This month our booksellers are cooking up a seven course feast to highlight the many new cookbooks hitting our shelves in time for the holidays. Join us as we chronicle our ambitious culinary undertakings here on the BookPeople blog. From cocktails to side dishes to dessert, we’ll share our adventures investigating a wide variety of new cookbooks, all of which will add up to one eclectic meal.
First course: Cocktails with Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails
Second Course: Tomato and Pomegranate Salad from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi
Third Course: Old Ikarian Tomato-Acorn Soup Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die
Fourth Course: Farroto with Acorn Squash and Red Russian Kale and Brock’s Benne-Buttermilk Rolls from Heritage
For today’s post, Ben, Bridget, Katie P., Andrew B., and Julie (it was a group effort y’all) cooked up Plantain-Stuffed Chiles, Elotes, and Cassava Dumplings from Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carrilo Arronte.
~post by Ben
Mexico: The Cookbook is exactly what its title might suggest. This is a comprehensive culinary journey with over 600 pages of recipes from every region of Mexico, from the Ham and Cheese Sandwich (p.95) to Devilled Cornish Game Hens (p. 327). Needless to say, this cookbook is immense. When the first copies arrived at the store, they caught my eye with their beautifully designed (and not easily missed) pink cover. But the contents of this book were what won me over. Through sheer volume and diversity of food, I challenge anyone to be unsatisfied with this cookbook. I’d wager that there’s enough here to feed yourself for a year at least, and you’d never have to use the same recipe twice. What’s even better is the quality. As Margarita Carrillo Arronte said herself, to choose a favorite recipe form this book is to choose loving one child over the other. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to have friends over and break in the household copy.
Now, when I say, I couldn’t wait, well…
Let’s first establish that I am an excitable person. And like Margarita Carrillo Arronte said, it’s hard to just pick one recipe. So, I decided to undertake roughly two and a half recipes for our meal with varying levels of preparation and results. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, there are too many delicious recipes in this book to stick with just one. For our meal, we went with Elotes (p. 111), Plantain-Stuffed Chiles (p. 466), and the Yuca Dumplings (p. 540) to go with our recipe-violating black beans. Check out how prepped we were!
PART 1: The Easy Part
Elotes are pretty simple to make. I’ve typically grilled mine in the past, but tasty corn is tasty corn so we boiled them as suggested. The best part of elote, IMHO, is the sauce. Chile, lime, queso fresco, and mayo might as well create the elixir of life. For those opposed to mayonnaise, I’d suggest making an exception here, but know that you can’t go wrong with or without. Our elotes served as an appetizer of sorts as we prepped the rest of the food.
Our beans were ready from earlier in the day. Usually, I’d soak them overnight but for our purposes, I started cooking them in the morning and let them go all day. While I was waiting for reinforcements, I also had the chance to boil some flor de jamaica which is best combined with lime, ice, and your adult potion of choice (I strongly recommend something clear here). Everything was turning out A-ok.
PART 2: The Hard Part
For our Plantain-Stuffed Chiles, some rearranging was in order. Instead of pasilla chiles, we used the more easily found poblano chiles, which, in spite of some misconceptions, are not the same thing. In addition to this change, we swapped the beef out to allow for a vegan-friendly version of the dish. We also decided to bake them instead of frying to keep our bodies from hating us. To get us started, we put our platanos in some water to boil and expand.
Here two paths diverged, and Ben took the one where he had no idea what he was doing. The esteemed Katie P. took the one where she made delicious things for everyone to eat. The stuffing of the peppers was a sequence of cooking things in a cast iron pan (my prized possession and implement of self-defense). Moving from onions to garlic, to olives and almonds, this pan’s aroma exponentially grew into something somebody would make illegal if they knew about it. That’s how good it was. And that was before the cinnamon, parsley, tomato paste and cloves were added to the mix. Plus, Kati blanched almonds, this being the most gourmet (pronounced with a hard t) that has ever transpired in my kitchen. Our stuffed peppers were coming on splendidly.
Meanwhile, Bridget successfully mashed our boiled platanos into a paste to be used for our peppers. Elsewhere…
…I was trying to make our dumplings. Yuca is one hell of a tuber. It can be made into fries, mofongo, used in soups, etc. However, to the untrained, it is not easily made into dough. I, as the untrained, used too much water in the first attempt. So, the adaptable people we are, we decided to add some sweet potatoes to balance our mixture.
This also didn’t go well. So Andrew B. and I worked some magic with a bit of tapioca starch…
If you can’t tell by our facial expressions, this also did not lead to any results I’d recommend replicating. Our last resort was to fry the suckers.
It worked in some capacity. Everyone likes fried dough, right?
Thankfully, our stuffed-chiles were incredible. Rather than completely encase the chiles, we used our platano paste as a top layer before baking them to fit with our more health-conscientious interpretation of the recipe (says the guy who just fried some dough).
They came out stupendous and everything settled right in together on the plate. It wasn’t a meal without obstacles, but that never means that the food shouldn’t be enjoyed.
PART 3: The Other Easy Part
Eat, drink, repeat. There are too many recipes not too!
All books mentioned in this post are available via bookpeople.com and on the shelves at BookPeople (603 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas).