Pati Jinich, the official chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., recommends that home cooks stock up on dried or canned beans, chipotles en adobo, white or brown rice, and certain dried chiles, including ancho, guajillo, and chile de arbol for authentic Mexican cooking. Chipotle, the dried form of jalapeño, is also a good bet, as is piloncillo, a type of sugar used often in Mexican cuisine.
Jinich also recommends stocking up on certain fresh ingredients. These include fresh tomatoes, tomatillos, and white onions; fresh herbs such as cilantro, chives, and parsley; fresh chiles such as jalapeños, serrano peppers, and poblano peppers; and of course, avocados and queso fresco. Queso fresco can be found in Costco these days, and also in the international refrigerated section of the grocery store. If you can't find it, farmers' cheese is a good substitute, and feta, although generally drier, is also decent.
Although the writer of this article promised to never tell this story again, here it is in public: One morning during the fifth (or perhaps, sixth) grade, the teacher walked in and regaled the class with a story about having gone to see a hockey game with her husband, which was preceded by dinner at a fancy restaurant. It wasn't terribly interesting until she got to the part where she said that upon glancing at the menu, she yelled out loud, to the shock of the surrounding diners, "Mole?! Why would they serve that? Who would want to eat that? That's disgusting!" In the awkward silence that followed, her husband quietly explained that it was actually pronounced moh-LAY.
Jinich says that many people are still afraid of moles, although probably not because anything's been lost in translation. It's time-consuming, she hears a lot of people complain, and requires so much in the way of ingredients. However, not all moles are created equal. Her Mole Amarillito con Chochoyotes is as simple as it gets, and it's delicious. She says the trick to simplifying any mole is to think of it as a stir-fry: Prep all of the ingredients called for before you start cooking; have the spices toasted, the tomatoes charred or boiled, and the chiles stemmed and seeded.
This recipe from chef Aarón Sanchez (who needs no introduction) is the perfect side dish to serve with your Mexican feast.
Spanish and French cultures have left their mark on Mexican cuisine, and here's a recipe from chef Aarón Sanchez that shows Italian culture is not far behind.
This is the perfect post-Cinco de Mayo recipe for those who drank a few too many margaritas and partied a little too hard. Jinich spins up a colorful story to go along with it.