Growing up, we didn’t exactly enjoy a wide representation of ethnic foods at the dinner. My mom’s tacos were comprised of Old El Paso boxed shells and a seasoning packet – not exactly “authentic”. I have always wanted to be able to produce more flavorful Mexican dishes, and 500 Mexican Dishes puts me on the right path. These recipes are intended to convey a fiesta of flavors, textures, and colors that traditional Mexican cooking is so well known for.
The first chapter gets us going on the underlying recipes used in the more complicated dishes: pico de gallo, corn and flour tortillas and a large variety of salsas. I know these are easily found ready-made at the grocery store, but the homemade versions made a world of difference. Flour tortillas are nothing like the store version and the right salsa can make or break your dish. Definitely consider trying out the tortilla recipes and nail a signature salsa that you can rely on.
I am really impressed with the variety of recipes included here. When I think of Mexican food, I think burritos, enchiladas and tacos. Of course those are here, but I was pleasantly surprised to also find dishes like Chile-spiced Peanuts, Mexican Pot Roast and Sizzling Mushroom Fajitas. The recipes are not complicated or difficult, but they also don’t rely on shortcut packaged ingredients. Fresh meats and vegetables star here, boosted by herbs and seasonings.
For me, the only negative is the physical size of 500 Mexican Dishes, pretty small at 6.25″ x 6.25″. The entire series of 500 books (cupcakes, beer, soups, appetizers, etc.) are this size, so if you have the whole collection, I imagine they are quite pleasing on your shelves. Making up for the size of the book is the sheer quantity of great photos, nearly one on every page. The publisher has provided three interior photos if you are curious about the quality. I believe good photos are key in helping me decide if a dish would be something I want to try my hand at. With this, I could literally flip through the pages and the photos would tell me where to stop.
I think 500 Mexican Dishes is an excellent primer on Mexican cooking. There are over a dozen variations on the taco recipe and none of them mention Old El Paso. Browse the 500 recipes and decide which are right for you.
Jen lives in Michigan with her husband and six year old son. She writes reviews of children’s books on her blog, FIRR-Kids and loves filling her own shelves with cookbooks.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Sellers Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.