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From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients [Hardcover]

Diana Kennedy
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 9 2003
Diana Kennedy has been called the “ultimate authority, the high priestess” of Mexican cooking, and with good reason. For more than forty years she has traveled through her beloved adoptive country, researching and recording its truly extraordinary cuisine. Now Diana turns her attention to the book she readily admits “should have been written years ago.”

Diana’s objective in From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients is simple: to provide a guide to better understanding the ingredients Mexico has to offer and how best to prepare them. Her execution is little short of brilliant.

The book is invaluable to the novice eager for an introduction to Mexican cooking, but it is equally important for the aficionados interested in refining and expanding their knowledge and skills.

From My Mexican Kitchen takes readers and cooks on a tour of the primary ingredients of the cuisine, from achiote and avocado leaves to hoja santa, huauzontle, and the sour tunas called xoconostles—which are increasingly available in the United States. Diana unravels the dizzying array of fresh and dried chiles, explaining their uses and preparation; vibrant color photographs at last take the guesswork out of identifying them!

Step-by-step photographs and Diana’s trademark instructions (peppered with her over-the-shoulder asides) lead us through the proper techniques for making moles, tamales, tortillas, and much more. Some highlights: chiles rellenos, frijoles de olla, salsa de jitomate, fresh corn tamales from Michoacán, and bolillos (Mexican bread rolls). These recipes provide a solid grounding for the new Mexican cook, and Diana then sends readers to her earlier work for more advanced regional recipes.

Brilliantly photographed, with a text at once lively and authoritative, Diana Kennedy’s From My Mexican Kitchen is the one book anyone interested in this food cannot afford to be without.

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Diana Kennedy published her first cookbook in 1972. It was about Mexican food. She has been learning more and writing more ever since. From My Mexican Kitchen takes the reader by the hand and explores the indigenous ingredients that make Mexican food come alive, as well as the techniques handed down through the centuries for the right way to handle those ingredients. It's a book to combine with another, Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, for example.

The chapter headings include: "Cheeses and Cream"; "Cooking Fats and Oils"; "Fresh and Dried Chiles"; "Fresh and Dried Herbs"; "Vegetables, Beans, and Fruits"; "Meat, Poultry, and Seafood"; "Rice and Pasta"; "Making Antojitos"; "Making Moles"; "Making Table Sauces"; "Making Tamales"; "Making Tortillas"; "Making Vinegar"; "Making Yeast Breads"; and "Utensils". You'll find precise descriptions of ingredients as well as glowing illustrations, the techniques you need to prep any ingredients, and classic recipes to pull it all together. There's also a glossary of cooking terms and sources for various ingredients.

This is a beautifully laid out and illustrated reference text. Probably no one but Diana Kennedy could produce such a book, in English. Her voice, as ever, is clear and demanding, her instructions thorough and determined. She's a true instructor. Trust yourself to her care and you can rest assured that the foods you produce will be as close to the real thing as anyone working in print media can get you. It's Diana Kennedy's magic at work. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

Kennedy has often been termed the Julia Child of Mexican cuisine, and the comparison is almost inescapable in this competent, humorous and balanced guide to the techniques needed to create foods indigenous to Mexico. Kennedy, acclaimed author of three other standard-setting Mexican cookbooks, has been studying the country's food since 1957 and now lives there for much of the year. In the first part, the book focuses on ingredients, while the second part focuses on techniques, and both have recipes interspersed throughout. One of the fine qualities that Child and Kennedy share is a judicious outlook on fat: Kennedy instructs readers to "forget about cholesterol when you are next having breakfast in a Mexican market" and indulge in natas, a form of clotted cream. A comprehensive chapter on the many types of chiles could almost stand alone as a primer on the topic, and another on beans offers recipes for several types of refried beans, including Yucatecan Sieved Beans. In the introduction to a chapter on mole in the techniques section, Kennedy corrects the misperception that it's a kind of "chocolate sauce," and then she goes on to provide instructions for Mole Poblano and Mole Verde. The more complicated recipes are accompanied by useful step-by-step photographs, but it's Kennedy's no-nonsense tone that makes her both a trusted guide and a delight to read. This volume is encyclopedic in the sense that it is fantastically complete, but it is also utterly reader-friendly because it is so highly personal and helpfully detailed.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Diana my favourite Feb. 28 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book and easy to follow. Diana Kennedy is a great cook and every recipe is a delight. I have done most of her recipes
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Words cannot do justice to my high opinion of this outstanding cooking resource. Ms. Diana Kennedy (whom I already held in high esteem as the Julia Child of authentic Mexican cuisine) has outdone herself. She not only answered every unanswered question I had about ingredients and food preparation . . . she also taught me what I didn't know that I didn't know. Although my humble skills and impatience with scratch cooking will prohibit me from ever making more than a handful of these outstanding dishes in the proper manner, whatever I do make will be much better for what I learned From My Mexican Kitchen. I am especially indebted to the many photographs that portray the ingredients and the tricky steps of preparation.
Although the book is encyclopedic in its coverage from my perspective, clearly Ms. Kennedy was just scratching the surface of her knowledge. I hope she will consider taking some of the sections here (such as Making Antojitos, Tamales and Utensils) and making them into full length books.
To appreciate how detailed her knowledge is, you need to realize that she tells you about how the same dish is prepared in every part of Mexico . . . and how those practices differ among younger and older chefs. So there's an element of cultural anthropology here, too. I was especially grateful for her help in straightening out the various names applied to ingredients and dishes (which vary a lot from area to area) because they often contradict one another in meaning.
If you just buy the book and learn about what she has to say about preparing fresh and dried chiles, you will feel more than rewarded. That section was a masterpiece!
She also explains the many mysteries of lard . . .
Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mexican Cuisine Gets a Brilliant Presentation Nov. 12 2003
Format:Hardcover
Diana Kennedy's new book on Mexican cooking is the gold standard for books on country / regional cuisines. The credit to Ms. Kennedy is enhanced by the fact that the material in the book was quite plainly not written and produced by a team. The depth of the material is exceptional, considering the fact that Mexican cuisine is as broad and as regionally diverse as the more widely storied cuisines of Italy and France.
The book is much more than a collection of recipes. In many ways, it is a Larousse Gastronomique for Mexico, with all of the weight of authority that name carries,including sections on:
Menus - A small section, very informative for Mexican newbies, but not very deep.
Ingredients - All sections are deep and rewarding.
- Dairy
- Fats
- Chiles
- Herbs
- Vegetables and Fruits
- Meats
- Grains (Rice and Pasta)
- Seasonings
Techniques - Exceptional, doubly so because it includes both weights and metric units of measure.
- Antojitos
- Moles
- Table Sauces
- Tamales
- Tortillas
- Vinegar
- Yeast Breads
Utensils Native to Mexico - Some blemishes here. See below
Mexican Food Terms - Some blemishes.
Sources of Ingredients - By state in the US.
Note that unlike the situation with French and Italian ingredients, Ms. Kennedy generally has a low opinion of the quality of Mexican ingredients available in the United States. This makes it doubly useful that she has provided the means of making several of these base ingredients in the home.
As Diana points out in the introduction, she is both the food stylist and the hand model for all of the excellent photographs by Michael Calderwood. The photographs clearly enhance the value of the book.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tijuana Or Bust. Feb. 15 2004
Format:Hardcover
Is the key to happiness having a great love who is nice enough to kick the bucket many years before you? Or, dreaming of a ripe tomato while shivering through another Illinois winter?
From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients by Diana Kennedy conjures up life,love, lemon zest and a zest for living that begs the above question. A beautifully photographed book, including references to her previous cookbooks, she inspires us to reach beyond tacos.
Diana Kennedy is a Mexican food anthropologist. Kennedy, a Brit, has taken on south of the border cuisine and the country as her second home. Her spouse, a guy who looked like Spencer Tracey (Coming from the Mrs. herself.) passed away in 1967. In the time since, his widow has gone on to be THE expert at mining what goes into great Mexican food and being awarded that country's highest civilian honor.

Would she?...Could she?...have accomplished that had her spouse been by her side all these years? Is there something to be said about mad passion and seeing it buried that allows some women to bloom in rich soil in a way not seen among retiree couples playing shuffle board in Florida today?

I immediatly liked Diana Kennedy. There is a crusty, damish, no guff quality to her that makes the reader feel as if sitting on a kitchen stool, watching her work and digesting tidbits to get through life in a gutsy way.
When life throws tomatos, make salsa. Ole! --Laurel825
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
115 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mexican Cuisine Gets a Brilliant Presentation Nov. 12 2003
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Diana Kennedy's new book on Mexican cooking is the gold standard for books on country / regional cuisines. The credit to Ms. Kennedy is enhanced by the fact that the material in the book was quite plainly not written and produced by a team. The depth of the material is exceptional, considering the fact that Mexican cuisine is as broad and as regionally diverse as the more widely storied cuisines of Italy and France.

The book is much more than a collection of recipes. In many ways, it is a Larousse Gastronomique for Mexico, with all of the weight of authority that name carries,including sections on:

Menus - A small section, very informative for Mexican newbies, but not very deep.
Ingredients - All sections are deep and rewarding.
- Dairy
- Fats
- Chiles
- Herbs
- Vegetables and Fruits
- Meats
- Grains (Rice and Pasta)
- Seasonings
Techniques - Exceptional, doubly so because it includes both weights and metric units of measure.
- Antojitos
- Moles
- Table Sauces
- Tamales
- Tortillas
- Vinegar
- Yeast Breads
Utensils Native to Mexico - Some blemishes here. See below
Mexican Food Terms - Some blemishes.
Sources of Ingredients - By state in the US.

Note that unlike the situation with French and Italian ingredients, Ms. Kennedy generally has a low opinion of the quality of Mexican ingredients available in the United States. This makes it doubly useful that she has provided the means of making several of these base ingredients in the home.

As Diana points out in the introduction, she is both the food stylist and the hand model for all of the excellent photographs by Michael Calderwood. The photographs clearly enhance the value of the book.

I am not very familiar with Mexican techniques myself, so, to evaluate the recipes, I concentrated on the baking sections and can say that they are worthy of the best presentations I have seen by baking specialists. In baking even more than with other techniques, measuring by weight, more especially measuring by the more precise metric scale, is essential to achieving consistant results, and Ms. Kennedy gives you the `full 9 meters' to good measuring, tempered by techniques to compensate for humidity. It even includes some tips I have not found in books dedicated to baking.

One of the greatest and most unexpected pleasures to be found by reading this book is the sense Ms. Kennedy gives you of her belonging to a community of cookbook authors. She does not simply drop names. She cites and credits people like Julia Child and Paula Wolfert for their insights and facts uncovered. The thrill is not so much in acquiring this information as it is in seeing the author and her subject placed within a broader world of culinary ethnology.

There are three sections to the book which could have benefited from some judicious copy editing. The first is the introduction where many Mexican terms and locations are used before they were explained. It would have been better to place this section after the section entitled `Mexico'. The second is the Mexican Food Terms section. It is said that some terms cannot be translated into English, yet the explanation of the term does not succeed in really communicating the sense of the term. The third is the `Utensils Native to Mexico' where a similar problem occurs. A term has no English equivalent, yet the book does not provide a picture of the utensil, even though pictures of translated terms have excellent pictures accompanying the text. Don't get me wrong, this section is very, very good. It just has some things which could be better. One last criticism, also in the purview of a copy editor, is some awkward word usage, such as when people `waft' between Mexico and the US. Doesn't work for me.

A rare but excellent feature of this book is the references to recipes and techniques in Ms. Kennedy's earlier books. I'm sure this can be annoying for someone who does not own these books, but it ultimately adds to the value of the present value as well as enhancing the value of her earlier books. At the very least, it means you are not paying for things which have been published elsewhere. I can think of more than a few cookbook writers who would benefit from this feature.

Anyone who has any interest in Mexican cuisine will be richly rewarded by reading this book from cover to cover. Anyone who has a general interest in good cookbook writing will be rewarded by reading this book from cover to cover. Anyone who has an interest in the origins of cuisine will find much here, but this is a cookbook, not a book of history or linguistics. Anyone with an interest in trying new types of baking (or suggestions on how to write a good baking recipe) will find many rewards here. I would look to this book before executing any Mexican recipe by any author. This is a book against which others should be judged. I would hope other authors would go to school on this volume.
68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ultimate Cooking-from-Scratch Resource for Mexican Cuisine! March 22 2004
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Words cannot do justice to my high opinion of this outstanding cooking resource. Ms. Diana Kennedy (whom I already held in high esteem as the Julia Child of authentic Mexican cuisine) has outdone herself. She not only answered every unanswered question I had about ingredients and food preparation . . . she also taught me what I didn't know that I didn't know. Although my humble skills and impatience with scratch cooking will prohibit me from ever making more than a handful of these outstanding dishes in the proper manner, whatever I do make will be much better for what I learned From My Mexican Kitchen. I am especially indebted to the many photographs that portray the ingredients and the tricky steps of preparation.
Although the book is encyclopedic in its coverage from my perspective, clearly Ms. Kennedy was just scratching the surface of her knowledge. I hope she will consider taking some of the sections here (such as Making Antojitos, Tamales and Utensils) and making them into full length books.
To appreciate how detailed her knowledge is, you need to realize that she tells you about how the same dish is prepared in every part of Mexico . . . and how those practices differ among younger and older chefs. So there's an element of cultural anthropology here, too. I was especially grateful for her help in straightening out the various names applied to ingredients and dishes (which vary a lot from area to area) because they often contradict one another in meaning.
If you just buy the book and learn about what she has to say about preparing fresh and dried chiles, you will feel more than rewarded. That section was a masterpiece!
She also explains the many mysteries of lard . . . including how to prepare it, how it compares in flavor to vegetable oils, how the appearance of the dishes are helped, and what the health pros and cons are.
The section on tamales was equally fascinating. I have never seen them made, and was reluctant to try. With this book, it should be a snap.
If you are wondering how the book fits in with her many other books, Ms. Kennedy cross-references recipes and sections in those books. There are also a few basic recipes (many of them repeats from the other books) so you can start applying what you learn here.
If you have read none of her books, you have a great series of treats (and taste treats, as well!) ahead of you. I suggest that you buy this one first and graduate to The Art of Mexican Cooking as your next resource.
The book's sections cover:
-- Cheeses and Cream
-- Cooking Fats and Oils
-- Fresh and Dried Chiles
-- Fresh and Dried Herbs
-- Vegetables, Beans, and Fruits
-- Meat, Poultry, and Seafood
-- Rice and Pasta
-- Spices, Aromatics, and Sweeteners
-- Making Antojitos
-- Making Moles
-- Making Table Sauces
-- Making Tamales
-- Making Tortillas
-- Making Vinegar
-- Making Yeast Breads
-- Utensils
Via con Dios!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Doyenne of interior Mexican cuisine Aug. 12 2006
By K. Sheley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This cookbook is an exceptional production by Diana Kennedy, winner of the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Lifetime Achievement Award. The multitudinous photos (Michael Calderwood) use her hands as models of perfect techniques for most of the recipes. You can't read and view the book without knowing exactly what to do. Even if you know a great deal about Mexican and Southwest cooking, you will learn an immense amount from this well-illustrated book. She shares her secrets and knowledge with all, and you can choose just how complex to make a recipe, from toasted seeds (typical), to avocado leaves (traditional, but hard to find). I own a number of her cookbooks, including out of print books, and am utterly delighted to have this set of her experiences laid out before me. You will notice she is wearing a white apron and blouse, a great idea to deal with foods which stain easily, from peppers to tomatoes. I wish I had the address of her apron company; it would save me a lot of t-shirt stains.

Seriously, this is the most explanatory of all her books so far. You would be remiss in not having it in your collection.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reference Book Dec 10 2007
By Information Junkie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This season, I decided to make tamales. Although I have had this cookbook on my shelf for a while, I hadn't bothered to read it . . . and then I made some tamales from a recipe from the internet . . . and suddenly, this book's value became very apparent. The chapters on fresh and dried chilies are worth every penny alone . . . what to look for, why, how to prepare, what NOT to do to them (and why) . . . fascinating late night reading! The section on tools is also handy. While I haven't tried any recipes from the book, I expect to refer to them frequently, to compare and contrast to others that have been recommended by friends . . . so many recipes out there on the internet are missing the subtleties of technique and why slight variations in preparation can make a big difference.

This book explains clearly the hows and the whys for many ingredients and techniques, which helps greatly in figuring out how to make something better if it doesn't turn out as expected the first time. This is the kind of knowledge that desperately needs to be passed on and preserved, so I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning authentic Mexican cooking.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Queen Speaks! Nov. 6 2006
By Gentle Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Diana Kennedy is the undisputed Queen of Mexican cuisine writing in English. I've been cooking from her books and giving them as gifts for years. This one is a wonderful companion to all the others, showing and discussing ingredients and techniques in patient detail.
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