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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Using Recados and Salsas for Flavor

By Reed Hearon

The Mexican grill relies on two key methods of flavoring foods. One, the recado, is used to season food before it is cooked. Sometimes, foods need to be marinated for hours or even overnight before grilling. Do not stint on marinating times given in the recipes; the times reflect how long it will take for the recado to reach the interior of the food to season and tenderize fully and to help maintain moisture. When salt is listed as an ingredient, it is usually not only there to add flavor but also to raise the moisture level chemically in the food. If you alter the level of salt in some of the recipes, it may result in a dish that is dry as well as bland.

The second method of flavoring is the salsa. Salsas are used as an accompaniment to grilled foods. Whereas recados tend to heighten the natural flavor of the foods being grilled, salsas provide contrast or counterpoint—setting the natural flavors in relief. Salsas rely in part on chiles to provide both flavor and heat. While it is possible to reduce the heat of a salsa by reducing the number of chiles, you also reduce the very flavor of the mixture itself. Instead of using fewer chiles, try making a different salsa based on a milder chile.

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