Talk Food Festival: Pati Jinich

Posted on Sep 20, 2013 10:45am

Pati Jinich, author of "Pati's Mexican Table," joined THE TALK to create a Mexican-inspired cocktail party menu that would be perfect for an Emmy Night viewing party.


Crab Cakes with Jalapeno Aioli

Makes 6 Crab Cakes

Preparation Time: 15 Minutes

Cooking Time: 15 Minutes

Note: Cakes can be shaped up to 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

1 habanero, jalapeno, or serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped, or to taste

2 teaspoons chopped cilantro leaves and top part of stems, plus (optional) coarsely chopped leaves for garnish

3 tablespoons dried bread crumbs

1 large egg

2 teaspoons mayonnaise

½ teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, any shells and cartilage removed and meat broken into smaller pieces

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Jalapeno Aioli (recipe follows)

1 lime, cut into 6 wedges (optional)

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chile, lime juice, cilantro, bread crumbs, egg, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper and mix well. Gently fold in the crabmeat just until blended and the mixture holds together.

  2. Shape the crab mixture into six 3-inch-wide cakes about 1 inch thick

  3. Heat the butter and oil in a 12-inch-skillet over medium-high heat until the butter begins to foam. Cook in batches, adding only as many crab cakes as will fit without crowding, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until lightly browned outside and still moist inside. Transfer to a platter or plates and keep warm in a low (250 degrees Fahrenheit) oven.

  4. Sprinkle with cilantro if desired. Top each cake with a dollop or two of the aioli, and serve with lime, if you like.

*Mexican Cook's Tip: If you use habanero chiles, the spiciest of the fresh Mexican chiles, be sure to wash your hands with warm soapy water after handling them – and whatever you do, don't touch your eyes before you do so. If you want less heat, opt for serranos or jalapenos.

Jalapeno Aioli

Makes a Generous 1 cup

Preparation Time: 5 Minutes

Note: Can be made up to 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

1 jalapeno or Serrano chile, halved and seeded if desired, or to taste

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1 cup mayonnaise

¼ cup cilantro leaves

¼ teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.

*This punchy aioli is delicious not only with the crab cakes but also spooned on top of grilled fish, alongside Baby Potatoes with Lime and Parsley, or scooped up with pieces of crusty bread.

Classic Avocado Soup

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 10 Minutes

Cooking Time: 20 Minutes

Note: Can be made up to 12 hours ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 ½ cups coarsely chopped white onions

¾ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

3 large ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, meat scooped out, and cut into chunks

6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste

¾ teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste

1 ½ cups tortilla chips or croutons

1 cup diced queso fresco, Cotija, farmer cheese or mild feta

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat until the butter melts and begins to foam. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely softened and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and cook until it wilts, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

  2. Working in batches if necessary, place the avocados in a blender or food processor, along with the onion mixture, broth, lime juice, and salt, and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning.

  3. Serve the soup at room temperature, or chill and serve cold. Top each serving with some of the tortilla chips or croutons and cheese, or pass the garnishes in bowls at the table and let your guests customize.

*Mexican Cook's Trick: Once you've cut an avocado open, if you will not be using it all immediately, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to 12 hours. If it is mashed with freshly squeezed lime juice its color, flavor, and texture will hold even better. It's often said that storing the avocado meat with the pit in it keeps it from darkening, but this is a myth. The pit merely protects part of the meat so it will not oxidize. Plastic wrap does the trick – and better.

*About ripe avocados: Color is not enough to tell when an avocado is ripe. You have to hold it in your hand and give it a gentle squeeze. If it gives a little, it's ready. If it feels more like a rock, it's not. On the other hand, if it is squishy, it is overripe – and can't be used.

To ripen avocados at home, leave them out on the counter. If you want to speed up their ripening, wrap them in newspaper or put them inside a paper bag for a couple of days. Once they are ripe, use right away or refrigerate for up to 5 days.


Jalapeno Margarita

Serves 1

1/3 cup Silver Tequila

2 tablespoons Agave Syrup (or honey or maple syrup)

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

1 stem cilantro (including stem and leaves) roughly chopped

1 thick slice fresh jalapeño chile, inclusive of seeds

Pour Tequila, Agave and lime juice into a shaker. Add the cilantro stem with its leaves and the slice of Jalapeño with seeds. Give it a good shake. Let the mixture sit and macerate for 5 minutes.  Add 3 to 4 ice cubes, shake again and strain into glass.

Watermelon, Tomatillo and Mozzarella Skewers


2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño chile, seeded optional, more or less to taste

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cups cubed (bite size), ripe watermelon

2 cups (about 1/2 pound) tomatillos, husks removed, thoroughly rinsed, quartered (bite size, if tomatillos are big cut them into 8 segments)

1 pound baby mozzarella  

  1. In a small bowl, combine the mint, jalapeño, lime juice, vinegar and salt. Using a whisk or a fork, slowly add the oils in a thin steady stream until emulsified and slightly thickened.

  2. In small skewers or large toothpicks insert a watermelon cube, followed by a baby mozzarella and a quarter or eight of a tomatillo. Once assembled place them all on a platter. With a brush or a spoon, drizzle some of the vinaigrette on top of the skewers. Place the remaining on the side for guests to add more to their liking.

Excerpted from PATI'S MEXICAN TABLE, © 2013 by Pati Jinich. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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