A Chat With Adán Medrano, 'Truly Texas Mexican'

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(Courtesy)

Chef-food writer Adán Medrano's latest book, Truly Texas Mexican: A Native Culinary Heritage in Recipes features a look at the history of well, truly Texas Mexican food. He follows cuisine made and enjoyed by Mexican-American families in South Texas who's ancestors were Native Indians. Medrano talked to the Current about the food he'll present at the demonstration at 11:30 am inside the Central Market Cooking School Tent during Saturday's SA Book Festival.

What will you be cooking tomorrow?

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Canapes. (Courtesy Adán Medrano)

I'll be making Watermelon Canapés with Avocado, Serrano Chile And Grapes. You start with jicama wafers. I use a mandolin, but it's easier to slice it with a sharp knife very thinly. Then I take the watermelon, slice it about 1 1/2 inch thick and make scoop out a bit from the top and you lay that onto the jicama. I prepare my guacamole in a molcajete by first taking a little bit of white onion, chile Serrano and mash that into a fine paste, then fold in cubes of avocado. Then you fold into that red and white grapes that have been cut into quarters. I fill the watermelon with the guacamole con frutas for a flavorful and sweet bite with a kick of Serrano. I top the guacamole with a bit of starch, usually a deep-fried piece of yuca to add some mouthfeel.

When would you serve this?

This hearkens back to Native Indian ancestors who used yuca, chile, aguacate all in a molcajete. It has ancient roots, but its very hip and elegant. You could serve it as an appetizer during a dinner party.

What inspired you to look into Texas Mexican cuisine?

I'm a Chicano from the West Side of SA. This cuisine is in my blood. My mother, grandmother and ancestors have cooked this way for centuries. I grew up loving it. In 1976 I started the Chicano Film Festival, now CineFestival. And it's the same issue, we have an identity that's tied to Texas that's been there long before the river was a border. Five years ago, when I got tired of traveling, I fell in love with food again and attended the Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio.

What are the main differences in Texas Mexican and Tex-Mex?

There are two big differences. First, historically, Texas Mexican is grounded in decades and thousands of years of history. Then there's the flavor profiles, where Texas Mexican is characterized by a wide use of chile flavors, textures, colors, aromas. These cooking techniques, like herb boiling, steaming, drying, salting, have been handed down. Tex-Mex uses a limited range for chile, mostly for heat. It's the amount of capsaicin, not for the aromas and taste they lend to recipes. You wouldn't find nopalitos or more traditional recipes in Tex-Mex restaurants, instead mainly fried foods, processed cheese, heavy lard.

 

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