Review – Essentials of Mexican Cooking

Instructor – Rick Bayless

Buy this class! It’s Fabulous.

I have always enjoyed Mexican food but after taking this class, I can honestly say I LOVE Mexican food now more than ever. I feel this course has provided instruction and recipes that have given me a new outlook on what is authentic and what is not.

Instructor Rick Bayless is very well known for his “authentic” Mexican cooking. He has several restaurants, has written cookbooks, and hosts a TV cooking show. If you are interested in reading more about Rick Bayless and/or going through his free on-line list of recipes, click here.

As an instructor, Mr. Bayless is very articulate. He walks through all of the recipes provided in the course materials and gives tips and hints about the ingredients and cooking methods all along the way.

Class Level:

Any level of cooking experience can follow this course

Tools:

Technically there are no special tools you need for this class – HOWEVER, there are tools, like a blender or food processor and a large steamer for example, that will reduce the amount of elbow grease required to make some of the recipes.

I did elect to purchase an 8″ cast iron tortilla press because I knew it was something I would definitely use in the future.

I did not however, purchase a Molcajete – even though I was tempted. My food processor and blender proved to work just fine.

Recipes:

All of the recipes used in the class are provided in the printable class materials – and they are all very good.

Ingredients:

I was able to find all of the necessary ingredients for this class in my local grocery store, Walmart, and a local Mexican Grocery/Butcher Shop called Carniceria La Sierra #1.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

If you have ever purchased corn tortillas from your local grocery store, you may feel they taste a bit stale or bland or just sort of, well, not all that great. I have always preferred flour tortillas over the corn for this very reason.

Now that street tacos are all the rage however, I can tell you that having a good tortilla really does improve the overall experience of the dish.

After making corn tortillas, I will NEVER, EVER AGAIN, purchase them. Homemade are just too quick and easy to make and they are full of real corn flavor. Also, there are only two ingredients in a handmade corn tortilla – Masa Harina (corn flour) and water.

Yes, I did purchase the tortilla press for this course. Best $30 I’ve ever spent. I purchased the 8″ Cast Iron Tortilla press from Sur la Table. I highly recommend getting the cast iron version as having the weight is critical to the end result.

Since I didn’t have the cast iron griddle that Rick Bayless uses, I just used two cast iron frying pans that I’ve had for ages. They were perfect because it is important to have consistent heat. When you are making many tortillas at a time (I made 20 at a time), you need a pan that won’t bow under a high heat.

I used my freshly made homemade tortillas for street tacos. I needed about 60 tortillas for my party which meant I would need to make them ahead of time. I had to search around for advice on the Internet on this point because Mr. Bayless says to serve the tortillas right away.

Homemade Corn Tortillas – Made in Advance: Storing and Reheating

Advice I received on making the tortillas in advance of a party pretty much came down to storing them for no more than about 5 days in a plastic zip-lock bag in the refrigerator. I’ve stored them for 10 and they still taste fine. For a party however, I would try to make them as close to the date as possible in order to keep the flavor as fresh as possible.

Once you are ready to use them, you will find that they are a bit stiff, and of course cold, coming out of the refrigerator. It is necessary to heat them up.

You can either heat them again in your skillet, put them on a low setting in the oven (this advice worried me because I wasn’t sure they would not dry out), or you could microwave them in a towel.

I have reheated my tortillas in a damp paper towel and it works fine. I’ve only reheated a few this way though – no large batches. Fifteen to 30 seconds does the trick.

I tested reheating them in a pan and didn’t feel they softened up enough for good tacos. So I decided that since I was going to be reheating many, I would try steaming them. This, for me, worked well because it only took seconds to heat each batch of about 6 tortillas.

I simply put a tea towel in the top of the steam basket on my stove, laid the 6 tortillas in the basket (lay them out so that they have space in between them if possible) and let them steam for a few seconds. That’s all they took. You have to take them out of the steam with tongs to keep the steam from burning your hands, but other than them being hot, they are nice and pliable.

From the steam I wrapped them in a dry tea towel in a serving dish to keep them warm. They retain their heat this way for about 10 minutes.

Salsas

Wow – another declaration . . . I will never again buy salsa in a jar. The salsa recipes in this class are all absolutely marvelous and super easy to make using a food processor or blender.

One thing I learned about salsa is that in Mexico, salsa is not traditionally eaten with chips like we eat it here in the US. It is served as an accompaniment to other foods similar to a condiment.

Of course, that is not stopping me from dipping my chips!

Tacos

My street tacos were fantastic. I have to admit though, I used the filling recipes from a different Craftsy class – Mexican Street Food: Tacos and Salsas with Deborah M. Schneider. Her recipes are also very traditional and delicious. I highly recommend her class as well.

Tamales

I love tamales. I have made tamales in the past and I buy them frozen at the local grocery store. I also had a lesson in tamale making from a good friend from Mexico. I can therefore tell you with 100% certainty, Mr. Bayless’ method of making authentic tamales is spot on.

While both the Red Chile Pork Tamales and the Green Chile Chicken Tamales were fabulous, my favorite is the chicken. The green chile is made with tomatillos which makes a very fresh filling.

I followed the recipes and Mr. Bayless’ assembly instructions to the T. I felt my tamales were quite delicious, light and very well formed. I was not able to find the banana leaves and was not in the mood to search all over, so I just used corn husks for the pork tamales.

If you have never made tamales before and especially if you are planning to serve them at a party, I highly recommend you make them well in advance. The woman who taught me to make the tamales had been making them since she was in the womb and seemed to effortlessly whip out several dozen in about 2 hours.

I, on the other hand, needed an entire day – even after having a bit of experience. So my advice is to set aside an entire day for the project even if you don’t need all that time.

You can make your tamales and steam them (cooking time is approximately 1 hour in steam) and then you can cool them and package them into plastic zip-lock bags and freeze them until ready to serve. They will also keep in the refrigerator for several days after they are cooled.

To reheat, you can microwave them for a couple of minutes in their corn husk or you can steam them (frozen for about 30 minutes, thawed for about 15). I have seen advice for reheating them in the oven but have never tried the method so I do not know if it tends to dry them out.

There are additional dishes in this class that I did not have the time to make – just yet. Based on what I have made however, I have no doubt whatsoever, the rest of the recipes are just as fabulous.

If you get this class and make any of the recipes, I would love to hear your experience.

I highly recommend this class!

¡Gracias por leer! V
(thanks for reading)

 

2 thoughts on “Review – Essentials of Mexican Cooking

    1. Hi Nhorita, I’ve actually taken all of the classes but haven’t yet made all of the recipes. There are just so many fabulous things to make that I’m sure I’ll be cooking different recipes throughout the rest of the year. My next class review will be soon though. Thanks so much for your comment. V

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