Eat Mexico is a culinary love letter to one of the biggest cities in the world — a chaotic, vibrant place where residents eat from sidewalk grills and stands, and markets and casual restaurants serve up fresh, hot food daily. In this book, journalist Lesley Téllez — who also runs her own food tour company in Mexico City—takes you through the city’s most classic dishes, offering recipes from her favorite haunts on the streets, in city markets, and in small, homestyle fondas.
Many of these dishes are items Americans may not recognize: the football-shaped, bean-stuffed corn tlacoyo, topped with cactus and salsa; the tortas bulging with turkey confit and a peppery herb called pápalo; beer-braised rabbit, slow-cooked until tender. The book ends on a personal note, highlighting the creative, Mexican-inspired dishes—like roasted poblano oatmeal—that Lesley cooks at home in New York with ingredients she came to know in Mexico.
With more than 100 recipes, on-location photography and text written in a friendly, personal tone, Eat Mexico is a must for anyone who loves Mexico, its food and unique urban culture.
Lesley Téllez appears with Eat Mexico at Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food in Napa on Friday, July 10 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and at Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco on Saturday, July 11 from 3 to 4 p.m.
Reprinted with permission from Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets, & Fondas by Lesley Téllez, copyright © 2015. Published by Kyle Books. You can purchase Eat Mexico at your local bookshop or through our affiliate links with IndieBound or Amazon.
Roasted chicken, juicy and golden and rotating on a spit, is a neighborhood specialty in Mexico City.
This recipe, for chicken slathered in an aromatic dried-chile adobo, comes from Alonso Ruvalcaba, a food writer who recently opened his own roasted chicken shop in Condesa. The dish is a little fancier than what’s sold in chicken joints and market stalls, but he’s captured the essence of what makes Mexican chicken so good: a crisp, flavorful, slightly spicy skin and moist flesh. Serve with a stack of warm tortillas, some salsa, and (if you want to be truly authentic) homemade potato chips, so guests can make tacos.
For the chicken and sauce:
- 1 whole chicken, giblets removed (about 4 pounds)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt per pound of chicken
- 2 plum tomatoes
- 1/2 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1/4 cup raw peanuts
- 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
- 2 morita chiles
- 2 guajillo chiles
- 2 dried árbol chiles
- 2 dried chipotle chiles
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 lemon
- 1 small bunch thyme
For the vegetables:
- 12 cloves garlic, peeled
- 12 small red or white potatoes, cut in half
- 6 small beets, cut into quarters, or eighths if they’re large
- 2 red onions, peeled and cut into eighths
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A day ahead, season the chicken generously with the salt and refrigerate in a covered container for about 4 hours.
- Meanwhile, warm a comal or nonstick skillet to medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and cook until soft and blackened in spots, 4 to 8 minutes.
- Place 3 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Heat a small skillet to low heat. Toast the peanuts and cinnamon, stirring constantly, until the peanuts turn a golden brown color, 2 to 3 minutes. (If black spots appear, lower the flame.) Transfer to a bowl. Raise the heat to medium and quickly toast the chiles in batches, 5 to 10 seconds per side or until aromatic, careful not to burn them.
- Snip off the chiles’ stems, and shake out the seeds. Add the chiles to the boiling water and cook until the skins soften, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender jar, and discard the water. Add the charred tomatoes, onion, garlic, peanuts, cinnamon, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Blend on high into a very smooth, thick paste. Season with salt.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and drain off any excess liquid. Slather with the adobo sauce, spreading it over and underneath the skin. Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag and pour any remaining adobo on top. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
- The next day, bring the chicken to room temperature, uncovered, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Place the chicken breast-side up on a V-shaped rack set over a roasting pan. Cut the lemon in half and place it and the thyme in the chicken’s cavity. Set the chicken in the middle of your oven and cook for 20 minutes.
- Toss the vegetables with oil and season with salt and pepper and add to the roasting pan. Lower the temperature to 425°F and cook until the chicken is crispy and the juices run clear, or the internal temperature measures 165°F, about 1 more hour, turning the vegetables occasionally so they don’t burn.
- Let the chicken sit for 15 minutes before serving. Remove the lemon and thyme from the cavity, and slice. Serve with the vegetables.
Another “dry soup” served before the main meal, sopa seca de fideo is one of my favorite dishes in Mexico. Thin fried noodles mingle in a (sometimes spicy) tomato sauce, garnished with crema, avocado slices, and once, when I was lucky, big pieces of chicharrón — it added a crunch and meatiness I didn’t even know I was missing. Not everyone adds chipotle en adobo; I like the heat and slight fruitiness it gives the sauce. This is usually served as a side dish, but can also stand up as a meal on its own. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for about a week.
- 6 ripe plum tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons minced, canned
- Chipotles en adobo, plus
- 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar or grated piloncillo (see Eat Mexico )
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 medium onion
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 (12-ounce) package fideo noodles
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup Homemade Crema (see Eat Mexico )
- 1/2 ripe Haas avocado, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
- 1 scant cup crumbled queso fresco
- Pieces of chicharrón (pork cracklings), optional
- Fill a medium saucepan two-thirds full with water and add the tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and cook until softened, 7 to 10 minutes. (If the tomatoes start to split before they’ve softened, lower the heat.) Transfer to a small bowl and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
- In a small bowl, mix together the minced chipotle, adobo sauce, and brown sugar. Set aside.
- Slip the skins off of the tomatoes and add them, with any juices left in the bowl, to a blender jar with the garlic, onion and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water. Blend on high until very smooth.
- Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to a large skillet set over medium heat. When hot, fry half the noodles, stirring often so they don’t burn, until they’re a deep golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Wipe the pan and repeat with 1 tablespoon oil and the second batch of noodles.
- Wipe the pan clean once more and heat the remaining tablespoon oil. When hot, pour in the tomato purée (careful, it may splatter) and fry on medium to medium-low heat, sprinkling on the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce no longer tastes of raw onion and garlic, 4 to 5 minutes. Mix in the chipotle paste and taste for seasoning.
- Add the fried noodles and cook over medium-low heat until they absorb nearly all the sauce, about 5 minutes. Taste the noodles—if they’re still too chewy, add the remaining 1/2 cup reserved cooking water and cook until all the sauce is just absorbed and the noodles are al dente.
- Serve on individual plates, topped with crema, avocado slices, and crumbled cheese. Place chicharrón pieces on the side, if serving.
Cooking Tips: Fideo noodles are thin like angel hair pasta, and in Mexico City they come in various sizes; the most common is about 1 inch long. In the U.S., at Mexican grocery stores or in the Hispanic foods aisle of mainstream grocery stores, some are sold in bundles that can be broken into pieces. Canned chipotle en adobo can vary in acidity, depending on the brand. Make sure to taste and adjust the sugar or heat in the sauce as necessary.
Makes about 32 cookies
I love anything sweet and savory, so this snack makes perfect sense to me: chicharrón — fluffy, salty, fried pork skin — is mixed with dark chocolate in a buttery, dense cookie. It’s not too far removed from chocolate and bacon (another fabulous combination), but with a heartier crunch. My sense is that most chilangos would be weirded out by this pairing, because in Mexico City, chicharrón is always used in a savory context.
You can find chicharrón at most Mexican markets, and they may offer a couple varieties: thinner, lighter sheets, and thicker sheets curled at the edges, speckled with bits of meat. For the purposes of this cookie, it’s best to use the lighter, meatless variety. (The meatier stuff is great with salsa, though.) If you can’t find it, packaged chicharrón works — I like the Baken-ets variety, which is available at most grocery stores.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
- 1 cup crumbled chicharrón (pork cracklings)
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the eggs and both sugars until light and fluffy and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Lower the speed, and mix in the butter and vanilla until well combined.
- Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir the dry mixture into the wet until just combined. Gently stir in the chocolate and chicharrón, being careful not to over-mix.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours, or ideally overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Drop the cookies by mounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown and the middles are still soft.
- Let cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
COOKING TIPS: To crumble the chicharrón, if it’s very hard, place it in a plastic bag and whack it with a meat pounder or a frying pan.
Lesley Tellez grew up in a Mexican-American home in California but didn’t know al pastor (chili-marinated pork) from alambre (chopped steak with bacon, peppers and onions) when she first moved to Mexico City in 2009. Yet before long, she became a daily connoisseur of the city’s massive network of street vendors, was trained at one of Mexico’s premier heritage cooking schools, and started a blog, The Mija Chronicles, selected by Saveur magazine as among the top culinary travel blogs in the US. Lesley also established Mexico City’s first culinary tourism business, to focus on street food, markets and fondas, called Eat Mexico. She is currently writing a series for Serious Eats about her cookbook writing experience. Visit her online at themijachronicles.com.