Monday, July 15, 2013


What foods do you crave in the summer more than a BLT, hamburger or fried chicken? The holy trinity of summer picnics.

I would have my fill by now if I were in Chicago – burgers at Etzos, BLT’s at the Lake Bluff Golf Club and fried chicken at Big Jones – and would be done with it. I wouldn’t even be thinking about food. But I am and it’s been constant and that adds up to multiple food cravings, which I’ve never had.

Just give me a BLT, a Burger and Fried Chicken and I’ll be happy. Call it my gringa cravings.

The BLT:

I stopped at La Mesa Grande, Zacateros 49. I knew they had wonderful baked goods because a few weeks back I picked up a bag of their homemade English Muffins – expensive by Mexican standards - but really high-quality. They are also known for their pizzas because their ingredients are superbly fresh.

I was going to order the pizza until I saw a BLT on the menu. It was served on multigrain bread which they bake fresh daily. Stacked with a layer of fresh lettuce and tomato, it was topped with a heap of bacon.

Wow – that was quick. One craving down and two to go!

The Burger:

I tried burgers at several places this week including my own kitchen. Turns out when I asked the butcher for hamburguesa he gave me ground pork instead of beef. Actually it wasn’t that bad topped with gouda cheese but it still didn’t satisfy that craving. I actually wasn’t sure if the craving was for a burger or just grilled food in general.

I remembered that Ten Ten Pie  - Cuna de Allende and Cuadrante - had burgers because I go there quite often. Besides having good food at a reasonable price, the staff is really friendly and I love to sit outside on the tiered terrace and watch San Miguel go by. It’s quiet because it’s off the main square but their corner is actually pretty busy and the people watching is great.

Much to my delight – and different from the way I normally eat them – it came stacked with cheese, bacon, ham and all the fixing. The French fries were also served just the way I like them – extra crispy.

Ten Ten Pie also has a place at Stirling Dickenson called Ten Ten Pie al Carbón. Al carbon means charcoal-grilled, and that's their specialty. This Mexican Arrachera was right off the grill and my sudden need to go out and buy a grill was put to rest. Grilled food never tasted so good.

Two down and last but not least…

The Fried Chicken:

Of all the things I’ve been craving, fried chicken was at the top of my list. It’s always been my go-to comfort food.

I obviously had a memory lapse when I got excited about the fried chicken on the menu at Pueblo Viejo, Urman 6. I ordered it and this is what I got.

Actually I couldn’t stop laughing. There is a reason why the butcher always tries to pound my chicken before I buy it. It’s called Mexican Fried Chicken.

What it does remind me of is Chicken Fried Chicken without the gravy. For this dish, a boneless, skinless chicken breast is pounded flat, sort of like a schnitzel and then dredged in flour and fried. I use to eat it when I lived in the south but smothered it with white gravy to enhance the taste. I didn’t love it back then either.

On a scale of one to ten, this was a two and was saved only by inserting it into a bolillo and slathering it with mustard. Mustard does wonders for bad food.

Stop Craving and Lets Cook…

It’s Sunday and this was a recipe rescue. Whenever I can’t get something out, I find a recipe and cook it in.

I remembered that I had Saveur’s fried chicken recipe from Martha Lou’s Kitchen in Charleston, S.C. It was in an article called “Specialty of the House” back in 2011 (yes, I’ve saved every Saveur and Bon Appetit from day one) and the list of ingredients were so simple I knew that I could get them all here in San Miguel. What I improvised on? No Dutch Oven or deep-fry thermometer so I used a fry pan and took a wild guess at the temperature. It worked.

What I had for Sunday dinner today would delight anyone who truly loves fried chicken not to mention it was perfectly cooked. In fact, I think that this is the first time I’ve cooked textbook fried chicken.

Isn’t it funny that you have to go to Mexico to learn how to make good fried chicken? This must be what southern living is all about.

So for now I can go back to eating great Mexican food…at least until one of those gringa food cravings kick in again.

Buen Apetito!

Martha Lou’s Kitchen Fried Chicken

Peanut oil, for frying ( I could not find peanut oil so I used regular vegetable oil)
4 cups flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 3–4 lb. whole chickens, cut into quarters
2 cups milk
2 eggs

Pour oil into an 8-qt. Dutch oven to a depth of 3″, and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 325°.

Place flour in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Season chicken all over with salt and pepper.

Whisk milk and eggs in a large bowl and, working in batches, dip chicken quarters in milk mixture, then dredge in flour, shaking off excess.

Place in oil and fry, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and dark brown, 15 minutes for white meat, 20 minutes for dark meat.

Drain on paper towels and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.