Americans have never been more curious about and hungry for real Mexican cooking. But generations of prejudice and misinformation don't disappear overnight, and there's no shortage of myths and half-truths about Mexican food still out there. So I reached out to Mexican food expert and cookbook author Lesley Tellez to tackle some tall tales about Mexican cuisine and the people who make it.
'mexican' on Serious Eats
Take all your ideas of what chicken and waffles should be—all of your reluctance to mess with the soulful original—and toss it all. Now open your mind to this insane concoction that combines the fried chicken classic with nachos and tamales, adding green chili and corn to the waffles and topping them with guacamole, salsa roja, and ancho-honey bacon.
You won't miss your usual fried chicken and waffles once you try this Mexican-inspired version. Built with waffles that are flavored with corn and green chilis, and crunchy buttermilk-soaked and cornmeal-coated fried chicken, this mashup is going to blow you away. Guacamole, ancho-honey bacon, salsa roja, and a drizzle of Mexican crema top off a creation that's fully loaded and totally insane.
These thick Tex-Mex style flour tortillas have chewy texture, while remaining very soft and tender. They're perfect for quesadillas, breakfast tacos, and queso fundido.
Why choose between pulled pork and Mexican chorizo? Instead, bring them together by braising pork shoulder with chorizo spices, then shred it like pulled pork. The crowning glory: a coleslaw made with corn, mayo, and cotija cheese, just like elote, the Mexican street corn.
With warm weather comes an increase in barbecue consumption, though if I'm being honest, I'm even more of a fan of Mexican chorizo than I am of pulled pork. But why choose between the two? Instead, bring them together by braising pork shoulder with chorizo spices, then shredding it like pulled pork. The crowning glory: a coleslaw made with corn, mayo, and cotija cheese, just like elote, the Mexican street corn.
If you know anything about tortas or cemita sandwiches, it's that they're stacked tall with toppings that are are soft or extremely moist like avocado, shredded cheese, refried beans, or chipotle chilies. That means that the right structure is of utmost importance when designing a bun for them. Our cemita bun has a not-too-soft, not-too-dense, rich and tender egg-enriched crumb. Oh, and it's easy to make.
The cemita, a brioche-like bun from Puebla may well be the ultimate sandwich or hamburger bun. It has a sweet and savory flavor with a dense-yet-light crumb that can stand up to stacks and stacks of toppings without disintegrating or being overly firm.
I shied away from making tamales at home for the longest time, believing it was an undertaking so labor-intensive that it was only worth doing with the help of many, many extra hands. Turns out I was wrong—tamales, while requiring a small amount of assembly time, really aren't all that hard or time-consuming to make at all. After a few rounds of recipe testing, this version with three options for fillings will give you plenty of light, tender, airy, and incredibly flavor tamales that you can eat for meals, snacks, and even freeze for later.
A combo of guajillo, ancho, and arbol chiles gives this red chili sauce its earthy, smoky, and spicy complexity. It's folded into an airy and flavorful tamale dough, then steamed in corn husks until light and tender.
This insanely delicious tamale filling is also one of the easiest—fruity roasted poblano peppers paired with strands of melted mild Oaxacan cheese. It's a minimal combo that delivers a lot of flavor within a light and tender tamale dough.
A green chili made of roasted poblanos, tomatillos, and cilantro provides a bright and fruity base for the rich pork carnitas in these light and tender tamales.
This master dough recipe for Mexican tamales starts with either fresh masa (the nixtamalized corn dough used to make tamales and tortillas) from a tortilleria or masa harina (nixtamailzed corn flour that's reconstituted with water or stock). Then lard, baking powder, and chicken stock are beaten into it to create a light, tender, and flavorful tamale that can be stuffed with your favorite filling, like green chili and pork, rajas and queso, or red chili with chicken.
I visited over two dozen torta shops and taquerias in my search, and while so-so sandwiches abounded, they only made the great ones—and there were quite a few great ones—stand out even more.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. In other words, it's a day for celebrating Mexican heritage and independence. And here in the US, it's also a day for eating awesome Mexican-style food and drinking delicious Mexican-inspired cocktails. From nachos, guac, and salsa to enchiladas and chile verde, we've got all the recipes you need to complete your Cinco de Mayo feast.
Last year I fell deeply in love with the cemitas sold from the taco trucks on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York. Then I traveled to Puebla, Mexico, their source, and discovered that the sandwich I loved was an imposter. This is the story of how I learned to love both (recipes included).
Cemitas are a type of Mexcian sandwich that originally hails from the State of Puebla, but they've taken on a life of their own in New York City. This recipe creates a cemita sandwich as served in the restaurants and taco trucks of New York, in particular along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. These are gently warmed sandwiches served on a griddled sesame bun with taco-meat fillings of your choice, avocado, lettuce, tomato, chipotles, refried beans, mayo, and queso Oaxaca, a Mexican string cheese, that's hand-shredded into hairlike strands. Papalo, a floral Mexican herb, adds its own special flavor. This is a cemita con todo—with the works.
Cemitas are a Mexican sandwich that originally hails from the State of Puebla and gets its name from the bun itself, also known as a cemita. This recipe shows you how to make a Pueblan-style cemita with a fried milanesa beef, chicken, or pork cutlet filling. Loaded with fine strands of shredded Oaxacan cheese, plenty of ripe avocado, chipotles or pickled jalapeños, and papalo, a fragrant Mexican herb with a flavor all its own, it's a masterpiece of sandwich construction.
Corn tortillas have great flavor but weak structure. Flour tortillas are pliable and stretchy but short on taste. Enter flour and corn hybrid tortillas. They're tortillas that look like really great corn tortillas (charred leopard spots and all!), but contain some amount of flour or wheat gluten with the idea of adding stretchy structure to a typically brittle corn tortilla. So how do these guys stack, er, fold up?
Overstuffed cemitas, salsa-slathered pambazos, and some of the best beef you'll get between buns in the city—this the Mexican food you don't want to miss in Chicago.