Mexican Cooking in the Microwave
Medina Maze, Carol. Mexican Microwave Cookery: A Collection of Mexican Recipes Using the Convenience of the Microwave Oven. Tuscon, AZ: Fisher Books, 1988. [TX716 .M4 M39 1988]
The culinary potential of microwave radiation was discovered by Percy Spencer of Raytheon corporation in the 1940s, but early models were extremely large and energy-hungry. It was not until the late 1960s that economical microwaves suitable for household use became widely available. Microwave manufacturers initially struggled to overcome public concerns over the safety of microwave radiation, and also to persuade food processers to repackage their products in microwave-friendly (non-metallic) packaging.
Today, the primary use of microwaves in the U.S. is to reheat leftovers.  However, between early adoption and current casual use, microwaves had a heyday in the 1980s and 90s, when creative cooks sought ways to prepare everything from soup to cakes in these increasingly ubiquitous kitchen appliances. And while I can’t recall the last time I used a microwave for an actual recipe, July in San Antonio may be just the time to go a little retro at dinner time.
In the introduction to Mexican Microwave Cookery, Home Economics teacher and cookbook author Carol Medina Maze notes that “[t]raditionally, Mexican foods took time to prepare and required the use of many pots and pans, as well as various burners and the oven.” In this book, she offers readers the results of her efforts to adapt Mexican recipes to “today’s fast pace of living.”
Medina Maze’s introduction provides detailed instructions for converting the percent power and times used in her recipes to alternate metrics used by various microwave manufacturers. For example, 70% power is equal to a heat level of 7, a cooking level of med-hi, a power level of 2/3 or a temperature setting of roast. She also addresses the question of cookware, reminding readers that metal cookware is unsafe for microwave use, and instead recommending glass or ceramic casserole dishes and a microwave-safe pressure cooker.
Mexican Microwave Cookery offers a full range of dishes from the opening chapter on Chiles y Salsas (Chiles & Sauces) to several sections on various main course dishes, to the final chapter on Panes, Postres y Bebides (Breads, Desserts & Beverages). Below is Medina Maze’s quick and easy version of a tasty traditional chicken dish.
Pollo en Pipián / Chicken in Pumpkin-Seed Sauce (p. 104)
Lowly pumpkin seeds add distinction to this chicken.
Power level: medium-high
Cooking time: 35 minutes
- 1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
- 3 cups chicken broth or 3 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups hot water
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons red chile powder
- 3 tablespoons Taco Seasoning Mix, page 7, or 1 (1-1/4-oz.) pkg. taco seasoning mix
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 3 cups diced cooked chicken
If pumpkin seeds are salted, rinse in water; drain well. Combine pumpkin seeds, broth, oil, flour, coriander, chile powder, seasoning mix and sesame seeds in a blender; process until liquified. Pour mixture into a 1-1/2-quart casserole. Cover with waxed paper; microwave on 70% (medium-high) 15 minutes, stirring after 7-1/2 minutes. Add chicken to hot sauce; stir to blend. Cover with waxed paper; microwave on 70% (medium-high) 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve hot.
Taco Seasoning Mix (p. 7)
Use this mix instead of a 1-1/4-ounce package of commercial taco seasoning mix.
Servings: 3 tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon red chile powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon ground oregano
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. Store in an airtight container for future use.
 Solomon H. Katz and William Woys Weaver. Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. New York: Scribner, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed July 8, 2014): 513-514.