The “buoyant and brainy Mexican cooking authority” (New York Times) and star of the three-time James Beard Award-winning PBS series Pati’s Mexican Table brings together more than 150 iconic dishes that define the country’s cuisine
Although many of us can rattle off our favourite authentic Mexican dishes, we might be hard-pressed to name more than ten. Which is preposterous, given that Mexico has a rich culinary history stretching back thousands of years. For the last decade, Pati Jinich has sought out the culinary treasures of her home country, from birria to salsa macha, to coyotas, to carne asada.
Many of these dishes are local specialties, heirlooms passed down through generations, unknown outside of their original regions. Others have become national sensations. Each recipe is a classic. Each one comes with a story told in Pati’s warm, relatable style. And each has been tested in Pati’s American kitchen to ensure it is the best of its kind. Together, these essential recipes paint a vivid picture of the richness of Mexico.
Sweet lime and chicken soup
SOPA DE LIMA
To say this chicken soup is a signature dish of the Yucatán is an understatement. You’ll find it on just about every restaurant menu on the peninsula. What makes it uniquely Yucatecan is not just the sweet lime, known as lima, the variety of lime that is used there and gives
the soup its name as well as its unmistakable flavour, but also the harmonious combination of bell pepper (called chile dulce in the region) in the sofrito base, roasted garlic in the broth, and fragrant dried oregano. Even the tortilla chips that garnish the soup are cut differently from those in traditional tortilla soups: They are long strips rather than short strips or wedges.
You can find lima citrus in specialty stores and online, or substitute regular limes or lemons.
5 garlic cloves, not peeled
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds)
3 quarts water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3 bay leaves
2½ teaspoons kosher salt, or more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying the tortilla strips
1 cup chopped red onion
½ pound ripe tomatoes, chopped, with their juices, or half a 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 green or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
6 to 8 corn tortillas, cut into 2-x-½-inch strips and fried or baked until crisp
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and upper stems for garnish
1 sweet lime (or regular lime or lemon), thinly sliced, for garnish, plus 2 to 3 sweet limes (or regular limes or lemons) for squeezing
1 fresh habanero chile, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the broiler, with the rack 2 to 3 inches from the heat source. Place the unpeeled garlic cloves on a small baking sheet under the broiler and broil for 5 to 10 minutes, turning from time to time, until the skin is completely charred and blackened and the garlic is soft and mushy. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly; peel when cool enough to handle. Alternatively, you can char the garlic on a preheated comal or skillet, turning it occasionally. Remove from the heat.
Place the chicken breasts in a large pot and cover with 10 cups of the water. Add the charred garlic cloves, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and the pepper and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Skim off the foam, cover partially, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through but still moist. Remove from the heat.
Remove the chicken breasts from the broth and set aside until cool enough to handle, then shred along the grain into thin pieces. Strain the broth into a large bowl and add the shredded chicken.
Rinse and dry the pot. Add the oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are very soft, almost a mash, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the chicken broth and chicken and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the flavours have come together.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Top each serving with a handful of tortilla strips and garnish with some of the cilantro, lime or lemon slices, a squeeze of juice, and, if desired, some sliced habanero for added flavour and heat.
The sweet lime, Citrus limettioides, is of Asian origin. It was brought to Mexico by
the Spanish and it took hold in the Yucatán Peninsula, where it is now ubiquitous. It goes by various names, such as lima, sweet lemon, and limetta. The fruit is plump and round, about 21⁄2 inches in diameter, with smooth, deep green skin that becomes yellow and freckled as the fruit matures.
The pulp is a beautiful light green, with a perfumed aroma and an intriguing flavour that is much milder, sweeter—almost floral, but with a hint of bitterness—and less acidic than that of regular limes.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.