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Friday, 17 May 2013 13:55

Grilling Recipes with a Mexican Twist

Rick Bayless mug in Blue T-Shirt Picmonkey

 

Editor's note: Many of our readers may be familiar with Chef Rick Bayless from his cookbooks and long-running PBS television program, Mexico: One Plate at a Time. He and his wife Deann lived in Mexico from 1980-86 and opened their first restaurant, the Frontera Grill, on North Clark Street in Chicago in 1987.

In town for the National Restaurant Association convention some years ago, we met Rick after enjoying a wonderful meal at his recently-opened companion restaurant, Topolobampo. He seemed as genuine and friendly then as he does on his television shows.

An acknowledged authority on cuisines of Mexico, his background also includes growing up around the Oklahoma barbecue restaurant run by his parents. Two of Rick's recipes include salsas made by his company, Frontera Foods. Avocados from Mexico provided TASTE News Service with the copy for this article.

 

by Rick Bayless

Grilled Chicken with Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce - This grilled chicken is so simple, easy and delicious. The subtle tartness of tomatillo salsa cooked down with buttery avocados makes the perfect addition to tender grilled chicken.

Grilled Corn and Poblano Guacamole - Smoky corn, charred poblano chile and fresh tomatillos add delicious flavor to creamy avocados. This is a fantastic way to turn your everyday guac into the ultimate barbecue dip.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Avocado Apricot Salsa - The sweet concentrated flavor of dried apricots paired with tangy balsamic, fiery salsa and fresh herbs creates a well-balanced and delicious complement to juicy grilled pork tenderloin.

Rick Bayless Grilled Chicken pix Picmonkey

 Grilled Chicken with Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce

1 jar (16-ounces) Frontera Tomatillo Salsa

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each pounded to about 1-inch thick

1/3 cup chicken broth

1 avocado from Mexico, halved, pitted, peeled and diced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a baking dish, mix together 1/4 cup of the salsa with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, if time permits. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-hot. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the remaining salsa; stir 5 minutes to concentrate slightly. Add broth; boil gently until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add avocado. Remove chicken from marinade; sprinkle with salt; grill 8 inches from medium-hot coals, turning once, until seared and cooked through, about 8 minutes. To serve, spoon sauce onto 4 plates; top with chicken; garnish with cilantro.

Yield: 4 portions

Rick Bayless Corn and Poblano Guac Pix Picmonkey

Grilled Corn and Poblano Guacamole

2 small ears fresh corn, shucked

1 small poblano chile

8 ounces tomatillos, husked (about 4 large)

3 avocados from Mexico, halved, pitted, peeled and roughly chopped

3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion, rinsed

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat gas grill to medium or prepare a charcoal grill. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut kernels from the cob; remove to a large bowl. Grill the chile and tomatillos, turning until skins are nicely charred, about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel the charred skin from the peppers with your fingers. Remove stem, core and seeds; chop chile and remove to the bowl. Finely chop tomatillos, capturing juices, and add to the bowl. Add avocado, onion, cilantro and salt. Coarsely mash avocado and gently stir to combine all ingredients.

 

Rick Bayless Pork Tenderloin pix Picmonkey

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Avocado Apricot Salsa

3 large pork tenderloins (about 2-1/4 pounds total)

1 jar (16-ounces) Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 medium-large red onion, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, tossed with a little hot water to soften

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest

1 firm-ripe avocado from Mexico, halved, pitted, peeled and diced

Salt to taste

Trim fat and whitish “silverskin” from pork tenderloins. Cut each in half, making six 6-ounce portions. Mix together 1 cup of the salsa with the Worcestershire and vinegar. Place the pork in a large dish, smear all sides with salsa mixture, cover and refrigerate for several hours or as long as overnight. Preheat a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal fire and let burn until charcoal is covered with a thin layer of gray ash. Use tongs to arrange the pork in the center of the grill; reserve the marinade. Lay the onion slices on the cooler section of the grill. Cover and cook until the pork is nicely browned underneath and onions are softening, about 10 minutes. Turn pork and onions over. Baste pork and onions liberally with reserved marinade. Re-cover the grill and cook until the pork feels nearly firm* when touched or reads 150° on a meat thermometer, about 5 minutes more. Remove pork to cutting board and tent with foil. Chop the onion slices and remove to a bowl. Add remaining salsa, apricots, parsley, lemon zest and avocado; season with salt and stir gently. To serve, thinly slice pork and generously spoon salsa over slices.

Yield: 8 portions

* To learn to test the doneness of pork by touching, fold your thumb into the center of your palm, then wrap your fingers around your thumb, grasping it firmly. With the forefinger of your other hand, press lightly and repeatedly on that bulging nugget of muscle on the back of your hand at the base of your thumb. When you clench your fist with as much strength as you can muster, that little bit of muscle will become very firm, feeling like overcooked pork. Relax a little bit (but keeping the first clenched) and you’ll feel what deliciously cooked pork should feel like. Relax your fist completely while keeping it in the same position and you’ll feel what raw pork feels like.

Saturday, 11 August 2012 19:24

Big Red for a Big Bear

By Dan Clarke

Though I didn’t get to Chicago until I was in my 40’s, I had looked forward to the visit for a long time.

My presumptions about the city came in part from grade school teachers. Most of these women in the bulky black habits were from the Chicago area. They did a fine job imparting the basics of our education, but they also told us about the Bears, the Cubs, Wrigley Field and El trains—all topics more interesting to most of us than the Beatitudes, Sorrowful Mysteries and diagramming of sentences.

I remember one spring day when Sister St. Arthur showed our catcher how to pick off a runner. From a crouch behind home plate she fired the ball out to our second baseman--flat, no arc. It made an audible pop when it hit his glove about a foot above the bag. She threw a football better than our quarterback, too. We assumed these nuns had God on their side, but we figured they didn’t need His help to deal with the likes of us. They were Chicago and they were tough.Bill George photoBears linebacker Bill George.

Growing up in Northern California, most of us were 49er fans, but we had to respect the Bears of the 1950’s when they were known as “The Monsters of the Midway.” Detroit and Cleveland may have been winning more games then, but Chicago’s irascible head coach and owner George Halas had guys like Ed Sprinkle, Rick Casares and Bill George. They were physically formidable and borderline scary. A few years later Chicago drafted an end from Pitt who also had that toughness. Mike Ditka played 12 years in the National Football League. Later he returned to coach the Bears. Along the way he got into the restaurant business and is now the proprietor of Mike Ditka’s Chicago on East Chestnut Street.

My first visit to the city was about 20 years ago. It was May, so catching a Bears game was out, of course. But I did see the Cubs beat the Dodgers at Wrigley Field and rode the El trains. Chicago seemed exciting then—vibrant. Several subsequent trips have only confirmed that first impression.

More than once I’ve heard people call Chicago “a great restaurant town.” I couldn’t disagree, as I’ve enjoyed many fine meals there. While I haven’t yet been in Ditka’s place, a visit to the restaurant’s website has led me to put it on my list for a future trip.

When I heard a few years ago that the Bear Hall-of-Famer had his name on a bottle of California wine I was mildly intrigued. Learning that it would be available in a limited national distribution and not just at his restaurant made the news more interesting. And discovering that the Mendocino County Zinfandel blend would retail for something approaching $50 really got our attention.

So we acquired a bottle of 2004 Kick Ass Red. But what to do with it? We assumed it would be on the brawny side and that it was intended to complement the robust cuisine at Ditka’s restaurant. These days so many “big” California wines—especially Zins—are way too alcoholic to enhance a meal. Would this be another of those misguided macho efforts? Tasting it with food seemed the only way to go. We thought it would be unfair--and unfun--just to try to copy entrees seen on the menu page of the restaurant’s website. Maybe barbecuing our own idea of Kick Ass food would be a better path.

Mike Petersen, who has written book reviews for this publication and for California Wine and Food, is a native Chicogoan. He’d have to be included in whatever analysis might ensue. A couple of days after Petersen bought into the idea, the two of us met for beers with our friend Mike Eady. Before we could announce our barbecue plans, Eady related a story about his driving a rental car out from Chicago to see a minor league baseball game somewhere in Northern Illinois just because he’d heard that the ballpark served great pork sandwiches. Clearly, he was the kind of guy who should be included in our project. It was agreed that we’d gather at my house to inaugurate the winter barbecue season, each of us preparing a dish he deemed a potential companion for a wine named Kick Ass Red.

Later, Brendan Cooke and Gary Young also volunteered to attend the tasting, though they opted to limit their participation to consuming, rather than preparing food.

Mike Ditka Kick Ass Red was primarily Zinfandel (56%), the balance comprised of Syrah (24%) and Petite Sirah (20%). The alcohol was 14.5%, which would have been high a decade or two ago, but is a point or point-and-a-half less than many of today’s offerings. As it is, the level was certainly sufficient and preferable to that of current “monsters” favored by the misguided.

Ditka as Coach PicmonkeyMike Ditka, "Da Coach"It turned out that the Kick Ass Red worked fine with all three of our dishes. Yes, it was a big wine but it was balanced. Predominant qualities were blackberry and a little black pepper. There were a couple of arched eyebrows when considering the 50 bucks we’d heard was to be the retail price, but all five on the evening’s tasting panel liked the wine. More to the point of the exercise, all agreed that the wine worked with each of the three dishes we’d cooked on the grill—the pork, the lamb and the beef.

Editor’s note: The Kick Ass Red was made by the Mendocino Wine Company in Ukiah, California (www.mendocinowineco.com). Readers who’d like to try it in it’s natural environment can find out more at www.mikeditkaschicago.com. Alternatively, they may check out three recipes we thought worked pretty well with this wine (and wouldn’t be bad with many other sturdy reds either).

 

IBVM Burgers

“I chose not to use the blue cheese or to do excessive spicing because I wanted to emphasize the flavor of the really good beef I was using (chopped sirloin, USDA Prime, about 12-15% fat content)” --Dan Clarke

1 ½ pounds ground beef2-4 strips thick bacon1 Tablespoon chopped fresh onion1 teaspoon minced fresh garlicKosher saltFreshly ground pepper1 Tablespoon crumbled blue cheese (optional)

Chop one or two thin slices of onion.Mince two or three garlic cloves.Mix one Tablespoon of the onion and one teaspoon of the garlic with the ground meat—distribute as evenly as possible.(optional) Place a little of the crumbled blue cheese in the center of each portion of meat to be made into a patty.Make two 12-ounce patties approx. 1 ½ inches thick.Wrap the perimeter of each patty with bacon, affixing the strips with toothpicksSeason each patty with salt and pepper.

Grill over a medium-hot fire ‘til medium rare. Searing each side of the patties is the goal, but the bacon fat can lead to flare ups. Move patties to indirect heat after searing to minimize this possibility.

Serve as you would any steak and without a bun.

 

Chicago Lamb

“When one thinks of a Chicago meal you picture big meat. Big, red meat. Throw in some creamed spinach and a baked potato the size of a canoe and you’re talkin' Chicago. So does lamb count as big red meat? Of course it does. Lamb is a fine accompaniment to creamed spinach and canoe potatoes. So when I fired up the grill for Chicago Night I had a beautiful boneless leg of lamb seasoned with herbs and ready to pay homage to the hearty appetites of the heartland” -–Mike Eady

1 leg of lamb, boneless and tied, about 3 ½ to 4 lbs.Olive oilRosemaryThymeCuminKosher salt

Mix together herbs and spread over the lamb after it has been given a coating of olive oil.

Cook over indirect heat in covered grill until internal temperature reaches 133 degrees for a perfect medium rare. Let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

 

Hog Butcher Pork Shoulder

“Although Chicago is no longer hog butcher to the world, the real Chicagoan still eats a lot of pork.” --Mike Petersen

Pork shoulder, approx. 4 poundsPolish sausage meat, approx. ½ poundRub composed of equal parts:

Sweet paprikaSpicy paprikaCayenne pepperSalt

Garlic flakes to taste

Add preferred amount of garlic flakes to rub, stir.Sauté the sausage meat. Drain and allow to cool.Rinse pork shoulder and pat dry, then cut in half.Slice a pocket into each of the pieces of pork and insert ¼ pound of Polish sausage meat into each.Rub meat with paprika/pepper/salt/garlic mixture.

Cook on covered grill over indirect heat ‘til medium.

Elk in rutting season PicmonkeyMating elk and Indian-style barbecued salmon packages are being offered by the Elk Meadow Cabins at Redwood National and State Parks in Humboldt County this October.

The elk rut is an annual display in which male Roosevelt Elk - North America’s largest - bugle and challenge each another to become bull elk of the harem. The powerful bull elk are seen posturing and rising dramatically to lock antlers as they push one another back and forth to exhaustion in order to assert their dominance and gain breeding access to the cows (female elk).

The violent mating ritual is often visible from the Elk Meadow Cabins, six remodeled mill worker’s cabins that, in October, offer a value package for elk rut viewers. On the “Elk Rut Package,” stay two nights at the normal rate of $219 per night (each cabin sleeps six) and additional nights are half off. Plus, up to four Elk Rut Package guests per cabin get a free, naturalist-guided Elk Tour provided by Redwood Adventure Tours

Guests who stay any three nights (Monday - Friday) in an Elk Meadow Cabin ($219) during October and who requestElk in front of cabins Picmonkey the “Indian Salmon Package” when making their reservations, get up to four Indian-styled, barbecue salmon dinners with their cabin rental (served Wednesday evenings only). The dinners include fresh salmon barbecued on redwood stakes set around a fire made of local madrone and alder, in the traditional style of northwest California’s native Americans. The salmon is served with fresh salad, fruit, beverages (lemonade, water, coffee) and a cobbler usually prepared from local berries.

The “Elk Rut” and “Indian Salmon” packages can only be obtained in advance by calling (866) 733-9637. Guests must pick one or the other offer, as the packages cannot be combined.