Book Review: A Knead To Read

Sit down with a book when it's too hot to cook

A Knead To Read

Truly Mexican

by Roberto Santibañez
Wiley, 272 pp., $35

Roberto Santibañez and I were classmates in a very small Mexico City high school back in the 1980s. There's no way I could have known back then that the quiet and focused young man who sat at the end of the row would turn out to be a highly regarded, award-winning chef who prides himself on representing the best of Mexican cuisine with passion and respect. Years later, we reconnected during his short but sweet tenure as chef at Fonda San Miguel. His Brooklyn restaurant Fonda has been capturing the hearts and palates of Big Apple residents, as well as the attention of critics and writers. This new book is an exercise in simplicity. Santibañez deconstructs authentic Mexican cuisine, demystifying its complexity by giving a handful of principles to follow: Have the right utensils, use the freshest ingredients, prepare them properly (roasting, toasting, chopping, grinding), and combine them to produce the basic building blocks of Mexican cuisine – the sauces.

The book starts with many variations of classic, fresh table sauces like pico de gallo, moves on to cooked green and red salsas made with a variety of chiles, then proceeds to sauces for cooking, like salsa ranchera, entomatado, and Yucatan's favorite, chiltomate. He follows with a whole chapter on guacamole, with recipes for the basic, well-known styles as well as modern interpretations of his own creation: an apple-tequila guacamole, and one with blue cheese and toasted hazelnuts that he says people may suspect he developed "just to make Diana Kennedy cringe." Progressively the book moves into more complex sauces like adobos, pipianes, and moles, with suggestions on what meats and vegetables go best with each. By the time you reach the complex mole negro de Oaxaca, you should be ready to tackle it following Santibañez's careful and encouraging instructions. The book includes full-color step-by-step images, as well as a chart on different chiles, photos of hard-to-find ingredients, and a few side dishes to complete your authentic Mexican meal. Congratulations, Roberto, on a book that is not only beautiful but infinitely useful for novices and experienced cooks alike.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Mexican food
Claudia Alarcón's Top 10 Food and Drinks Keeping Austin (Real) Mexican
Claudia Alarcón's Top 10 Food and Drinks Keeping Austin (Real) Mexican
The best places to get a taste of Mexico deep in the heart of Central Texas

Claudia Alarcón, Jan. 6, 2012

More Roberto Santibañez
Maria Maria brings Roberto Santibañez to Austin, renovations continue in local eateries, and more delicious news

Virginia B. Wood, Sept. 26, 2008

More Food Reviews
I Am a Filipino and This Is How We Cook
I Am a Filipino and This Is How We Cook

Kahron Spearman, Oct. 26, 2018

Buttermilk Graffiti
Buttermilk Graffiti

Jessi Devenyns, Oct. 26, 2018

More by Claudia Alarcón
Savory Characters
Savory Characters
Cooking up the next generation of cocktails

Feb. 6, 2015

Calling the Shots
Calling the Shots
The women defining Austin's cocktail culture

Jan. 23, 2015


Roberto Santibañez, Roberto Santibanez, table sauces, Mexican food, Fonda, Fonda San Miguel

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle