Friday, April 1, 2011

Cookbook giveaway: Mod Mex

Mod Mex: Cooking Vibrant Fiesta Flavors at HomeMexican food is among my most favorite cuisines, and it's really hard to give up a cookbook with such delicious recipes for old favorites and new twists, but this week's offering is "Mod Mex: Cooking Vibrant Fiesta Flavors at Home" by Scott Linquist and Joanna Pruess. It has recipes from Dos Caminos Mexican Kitchen in New York.

I know this post is dated April 1, but it's no joke! The book is from Andrews McMeel Publishing, published October 1, 2007, 224 pages and has about 125 recipes. It's hardback and has lots of great photographs.

If you want this week's book, "Mod Mex," be the first to click the PayPal button (Buy Now) below, follow the directions to deposit a payment to my account, AND leave a comment at the end of this blog item with some way to contact you for your address or in case you were not the first one (I have only one copy of each book). I will send the book by Priority Mail. Offer good in the United States only at this time. You don't need a PayPal account, but you will need a credit card to pay with the button.

If this isn't the book for you, keep checking back on Fridays. I offer a different cookbook each week. I'll edit the post to indicate when a book is no longer available.

If you live in Charlottesville, you can save the money by coming to pick up the book. Be the first to leave a comment, with a way to contact you.

To give you an idea of the recipes in "Mod Mex," here is a sample recipe.

Wild Mushroom and Huitlacoche Sopes with Queso Fresco and Tomatillo Avocado Salsa
Makes 12 (2 ½-inch) sopes

The most difficult part of this delicious recipe is actually finding the huitlacoche (also spelled cuitlacoche). This corn fungus, also called "Mexican truffle" or "Mexican caviar," is greatly revered in Mexico. The kernels have a smoky-sweet flavor. It is best fresh or frozen, but it is also available canned from some online Mexican food suppliers. Your best option is to purchase it frozen, but even that may be hard to find. Otherwise, try a trip to Oaxaca in the fall! If you can’t find the mushrooms listed here, use portobellos or any combination of mushrooms that you like.

Sope dough (masa)
1¼ cups corn flour for tortillas
2 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
½ cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa
½ ripe avocado peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 cup salsa verde

Mushroom-Huitlacoche Filling
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup mixed sliced mushrooms (such as shiitake, cremini, and oyster mushrooms, but any variety may be used)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ to 1 teaspoon ground arbol chile powder
½ cup huitlacoche
1 tablespoon chopped fresh epazote or a combination of flat-leaf parsley and oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
¼ cup crema or sour cream
3 radishes, trimmed and cut into thin strips

Make the Sopes: In a large bowl, mix together the corn flour, lard, water, and salt, and knead gently until the dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Roll about 3 tablespoons of masa into a ball, and then flatten the ball using your thumb and the palm of your hand to form a 2½-inch-round disk, approximately ¼ inch thick. Repeat until you have 12 disks. Set aside while preparing the salsa and filling.

Make the salsa: In the jar of an electric blender, combine the avocado and salsa verde, and purée until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.

Make the filling: Heat ½ tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Add the mushrooms and ½ tablespoon of the butter and sauté until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, turning often. Transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl.

In the same pan over high heat, stir in the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil along with the onion, garlic, and remaining ½ tablespoon of butter. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté until the onion is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chile powder, huitlacoche, and epazote. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Return the sautéed mushrooms to the pan and cook just to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 or 3 masa disks and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, turning once, just to firm them slightly. Remove the disks from the pan, let them cool slightly, and then gently pinch the edges to resemble a small tart shell. Return them to the griddle, and continue cooking for 5 minutes more. Remove, wrap in aluminum foil, and keep in a warm oven.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa onto each sope, and then add 2 tablespoons of warm mushrooms. Top with 1 teaspoon of queso fresco, a dollop of crema, and a sprinkle of radishes. Serve warm.

—from MOD MEX, page 24 · Andrews McMeel Publishing

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Paul Bocuse is a great chef, but cookbook writer? Bleh

Paul Bocuse's French CookingNews item:
Chefs discuss Paul Bocuse’s impact on the culinary world
Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Jerome Bocuse share thoughts on CIA’s ‘chef of the century’
March 30, 2011 | By Bret Thorn, Nation's Restaurant News

Paul Bocuse “unshackled” the chefs of his generation, ushering in a new era of innovation and prestige for back-of-the-house workers, said Culinary Institute of America president Tim Ryan.

Bocuse, whom the CIA declared as “chef of the century,” is receiving an Augie Award at the culinary school’s annual Leadership Awards gala Wednesday night.

The award is named after renowned chef Auguste Escoffier, who developed the brigade hierarchy in kitchens and codified French cuisine at the end of the 19th century.

In a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon, Ryan explained that, although Escoffier made tremendous contributions to the culinary world, he also shackled several generations of chefs who felt obligated to adhere to the rules he promulgated.

Bocuse, arguably the modern era’s first celebrity chef, changed that with the introduction in the late 1960s and early 1970s of what came to be known as Nouvelle Cuisine.

During the Wednesday’s discussion, chefs Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud, along with Bocuse’s son, Jerome, discussed how the “chef of the century” inspired them personally. Paul Bocuse himself also participated in the discussion, with his son acting as interpreter.

Jerome Bocuse and Boulud also are being honored by the CIA on Wednesday night as alumnus of the year and chef of the year, respectively.

Keller, chef-owner of The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., Per Se in New York and other restaurants, said Bocuse “brought chefs out of the kitchen” and into the spotlight.

He said the chefs who established Nouvelle Cuisine helped to define the modern chef by allowing them to express their own culinary perspective rather than only reproducing established classic recipes.

Both Keller, from afar, and Boulud, who worked as an apprentice in Bocuse’s hometown of Lyon during the birth of Nouvelle Cuisine, said Bocuse’s creation of camaraderie and a sense of fraternity among chefs had a strong influence on them.

Keller said he was attracted to Bocuse’s lifestyle portrayed in the book “Great Chefs of France.”

“That resonated with me, and it was one of the reasons I pursued a career as a chef,” he said.

Boulud said he was inspired by Bocuse’s continued devotion to his friends and family, even after he was established as the greatest chef in the world 40 years ago.

“He has been one of the greatest educators in that sense,” Boulud said.

He also said that the annual New Year’s cards that Bocuse sent out were always funny and lighthearted. “There’s also something very smart and very simple and also optimistic that always brings people back to the ground,” he added.

Boulud also pointed out that Bocuse very early on opened casual restaurants as well as fine-dining ones, including eight brasseries and two fast-food restaurants, Ouest Express, in Lyon.

“Sometimes we feel very modest because of everything that Paul has done and continues to do,” he said.

“He’s a really good father,” Jerome Bocuse said. Echoing Boulud and Keller, he said that his globe-trotting dad “didn’t forget his family life, and he made sure I was well taken care of.”

For his part, Paul Bocuse said the biggest changes in kitchens since he began his career have been in equipment.

“We used to add coal to the ovens and judge the temperature by touch,” he said, noting that now the humidity in ovens can be adjusted and the temperature can be adjusted by the half degree.

Regardless of those changes, he said, you still have to start with great ingredients.

“For me there’s no high or low cuisine. There is just good cuisine,” he said.

Bocuse said that, whatever a chef cooks, if the restaurant is full, if it endures, and if the owners make money, then the chef is doing his job.

He added that, although he and his band of chefs in Lyon are credited with revolutionizing cuisine “in each generation there is a nouvelle cuisine, and that continues today.”

Contact Bret Thorn at

Now a word from Lori K: I do not dispute Bocuse's reputation as a chef. But I must say that as a cook, I tried recipe after recipe from "Paul Bocuse's French Cooking" (Pantheon, 1987), a heavy tome that my husband brought into our marriage. He had tried to cook out of it and felt he failed because he wasn't a good enough cook. So I took up the mantle and tried, really tried, but could not find a single recipe that worked according to the directions given. Maybe it was just a really bad translation. I finally gave away the book before we left Sacramento. It felt like two pounds of failure being lifted from our shoulders.