Diana Kennedy Presents the Gastronomy of Oaxaca at Books & Books on Wednesday

Oaxaca al Gusto by Diana Kennedy.jpg
Courtesy University of Texas Press
Diana Kennedy, cookbook author and leading authority on Mexican regional cooking, will present her latest work at Books & Books Coral Gables on Wednesday night at 8 p.m.

Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy may indeed seem never-ending -- it's a comprehensive 464-page coffee table book, laden with photos and recipes gathered from the regions of Oaxaca. If you're the kind of person who will trek to Homestead for an elusive ingredient, and you want to learn about Mexico's regional cooking, this is the book for you.

Besides Rick Bayless, there is probably no one else who has done more to educate and excite Americans about traditional Mexican cuisine than Diana Kennedy. The author has lived in Mexico since 1957, when she first moved from England to marry a foreign correspondent from The New York Times. Kennedy stood out like a sore thumb, but that didn't stop her from asking the local housewives and farmers to show her how to cook tamales, moles, and frijoles. Over the decades, she compiled these regional recipes into several books, including The Art of Mexican Cooking and Mexican Regional Cooking.

Recipe after the jump.

Kennedy's recipes are not the stuff of a thirty-minute meal. They generally take an investment of time. First, you often have to gather at least one or two ingredients that may or may not be found at your local supermarket (like squash flowers, chiles xcatik, or chiles costenos). Thanks to an increasing diversity of offerings at supermarkets, finding these foods is easier now than when Kennedy first published her books in the late '70s and early '80s. She also usually provides a more commonly found alternate ingredient.

The preparation of her recipes is often lengthy and intensive, as well. Home cooks now avoid lard, a common ingredient in traditional Mexican food. In The Art of Mexican Cooking, Kennedy writes, " ...Unless it is strictly forbidden for stringent health of religious practice, use it. Tamales, above all, beans, and other dishes will be much more delectable and authentic."

Kennedy feels the time spent foraging for ingredients and preparing recipes is worth it if you want to taste something truly unique and authentic. The way she sees it, Kennedy is collecting and preserving the food ways of a culture. She writes for the "aficionado, who in my experience, will beg, borrow, grow, or mail-order in order to re-create faithfully the authentic flavors of this compelling and addictive food."

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David Samayoa
Short Order prepares Diana Kennedy's Salsa de Huevo. Recipe below.
On that note, here is a recipe from Kennedy's latest book, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy. Salsa de Huevo is a common breakfast dish in Oaxaca. It's not the quickest breakfast, but if you broil your tomatoes and peppers in advance, you can cut down your prep time in the morning. It's comfort food with a kick, a breakfast for any time of the day.

Salsa de Huevo
From Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy by Diana Kennedy
University of Texas Press

Makes 4 portions.

5 large eggs
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound (450 g) tomatoes, broiled or simmered in very little water
3 garlic cloves, toasted and peeled
2 chiles de agua, broiled, skinned, and deseeded, or substitute either chiles gueros or jalapenos
Approximately 2/3 cup (170 ml) water
Salt to taste
2 large springs epazote

To serve:
  Queso fresco, crumbled
¼ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaved parsley

Beat the eggs with salt to taste.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the eggs in a fairly thin layer, and cook, lifting up the edge of the pan so that the eggs cook evenly. When the "omelet" is set and the bottom slightly browned, remove from heat and cut into 8 pieces. Leave the residue of oil in the pan.

Blend together the tomatoes, garlic, and chiles to a slightly textured sauce.

Add to the pan and cook over fairly high heat, until the sauce is reduced a little, about 5 minutes. Dilute the sauce with water, add the salt and epazote, and continue cooking over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Add the omelet pieces and reheat for just a few minutes. Serve with plenty of the sauce and sprinkle with the cheese and parsley.

As a variation:
With or without the eggs, add 2 ounces (about 50 g) of thin chicharron, broken into small pieces, and cook until it softens.

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Books & Books

265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL

Category: General

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