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Do you ever manipulate your spouse? I mean just plain set them up on the path you want them to follow. Can you do it without guilt?

I don’t want to think of myself as having crossed over to The Dark Side, but I’m rather accomplished at steering Suzen now.

“What’s that? ANOTHER Mexican cook book?” Suzen asked me with skepticism. She took the book from my hand. “Did you buy this because of the picture?” Now she was being very accusative, so the manipulation that was about to take place stirred not a scintilla of guilt in me.

The book cover for Fresh Mexican features author Marcela Valladolild. Marcela has one of the Disney-Mickey-Mouse-Club faces that has appealed to men since 1955.

Now, it turns out, the Marcela is a very accomplished culinary pro. She has books, TV shows, and writes with an important perspective: she likes Tex-Mex food but she grew up on real Mexican food and wants us to experience and enjoy authentic Mexican dishes. The 100 recipes in the book, while simple to prepare, are wonderfully different and intensely flavor packed. Imagine trying:

  • Lobster, Mango and Avocado Salad
  • Poblano Potato Salad
  • Puff Pastry Wrapped Jalapenos with Oaxaca Cheese

“Suzen,” I began strategically. “I really hadn’t noticed this picture. I got this book for you. You like poblanos, right? Look at this picture.” I showed her a full page phone of this Poblano Rice Gratin.

“Let me get the shopping list,” she announced. “We’re doing this tonight.”

And we did. And it is fiery good. And, and, we served it with the Bulgarian Cast Iron Chicken with Bacon and Sauerkraut I posted yesterday. It’s a perfect pairing.

There are books, like Fresh Mexico, where you can do the whole meal from that single book. With 4000 cookbooks, we can adopt more of a United Nations approach. Some Bulgarian here. A Mexican dish there. Something American tossed in. Oh, our American piece for this meal? That’s a frozen iceberg lettuce recipe that you will see this weekend.

This rice dish makes great leftovers, of course. The chile and cheese flavors penetrate and mellow. Easily prepared, you may find the being one of those side dishes that is a family standard.

Poblano Rice Gratin

Servings: 4-8


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup minced white onion
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • Kernels from 2 ears fresh corn
  • 2 poblano chilies, charred, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • ¼  cup Mexican crema or sour cream
  • ½ cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese


Heat the oil in a medium-size heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 10 minutes, or until opaque. Add 2 cups water and the corn kernels and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler on high.

When the rice is cooked, fluff it with a fork and stir in the chopped poblanos. Transfer the rice to a 7 x 10-inch baking dish. Drizzle with the crema, and sprinkle the cheese all over the rice. Broil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the top is browned in spots and the cheese has melted

Source: Fresh Mexico: 100 Simple Recipes for True Mexican Flavor by Marcela Valladolid