of Ingredients Of Mexican Cooking (4/7)|
Glossary of Ingredients Of Mexican Cooking (4/7)
The flesh, rips and seeds of chilies are rich in irritating burning
oils. When preparing chilies, always wash your hands and the utensils
in soapy water. Be especially careful not to rub your face--eyes in
particular--until the oils have been thoroughly washed away. When
processing chilies in a blender or food processor, avert your face as
even the fumes are burning. Some cooks who work with chilies for any
extended length of time, wear plastic gloves. There is a higher
concentration of capsaicin in the ribs of chilies; remove them for a
ROASTING CHILIES: Recipes often call for chilies to be
roasted. This enhances the flavor and makes them a snap to peel.
Roasted chilies may be frozen before peeling, a convenience if you
a big batch at once; wrap them airtight in plastic wrap.
BROILER METHOD: Set oven control to broil. Arrange whole
chilies with their top surfaces about 5 inches from the heat. (Some
people cut a small slit in the shoulder of each chili, to prevent it
from bursting.) Broil, turning occasionally, until the skin is
blistered and evenly browned (NOT burned). Remove chilies to a
plastic bag and close tightly; let chilies sit for 20 minutes, then
peel. Anaheim and poblano chilies will roast in 12 to 17 minutes;
jalapeno and serrano chilies in about 5 minutes.
GAS STOVE TOP METHOD: Spear a whole chili on a long handled
metal fork and hold it about 5 inches from the flame. Turn the chili
so that it roasts evenly. Place roasted chilies in a plastic bag and
close tightly; let chilies sit for 20 minutes, then peel. The
disadvantage of this method is of course that you can't roast a number
of chilies at once.
ELECTRIC STOVE TOP METHOD: This involves a little ingenuity
on the part of the cook. Arrange a sturdy heatproof metal rack (such
as a cake rack) so that the grill sits about 4 to 5 inches above the
electric burner. Place whole chilies on the rack over high heat.
Turn the chilies on the rack so that they roast evenly. Remove
chilies to a plastic bag and close tightly; let chilies sit for 20
minutes and then peel.
CHILI POWDER: This is a mixture of ground dried red chilies blended
with other spices and herbs. It is said to have been invented by
Willie Gebhardt, a Texan in 1892. Most brands include cumin and
oregano. Often chili powder formulas contain paprika, coriander and
salt. Chili powder is not to be confused with ground red chilies.
CHOCOLATE: The Aztecs are credited with the discovery of chocolate.
It was probably first used to flavor a bitter drink favored by their
mystics. Another Mexican invention, the molinillo, is a wooden whisk
used to whip hot chocolate. The handle is rolled between the palms of
the hands, whipping the mixture until it is frothy. Today, block
Mexican chocolate frequently contains cinnamon, vanilla, clove and
CHORIZO: This spicy smoked pork (or pork and beef) sausage is
available both in links and in bulk.
CILANTRO (Mexican Parsley, Chinese Parsley, fresh Coriander): This
herb bears a resemblance to flat leaf parsley, but the flavor is
entirely different: strong, fresh, acid. Cilantro is perishable;
store it in the refrigerator with the stems in water and plastic
loosely covering the leafy tops.
CINNAMON: This is truly a spice of Mexican cuisine, used in dishes
sweet and savory. It is available ground as a powder or in tightly
rolled dry quills. Sometimes the bark of the cassia tree is sold as
cinnamon; the flavor is similar but neither as true nor as intense.
Look for authentic cinnamon.
CORIANDER: This spice is the seed of the plant that gives us
cilantro. It has a dusky flavor that is often associated with Eastern
cooking. It may be purchased ground or as whole dried seeds.
CORN HUSKS: Dried corn husks, softened by soaking, are used to wrap
food before it is cooked. They make a sort of natural jacket that
holds a mixture together as it steams. Remove any silk clinging to
the dried husk before using. Several small corn husks may be
overlapped for a larger wrapping as for a tamale.
CORNMEAL: Dried corn is of course the staple of southwestern larders.
From Betty Crocker's "Southwest Cooking".