‘Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling’ Cookbook Review: An Essential, Flavor-Filled Intro

For a sense of what we’ve been missing all this time, may I suggest Lopez’s lamb barbacoa on page 96? Inspired by a dish she had growing up at the Tlacolula Sunday market in Oaxaca, it’s coated in a rub made by liquefying two onions and a head of garlic in a blender with guajillo chiles and a few handfuls of herbs and spices—like cinnamon stick, anise seed, cumin, and oregano—before marinating it overnight. The next day, the marinated lamb is wrapped in banana leaves like an Oaxacan tamale and then tucked inside a Dutch oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

After two unattended hours, you lift the lid, peel away the banana leaf, and shred the meat, which is bathing in its own sauce. You’ll want a tortilla to help you get a handle on all that deliciousness, and perhaps a squirt of the lime, cilantro, and onion “con todo” salsa, before preparing yourself to float away in a state of bliss.

While the book is what you might call meat forward, it is also quite vegetarian friendly. Pipian is a dip for grilled veggies—or anything really—and the version included here is worth the purchase price alone. For it, I grilled a habanero, garlic, red bell pepper, tomatoes, and sourdough bread, then blitzed it all in my food processor with oil, almonds, salt, and vinegar to delicious effect.

Photograph: Quentin Bacon

There are Lopez’s takes on food you’d expect, or at least hope for, like guacamoles and bean-and-rice dishes, but she also layers on the fun with fruit salad with chile-lime salt, and a cheese and chicharrón board. For smaller dishes that turn the volume to 11, there is cauliflower and jalapeño in escabeche, esquites, avocado oil tortillas, grilled nopales, and a whole chapterful of salsas. If you want to know what’s in the “naked taco,” check out the potentially suggestive photograph on page 177.