Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Mexican
California Rancho Cooking
McMahan, Jacqueline Higuera
Published: July, 2003
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California cuisine--with its goat cheese, arugula, and free-range chickens--took the culinary world by storm in the 1980s and '90s, but as Jacqueline Higuera McMahan shows us, "Rancho cooking" may be the original California cuisine.
Descended from early Spanish settlers--known as the Californios--McMahan comes from a culinary tradition that spans backward through the gold rush and the missions to Mexico and Spain. In Rancho Cooking she tells the tale of the Californios' cuisine, and
of her own family, through stories and recipes handed down for generations.
"Chiles are in our blood, my grandmother told me," McMahan writes, "I pictured rivers of dark chile flowing in our veins." That river of chiles flows not only in the
veins of the Higueras, but throughout the history of cooking in California. Beginning with the Spaniards who, by necessity, borrowed culinary traditions from everyone from the Moors to the Indians, and merging with Mexican food drawn from Aztec and other
Indian culinary traditions, Rancho cooking evolved as it was carried north through the Spanish territories in California. The Spanish brought with them their favorite foods--tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, corn, and of course chiles, to name a few--and the
settlers perfected the art of barbecuing, which was so well suited to their outdoor lifestyle.
What will strike readers first about this book is that the cooking represented is a far cry from the typical Mexican fare we're used to. This food has a
sophistication far beyond smashed beans and rice. Olives, figs, fresh herbs, squash blossoms, and pumpkins appear with surprising regularity, and olive oil, not lard, is the fat of choice for cooking. Of course you'll also find many of the dishes that we
think of as standard Mexican fare--enchiladas, tamales, quesadillas--but all have a distinctly Rancho touch. Enchiladas are filled with seafood and napped with a velvety tomato-chipotle sauce, quesadillas are stuffed with squash blossoms and epazote
leaves, and tamale dough gets extra flavor from olive oil in addition to the usual lard.
As much a history book as a cookbook, Rancho Cooking belongs on the shelf of anyone who calls him- or herself a connoisseur of California cuisine. --Robin
Donovan--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Jacqueline Higuera McMahan's personal history as an eighth-generation Californian adds spice to this sumptuous celebration of "the first
fusion food." The recipes, blending Spanish, Mexican, and Californian cuisine, include Butterflied Lamb in Pomegranate Juice, Adobado (Chile-Soaked Pork or Spareribs), Grilled Trout Wrapped in Fig Leaves, and Strawberry Enchiladas with Sweet Milk
Tortillas. With dozens of accompanying photographs in this collection of earthy yet sophisticated recipes of old California, McMahan also shares early California lore and memories of family meals.
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