Things That Matter

21 Best Cooking Tips I Learned From My Abuela

Everyone knows food tastes better in Grandma’s kitchen. But few people know why. The truth is that after decades of turning out casero meals for the family, Grandma has mastered some trick and tips that give that food a sabor that you just won’t find anywhere else.  So, we checked in with some of the top abuela’s out there, to compile this list of must-do techniques to add that special something to your home-cooked meals. Enjoy!

1. Always use fresh cilantro.

Source: Twitter@AnitaLi_

For real Latin food fried dried cilantro or cilantro powder just won’t cut it. Leave that for the gringos. When you want to get a full fresh flavor burst, buy your cilantro that day from the produce department and use it at the end of the cooking session as a garnish for the best blast to the taste buds.

2. Garnish Freely.

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This goes not just for cilantro but for everything else that you are using to add flavor to the dish. Onions, chiles, even limes are not just for looks and a touch of flavor but are integral parts of the dish and should be used much more liberally in Latin food than in food for the North American palate.

3. Marinate your meats.

Source: Twitter@TheBBQBuddha 

Why do tacos taste so damn good? Its just meat and tortillas right? The secret to the bombness of tacos is in the marinade of the meats, which not just tenderize them but add flavor and goodness all around. Marinate overnight for best effect.

4. Slow cook your cuts.

Source: Twitter@CarbSmart

Abuelas all over Latin America are used to cooking with fattier, less expensive, cuts and still making them come out juicy and delicious. The trick here is to slow cook the meat instead of trying to grill it up fast. This allows the fat to melt and the meat to cook more gently.

5. Char your veggies.

Source: Twitter@swetapadma

What’s the difference between that supermarket salsa and your abuela’s homemade salsa? Sabor? Of course, but what’s the secret? The easy answer is that by home charring the chiles, onions, tomatoes and other veggies to bring out a special roasted flavor that those store bought vinegar tasting salsas simply don’t have.

6. Get into recycling.

Source: Twitter @BrujoRincon

See those leftover chips and salsa from the party last night? That’s the perfect base for today’s chilaquiles! Grandmas have mastered this art of recycling food and use it to create super sabroso dishes on the fly out of yesterdays meals.

7. Pork Lard.

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Yup, we said it. And don’t go asking your diet crazed friends about it or be ready for blank stares. Nothing adds flavor to everything from beans to soups like good old pork lard, there is just no way around it. Don’t believe me? Ask your abuela. 

8. Ditch the canned beans.

Source: Twitter@GinasMexican

For real though. If there is one thing that will make any abuela cringe its that stale taste of canned beans. Learn how to whip them up on your own. And don’t forget the pork lard.

9. Get to know your chiles.

Source: Twitter@LomaBrew

Adding spice to a dish take more than just shaking in some cayenne pepper. There are dozens of different chiles with not just different heat profiles but unique flavors that you need to get to know before you can cook like a real grandma. Start studying now.

10. Learn to finely chop.

Source: Twitter@foodiewinoSF  

Patience is a virtue young Jedi, and abuelas have it by the yard. The finer you chop up your ingredients the more uniformly they will cook. Big chunks are often cooked on the outside but semi-raw on the inside. This subtle thing can make a big difference.

11. Use room temperature eggs.

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Your grandma is not just being anti-technology by keeping her eggs out of the refrigerator. Room temperature eggs whip up and blend better than cold eggs and can make or break many dishes. You will see the difference right away and gain instant grandma G status among your friends and family.

12. Do refrigerate your onions.

Source: Twitter@ProduceSimple

Ever wonder how your abuela can sit and chop onions nonstop without crying? Well it’s not just her superpowers. She also knows that by refrigerating them first she is cutting down on the amount of juice they will squirt when she chops them up. Take note.

13. Use panela for sweetener.

Source: Twitter@LaTcomprometida

 Also known as piloncillo or chancaca depending on the country, panela is pure unrefined sugar. It gives food much more flavor than white or even brown sugar and should be used every time you want to add sweetness to a dish.

14. You can also use agave.

Source: Twitter@NewAgave 

Ok, many people are worried about their sugar intake and blood glucose levels these days, even grandmas. So use agave syrup, which comes from a Mexican cactus, to sweeten up those dishes without spikes in your blood sugar.

15. Fresh squeezed limes.

Source: Twitter@LimeKing3 

You ever wonder why your abuela has a mountain of limes stacked up in her kitchen? Well its because they go in just about everything. Freshly squeezed lime juice does everything from tenderizing meat to preserving the guacamole. Use them.

16. Try using a mortar and pestle.

Source: Twitter@Ahsan14150684

Wanna know grandma’s secret for making those moles and sauces of just the right consistency? Well the truth is that nothing grinds down seeds, nuts and spices like the good old mortar and pestle, try for yourself and see!

17. Master the dry roast.

Source: Twitter@LoveFreshViet

By pre-cooking ingredients like garlic and spices in a pan with no oil, you can really bring out their flavor profile before adding them to sauces, soups or other dishes. This is also a healthy way to cook many foods that we traditionally think need to be fried in oil.

18. Use real chocolate.

Source: Twitter@michellealonso

Whether you are making hot chocolate for a traditional Colombian breakfast or a dark mole sauce for a Mexican dinner, please, please, please use real chocolate and make your abuela proud! Cocoa powders mixed with dried milk and other thickening products will just weigh down the final product and do absolutely nothing in terms of adding flavor. When it comes to chocolate, ain’t nothing like the real thing baby!

19. Use corn tortillas.

Source: Twitter@nahhhhhhhhhh_

While flour tortillas have become immensely popular in the USA and around the world, most of Latin America still uses corn tortillas for just about anything. Not only are corn tortillas more healthy and tastier but they can even be made more easily right in the comfort of your home. Now that is something that will impress your grandma!

20. While you are at it, add corn to everything.

Source: Twitter@TheSoggyChef

Since we are on the subject, why not start adding corn to more of your dishes. That’s exactly what abuelas all over Latin America do! From corn kernels in your soups to crunchy corn in your salsas, corn adds a touch of hearty goodness and traditional flavor that brings out the best in almost every dish you can imagine.

21. Get to know the tomatillo.

Source: Twitter@The_Bentley

While red tomatoes dominate the cuisine of much of North America, those tangy little green tomatillos are just as important south of the border. Mixed with jalapenos, lime, onion and even avocado, tomatillos make one incredibly delicious salsa that will soon have that red standby salsa sliding over to second place.

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This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi


This Artist Has Been Breaking Barriers As A Non-Traditional Mariachi

On a recent episode of ABC’s game show To Tell The Truth, three celebrity panelists were tasked to uncover the identity of a real mariachi singer.

Each contender embodied “non-traditional” attributes of mariachi culture either through physical appearance or language barriers, leaving the panelists stumped.

When it came time for the big reveal, with a humble smile 53-year-old Timoteo “El Charro Negro” stood up wowing everyone. Marveled by his talents, Timoteo was asked to perform unveiling his smooth baritone voice.

While not a household name in the U.S., his career spans over 25 years thriving on the catharsis of music.

Timoteo “El Charro Negro” performing “Chiquilla Linda” on Dante Night Show in 2017.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Timoteo, born Timothy Pollard, moved to Long Beach, California with his family when he was eight years old. The move to California exposed Pollard to Latin culture, as the only Black family in a Mexican neighborhood.

As a child, he recalled watching Cantinflas because he reminded him of comedian Jerry Lewis, but musically he “got exposed to the legends by chance.”

“I was bombarded by all the 1960s, ’70s, and ’50s ranchera music,” Timoteo recalls to mitú.

The unequivocal passion mariachi artists like Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez possessed heavily resonated with him.

“[The neighbors] always played nostalgic music, oldies but goodies, and that’s one thing I noticed about Mexicans,” Timoteo says. “They can be in their 20s but because they’ve grown up listening to the oldies it’s still very dear to them. That’s how they party.”

For as long as he can remember, Pollard “was born with the genetic disposition to love music,” knowing that his future would align with the arts.

After hearing Vicente Fernandez sing “Lástima Que Seas Ajena,” an awakening occurred in Pollard. While genres like hip-hop and rap were on the rise, Pollard’s passion for ranchera music grew. It was a moment when he realized that this genre best suited his big voice.

Enamored, Pollard began to pursue a career as a Spanish-language vocalist.

El Charro Negro
Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

At 28, Timoteo began learning Spanish by listening and singing along to those artists he adored in his youth.

“When I decided that I wanted to be a mariachi, I didn’t think it was fair to exploit the culture and not understand the language,” he says. “If I’m going to sing, I need to be able to communicate with my audience and engage with them. I need to understand what I’m saying because it was about honor and respect.”

Pollard began performing local gigs after picking up the language in a matter of months. He soon attracted the attention of “Big Boy” Radio that adorned him the name Timoteo “El Charro Negro.”

Embellishing his sound to highlight his Black heritage, Pollard included African instruments like congas and bongos in his orchestra. Faintly putting his own spin on a niche genre, Pollard avoided over-saturating the genre’s sound early in his career.

Embraced by his community as a beloved mariachi, “El Charro Negro” still encountered race-related obstacles as a Black man in the genre.

“There are those [in the industry] who are not in the least bit thrilled to this day. They won’t answer my phone calls, my emails, my text messages I’ve sent,” he says. “The public at large hasn’t a problem with it, but a lot of the time it’s those at the helm of decision making who want to keep [the genre] exclusively Mexican.”

“El Charro Negro” persisted, slowly attracting fans worldwide while promoting a message of harmony through his music.

In 2007, 12 years into his career, Pollard received a golden ticket opportunity.

El Charro Negro
Pollard (left) seen with legendary Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez (right) in 2007. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In a by-chance encounter with a stagehand working on Fernandez’s tour, Pollard was offered the chance to perform onstage. The singer was skeptical that the offer was legit. After all, what are the chances?

The next day Pollard went to his day job at the time and said, “a voice in my head, which I believe was God said, ‘wear your blue velvet traje tonight.'”

That evening Pollard went to a sold-out Stockton Area where he met his idol. As he walked on the stage, Pollard recalls Fernandez insisting that he use his personal mic and band to perform “De Que Manera Te Olvido.”

“[Fernandez] said he did not even want to join me,” he recollects about the show. “He just was kind and generous enough to let me sing that song on his stage with his audience.”

The crowd applauded thunderously, which for Pollard was a sign of good things to come.

El Charro Negro
Timoteo “El Charro Negro” with Don Francisco on Don Francisco Presenta in 2011. Photo courtesy of Timothy Pollard.

In 2010, he released his debut album “Me Regalo Contigo.” In perfect Spanish, Pollard sings with great conviction replicating the soft tones of old-school boleros.

Unraveling the rollercoaster of relationships, heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Me Regalo Contigo” and “Celos” are his most streamed songs. One hidden gem that has caught the listener’s attention is “El Medio Morir.”

As soon as the track begins it is unlike the others. Timoteo delivers a ’90s R&B love ballad in Spanish, singing with gumption as his riffs and belts encapsulate his unique sound and story.

Having appeared on shows like Sabado Gigante, Don Francisco Presenta, and Caso Cerrado in 2011, Timoteo’s career prospered.

Timoteo hasn’t released an album since 2010 but he keeps his passion alive. The singer has continued to perform, even during the Covid pandemic. He has high hopes for future success and original releases, choosing to not slow down from his destined musical journey.

“If God is with me, who can be against me? It may not happen in a quick period of time, but God will make my enemies my footstool,” he said.

“I’ve continued to be successful and do some of the things I want to do; maybe not in a particular way or in particular events, but I live in a very happy and fulfilled existence.”

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato


Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Luis Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Luis Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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