"When I talk to my friends, who are mostly Mexican moms, they all say they want to keep their food traditions alive but don't have the time to make mole sauces, enchiladas, chilaquiles, and other foods they grew up on," Marcela Valladolid says. "My job is to resolve that problem."
Doing so has become a full-time job for Valladolid, who lives in San Diego. As host of the Food Network series Mexican Made Easy, and author of a cookbook by the same name, she translates often complex Mexican classics into recipes everyone has time to make.
Valladolid studied cooking in Los Angeles and Paris. But the foods and flavors of her native Tijuana, Mexico, inspire her the most. One of her favorite ways to bring out those flavors is roasting. "I'm a roaster, even in the summer," she says.
At home, Valladolid often turns to one of her favorite roast chicken recipes, flavored with a simple, savory adobo sauce. "Adobo is a traditional sauce made with mild chilies," Valladolid says. "I grew up eating pork marinated in adobo, and I wanted to combine that flavor with chicken."
Marcela Valladolid's Go-To Comfort Food
"Quesadillas. I know they're not the healthiest, but I have to be honest: A flour tortilla filled with Oaxaca cheese, turkey, avocado, and hot salsa -- it gives my tummy a warm and fuzzy feeling."
How Marcela Stays Healthy
"For me, it's all about portion control and natural ingredients. I stay away from processed foods and eat small portions."
Where Marcela Gets Her Recipe Ideas
"Farmers’ markets and, lately, the Mexican food festivals I've been attending, where the cooks use so many traditional Mexican ingredients."
One Lesson Every Home Cook Should Learn
"Tap into your family's recipes. It's the best way to nurture your family's history, and expand from there."
Adobo Roasted Chicken
Makes 6 servings
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
10 guajillo chilies, stemmed, seeded, deveined, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 whole chicken, backbone removed, flattened slightly
4 corn tortillas without added salt
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In heavy medium saucepan over moderate heat, heat oil until hot. Add onion, and cook about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 3 minutes longer. Add chilies, and cook both sides, about 1 minute.
2. Add broth, and bring to boil. Continue boiling until chilies are soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to blender and purée. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, rub adobo mixture all over chicken. Sear chicken, breast-side down, until golden. Turn, cover with adobo mixture, and transfer to oven. Cook, basting with extra adobo sauce every 20 minutes, for 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°F.
4. Pull chicken apart. Serve with warm corn tortillas to eat as tacos.
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