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04.12.10 by  

Smuggled: Secret Recipes from a Chef Mas Grande

Meet the man heading up Miami’s newest Mexican taquería and get his take on off-roading your next taco- and tequila-fueled dinner party. Menu and ingredients, included.

Not that anyone needs another excuse to crave Mexican food, but Mercadito Head Chef Patricio Sandoval shares a few ways to twist a traditional taco night into something special (hint: it doesn’t include a fast-talking chihuahua or a midnight “run for the border”). Unleash his techniques and signature dinner menu at your next tequila party.

Chef Patricio Sandoval's shot of Mexico from his last trip. Use it to channel his chef mojo while you cook.

how are you modernizing traditional Mexican recipes?

Patricio Sandoval: By adding new or different ingredients is one way. For example, in my chorizo tacos I add crispy Manchego cheese. Adding French techniques is another way, for example, I add a little butter to the chile poblano mojo that I use for the tacos de pescado. I also use French techniques in the way we braise or cook meats.

can a home cook master some of these off-the-radar techniques?

The most important thing when making a Mexican meal are the salsas, and this includes the treatment of the different chiles. Whether it’s either toasting or roasting them before using to enhance the flavor and aromas, this is going to determine the taste of the whole meal.

what are some of your other signature techniques?

I like to have all of my dishes balanced in the amount of sweetness, spiciness or sourness, so I use a lot of different citrus to add acidity, but then counterbalance with sweet fruits. Another important thing in my cuisine is texture — I always like to have something crunchy and something soft to create the balance I am looking for on every bite.

if someone wants to start experimenting with Mexican food at home, what’s a great place to start.

Making salsas. This is the base of all cuisines. Mexican salsa can be as diverse as all the existing types of chiles, tomatoes and fruits. The very basic ingredients of a salsa are: any type tomato, garlic, onion, any type of chile, salt. The differences are in the technique of cooking all the ingredients—either raw, roasted, boiled or toasted, the salsa can be made using any one of various techniques.

it seems like the hardest trick is to layer the flavors in Mexican food.

The trick is tasting the food until there is harmony. Balancing the sweet and spicy. Adding salt and lots of love.

if we wanted to create a completely unique Mexican dinner party spread, what would be on the menu?

Definitely start with a guacamole. It can be made with fruits or nuts to give variety. Second, I suggest some kind of botanas — tostadas or queso fundido are a good choice and easy to make at home. Follow with some tacos. My favorite are the shrimp or the steak tacos we make at Mercadito. Finally, you can’t miss the margaritas made with freshly squeezed citrus juices.

Patricio’s Mexican Dinner Party Menu

BOTANAS

DINNER

An authentic Mexican spread without the man hours or complicated recipes.