A Delicious (and Efficient) Introduction to Mexican Cooking

The Mexican Slow Cooker: Recipes for Mole, Enchiladas, Carnitas, Chile Verde Pork, and other Favorites, by Deborah Schneider, (Ten Speed Press), 144 pages, release date 31 July, 2015

I live in a community that’s more Mexicano than Anglo, so even though I’m one of the Anglos, I’ve developed a fondness for Mexican cooking. Yes, my town has the usual Mexican restaurants with the usual fare—but it also has dozens of small taquerías specializing in the foods of different Mexican and Central American states. Once you’ve tried a few of the taquerías, the “usual Mexican” (at least from an Anglo perspective) becomes completely unsatisfactory.

The “secret” to good Mexican cooking involves complicated seasoning, hours of simmering, and a willingness to create every part of the meal by hand (no more grocery store tortillas). When you are ready to try this kind of cooking (even if you will be using grocery store tortillas), Deborah Schneider’s The Mexican Slow Cooker is an excellent place to start. Some of recipes will still take a fair bit of time, but Schneider finds ways to integrate a slow cooker, so while the food is cooking for hours the cook can be doing other things.

When using The Mexican Slow Cooker, you’ll want to start with the chapter on “Basics, Rice, Beans, and Other Sides.” These recipes serve as the base for every other recipe in the book, and they all feature time in the slow cooker. This chapter includes recipes for beef broth and chicken broth, for several kinds of traditionally seasoned rice, and a variety of ways to prepare beans. You’ll need these foods both because many of the recipes in the rest of the book call for them and also because their delicious simplicity makes them a treat in their own right. You can keep the broths and beans on hand as starters for more complicated dishes, making them when the ingredients are available. I’m planning to try a version of the chicken broth using holiday leftovers. If I make a big batch, I can put half to use now and freeze the other half for later.

The remaining recipes range from the very simple to the complicated, but you can be sure that Schneider will make your cooking process efficient with results that honor the cuisine’s traditions. I’ve got several of them bookmarked, including the Pozole Verde, a stew with tomatillos and pozole (a type of corn also called hominy) and the mole negro, which probably requires more ingredients than any other recipe in the book, but is also quite worth the effort. I’ve also bookmarked pretty much everything in the chapter on street food—most of these are relatively quick-to-prepare dishes that can be held in the hand (less washing up after!).

The Mexican Slow Cooker will ease you into the deliciousness that is Mexican cooking—and the journey will be deeply rewarding.


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