at her table.

carne en papas One of the great joys of my life is writing cookbooks. Danny and I are deep in development on our next cookbook, American Classics Reinvented. (Next week: green chile breakfast pie, johnnycakes with cranberry syrup, sourdough bagels, and cheddar-jalapeno biscuits.) We think, all day long, about the way these recipes taste to us and how we can meticulously measure and write more clearly so these recipes will taste good in your kitchens. We both hope to be doing this for decades. Another of my great joys in life is letting you know about other great cookbooks, especially the ones written by friends. We speak this weird language — grams, headnotes, pub dates, Amazon rankings — that only other people who write cookbooks understand. But more than that, when we meet people like Dorie Greenspan or David Lebovitz or Julie Van Rosendaal, we feel like we’ve met family somehow. These are folks who love to spend most of their time in the kitchen, feeding friends or fussing over how the sauce is reducing. These are our people. One of our favorite cookbook authors is Pati Jinich. Do you know her? Oh, you should! Pati is all life, a huge smile, an enormous heart, and one great cook. We had the chance to meet through this crazy internet cooking world a few years ago and I’ve loved following her food and cooking adventures since. Pati was raised in Mexico, moved to Washington D.C. with her husband and became a political analyst. I think sometimes the most interesting food professionals are the ones who started off with a different career and come to cooking later. (I’m biased, of course. I was a high school teacher until I was 40.) It’s as though that love of food and passion for the kitchen busted out of a bland exterior and insisted on it: pay attention. Pati left her job as a political analyst and started a program called Mexican Table in 2007: “Mexican Table is a culinary program which consists of a series of cooking demonstrations, tasting dinners and workshops. Through this program I try to swing a window wide open into the fascinating world of Mexican cuisine. I help familiarize people with its ingredients and cooking techniques, with a sprinkling of culture, history and traditions.” I wish I could sit at that table. As Pati says, “My most favorite place to be, in the whole wide world, is my kitchen. In fact, I think that’s where my family and I spend 98% of our time!” We can all sit in Pati’s kitchen, thanks to her television show, Pati’s Mexican Table. Have you seen it? You should search your local PBS station to find out when it’s playing. There are so few cooking shows left on TV anymore. Anything to do with cooking on air seems to be about competition, flames, tattoos, and kitchen drama. (Oh, I miss Julia Child.) Pati is one of the few true cooks on television anymore, ebullient and making everything look easy. The dish you see above is carne con papas, a simple stew with flank steak, red potatoes, and a tomatillo salsa. We made it today with canned tomatillos — it is January, after all — and it was perfect for a grey January lunch. As Pati said in her show, “This is a stew you find everywhere. It’s usually served in big huge pots. People make it in their homes all the time. People make this every week, at least once a week.” This is homey, every day food. As Danny said, it’s Mexican meat and potatoes. Pati and her production crew have been kind enough to make one of the episodes of Pati’s Mexican Table available for viewing for the readers of this site for 24 hours. That’s from 8 am PST today to 8 am PST on the 16th. Go. Watch this episode when Pati goes home to Mexico to visit her father. If you don’t fall madly in love with her, her cooking, and her show, I’m not sure we should talk anymore. And then you can buy her cookbook, Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking. This was absolutely one of our favorite cookbooks of 2013. Sadly, so many people seem to think Mexican food is giant burritos and nachos covered in gloppy cheese. But the best food of Mexico is refined, made of seasonal vegetables, and almost entirely gluten-free. This is good food for all of us. Oh, and if you want to make this beef and potato stew with tomatillo salsa, the recipe is on the website for Pati’s show. You might want to think about making that flan, too. Thank you, Pati.

11 comments on “at her table.

  1. Elizabeth

    Wow! What a fabulous post, episode, book, recommendation. Thank you so much!
    I believe you are onto something –
    »Pati was raised in Mexico, moved to Washington D.C. with her husband and became a political analyst. I think sometimes the most interesting food professionals are the ones who started off with a different career and come to cooking later. (I’m biased, of course. I was a high school teacher until I was 40.) It’s as though that love of food and passion for the kitchen busted out of a bland exterior and insisted on it: pay attention.
    This is so true! Monica Bhide, author of Modern Spice and delightful chef/food writer/teacher/and human being started her adult life as an engineer. She, too, busted out and paid attention.

  2. Sarah

    I checked out her cookbook from the library and immediately fell in love with it! The food and the stories captivated me! I have to buy it soon.

  3. Anna-Marie

    so HAPPY to see this link to Pati and her recipes. Not being American, I’ve always been confused at what is passed off as Mexican food in America. The food I ate and loved in Mexico was so much more nuanced and lovely than the “giant burritos and nachos covered in gloppy cheese” — oh yes. Making me smile big!

  4. Kristin

    Started watching the video, and couldn’t stop. What a fabulous personality, and the recipes look sooo good. She might even make me try flan again! Thanks so much for sharing. Time to check my local PBS schedule.

  5. Jenn Sutherland

    Oh, I do so adore your cookbook recommendations! My “to read” pile is stacking up high after all of the wonderful review posts of this last month. Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday is still one of my most used cookbooks — come to think of it, all of my “every day” titled cookbooks are pretty much the favorites I go back to over and over again…I’ll look forward to adding this one to the collection.

    1. shauna

      I’m afraid so! It was only for 24 hours. But her show is on PBS. Look for it on your local channel.

  6. Jan

    I made the flank steak stew last night–heaven! I will be trying many more of Pati’s dishes.
    Thank you for the link!