David Sterling’s gorgeous travelogue is “not so much a cookbook as a treatise on the food and culture of Mexico as told through its vibrant markets.”
“Mercados” begins in the Yucatan and, chapter by chapter, works its way west through every region of Mexico, each market a microcosm of a specific culture and its flavors. (Read more about the book here and also here.)
The more than 100 meticulous and authoritative recipes are also frustrating because if you don’t live there, it’s hard to get the ingredients exactly right. But Sterling gives substitutions so the home cook, north of the border, can achieve an ample version.
Busico chose three of the easiest recipes from “Mercados” for her American readers.
CAMARONES AL AJILLO (SHRIMP WITH GARLIC AND CHILES)
- ½ cup Spanish olive oil
- 10 medium cloves garlic
- 5 guajillo chiles, stems, seeds and veins removed and cut into thin rounds
- 1½ pounds large or jumbo whole shrimp
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- For serving: White rice, a simple salad of shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, onion, and avocado, lime wedges, warm corn tortillas
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until it is shimmering. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is translucent. Add the shrimp and stir to coat with olive oil. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and opaque.
Remove shrimp to a platter, sprinkle with salt, and spoon some of the garlic-chile oil over the top. Serve rice, salad, lime wedges and tortillas. Serves 6
NIEVE DE MEZCAL (EGGLESS MEZCAL ICE CREAM)
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
- ½ teaspoon sal de gusano (or 1/8 teaspoon each sea salt and cayenne)
- ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons mezcal (ideally one that is not too smoky)
Combine all of the ingredients except the mezcal in a saucepan. Heat over high heat until the mixture reaches a boil; cool to room temperature then chill at least 2 hours or overnight.
Immediately before freezing, stir in ¼ cup mezcal. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. At the end of freezing, fold in the remaining mezcal. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze at least four hours before serving.
Makes about 1½ quarts.
CARNE AL TEQUILA (SAUTEED BEEF FLAMBEED WITH TEQUILA)
- ¼ cup Spanish olive oil
- 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1½ pounds beef tenderloin (or skirt steak or flank steak)
- 4 tablespoons achiote paste
- 2 tablespoons Maggi Seasoning Sauce
- ¾ cup freshly squeeze lime juice
- ¼ cup tequila reposado or anejo
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- For serving: Shredded cabbage, julienned radishes, chopped red onion and cilantro lightly dressed with lime juice; white rice; refried beans; guacamole; bottled chile sauce; warm tortillas; lime wedges
Place the olive oil and garlic in a blender and process until the garlic is liquefied.
Slice the beef across the grain into 6 equal rounds. Place each steak between two pieces of waxed paper and using a wooden mallet or rolling pin, pound the steaks to a thickness of about ½ inch. Places the steaks in a large baking dish and brush both sides with the olive oil mixture. Set aside.
Place the achiote paste, Maggi sauce and lime juice in the blender and process until liquefied. Pour the marinade over the steaks, making sure each piece is well covered. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and no more than 2 hours.
Bring the beef to room temperature. Heat the tequila to warm and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Remove the meat from the marinade and shake off any excess. Saute the meat over medium-high heat, turning once, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until it is cooked medium-rare. Immediately pour the tequila into the pan and carefully ignite it. Wait 5 seconds, then shake the skillet gently until the flames die out.
Transfer meat to a warm platter and pour any liquid in the pan over it.
Place steaks on individual dishes, garnish with the cabbage, radishes, onion and cilantro, and white rice if you wish. Diners will cut slices of the beef to roll into the warm tortillas adding chile sauce and lime to taste.
Sources: Dallas Morning News, University of Texas Press