Flipping through “The Best Mexican Recipes,” it’s immediately clear that this book is meant to satisfy a range of tastes and talents.

For the cook looking to duplicate basic Mexican food – tacos, burritos, fajitas – with an eye to quickly duplicating a favorite restaurant experience, there are dozens of easy-to-follow recipes.

In line with the America’s Test Kitchen ethos, every recipe has a good explanation for why this particular recipe works – whether it’s the order in which spices are added, a slow cooking time or just lots of good tips.

It’s like having a favorite auntie in the kitchen with you, sharing her wisdom.

In a turkey mole recipe, for example, the editors explain starting a mole by putting the spices “in the same pot we had used to cook the turkey, allowing us to pick up the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Using the turkey juices as well as canned tomatoes for our liquid base gave us a balanced sauce with meaty flavor.”

Each recipe has this step-by-step narrative, and most have a breakout Test Kitchen Tip about one particular aspect of the recipe. What I like is that the tips were ideas I could use in any number of future recipes, making this a good building-block cookbook not only for learning more about cooking Mexican food, but for being a better cook in general.


As for the range of tastes and recipes, this book delivers the basic to the complex. In addition to simple quesadillas and salsas, there are plenty of more complex and time-consuming recipes – for tamales, gorditas or sopes – perfect for a long afternoon of cooking, or a holiday weekend with friends.

“The Best Mexican Recipes” has a terrific section on common Mexican ingredients, from Mexican chocolate and chorizo to chilies. It also explains the basics of certain frequently used techniques, such as charring or shredding meats.

In the summer months, I’ll enjoy trying out the many recipes that involve grilling and heat-buster recipes like chilled tomato soup and agua frescas.

But in this chilly January weather, I recommend Fish Veracruz. This straightforward single-pan dinner uses a tomato-based sauce made rich with chili and cumin over flaky cod fillets. The walk-with-me instructions, particularly the advice on cooking with very low heat, resulted in a perfect winter’s meal.


Serves 4


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

1 onion, halved and sliced thin

Salt and pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

4 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless cod fillets, 1 to 11/2 inches thick

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.


Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, wine, and thyme and bring to simmer.

Season cod with salt and pepper. If using any tail-end fillets, tuck tail under. Nestle cod into skillet and spoon some sauce over fish.

Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until fish flakes apart when gently prodded with a paring knife and registers 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.

Transfer fish to plates. Stir cilantro into sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon sauce over fish and drizzle with extra oil before serving.

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