Tu Casa Mi Casa
Mexican Recipes for the Home CookAugust 2019
By Enrique Olvera
Enrique Olvera is an internationally recognized chef. Pujol, his highly acclaimed restaurant in Mexico City, Mexico, is ranked #20 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and #3 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.
At Pujol, Olvera serves Mexican haute cuisine featuring delicacies ranging from octopus to suckling pig.
But in his latest cookbook, Tu Casa Mi Casa, Olvera doesn’t include complicated recipes or top-chef-worthy fare. Rather, he goes back to his culinary roots -- simple home cooking.
Tu Casa Mi Casa (translation: “Your House My House”) is based on the idea that food is the center of both family and culture.
“It is impossible to separate our cooking from our family story, from the products from the region we grew up in, or the regions our ancestors hailed from,” said Olvera. “It is impossible not to carry, wherever your path leads you, the flavors you grew up with.”
Olvera says that memory is a powerful ally when it comes to food because “it helps us travel in time to the aromas and flavors of the cuisine of our childhood.”
Those memories are the foundation of Tu Casa Mi Casa.
With the help of three of his partners, Olvera transports you to the kitchen of his youth with a collection of 100 Mexican dishes that include staples like tamales, guacamole, carnitas, flautas, and churros.
By sharing these simple recipes designed with the home cook in mind, Olvera brings the flavors of his house to yours.
Lentil Salad Ensalada de lentejas
Preparation time: 20 minutes • Cooking time: 30 minutes • Serves: 2-4
This is a great, filling, fresh dish that was inspired by ceviche. Instead of fish, it has lentils. It is important to very slightly undercook the lentils so they do not get mushy. Top the tostadas with lentil salad in the kitchen and serve right away, or serve the salad with the tostadas on the side and assemble at the table as you go.
- ¾ cup (145 g) dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
- ½ small white onion
- 3 small garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 pasilla mixe chiles, seeded (substitute with dry chipotle chiles)
- 1 cup (145 g) salted roasted peanuts
- 2⁄3 cup (150 ml/5 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped red onion
- 5 small tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and chopped into small cubes
- ½ cup (20 g) finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) stems (reserve the leaves for serving)
- Key lime juice
- 1 small avocado, cubed
In a pot, combine the lentils, white onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add enough water to cover the lentils by at least 2 inches. Cook over medium heat until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 25 minutes. Remove the onion and garlic and discard. Adjust the salt to taste. Drain the lentils and set aside to cool to room temperature.
On a comal or frying pan over high heat, toast the pasilla mixe chiles on all sides until fragrant, 1-2 minutes, careful not to burn them. In a food processor, pulse half of the peanuts with the oil and the pasilla chiles until a thick paste is formed. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the red onion, tomatillos, cilantro (coriander) stems, cooked lentils (at room temperature), and the remaining whole peanuts. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Slowly add the peanut/pasilla dressing. Season with Key lime juice and salt to taste. Add the avocado cubes and gently stir them in, top with cilantro leaves, and serve with small tostadas on the side.
Baked Fish with Greens Empapelado de pescado con hierbas y quelites
Preparation time: 15 minutes • Cooking time: 30 minutes • Serves: 4
Beyond its use for tamales, banana leaf is a very versatile and commonly used wrapper. It is wonderful for holding in moisture, it imparts a unique earthy vegetal flavor, and it is beautiful to serve the dish in. On both coasts of Mexico, banana leaf is often used to steam or bake fish. For this recipe, instead of making a sauce or marinade, we decided to let the fish speak for itself, adding only some herbs and wild greens and some citrus for aroma. The quality of the fish matters a lot when steaming—we like to use a thicker cut of a not-so-oily meaty fish like sea bass. For the herbs, you can substitute whatever is growing in your herb garden or is available at the farmers’ market.
- 4 large squares (about 10 inches/25 cm) of banana leaf
- 1 skinless sea bass fillet (1½ lb/680 g)
- 1 Key lime, sliced
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 3-4 sprigs fresh epazote
- 3-4 sprigs fresh cilantro (coriander)
- 3-4 sprigs fresh mint
- 3-4 sprigs fresh lamb’s quarter, preferably small, tender leaves
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4).
Hold the banana leaves 4 inches above an open flame until they begin to change color, about 1 minute. They should be a brighter green. If using an electric stove, heat up a large dry frying pan or griddle and press the leaves on the hot surface in quick intervals until they change color, just be careful not to brown them or dry them out.
Portion the bass into 4 pieces and season generously on all sides with salt. Portion half of the citrus and herbs onto the center of each banana leaf. Top with the fish, then top with remaining citrus and herbs. Drizzle with the olive oil. Wrap like a tamal and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the fish feels tender to touch, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately in its wrapper, letting each person unwrap their own.
Chicken Tinga Tinga de pollo
Preparation time: 10 minutes • Cooking time: 45 minutes • Serves: 2-4
The first recipe any Mexican will cook as soon as they move out of their parents’ home and live on their own is chicken tinga. It is easy, reminds everyone of home, and the ingredients are very accessible. Although it is better made with dried chipotle chiles, canned chipotles work if in a pinch. It can be a soupy stew served over white rice and with tortillas. If you cook it down to thicken a bit more, it is a great topping on a tostada with fresh shredded lettuce, some crema, cheese, and fresh salsa.
- 1 lb (455 g) skinless, boneless chicken breast
- 2 large white onions, 1 halved and 1 sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, 3 whole and 3 sliced
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 dried or canned chipotle chiles, chopped to a paste
- 9 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
In a medium pot, combine the chicken, onion halves, whole garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Add water to cover and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, 30-40 minutes, skimming occasionally to remove impurities. Remove the chicken from the broth and let rest until it is cool enough to handle. Using your hands, pull or shred the chicken and reserve. Strain and reserve the broth as well.
In a medium to large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved shredded chicken, the chipotle chiles, tomatoes, and 1 cup (240 ml/8 fl oz) of the chicken broth (reserve the rest for other preparations). Cook until the tomato breaks down and changes to a brick color, 5-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Add some more cooking broth if necessary; it should be a bit soupy. Serve hot or let cool and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month in an airtight container.
Herb Guacamole Guacamole con hierbas
Preparation time: 5-10 minutes • Makes: 2-3 cups
Guacamole is probably the most recognized dish from Mexico, and there are thousands of variations. We like adding fresh herbs for roundness and freshness, to contrast with the creaminess of the avocados. Beyond that, regardless of the recipe you use, there are two things that are crucial: First, use ripe avocados, they should give in to a light squeeze, but the flesh should not be bruised or blackened. Second, make sure your avocados are at room temperature. Avocados are mostly fat, and our palate can taste the nuanced flavors of fats when they are warmer. Think about it, what sounds more appetizing: warm butter on a roll or cold butter on a roll? It is one of the simplest pleasures of our cuisine. Enjoy with tostadas on the side or as a condiment in tacos or other preparations.
- 4 Hass avocados, at room temperature
- 1 serrano chile, sliced (seeded for less heat)
- 1 small white onion, finely diced
- Juice of 1 Key lime
- 8 whole fresh mint leaves
- 8 whole fresh basil leaves
- 8 whole fresh tarragon leaves
- 15 whole fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
In a bowl, mash the avocados with a fork. Mix in all the other ingredients until completely incorporated.
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Reprinted with permission from Tu Casa Mi Casa (Phaidon 2019).
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