highlight these throughout this book as I discuss techniques for grilling different foods. But first the basics:

What to Grill

Almost any kind of meat, fish, poultry, game, or vegetable can be grilled. For meat the easiest items to grill are tender, naturally flavorful cuts. These top cuts include steaks, chops, filleted fish, boneless poultry, and other relatively thin, easy-to-eat foods. They do tend to be expensive and can be somewhat monotonous after awhile. As a chef, I find whole fish, roasts, lamb shanks bone-in poultry, and the like much more interesting to grill and eat. Foods cooked on the bone shrink less and tend to have more flavor. While they are more challenging to cook, they are worth the trouble and tend to be much less expensive. Many Mexican grill techniques are geared toward less tender foods that require long, slow cooking.

La Parilla: The Mexican Grill
By Reed Hearon
Photographs by Laurie Smith
Chronicle Books, 1996
Price: $19.95, paper
ISBN: 0-8118-1034-8
Reprinted by permission


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This page modified January 2007