Mexican food is very popular today, mainly due to the small variety of ingredients used and the simplicity of the techniques employed. Of course, learning how to make tacos and burritos is pretty much like just scratching the surface of what Mexican food preparation means; there are more complex recipes originating from Mexico that beautifully blend the Central American, Spanish and Arab influences that create the amazing taste of Mexican dishes. Creating simple dishes, like quesadillas, is even easier today, since there are quesadillas makers sold for very cheap prices that can help you put together a Mexican dish fast and easy. If you have your mind set on learning how to cook the Mexican way, here are some ideas to get you started on this path.
Don’t be afraid to use cheap cuts of meat
It is well known by home cooks and famous chefs alike that the quality of ingredients plays an important role in the taste of the final result. However, there are creative ways of turning not so great or inferior ingredients into palatable meals, and the Mexican cuisine is well known for doing exactly that. One thing Mexicans are not afraid to do – besides eating extremely spicy food – is to use inexpensive cuts of meat in their dishes. Shanks, shoulders and other cheap cuts can be included in some really tasty recipes, and the extra fat will not be a problem, either. The technique used is rather simple: you slow cook the meat, and after it is cooled, you can spoon off the fat that rises to the top, thus enjoying a great tasty dish, without worrying about the content of fat.
Actually, cheaper cuts of meat have their advantages. The marbled fat that accumulates around the joints dissolves slowly and makes the other ingredients rich with flavor, something that cannot easily be obtained with leaner cuts (in which case, you need to count on adding fat from other sources, such as vegetable oil).
Recycle, recycle, recycle
No, this is not an encouragement to reduce your carbon footprint, although it is always a good piece of advice. When it comes to Mexican cuisine, nothing gets lost. What you cook today as salsa for your chips can be used tomorrow for your tortilla soup (what remains, that is), and if you still have some left, why not consider making some chilachiles the day after tomorrow?
Recreate your taco leftovers by getting creative. For instance, you can top the leftover meat with some spices and toppings and serve them the next day. Another great idea is to wrap the meat in some lettuce leaves and have a healthy snack. You can quickly make tortillas, by using a tortilla maker, and then wrap the leftover meat in them.
Tortilla chips are known for getting stale fast, but this doesn’t mean that you should throw them away. Use them for making chilaquiles, put them together with your scrambled eggs, or garnish your soup with a few chips. As mentioned earlier, nothing gets thrown away when it comes to Mexican cooking.
Preparing the meat
Mexicans are not known for being big fans of ovens and that for the simple reason that the oven was not used traditionally, and back in the days cooking the meat and other ingredients over an open fire pit was the most encountered method. The Spaniards brought iron pots to Central America, but, before that, the Aztecs used only clay pots for steaming and broiling. These habits are still encountered in how Mexican food is prepared today, so get ready to learn how to grill meat the Mexican way.
For instance, a traditional way of preparing meat for barbeque is by steaming the meat over boiling water, while wrapped in cactus and banana leaves. The flavors were slowly seeping into the meat, making it really tasty. The procedure was called Barbacoa and it helped make any piece of meat burst with flavor.
Grilling meat the Mexican way takes very little time. Placing the grill directly over hot charcoal allows you to be very quick about it. Just one minute on each side is enough for thin strips of meat that work great for fajitas. Adding chips of various types of wood with the charcoal helps you obtain many interesting different flavors.
Get creative with the garnishing
Forget about gourmet cuisine rules that tell you a sprig of parsley is enough for decorating a plate. Mexicans are not afraid to garnish their dishes with a wide variety of veggies, such as chopped onions, slices of radish, chilies, cilantro, wedges of lime, and many, many others. The truth is the garnishing is not there only for making a dish look good; their role is to balance the overall flavor of a meal, add acidity and the usual crunchiness associated with Mexican food.
What is really great about garnishing foods the Mexican way is that you can make any meal look festive. Parsley and nutmeg make for a great combination to garnish a zucchini soup, while enchiladas look and taste better with a garnish of sour cream and salsa. As you can see, not only veggies can be used for decorating various dishes, but also other types of food. Tortilla chips, grated cheese, and even grated chocolate can be added for a stunning effect and delicious taste.
Roasting and toasting
If you really want to learn the secrets of Mexican ways of preparing food, do not overlook the importance of simple processes like roasting and toasting. Mexicans know that a good salsa is one made from dry-roasting tomatoes, chilies and onion in an amazing combination. But not only salsa benefits from dry-roasted veggies; you can create a wide variety of sauces using this method that is particular to Mexican cuisine. Roasting and toasting are good methods for making nuts and seeds crunchier and tastier. However, it is not unusual for Mexicans to garnish their dishes with raw nuts and seeds, as well, so you can use them as you prefer.
Don’t you believe these techniques can be used for other types of foods, as well? Mexicans toast pastas and grains with the same enthusiasm they cook everything in their kitchens. This little secret makes all their foods crunchy and tasty, lending them that unmistaken vibe that makes Mexican dishes so popular today.