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Mely Martínez Transcript

 Mely Martínez of Mexico In My Kitchen

Kerry Diamond: Hey, Bombesquad. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the podcast that's all about women and food. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. I am not coming to you from my apartment in Brooklyn. I am recording this in a badly lit hotel room in Richmond, Virginia. I'm on the road with my mom because we have some family things to take care of. I hope to check in with some of my favorite female chefs while I'm down south, so keep an eye on my Instagram.

Today's show is all about Mely Martínez, the home chef, mom, and blogger behind Mexico in My Kitchen, the delicious online destination for all things traditional Mexican cuisine. Mely started her blog 10 years ago, as a resource for her then teenage son, so whoever he married could have his mom's recipes. Spoiler alert, her son isn't married, but he's a good cook today. No surprise given who his mom is. It's been Mely's dream to have her own cookbook one day. Her dream, happily, has come true with the recent release of The Mexican Home Kitchen: Traditional Home-Style Recipes That Capture The Flavors and Memories of Mexico. Mely and I talk about her supermarket shock when she moved to America, her advice on making tortillas from scratch, and some highlights from her book and her blog.

Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting today's show. Thank you to everyone who DMs me to tell me how much they love Kerrygold butter and cheese. We do too.

Some housekeeping? Don't miss Radio Cereza Bomba on IG Live. This special miniseries is part of our Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration. It's host by our friend Vera Rios, a Peruvian Anthropologist studying toward her MA in food studies at NYU. It's our very first Spanish language program, and you can catch it on Tuesday at 2:00 pm EST on IG Live. Vera has some terrific guests lined up, and if you miss the show, you can catch it on our IG TV. Guess who this week's guest is? Big one. It's Gaby Melian of Bon Appetit. We all love Gaby, so be sure to check in. We'll be right back with Mely Martínez, after this word from Kerrygold.

Kerrygold Announcer: Kerrygold is delicious all natural butter and cheese, made with milk from Irish grass-fed cows. Our farming families passed their craft and knowledge from generation to generation.

Kerrygold Farmer: One fifth generation goes back over 250 years.

Kerrygold Announcer: This traditional approach is the reason for the rich taste of Kerrygold. Enjoy delicious new sliced or shredded Kerrygold cheddar cheese, available in mild or savory flavors at a retailer near you. Find your nearest store at

Kerry Diamond: Now for my chat with Mely Martínez from Mexico in My Kitchen.

Kerry Diamond: So Mely, welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe.

Mely Martínez: Thank you for inviting me.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you for doing the Open Book feature. We just launched that a few weeks ago, so it was great to have you on there.

Mely Martínez: I'm so happy for that. I love the way you guys do all the process of the interview and the different kind of questions that you ask the others. It's nice to see the process they went through, and especially what they said about what items in their kitchen are important for them, and things like that.

Kerry Diamond: You and I will definitely talk more about that. It's a big deal to have a book, and you worked on your blog for more than 10 years.

Mely Martínez: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: This is your debut cookbook, right?

Mely Martínez: Yes. It is.

Kerry Diamond: Before you had this popular blog, and before you had this beautiful cookbook, you were a schoolteacher, right?

Mely Martínez: Yeah. I was a schoolteacher when I was younger, about the age of 20, and then until I was 26 I was a schoolteacher. Since I married and my husband traveled a lot and was relocated to different cities, it was not easy for me to keep a job, because sometimes we had to relocate in the middle of the school season.

I remember the last job I had, the principal of the school was so disappointed that I had to be totally out of school in February because the children already were fond of me, and that they loved me. It would be hard to change a teacher in the middle of winter time. That's why I decided not to go back to teaching, because of my husband's job.

Kerry Diamond: Got it. Are you a full time blogger now?

Mely Martínez: Yep.

Kerry Diamond: Mely, let's start at the beginning, because you fell in love with cooking in the kitchen at a young age, right?

Mely Martínez: Yes. Yeah. Definitely. Since very young I liked cooking. For example, my mom was so busy because we were eight children. I started buying small recipe books. Trying to remember the first thing I did when I was in my teens was a banana bread. That was something that my mom... I never saw my mom baking cakes, so I wanted to do something that I didn't see in my home. That's the first thing I remember baking. I think I was 14, 15, something like that.

Kerry Diamond: That's so funny. I feel like banana bread is a gateway recipe for a lot of people.

Mely Martínez: Yep.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. Banana bread. That was your first recipe. Did you cook a lot with your family, with your mom or your grandmother?

Mely Martínez: With my grandmother. At home we helped a lot because we were a lot of children. We had to help my mom. My mom always sent the oldest one, the older kids, to spend the whole summer at my grandma's farm. For us it was a vacation, but for my grandma it was like an extra hand in the kitchen, somebody else to help in the kitchen, with me being a girl. My brothers will help with other things, like guys did like hunting or fishing, things like that.

Kerry Diamond: What did you help your grandmother with in the kitchen?

Mely Martínez: To carry water from the river to the kitchen. To grind corn. To take the men of the house the lunch to the field where they were working. When she finished making lunch, sometimes they couldn't come to the farm to eat because they were working, so you have to go to the field where they were working, to take the lunch to them.

Kerry Diamond: Mely, what kind of farm was it?

Mely Martínez: They had a sugar cane plantation. Plus, they also have corn fields, but the corn mostly was for their own consumption through the year.

Kerry Diamond: Did you cook with your grandmother or was it more just miscellaneous chores that you did for her?

Mely Martínez: You know what... It was a big family because one of my uncles lived with my grandma. His wife had 16 children, can you believe it, at this time. All the women of the house have kind of a working station in the kitchen. Everybody will be doing something. My chore was to grind the corn in the manual corn grinder. Then somebody, my aunt, will grind the corn in the metate. That is a lava stone grinder. My grandmother will do the dishes or the stews. My cousin, she will do the salsas. Everybody has a job, a designated job in the kitchen, so we worked together to create a meal.

Kerry Diamond: Do you have some favorite meals you remember from that time?

Mely Martínez: Yes. She made some tacos that is scrambled eggs with salsa. I like it because she scrambled the eggs and set it aside. Then she fried the salsa and then placed those scrambled eggs inside the salsa in the frying pan. Then she made you tacos, where she just grabbed the freshly made corn tortillas and put some of that egg in salsa, folded the tortilla, piled it in a cloth napkin and grabbed them. Then they kind of steam them together, so they make it soft. Just thinking about it, now I want some. That's one of the things that I really like. It's something very simple, but it's very tasty.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. I want that for breakfast now every day also, Mely. Any other food memories from your grandmother?

Mely Martínez: Not just food memories. Things like how to preserve the food. There was no electricity or running water on the farm, so she has the baskets hanging from the kitchen. Those baskets, she will have the dried peppers and beans and things like that. I didn't know why she would hang them in baskets. She said it was because then critters from the farms come to the kitchen in the middle night and can eat them. So you hang them from the ceiling in baskets. They can't reach it.

Also, I learned how to go look for firewood. Even though it was a rainy day you need to look for firewood to fire the stove. One of the things that I learned is to look underneath the trees, very close to the trees, and you will find that. If you look, you're going to find small branches underneath the leaves that are going to be dry. You can fire your kitchen stove with that.

Kerry Diamond: Where did you grow up, Mely?

Mely Martínez: I grew up in Tampico, Tamaulipas. It's in the Gulf of Mexico. It's a seaport.

Kerry Diamond: What did your mom make at home? What were some of the dishes she would cook a lot?

Mely Martínez: Entomatadas. That is corn tortillas dipped in tomato sauce and then topped with crumbled queso fresco and chopped onion. Since it's a seaport, one of the things that she would do is fry fish, the whole fish. You fry the whole fish and then make a molcajete fresh salsa that you just grind all the ingredients of the salsa, fresh in a lava stone mortar. One corn tortillas. It's a very simple dish, but it's delicious, especially when the fish has been just caught early in the morning.

Kerry Diamond: It sounds so good. Gosh. You moved to America when you were 20, right?

Mely Martínez: No. No. I came to live to the states when I was 31. I lived here for five years. My son was born here. He was born in Ohio. Then we moved back to Mexico. Then we came back in 2003.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. Okay. What was it like when you moved here? What was the experience for you?

Mely Martínez: It's a completely different world. Especially when you have spent time living in farms or teaching in rural areas, and you see how all the conveniences that you have here. A lot of people have a car to move the food. But about food, one of the things that really surprised me is when I went to an American supermarket for the first time. When I saw the aisles of the supermarket, or the freezer. When I saw the frozen food, I was like, "Oh my God. What is this?" Everything was in a carton box and it looked so beautiful, the picture. I wanted to try it. I said, "Oh, one day I'm going to try." Then when I tried it, I didn't like it.

Kerry Diamond: Oh no.

Mely Martínez: I didn't like it at all. That wasn't a smart move for me. Talking about food, one of the things I was really amazed is about all the frozen food.

Kerry Diamond: That's so interesting. Having grown up here, I guess I never really thought about that. How did you go about setting up your own kitchen? You've got all this convenience food. You've got these American supermarkets. What was your approach?

Mely Martínez: At the beginning it was not easy because it was in the early 90s. We were living in Ohio and at that time finding ingredients to cook Mexican food was not easy. My husband and I used to travel to Chicago to buy tortillas and some dried peppers because we find out there is a large population of Mexican and Mexican Americans in Chicago. It was a six hour drive every six months to Chicago to buy Mexican ingredients for our cooking.

Kerry Diamond: Did things change for the better at the supermarket?

Mely Martínez: Let me tell you. Then we went back to Mexico. Then, when we came back, everything has changed. It was so many food options, Latin markets in bigger cities. It was a nice surprise to see that you can actually get jalapeños, the serrano peppers, you can easily find... In that time tortillas were just the ones that you buy at the store or the supermarket, but there were more options for cooking Mexican food. I really liked that, because if we even find out that there were Mexican bakeries or the supermarket has a butcher that sells cuts of meat that are familiar to us Mexicans.

Kerry Diamond: What do you think changed, Mely? What led to that?

Mely Martínez: I think that because, before we moved before 2003, there was a lot of problems in Mexico with violence. So many people moved to the states because they were afraid to be kidnapped or they were afraid for the families and the children to be in danger of the situation. There was not a nice time to be in Mexico. Families that could afford to move or to have the financial position to come and start a business here, they did it. So people came to San Antonio, Houston, and they started a business. They also brought with them some of the necessities that they have for food, for Mexican food.

Kerry Diamond: Now Mely, I read that you started your blog as a way to save recipes for your son?

Mely Martínez: Yes. When I moved, the first thing that I wanted to do was to write a cookbook with all the recipes that we cook at home. I started writing that book. I don't even remember what is that now. One of the things that I was very active, even before moving to the states, is I used to participate in cooking forums. There were some in English and there was one, a large forum from television station, in Spanish here in the United States, that had forums for cooking, Mexican cooking. I used to participate a lot. People asked for recipes, and I always liked to share a recipe or give tips. I have a thing I have always liked cooking, and writing down recipes or giving recipes. I met someone online that has a blog. She was living in my same hometown. I started a friendship with her, and we start sending emails back and forth, exchanging recipes. "Look what I have for dinner. Look what I cooked." She told me, "Why don't you start a blog?" My husband also told me that. That's how I started blogging.

The idea of having a blog instead of writing a book, it looks appealing to me because I was thinking, "Oh, if I write the recipes online, then wherever my son is he can just go online and find the recipes." I was thinking of that, and since he's my only son, I wanted to preserve that part of our culture, because I was thinking, "Maybe he marries an American girl or somebody from another country, and maybe she wants to learn to cook some of the meals his mom cooked for him." I wanted to have that available for him and whoever he's going to marry someday.

Kerry Diamond: That's so sweet. How old is he now?

Mely Martínez: 25.

Kerry Diamond: Is he married?

Mely Martínez: No. He's not in a hurry yet.

Kerry Diamond: Does he cook for himself, Mely?

Mely Martínez: Not often, but he's a really good cook. Whenever he comes over it's really good. He has, we call in Spanish, the sazón. They say people have a sazón when you cook something and it tastes good. When he cooks something, it's really good.

Kerry Diamond: People must have said that about you growing up, too.

Mely Martínez: Yeah. In my family, they know me and they say that, that they like what I cook.

Kerry Diamond: Because if you went on to do a food blog that you've had for over 10 years, and then published this beautiful cookbook, you clearly have a lot of food skills. When did people identify that in you, when you were younger? When did they start to say, "Oh, Mely really knows what she's doing"?

Mely Martínez: I remember when I was like 18. Every time we have some kind of family party or New Years or Christmas, my dad and my mom would say, "Mely, when are we going to cook for the dinner, for Christmas dinner?" I would be the one that will organize everything and say, "Okay. We're going to do this as a main dish. These are going to be the side dishes. And this is what we're going to buy." I was in charge of that.

Kerry Diamond: When they say we, what are we going to cook, did they mean what are you going to cook?

Mely Martínez: Exactly. Yes. It's like they passed that responsibility to me. They just asking, "What are we," but actually it's, "What are you going to cook?"

Kerry Diamond: How long did it take for you to find an audience for your blog?

Mely Martínez: A lot of time. A lot of time. I think like four or five years, that's what I think. Yeah. A lot of time. I didn't know anything about blogging or the internet and about SEO, about optimizing my pictures of my recipes. I just wrote a recipe and shared about stuff about the background of the recipe or the region of the country, in what part of Mexico did we eat that. I didn't optimize or didn't do anything technical in my blog for people to find me.

As a matter of fact, a young guy that contact me, when I recently moved to Texas five years ago, he lives in Austin. He sent me an email like... He told me, "I am starting a new business of selling tacos, but I want to make the flour tortillas from scratch. And I'm having a hard time. Would you teach me?" I said, "Yes. Can I go to your house?" I told him, "I live in Dallas. Where do you live?" He said, "I live in Austin." "I can go to Austin." "I can go to Dallas." He came to Dallas. He spent the day with me and he told me, "Why is it so hard to find you on the internet? I Googled Mexican recipes, flour tortillas, and you are not easily found in Google." I told him I didn't know about that. He said, "Yes. You need to optimize your blog. You need to learn about that."

That technical stuff seemed to me scary because that's another part of blogging that I didn't know. He told me about it. "You have to do something about that." It took me like two more years or three more years until I learned. It's until now that people are finding me, but still my blog is not so optimized. If you look for me on the internet, you don't find me easily or my recipes. You will find recipes that say authentic Mexican rice and when you see it I am not even in the first page of Google. It's many other bloggers, American bloggers, because I still have a lot of work to do. I am a cook. I love cooking and I love to study a lot about techniques in cooking about my country, but the technical aspect of blogging I still have to learn.

Kerry Diamond: Mely, you and I have that in common. As you were saying that, I kept thinking about the Cherry Bombe website. I'm like, "Oh my God. We haven't done any of that," but we will one day. My follow up question to that story is, so that guy just sent you a cold email and you welcomed him into your home?

Mely Martínez: Yeah. I didn't know who all was he or anything. He came to the house. This is a young guy. I think he was like 25 at that time. He told me, "I am from Mexico, but I've been living most of my life here in the states. And I just quit my job in New York because I want to have a business selling tacos." He said, "I got a new job also in technology in Austin, but I want to have a side job selling real Mexican tacos." He has a business now. He's really good in Austin. It's a really good business. He still has his job with his brother to cover the taqueria. They have a taco business.

Kerry Diamond: Do you know the name of it?

Mely Martínez: Yeah. It's Taco Vaquero.

Kerry Diamond: All right. If we have any listeners in Austin, which I believe we do, you need to go check it out.

Mely Martínez: Yeah. Taco Vaquero is like... Vaquero is like a cowboy. It's very popular in Austin now.

Kerry Diamond: If somebody sent me that email, Mely, I would be like, "Oh, they're a serial killer," and I would delete the email.

Mely Martínez: That idea never crossed my mind.

Kerry Diamond: That's because you're a very nice, trusting human being.

Mely Martínez: He's such a nice kid. When I met him, I liked him right away.

Kerry Diamond: Let's talk about some of these amazing recipes that are on your website. Can you tell us some of the more popular ones?

Mely Martínez: Yeah. The flour tortilla is one of the very popular ones. Flour tortillas can seem like something easy to make, but you have to master the skill. It's something that you have to practice. Once you practice and make it several times, you get the hang of it. It becomes something that you do easily.

Kerry Diamond: Let's talk about the flour tortillas a little bit more, because I feel like everybody's making their own tortillas right now. Can you walk us through the steps?

Mely Martínez: Yes. You only need flour, regular all-purpose flour, shortening. The traditional in Mexico used to be pork lard. People don't use that anymore. People use vegetable shortening, salt, and hot water. In Mexico the traditional recipe is for one kilo of flour. You add a quarter kilo of shortening. Then you season with salt. Then you add hot water as needed, because you are going to be adding the water to the dough, to the flour, until you have a soft elastic dough.

Mely Martínez: You have to let the dough rest at least for half an hour, because this will help the gluten to develop. That way it's going to be easy for you to stretch really nice your tortillas to make it round. At the beginning, maybe they are not going to be round. They are going to look like the shape of Africa or Italy or something like that, because that's something that you have to practice. That comes with practice.

Kerry Diamond: What are some mistakes people commonly make, when making tortillas for the first time?

Mely Martínez: Adding too much flour or too much shortening. One of the things I had found during the years that... You can use less fat content that the recipe calls, and your tortillas are going to still come out nice and soft. Then, when people are rolling the tortillas to shape them round, they use more flour than needed to toss the surface which you are forming the tortillas. This creates that the tortilla get dry or crumbly when you make them, when you cook them. After you cook them, and some people say, "Oh why the tortillas, when they get cool, when you cool them down, they start breaking or the edges are breaking, they become too hard?" Those two things. Too much shortening and too much flour.

Kerry Diamond: When you make a big batch, do you freeze them?

Mely Martínez: I have never tried freezing them because they don't last in this house. It's because as soon as one is coming out of the grill, it is gone. I know for sure corn tortillas you can freeze, because those ones I freeze, but I'm not familiar with freezing flour tortillas.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. Since we're on the subject of tortillas, let's talk about corn tortillas. Judging from Instagram, I do see a lot of people experimenting with those, as well. Any advice about corn tortillas?

Mely Martínez: There is a new trend, it is like a hype that is going on now, to make corn tortillas from scratch. Meaning people cooking their corn, there is a process called nixtamalization, where you cook the corn with an ingredient we call cal in Spanish. It's called calcium hydroxide. You cook the corn, the dried corn, with that. Then you let it sit overnight, resting. The next day you can rinse. Some people rinse and other people don't rinse the corn. Then you grind it to make the dough. When you make the dough, you start making the tortillas.

That's something that has become very popular. There is a lot of people doing that in several parts of the country here in the states. Because corn is organic, it's supposed to be better than... It is better than the tortillas that we regularly buy in some places. Not many of us have the time to cook the corn, leave it overnight, grind the corn. We use masa harina, that is corn flour. There are many choices now. Nowadays there are many brand that sell it. There is even one that is organic. I believe it is in California. The place that sell that masa harina is called Masienda. They sell it online. The flavor is really good.

Also, when you make corn tortillas, one of the secret is to have a really nice tortilla, the one that poof when you are cooking, you have to kneed the dough very well. Keep the dough moist. Don't allow it to dry because the masa harina dries really easily.

Kerry Diamond: Okay. A lot of folks are experimenting with making their own tortillas today. Why do you think that is?

Mely Martínez: New generations, young people, are eager to try new things, organic, vegan. They want better meals. I think people between the 25-35 age are promoters of those kind of things. Restaurants are catering to those, to that market. That's what they want, so that's what we are giving them.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us another popular recipe on your blog, Mely.

Mely Martínez: Meatball soup is another popular recipe, I think because it's a meal that people found comfort in. It's a very traditional recipe. We add vegetables to our meatballs, and we made it very brothy like... It's a soup. It's a soup with vegetables and tomatoes. We roast the tomatoes and some of the ingredients. That has some added flavor to the soup. Especially people that is from Mexico like it, because it reminds of their mom or their grandma.

Kerry Diamond: All right. Give us one more recipe from the blog that people love.

Mely Martínez: One recipe is called birria. It's not in the book. It's a dish from the state of Jalisco. It's kind of like a soup. It's very brothy. It's usually make with goat, or some people even make it with lamb, but the recipe that I have in the blog is with beef because it's easily available everywhere.

Kerry Diamond: How do you make it?

Mely Martínez: With dry peppers. It's made with dry peppers, the meat, and herbs and spices. It has a lot of herbs and spices. It's very flavorful. It has dry peppers, like ancho, guajillo. It has tomatoes that are roasted. It has peppercorns, cloves, and it has herbs like oregano, marjoram, and even a little piece of cinnamon stick. That combination of all the herbs, spices, and peppers, and the roasted tomatoes and the roasted pepper render a very rich and flavorful soup.

Kerry Diamond: It sounds so beautiful and aromatic.

Mely Martínez: Yeah. It is.

Kerry Diamond: Mely, I wanted to congratulate you, because your original goal before doing the blog was to have your own cookbook. Now, 10 years plus later, you finally have your own cookbook.

Mely Martínez: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: How did that feel when you saw it and held it in your hands for the first time?

Mely Martínez: It's like mission accomplished. I can scratch something off my list. I still have many other things on my list, but it was a dream for many years. Seeing it done is very rewarding.

Kerry Diamond: The Mexican Home Kitchen is really, really beautiful. Can you tell us how the cookbook came to be? We love hearing people's stories about how they got their cookbooks.

Mely Martínez: I'd been approached two times before by editorial companies, by publishing companies, about making a book, about writing a book. The two times I did research on the publishing company, and the approach they wanted me to do for the book, it was not something that I liked. Twice I say, "No, thank you." Then last year when Erin Canning, the editor from Quarto Publishing Group contact me. I really liked the way she approached me and how the company had worked with other bloggers to have their book. That gave me a lot of confidence to start working with them.

Kerry Diamond: You mentioned your son earlier. One of the sweet things about this book is he took most of the photos.

Mely Martínez: Yeah. Usually, I used to take all the pictures from my blog, but with my age, my sight is not the way it used to be even though I wear my glasses. My picture doesn't come right. This time I did all the food styling of the pictures and the dishes. I told him, "Look, this is the angle I want him to take the pictures. He did all the pictures, most of the pictures.

Kerry Diamond: The eyesight thing happens to the best of us, Mely. I'm with you on that. You did all the prop styling?

Mely Martínez: Yeah.

Kerry Diamond: You have a beautiful collection of dishes. Can you tell us about... I watched that video where you pulled out all the drawers.

Mely Martínez: Yeah. I have my drawers. I have a lot of stuff.

Kerry Diamond: Beautiful dishes and pottery. Do you collect them?

Mely Martínez: Yes. I try to refrain myself of buying more, because you don't have that much room in the kitchen. I like to add a little bit of Mexican to the table setting. One of the things I want people to feel, when they see a picture of a meal, is a table that I set for them. I want to invite them to sit in that table and the dish is for them. That the only thing is just to sit at the table and grab the fork. That's what I'm thinking when I am prepping everything for a photo shoot.

Kerry Diamond: That's really sweet. I mentioned that we wrote about your cookbook in our new feature on called Open Book. Audrey Payne on our team interviewed you. One of the questions that she asked you is the recipe that you're most excited about. You picked two recipes. You said the green and red enchiladas. Can you tell us why you picked those two recipes?

Mely Martínez: For me they are close to my mom. If I made them, it takes me back right away to my mom's house and when I was in my teens. She would cook that. For the red enchiladas it's like an acquired taste. They are not spicy at all. Not everybody likes it. This is for somebody that... They are easier to make than the green enchiladas, but I think for the people that is not too adventurous, the green enchiladas, people are going to love that because they are creamy and cheesy and they have chicken. It's a whole meal. I know people are going to love that one.

Mely Martínez: For people that love red enchiladas and familiar with red enchiladas, they will understand why. Because the day we shoot this picture, I think I ate like eight enchiladas. I was like, "I'm just going to eat three." Then when I realized, I was like, "Oh my God, I already ate eight." Those one only have cheese and chopped onion. They don't have cream, they don't have chicken, because that's the way people serve them.

Kerry Diamond: Walk us through what the ingredients are, Mely, for the red enchiladas.

Mely Martínez: Dry guajillo peppers, dry ancho peppers, onion and garlic. You roast the peppers. Then you boil it or let them soften in warm hot water for about half an hour until they are very soft. Then you place them in the blender and make a salsa with them. Then you dip the corn tortillas in that red salsa. Then you fry the tortilla. That creates a big mess in the kitchen. It splatters all over, but it's so delicious.

Mely Martínez: I don't know who came up with that combination or the idea that first you dip a tortilla in a salsa, and then when it's leaking in all that salsa, you place it in a frying pan with oil. Then when you slightly fry it, just until it gets soft, you remove it from the frying pan. Then stuff the tortilla with queso fresco, and add a little bit of chopped onion and roll it, and top it with more queso fresco. Usually you serve it with diced onion and carrots that are cooked. Then they are fried in that same oil. The oil acquires a reddish color from those enchiladas that you fry. When you fry at the end, the cooked potatoes and carrot, they are going to come out a little bit red with the flavor of the enchiladas sauce.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my gosh. That sounds so good. Do you put up with the mess?

Mely Martínez: Yeah. Sometimes I just cover all around the frying pan with aluminum foil. When I finish, I just grab all the aluminum foil and throw it away.

Kerry Diamond: You know what I have now that I never... I only got it a few years ago. One of those, it looks like a giant fly swatter, but you put it over your frying pan. It's like a big screen.

Mely Martínez: Yeah. I've been wanting to have one, but then I think then it's going to be another thing in my kitchen.

Kerry Diamond: That's true. It is another thing in your kitchen. And it's big and unwieldy.

Mely Martínez: It's big.

Kerry Diamond: I actually store mine in my oven, but I live in New York. I've seen your kitchen. Your kitchen's a lot bigger than my kitchen. Okay. You love your green enchiladas too though. Tell us what goes into making those.

Mely Martínez: You have tomatillos, onion, garlic. You can use serrano peppers or jalapeños, whatever is available to you. Some people like to add also poblano peppers. I don't do, but if you want to do it, just do it. Just cook it in water, boil it. Then, when they are ready, you place them in a blender, make a salsa. In that blender, you also are going to add cream, Mexican cream and cilantro. You make a salsa with all that. Then you slightly fry the tortillas just to make it soft. Then stuff the tortillas with shredded chicken. The chicken has been seasoned with garlic, onion, and black pepper. You roll those tortillas, place it in a baking dish, and then you cover those rolled tortillas. You cover them with the salsa. Then you place cheese, melted cheese, on top of the salsa. Then you place it in the oven. You bake it until the cheese is melted.

Kerry Diamond: Sounds so good. Mely, you mentioned Mexican cream. Can you explain what that is? How is Mexican cream different from say a sour cream?

Mely Martínez: I know some people say it's kind of like a cream that is popular in France.

Kerry Diamond: Like crème fraîche?

Mely Martínez: Yeah. Yeah. It's a little not so thick. The ones that you find here nowadays, you can find Mexican brands in the big cities with large population, or there are also American brands that sell them. It's similar. It's not exactly the same, but it's not sour like a sour cream. The good thing with living in Texas is that there are huge Latin grocery stores, that you can find a lot of things from Mexico.

Kerry Diamond: That must be fun for you as a chef.

Mely Martínez: Yeah. Yeah, when we moved. We used to live in the northeast. When we moved here for the first time we went to a Latin market. My son was, "Mom, it's like Mexico."

Kerry Diamond: Mely, let's talk about that kitchen, since I've mentioned I've seen your kitchen in the videos that you post online. What are some of your favorite tools that you have in your kitchen?

Mely Martínez: My knives. I need to have a good sharp knife, a blender and a molcajete for the mortar to grind spices, because when you fresh grind them, they taste better than the dry version that you buy. The powder or dry version. The blender. We use a blender almost every day for cooking. Not only for making smoothies, but we use a lot of tomatoes and peppers. A lot of our dishes require that you use a blender.

Kerry Diamond: Mely, what's next for you? Your dream came true. You have a cookbook.

Mely Martínez: I want to write at least two more.

Kerry Diamond: You do. That's exciting.

Mely Martínez: Yeah. That's an idea. It's an idea.

Kerry Diamond: You mentioned you're going away. Are you going on vacation?

Mely Martínez: Yes. Yes. We are leaving in two more days. We are going to Oaxaca in part of Mexico, because we rent a house in Mexico, so we go often.

Kerry Diamond: Do you get a break from cooking or are you looking forward to cooking down there?

Mely Martínez: Sometimes I cook. Sometimes I cook because I see all the fresh produce. They taste better there than here. Sometimes I cook. We eat a lot of the things that you don't find here. In restaurants or in side roads, people that is selling food in the road, I think that's the best food.

Kerry Diamond: Good. Mely, have a wonderful time. Congratulations on The Mexican Home Kitchen. It's a beautiful book. I can't wait to cook from it.

Mely Martínez: I hope you do.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to Mely Martínez for sitting down with us and sharing her story. We hope Mely enjoys her vacation in Oaxaca. Be sure to check out her brand new book, The Mexican Home Kitchen. If you enjoyed this interview, you should also check out Open Book on to learn about the making of the Mexican Home Kitchen.

Thank you to Kerrygold for supporting today's show and making the butter and cheese we all love so much. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tra La La. Radio Cherry Bombe is produced by Cherry Bombe Media. Hang in there everybody, and thank you for listening. You're the bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Anne Ryan Gareis: Hi, Cherry Bombe. My name is Anne Ryan Gareis, and I'm a high school senior in Williamsburg, Virginia. I run Tiger Bites Bakes, a small bakery that donates a portion of our profits to tiger conservation. Do you want to know who I think is the bomb? Mashama Bailey. Mashama Bailey is the recipient of the James Beard Award for the best chef in the southeast, and the executive chef of the historic and groundbreaking restaurant The Grey in Savannah, Georgia. Her story is one of bucking stereotypes to achieve something truly amazing. If you want to learn more about her story, check out her Chef's Table episode on Netflix.