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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Traditional Achiote Recado

Makes about 2-1/2 cups

This mild, citrusy red spice paste can transform the blandest of foods. It comes from the Yucatan, where it typically flavors Pibil-style suckling pig. The pig is rubbed with the recado, wrapped in banana leaves, and then cooked in a stone-lined pit until the meat is so tender it falls off the bones. Grilling is a less traditional, but no less delicious, method. Use for meat, fish, and poultry. Purchased achiote paste saves a good deal of time and makes a less complex but acceptable recado.

2 tablespoons annatto seeds
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup ancho chile powder
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon toasted and ground dried Mexican oregano
3 cloves garlic, pan-roasted until brown and soft, then peeled
1/2 medium-sized white onion, thickly sliced, pan-roasted until brown and soft
1/4 cup pineapple vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the annatto seeds and water in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep 2 hours, or until softened. Drain and put in a blender or food processor along with all the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Keeps, tightly covered, up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

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