Saturday, 18 January 2014

An Unsolicited Book Review - Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen

I love Mexican foods. So when I came across this book which was being sold through my UK source for Mexican cooking supplies I decided to go ahead and purchase it. I was very much impressed with the range of Mexican foods and dishes that were included.

Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine contains so much more than just recipes though. Bayless provides a range of handy hints and background information on the recipes and the ingredients. He takes the mystery out of Mexican cooking, and helps readers to believe that creating these dishes is not out of their grasp. He also helps pull people away from the belief that Mexican food is nothing more than beef burritos, chillies, and lots of cheese.

Mexican Kitchen contains over 400 pages of recipes, hints, tips, and personal stories. It is divided into 9 chapters.
  • Chapter 1: Essential Flavours of the Mexican Kitchen
  • Chapter 2: Salads and Other Starters
  • Chapter 3: Light and Hearty Soups
  • Chapter 4: Tacos, Enchiladas, and Other Casual Fair
  • Chapter 5: Vegetable, Bean, Rice, and Egg Dishes
  • Chapter 6: Classic Fiesta Food
  • Chapter 7: Main Dishes
  • Chapter 8: Desserts
  • Chapter 9: Wine and Margaritas 

In addition, this book provides resource list for commonly used Mexican ingredients that you might not be able to find in your local grocery store, and a section on alternative ingredients in case you can't find one particular ingredient and need to substitute.

It is a cookbook that I dip into time and time again. I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys cooking and eating Mexican foods.

I featured a recipe from this cookbook in an earlier blog post. Achiote-Roasted Pork Tacos with Pickled Red Onions.

About the Author

Rick Bayless is an award-winning chef from Chicago. He is a past winner of Top Chef Masters and has hosted Mexico-One Plate at a Time on PBS for over 9 series. He has written more than 8 cookbooks. His second book, Mexican Kitchen, won the Julia Child IACP cookbook of the year award in 1996, and his fourth book, Mexico-One Plate at a Time won James Beard Best International Cookbook of the Year award in 2001.

In addition, the Mexican government has awarded Bayless its Order of the Aztec Eagle, for work benefitting Mexico and the Mexican people.

Bayless his staff created Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003 to support small farms in the American Midwest. Grants totally over $1.2 million have been awared since then to over 71 farms. This has enbled farmers to make capital improvements and increase their productivity and profitability. In addition, they have also created the Frontera Scholarship which sends a Mexican-American Chicago Public School student to Kendall College to study culinary arts.

Frijoles Refritos

(A recipe from Mexican Kitchen)

Every culture has as one of its staples a mashed pulse of some sort. In India you find dhal made from
lentils, around the Middle East and the Mediterranean countries you can find houmous made from chickpeas, and in Mexico you have Frijoles Refritos, or refried beans.

refried beans

Frijoles are traditionally made using pinto beans, but feel free to experiment with any other beans you might like. I think these are especially nice made with black beans.

I must admit for every day eating I am more likely to buy tinned refried beans and heat them up, but for special occasions I like to make my own using this recipe from Mexican Kitchen (page 237 in my edition).  
Image credit: Image from Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain. 


  • 2 tablespoons lard (omit or use a substitute such as a cold-pressed vegetable oil for vegetarian cooking, olive oil will have too strong a flavour however)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • 900gm undrained cooked beans slightly warm for easy mashing
  • salt to taste
  • about 55gm crumbled Mexican *queso fresco or other cheese as noted below
  • handful of tortilla chips


Frying and mashing the beans
  1. In a large frying pan heat the fat over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook for a minute or so, then use a slotted spoon to scoop in about 1/4 of the beans, leaving most of the liquid behind. With a masher or the back of a large spoon mash the beans into a coarse puree. Add another portion of beans, mash them in, and continue until all of the beans have been added and coarsely mashed.
  2. Add about a cup of bean liquid (or water if you have no liquid) and stir frequently over the heat until the beans are a little soupier than you would like to serve them. They'll stiffen up as they cool. Taste and season with salt if needed. 
To serve
Spoon the beans into a warm serving platter or onto individual plates, sprinkled with crumbled cheese, and serve with tortilla chips.

*Cheese - If you can't find Mexican queso fresco try either a dry feta, or Parmesan cheese.