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Cooking with Rick Bayless

Get more: food
06/08/2011

BIO INFO:

Award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality Rick Bayless has done more than any other culinary star to introduce Americans to authentic Mexican cuisine and to change the image of Mexican food in America.

Rick is fourth generation in an Oklahoma family of restaurateurs and grocers. From 1980 to 1986, after studying Spanish and Latin American Studies as an undergraduate, and doing doctoral work in Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Rick lived in Mexico with his wife, Deann, writing his now-classic Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From The Heart of Mexico (William Morrow, 1987). The New York Times's legendary Craig Claiborne hailed this work as the "greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable."

In 1996, Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine (Scribner) won the IACP National Julia Child "Cookbook of the Year Award". The New York Times praised him as a writer who makes "true Mexican food user-friendly for Americans," and Time Magazine hailed him as a "cookbook superstar." Rick's cookbook Salsas That Cook (Simon and Schuster), written with his wife, Deann, and JeanMarie Brownson, was published in 1999. At the 2001 James Beard Awards (the culinary equivalent of the Oscars), Mexico-One Plate at a Time, (Scribner) companion to the first season of the Public Television series by the same name , was singled out as the "Best International Cookbook."

In 1987, Rick having moved to Chicago, opened the hugely successful Frontera Grill, which specializes in contemporary regional Mexican cooking. Still today it remains one of Chicago's hottest dining spots. In 1988, Food & Wine Magazine selected Rick as "Best New Chef of The Year," and in 1991, he won a James Beard Award for "Best American Chef: Midwest." In 1995, he won another James Beard Award for "National Chef of the Year" as well as an award for "Chef of the Year" from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). In 1998, the Beard Foundation honored Rick as "Humanitarian of the Year." In 2002, Bon Appétit honored him with the "Cooking Teacher of the Year Award."

On the heels of Frontera Grill's success, Rick opened the elegant Topolobampo in 1989. Adjacent to Frontera Grill, Tobolobampo is one of America's only fine-dining Mexican restaurants. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo have received glowing distinctions from such publications as Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Atlantic Monthly, Condé Nast Traveler, Zagat's, The Wine Spectator, USA Today, Chicago Magazine and The Chicago Tribune. Topolobampo has been nominated twice by the James Beard Foundation as one of the most outstanding restaurants in our country.

In 1996, Rick began the prepared food line of salsas, chips, and grilling rubs under the Frontera Foods label. Frontera Foods went on to open Frontera Fresco-a food kiosk in the historic Marshall Fields (now Macy's) building in 2005 in Chicago.

Rick resides in Chicago with his wife and daughter. With his wife he runs Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. He is the founder of the Frontera Farmer Foundation, an organization that supports small local farmers and has been active in Share Our Strength, the nation's largest hunger advocacy organization. Rick is a restaurant consultant, teaches authentic Mexican cooking throughout the United States (he is a visiting staff member at the Culinary Institute of America), and leads cooking and cultural tours to Mexico. Mexico-One Plate at a Time is currently in its fifth season on PBS. His cookbook with his 15 year old daughter, Lanie, titled Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures was nominated for a James Beard Award as well as Rick's sixth cookbook, Mexican Everyday.

RECIPES
Add some fun to your summer meals with a few of Rick's most requested recipes!

Bacon and Tomato Guacamole
Frontera Grill's Now-Classic Ceviche
Grilled Pork Tacos, Pastor Style
Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
Strawberry Margaritas

Bacon and Tomato Guacamole
Makes about 3 cups, serving 8 to 10 as a nibble

Ingredients:
5 strips medium-thick bacon (full-flavored smoky bacon is great here)
3 medium-large (about 1 and one-quarter pounds) ripe avocados
one-half medium white onion, chopped into one-quarter-inch pieces
2 or 3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo to taste, removed from the canning sauce, stemmed, slit open, seeds scraped out and finely chopped
1 medium-large round, ripe tomato, cored and chopped into one-quarter-inch pieces
one-quarter cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off), plus a little extra for garnish
Salt
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Directions:
In a large (10-inch) skillet, cook the slices of bacon in a single layer over medium heat, turning them occasionally, until crispy and browned, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then coarsely crumble.

Cut around each avocado, from stem to blossom end and back again, then twist the two halves apart. Scoop out the pit and discard. Scoop the flesh from the skin into a large bowl. Using an old fashioned potato masher or a large fork or spoon, mash the avocados into a coarse puree. Scoop the onion into a small strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake off the excess water and transfer to the bowl, along with the chipotle chiles, tomatoes, cilantro (save out a little for garnish if you wish) and about 2/3 of the bacon. Gently stir to combine all of the ingredients. Taste and season with salt, usually about one-half teaspoon, and enough lime juice to add a little sparkle.

Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Scoop the guacamole into a serving dish, sprinkle with the remaining bacon (and cilantro if you have it), and you're ready to serve.

Frontera Grill's Now-Classic Ceviche
Makes about 4 cups, enough for 6 to 8 as a starter

Ingredients:

1 pound "sashimi-quality" skinless meaty ocean fish fillet (halibut, snapper and bass are great choices), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
About 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
1 small white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 or 3 serranos or 1 large jalapeno), stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, preferably manzanillos
1 large (about 10-ounce) ripe round tomato, cored, seeded (if you wish) and cut into 1/4-inch pieces OR 1/4 cup (lightly packed, about 1 ounce) soft sundried tomatoes, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
1/4 small jícama, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (optional, but suggested if using sundried tomatoes)
1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
Salt
1 teaspoon sugar
About 16 ounces of sturdy tortilla chips or 3- to 4-inch tostadas (preferably chips or tostadas from a local tortillería), for serving

Directions:
"Cook" the fish in the lime juice. In a large non-reactive bowl (stainless steel or glass are best), combine the fish, lime juice and onion. The fish cubes should float freely in the juice; if they don't, add a little more juice. Cover and refrigerate until the fish is as "done" as you like: 30 minutes to an hour for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for "cooked" all the way through. If you're planning to serve your ceviche on chips or tostadas, tip off all the lime juice; to serve in dishes or glasses, tip off about half the juice. (Sad to say that the juice is fishy tasting at this point and can't easily be used for another preparation or another round of ceviche. In Peru, however, they season it, pour it into shot glasses and serve it as sangre de tigre --tiger's blood.)

Flavor the ceviche. In a mini food processor, process the green chile and olives until finely chopped (or finely chopped by hand). Add to the fish along with the tomato, optional jícama, cilantro and olive oil. Stir well, then season with salt (usually about a scant teaspoon) and sugar.

Refrigerate until ready to serve --preferably no longer than an hour or two. Serve the "dry" version with the chips or tostadas for your guests to use a little edible plates; serve the "wet" version in small dishes or glasses.

Working Ahead: The fish can be marinated in lime and completely drained (even if you're going to add back some of the juice) early in the day you're going to serve; cover tightly and refrigerate. All the vegetables and the cilantro can be prepped, mixed, covered and refrigerated early in the day, too. Mix and season the ceviche within two hours of serving; keep it refrigerated until the last moment.

Grilled Pork Tacos, Pastor Style
Makes enough for 20 tacos, serving 4 to 5 as a main dish

Ingredients:
A 3 1/2-ounce package achiote paste
3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, plus 4 tablespoons of the canning sauce
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil, plus a little more for the onion and pineapple
1 1/2 pounds thin-sliced pork shoulder (1/4-inch-thick slices are ideal --the kind Mexican butchers sell for making tacos al pastor)
1 medium red onion, sliced 1/4- inch thick
Salt
1/4 of a medium pineapple, sliced 1/4-inch-thick rounds
20 warm corn tortillas
About 1 1/2 cups raw tomatillo salsa

Directions: In a blender, combine the achiote paste, chiles, canning sauce, oil and 3/4 cup water. Blend until smooth. Use 1/3 of the marinade to smear over both sides of each piece of meat (refrigerate the rest of the marinade to use on other meat or fish). Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until covered with gray ash but still very hot; bank the coals to one side and set the grill grate in place. Or, heat one side of a gas grill to high. Brush both sides of the onions slices with oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay in a single layer on the hot side of the grill. When richly browned, usually just about a minute, flip and brown the other side; move to the cool side of the grill to finish softening to grilled-onion sweetness. Oil and grill the pineapple in the same way.

Finally, in batches, grill the meat: it'll take about a minute per side as well. As the meat is done, transfer it to a cutting board and chop it up (between 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces). Scoop into a skillet and set over the grill to keep the meat warm.

Chop the onion and pineapple into small pieces as well, add them to the skillet and toss everything together. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Serve with the tortillas and salsa for your guests to make soft tacos.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
Makes 32, 2-inch bars

Ingredients:
9 ounces (about 2 cups) pecan halves
One 9-ounce bag pretzel rods
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter (divided use), plus extra for buttering the pan
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces not larger than 1/4-inch
3/4 cup (about 4 1/2 ounces) finely chopped Mexican chocolate (like the widely available Ibarra brand)
3 tablespoons flour
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups corn syrup, preferably dark (or use a mixture of corn syrup and molasses, sorghum, Steens cane syrup or most any of the other rich-flavored syrups that are on the market)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, preferably Mexican vanilla
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Directions:
In a 325 degree oven, toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet until noticeably darker and toasty smelling, about 10 minutes. Let the pecans cool to lukewarm (but keep the oven heated), then coarsely chop them by hand --1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces makes luxurious-looking bars. Scrape into a large bowl.

Use a food processor to chop the pretzels into fairly fine crumbs. (You should have 2 cups of crumbs.) In a small saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave at 50 percent power, melt 2 sticks of the butter. Scrape into the processor, along with the 1/2 cup sugar. Pulse until everything is combined. Butter the bottom and sides of two 8 x 8-inch baking pans. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of each pan, then press them firmly in place. Butter the parchment paper. Divide the crumb mixture between the two pans and pat into an even layer covering the bottom completely.

To the pecans, add the 2 chocolates and the flour. Stir to combine, then divide evenly between the 2 pans. In your small saucepan or microwave, melt the remaining 2 sticks of the butter. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla, and beat at medium-low speed (if your mixer has a choice, use the flat beater). Slowly add the melted butter, mixing until the batter looks smooth. Divide the batter between the two pans, pouring it slowly and evenly over the surface to ensure even distribution of the chocolate and pecans through the batter.

Slide into the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the center has just set. Let cool to room temperature.Cover and refrigerate until firm for easy cutting. Cut into 2-inch squares. Keep them stored in the refrigerator until just before serving. Transfer to a serving platter, dust with powdered sugar, carry to your guests and await the ooo's and aah's.

Strawberry Margaritas
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
Lime wedges
Coarse salt
3/4 cup Tres Generaciones Blanco Tequila
3/4 cup pureed strawberries
1/4 cup cucumber juice (peel and cube fresh cucumber and puree in a blender)
About 1 cup coarsely broken ice cubes

Directions:
Combine lime juice, sugar and a scant 2/3 cup of water in a glass or plastic pitcher. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (but no longer than 24 hours).

Rub the rims of 4 martini glasses with a lime wedge, then dip them in a dish of coarse salt. In a shaker, combine the limeade, tequila, strawberry puree and cucumber juice. Add ice and shake 10 to 15 seconds, then pour into the prepared glasses.

And To learn more about the 2011 Frontera Farm Foundation Benefit this Sunday, click here.

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