02 November 2019

Weekend Cooking: Oaxaca by Bricia Lopez

Review of Oaxaca by Bricia LopezIt's been a long time since I lived in the American Southwest, but I've never stopped craving family-style Mexican dishes. Don't get me wrong, I love almost all of the Tex-Mex and popular Americanized Mexican food most of us are familiar with: tacos, spicy beans, enchiladas, burritos, and guacamole. Mexico, however, is a big country and regional and family cuisine varies greatly and consists of way more choices than many Americans think.

Thanks to  the Abrams Dinner Party, I received a copy of Brica Lopez's Oaxaca (Abrams, Oct. 22), a cookbook that gives us a look at authentic Mexican cooking. I could barely wait to dig in and get cooking.

I didn't know who Lopez was, and I was unfamiliar with her family's LA restaurant Guelaguetza, but her parents won a James Beard Award and their menu is known for staying close to the true cuisine of Oaxaca, using local ingredients and cooking techniques.

Oaxaca contains a mix of simple dishes and more complex recipes, but everything is accessible to cooks who like to experiment. The beginning of the cookbook provides plenty of information about ingredients, techniques, and equipment, so if you aren't familiar with something in a recipe, be sure to check the front of the book and the recipe introduction. The recipes are very clearly written, and I didn't have any trouble making any of the dishes I tried.

Review of Oaxaca by Bricia LopezThe range of recipes in Oaxaca may surprise you. You'll find familiar refried black beans, but you'll also discover Oaxacan chicken soup, scrambled eggs with cactus, lamb barbacoa, black bean toast, and rice pudding with candied garbanzos. Another thing that may surprise you is that not everything is heavily spiced with hot peppers.

The first things I made from Oaxaca were old standards: black beans (which I served with rice) and guacamole. I don't really use recipes for these dishes, but I wanted to taste Lopez's versions. In a word? Yum! The cookbook offers a few ways to make black beans, I picked the one that uses pork feet -- but I left out the pork because I wanted to make mine vegetarian.

Then I decided to make something I was totally surprised to find in a Mexican cookbook: Papa Istemena (baked, isthmus-style mashed potatoes). I don't know why I was so surprised, because potatoes are, of course, native to the Americas, but, well, I don't really think of baked potato casserole as being a Mexican dish. I'm so glad I gave this recipe a try, because it was delicious! Lopez tells us to peel the potatoes before mashing, but we always leave the skins on. The only other change I made was to use sour cream instead of the Mexican crema, because I couldn't find the crema at my local stores. These potatoes, which include peas and carrots, would make a great buffet dish and would be welcome at any holiday dinner. I plan on making them often.

Review of Oaxaca by Bricia LopezThe only downside to Oaxaca is that some of the ingredients are hard for me to find here in small-town central Pennsylvania. On the other hand, I was able to find suitable substitutions and will likely take a shopping list with me next time I'm a city.

I need to mention the gorgeous photographs found throughout Oaxaca. Almost every recipe is accompanied by a full-page color photo of the finished dish, but you'll also find photos of Lopez's family, authentic ingredients, and the people and places of Oaxaca. It's truly a beautiful cookbook.

If you're curious about family-style Mexican eating or recipes from a James Beard Award-winning restaurant, then you'll get a lot of use out of Brica Lopez's Oaxaca. Less ambitious cooks and vegetarians may want to flip through the cookbook before buying it, though both categories of cooks will find appealing recipes. As for me, I have a number of dishes marked to try, including beef soup, some of the moles, a number of chicken dishes.

I never drink enough water, so I thought I'd give one of Lopez's aguas a try. This cucumber drink is so refreshing and makes water interesting. I love the color and bet this would be especially good on a hot summer's day. Oh, and I can attest that it is really good with a shot of vodka in it.

Review of Oaxaca by Bricia LopezAgua de Pepino
Cucumber Water

Serves 6

  • 8 cups (2 L) filtered water
  • 1 1/2 cucumbers (1 pound/455 g), skin on
  • 1/4 cup (13 g) fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
Pour 4 cups (1 L) of the water into a blender with the cucumbers, mint, sugar, and lime juice. Blend until smooth and pour through a double-mesh strainer [I used cheesecloth]. Add the rest of the water and mix well. Serve over ice.
Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

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Mae Travels 11/2/19, 7:14 AM  

It's interesting that a restaurant spin-off cookbook would be offering family-style recipes, but why not?

best ... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Jackie McGuinness 11/2/19, 7:38 AM  

Another weird moment!
I started reading and saw the name Brica and then the unusual name of her family restaurant...would you believe I had the Food channel on yesterday as I did chores in the kitchen and the show "Supermarket Stakeout" had Brica as a judge.
I had never heard of her before and here she is.

Smiling as we always have a really hard time finding sour cream when in Mexico!

Mexican agua fresca are delicious ways to drink more water. A favourite of mine is agua jamaica.

bermudaonion 11/2/19, 8:24 AM  

Those potatoes look fabulous!

Tina 11/2/19, 8:33 AM  

You had me at potatoes. I’m still going to try the papas relleas ( probably spelled that wrong) and anything g with potatoes has my attention.

jama 11/2/19, 8:45 AM  

Sounds like an interesting cookbook. I wouldn't have expected to find a recipe for mashed potatoes as part of Mexican cuisine either. Nice surprise.

Claudia 11/2/19, 10:54 AM  

This is one cookbook that would truly tempt me into another purchase. Love the cucumber water and the mashed potatoes casserole.

Vicki 11/2/19, 2:53 PM  

I am definitely going to look for a copy of this book!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 11/2/19, 9:53 PM  

This sounds like a cookbook I would love. Thank you so much for sharing this one with us.

gluten Free A_Z Blog 11/3/19, 1:49 PM  

I always enjoy ethnic cookbooks, especially when their is some affiliation to a restaurant! Being vegetarian, I probably might not find as many recipes that I would be able to make but I would still get the feel for this type of cooking. I was curious that you selected the pig's feet recipe and then left out the pig feet!!! Have a great week!

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 11/3/19, 6:22 PM  

Long-time no see! Hello, the Aqua De Pepino sounds great and would be fun to try.

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/10/19, 5:38 PM  

That potato dish does look so good, I may have to try that recipe.

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