Sometimes a love of a culture will change a person so dramatically that their life's work becomes a mission to encapsulate the best of the culture in their everyday lifestyle ... and they end up becoming the ultimate ambassador for that culture. In the world of food, we have seen numerous such ambassadors as we've investigated Gourmet's 50 Woman Game Changers - Julia Child and her love of French culture and cuisine, Elizabeth Andoh and her passion for Japanese philosophy and cuisine, and now, Diana Kennedy and her immersion in Mexican culture and cuisine.
She has lived and worked in Mexico for the past 50 plus years, with forays out and about to other places, but she always returns to her adopted country. Her knowledge of Mexican plants, animals, peoples and food is encyclopedic and she has been cajoled by other foodie greats to share her passions with the world. The results have been stellar cookbooks, cooking classes, and interviews that reveal an extremely particular personality - one with strong opinions, a sharp tongue and wit, and an exacting attitude toward foodstuffs and cooking technique. The foods she makes are simple, yet perfect because of her close attention to her ingredients' quality and her exacting preparations. She takes an almost anthropological approach to her recipes, using native ingredients, insisting on preparation techniques that approach the regional techniques.
Diane Kennedy may be considered somewhat of a culinary curmudgeon, but who cares when you have it so right in the kitchen.
"In Mexican cooking, the sauce is more important than the meat because meat can be scarce."
- Diana Kennedy
I chose to make another meatball recipe ... SB and I love our meatballs and I always make big batches because we love them left over for lunchs. The following recipe is an adapted recipe that I found while researching Diana Kennedy. It was posted on a Mexico Cooks!, a site hosted by Cristina Potters. It was a very different taste experience because the meatballs have an such nteresting herb/spice combination - mint, oregano, cumin and the serrano chile heat. The sauce is a very mellow sauce also ... the tomato and chile heat is tamed by the stock that is added to the simmering sauce. The overall effect makes for was a smooth and soft flavour experience when eaten over steamed white rice. Try it and see what you think!
adapted from a Diana Kennedy recipe
1 ½ tbsp. long grain riceBoiling water
¾ lb. ground pork
¾ lb. ground beef
2 small zucchini (6 oz.), chopped to a fine dice
a scant ¼ tsp. dried oregano
4 sprigs fresh mint
1 chile Serrano
¾ tsp. salt
a scant ¼ tsp. ground cumin
⅓ of a medium white onion
Making the Meatballs:
- Place the rice in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Set it aside to soak.
- While the rice is soaking, place the eggs, spices, Serrano, and onion in a blender bowl and pulse to make a semi-smooth slurry.
- Place the meats in a deep bowl, add the diced zucchini, and mix together with your hands.
- Pour the egg mixture over the meat, drain the rice and add it to the mix.
- Smush everything together and form meatballs that are about 1 ½ inch in diameter.
- Set them on a plate and refrigerate while you make the braising sauce.
3 medium plum tomatoes (1 lb.)
1 chile Serrano
3 tbsp. lard, vegetable oil, or peanut oil
1 medium white onion
5 c. rich broth – chicken or beef
Kosher salt, to taste
Add-ins for Serving:
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into sticks2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks
Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish
Making the Sauce and Finishing the Dish:
- Boil water in a saucepan and gently drop the tomatoes into the water, letting them blanch for 5 minutes – or just until the skins split. Remove the tomatoes and peel the skins from them.
- Place the tomatoes, chopped onion, Serrano chile in a blender bowl and purée the mixture.
- Heat the oil/lard in a flameproof cooking pot. Turn the tomato sauce into the hot oil (be careful! This is a spattering event – explosive!) and stir, stir, stir for about three minutes.
- Add the broth, turn down the heat to a low simmer.
- Add the meatballs, cover the pot, and let everything simmer very gently for about an hour.
- After the first hour of cooking, add the prepared carrots and potatoes and return the cover. Continue simmering for about half an hour. Prepare some rice while the dish finishes cooking.
- To serve, place a serving of rice in a large shallow bowl and top with a couple meatballs and a spoonful of the vegetables and sauce. Garnish with cilantro and parsley.
Note: Now that you've seen my take on the 45th Game-Changer on Gourmet Live's list, travel on over to Mary's blog One Perfect Bite to see what everyone else has posted and written on Diana Kennedy. It will surely be a Mexican feast for the eyes and the stomach!