For Chef Traci Des Jardins, Mexican food is soul food. The owner of Jardiniere and Mijita Cocina Mexicana learned to cook at an early age from her grandmother Angela, who taught her to make authentic tortillas.
Today, Traci takes the same care with her food, both in her restaurants and at home with her son Eli. We asked her for her best recipes and tips for homemade Mexican favorites, from guacamole to salsas and tortilla chips, as well as her favorite ways to enjoy them. Read on to try them yourself.
“Once you have the hang of making salsas and realize how easy it is, you’ll never go back to store-bought,” says Traci.
She recommends experimenting with different types of chilies — from very spice to not-so-spicy — depending on your preferences. Removing the seeds from chilies lessens their bite. Also, when tomatoes are in season during the summer, make a simple pico de gallo: dice tomatoes, white onion and a serrano chile, and mix in chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
“Guacamole is so easy, and everyone will love you for making it,” says Traci. “The trick to keeping it from browning isn’t leaving in the pit or adding a ton of lime juice. If you start with fresh avocados, keeping the air away is the key to keeping it looking good.”
Here’s how to keep the air out: If you’re storing guacamole in a bowl, tap it against a countertop to remove any air bubbles. Then, cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface of the guacamole. If you have a vacuum device, Traci recommends vacuum-packing the guacamole to make it last for days.
Traci’s recipe: Guacamole
“There is nothing like warm, fresh chips — which makes frying your own very satisfying,” says Traci. “If you do it once, you will always know that the effort is totally worth it.”
If you have leftover chips, make chilaquiles! They are one of Traci’s favorite breakfasts. Just heat the leftover salsas in a sauté pan, add the chips, and toss a few times until thoroughly coated. Top with a scrambled or fried egg and some Mexican cheese — delicious.
Traci’s recipe: Tortilla Chips
For a healthy meal kids will love, Traci turns to bean burritos.
“Real Mexican burritos are tiny little things — the literal translation is ‘little donkey,’” she says. “They are typically only a few ingredients, not the several-pound messy things with everything but the kitchen sink that you find in the US.”
To make them, take a 10-inch tortilla, place a few big spoonfuls of refried beans with jack cheese in the middle, and roll into a 4-inch diameter roll with the ends folded in. Wrap in aluminum foil and send your child to school with a delicious, nutritious alternative to a sandwich.