Mexican Cooking Techniques and Tips
Sautéing exposes ingredients to high temperature to produce flavors, texture, and color. Many home cooks; and even restaurant cooks, often do not use a high enough setting in sautéing ingredients. Do not be afraid of the high setting on your stove when sautéing or frying. If you want to reduce the mess from splattering, you can use a high-sided pan or a splatter screen.
Roasting and Toasting
Fire is an indispensable element in Mexican cookery. It is used with a comal or skillet to unlock the flavors of dried chiles, herbs, and other spices. Fire enriches the taste of tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, and onions through caramelizing and charring. The extra flavor and complexity achieved by roasting and toasting also reduces the overall cooking times for many recipes as a long simmering time is often unnecessary for full flavor development. Roasting can improve the flavors in all of your cooking.
In Mexican cooking, many recipes for salsas, sauces, and broths call for roasted onions. Roasting sweetens the onions, removing or reducing the "hot" taste of raw onions. Slightly charring the onions will also produce a flavor that is complementary to roasted chiles, tomatoes, and tomatillos.
Garlic cloves are roasted whole to remove the raw taste and to sweeten the flavor. Roasted garlic is more subtle in flavor than fresh garlic so you usually will need to use more than you would if you were using raw. Peeled garlic will roast more quickly and turn a darker color; unpeeled cloves tend to get sweeter when roasted and stay lighter in color.
Garlic is roasted like onions and the two may be roasted together. They require the same temperature; however, the timing may differ. Unlike in Italian recipes, roasted garlic in Mexican cooking is roasted at a higher temperature for a shorter time, so it does not get as soft.
Fire Roasting Fresh Chiles
Fresh chiles are fire roasted to remove the skin, to begin the cooking process before they are added to a dish, and to give them a smoky and slightly sweeter flavor. The larger varieties of chiles such as poblano, New Mexican green, and Anaheim are usually roasted and peeled. The smaller types like jalapeño, serrano, and habanero may be used raw, or they may be roasted and charred and then peeled and seeded for some sauces and salsas. This method also works for sweet bell peppers.
You may want to wear rubber gloves when handling the chiles to avoid burning your skin. Always remember to wash your hands well after peeling chiles. Do not touch your eyes or your skin before washing your hands or you may regret it! A vinegar rinse followed by soap and warm water also works well.
Authentic Recipes and Traditions
by Daniel Hoyer
Gibbs Smith, Publisher
Recipe reprinted by permission.
- Tacos de Pescados Baja-Style Fish Tacos
- Helado de Coco Coconut Ice Cream
- Mexican Cooking Techniques and Tips
More about Mexico with recipes.
This page created April 2006