Mexican Food 101 With Chef Sue Torres!

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With 2010’s New York Food & Wine Festival just around the corner, Remezcla enlisted one of our favorite Latin chefs, Sue Torres, owner of Sueños restaurant in Chelsea, to give us the scoop on this year’s event. Chef Torres, who opened her acclaimed restaurant in 2003, believes in the power of food to bring people together. In fact, she relegated the masses so well that her October 9th children’s workshop entitled “Spice It up!” taking place at 2010’s New York Wine & Food Festival is sold out. (Also sold out is the only other Latino-themed food festival event, featuring gastronomic heavy-hitters Marcela Valladolid, Patricio Sandoval and Aarón Sanchez.)

Bummed that we couldn’t be there to learn how to make Mexican snacks with the other niños—since, well, our culinary prowess is that of a kid’s anyway—we sought out Chef Torres to dish about her favorite Mexican food, whether there’s any hope for those of us grown-ups that still can’t cook and tips for our culinary-challenged Remezcla readers who someday want to be grow up to be little chefs, too!

So what are you eating right now?
Chicken enchiladas with salsa verde. All of Sueño’s chicken is organic, which makes a big difference. Although, the chicken in Mexico is far better than the chicken here, I must say. They’re eating marigolds over there, y’know?

What would you say best characterizes Mexican cuisine?
Well there are two things that I think about when I think Mexico: one is the corn and the other is a [combination of] tequila and mezcal. Those are two things that I don’t think anybody does better. Nobody can, really, but… (laughing)

What do you love most about Mexican food?
I really just love the ingredients themselves. I mean, you have hundreds of varieties of chiles in Mexico to choose from and, despite what people would think, each has quite a unique flavor.

Speaking of influences, your father is Puerto Rican, your mother is Italian, your training is French, you’ve said that your “heart is Mexican,”—and it seems to me that that ability to embrace so many cultures is really American. There’s so much culture coming into you as a person. How do you think that has affected your relationship with food?
I think it’s affected my relationship with food in a really positive way, obviously, from a very young age up till now. I will say when I was growing up the whole day was about “What are we eating?” […] There is a whole conversation that takes place in preparation for cooking and also in sitting down and eating that, to me, is really exciting. It’s relating to other people and having conversations and feeding off of each other and learning from each other. So all of the different cultures that have influenced me in the kitchen or as a person I think makes it exciting.

On October 9th, as part of the New York Food & Wine Festival, you’ll be teaching a children’s workshop called “Spice it Up!”. What can the kiddos expect from the workshop?
We’ll be making guacomole, which is really simple and all about sourcing the right ingredients—the right avocado, ripened tomatoes, onions and cilantro.

Any tips for our Remezcla readers who don’t really know their way around a kitchen?

Have a glass of wine. Pour yourself a drink. Just chill out. Have fun. If it doesn’t work out? Big deal. It’s not the end of the world. Cook things you want to cook so that it is fun.

2-Unplug (but make sure you leave the stove plugged in!)
You can’t be answering emails, talking on the phone, watching TV and cooking. You need to devote your time and your attention to what’s in front of you, which is cooking. Just cook.

3-Shred, Share, Repeat
Start out with baby steps. (No offense!) Master a really good roast chicken, and then learn how to use the leftovers. When I make roast chicken, as soon as that chicken is done, I’m shreddin’ it. The next day I [use the chicken] to make enchiladas or chicken salad. Start to think about how you’re going to use the other part of it and don’t just let it sit in the refrigerator and go bad. It’s not a leftover—make it something special; make it something different.

And in the spirit of food bringing people together, Sue Torres wasn’t about to let us leave before sampling her mouthwatering black bean and chicken sopes. Judging by the dish, if Chef Torres can teach kids and Remezcla readers to cook nearly as good as her, the future promises to be delicious!