HUGO ORTEGA’S Street Food of Mexico



Chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe in Houston celebrates the authentic cuisine of his homeland, prepared by the true keepers of the country’s artisanal cuisine—Mexico’s home cooks

In Street Food of Mexico, award-winning chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe in Houston celebrates the authentic cuisine of his homeland, prepared by the true keepers of the country’s artisanal cuisine—Mexico’s home cooks. Unaltered by globalization and fast-food shortcuts, Mexican street food is “fast food” at its best and represents the best of traditional cooking. The scent of these familiar dishes wafts from bustling mercados and colorful carts out onto the street, drawing in hungry diners to experience the unique richness of flavors of this time-honored world-class cuisine. From the tacos and masa-based treats of the central highlands to the cocteles and ceviches of the coasts, each region has its specialties, and each dish conveys both deeply satisfying taste and a delicious feeling of place. In his warm way, Hugo shares the stories behind the dishes and provides recipes and instructions to make them accessible to cooks everywhere. The color and flavor of Mexican street life comes alive in this generous collection of recipes for tacos, tlayudas, cocteles, bebidas, dulces and much more. Join Hugo on his culinary journey, and your kitchen will become a vibrant, savory haven as you prepare these legendary foods of Mexico.

Hugo Ortega was born in Mexico City, the oldest of eight children, and grew up in its worst slums. Like many in his homeland, he began working at a very young age to help support his family. He sold homemade dulce de leche (caramel) at the mercado, herded goats on the mountainside, and sold fresh fruit juices and food prepared by his aunt in the busy streets of Mexico City. At age 17, Ortega left Mexico determined to make a better life for himself in Houston. He began work as a dishwasher and busboy to learn the fundamentals of the restaurant business and find contacts to help him improve his English. Now, national accolades include being named “Top Table” by Bon Appetit, “Where to Eat Now in 30 American Cities” and “Restaurants We Love” by Gourmet. In 2011, Ortega was named “Chef of the Year” at the prestigious Houston Culinary Awards, and he has recently been named as a finalist for the James Beard Award. His brother, Ruben Ortega, featured in the book, is the executive pastry chef at Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe and creates the restaurants’ notable desserts. | Penny de los Santos is an award-winning, internationally published photographer. She is Senior Contributing Photographer to Saveur magazine and a contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine. In addition to photographing cookbooks, she has received many grants, fellowships and awards for her work, and has been on assignment to Martha Stewart Living, Time Magazine, NewsWeek, Sports Illustrated, Mother Jones, Texas Monthly and many other periodicals.

Potatoes, Swiss Chard and Mushroom Tacos

(Tacos de papas, acelgas y champiñones)

Makes 4-8 servings

 

This vegetarian taco is fulfilling as well as hearty. This recipe shows that tacos are very

versatile for any eating lifestyle. This vegetarian Mexican sauteÅL can also be used as a

substitute for the chicken in the tacos de chile relleno (page 77).

 

⅓ cup olive oil

1/2 medium white onion, sliced

6 garlic cloves, peeled, minced

1/2 lb white button mushrooms, cleaned, sliced or a mixture of your choice

1/2 large bunch Swiss chard, washed, stemmed

2 chilaca or poblano peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled, deveined, cut into strips

1 large yellow potato, roasted, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 tsp kosher salt

8 regular-sized tortillas (page 74), warm

1 recipe Hugo’s salsa Mexicana (page 120), optional to accompany

 

Place cast iron skillet over medium heat, add olive oil to skillet and preheat 2 minutes.

 

Add: onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.

 

Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add Swiss chard and allow it

to wilt, about 5 minutes.

 

Add peppers and cook for 6 minutes.

 

Add potato and continue to cook 2 minutes. Stir gently as not to mash the potato.

 

Add salt.

 

Divide evenly among the tortillas. Serve with salsa Mexicana.

 

Variation: Tacos de papa con chorizo (Cubed Potato with Chorizo Tacos)

 

Substitutefilling with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped, 6 garlic cloves, peeled, minced,

 

1 pound good-quality Mexican chorizo, and 2 large roasted yellow potatoes.

 

Place cast iron skillet over medium heat, add olive oil to pan and preheat 2 minutes.

 

Add onion and cook for 3 minutes.

 

Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.

 

Lower heat and add chorizo. Allow to fully cook, about 20 minutes.

 

Add potatoes and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

 

Add salt to taste. Follow the rest of the cooking directions as specified above.

 

Omit salsa.