Monday, December 9, 2013

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things…

A recent live performance of Sound of Music got me thinking about my favorite things.
Almost every one of them involve food or drink. Surprised?

Food heaven describes where I’m at whenever I’m in Chicago or San Miguel. Both cities offer so many great options from a wide variety of restaurants, markets, farms, gourmet food stores and other food sources.


I happen to be in Chicago right now ODing on much loved cuisines at my favorite restaurants but I’m also missing some of my old standbys back in San Miguel.

There are so many new restaurants opening up in both cities that a foodie could eat at a new place just about every week. Even as small as San Miguel is, it’s evolving in its range of both restaurants and chefs. I will be excited to track it’s progress over the next year.

Perception? You can judge a restaurant by its cover but I’ve found some of the best eating places are what Guy Fieri calls Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I’ve had some of my best meals at dirt floor palapas and three table dives. Mexico is full of them so follow your nose and go where the crowds are.

So here are a few of my favorite things… in both food capitals. Yes, I’m calling San Miguel a food capital because it was recently named the “The Best City in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler. One of the reasons is its restaurants.

Bon Appetit!


Ice Cream:

I couldn’t find an ice cream maker in the six months I was in San Miguel. I’m bringing mine back because the best ice cream is always homemade.

I hope to churn out something half as good as Snookelfritz in Chicago and since I’m a lifelong ice cream snob, this exercise will be fun.

Here is one of the easiest ice cream recipes ever and one of my favorites.

Ice Cream with Lemon Curd

2/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 can (4 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon curd

Whip the cream.

Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and lemon curd.

Pour the mixture into the container, cover and freeze.

I also like homemade ice cream in a shake, like the one I had for my birthday at Good Bad Poutine in Chicago.


For now, Thrifty in San Miguel curbs my craving until I can make my own.


Fruit:

Mexico has fresh fruit year round so it’s safe to say that since I have it growing in my backyard, we’ll never run out of fruit recipes next year.

I’ll miss my weekly trips to Green City Market in Chicago. Did you know that Green City was voted the third best Farmers Markets in the U.S. right behind Pike’s Place in Seattle and Des Moines?


Pancakes:

I really can’t decide between Lemon Ricotta pancakes from the old Prairie Fire in Chicago or the toffee-cajeta butter hotcakes from  The Sierra Nevada Hotel in San Miguel. Both are distinctively delicious and make my mouth water just thinking about them.

Makes me want to come up with a recipe of my own.


Fried Chicken:

I love fried chicken…especially the chicken at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab here in Chicago.

I never found a really great fried chicken restaurant in San Miguel so I broke down and made my own.

Sometimes when you have the craving, cooking in is your best option.

Martha Lou’s Kitchen Fried Chicken
Peanut oil, for frying
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.


Desserts:

Gerhard’s, Chicago
The Restaurant, San Miguel
My Kitchen, Chicago.

I’m declaring this one a three way tie.



Desserts…again:

Yes, desserts again because they are my most favorite thing besides ice cream.

One of my favorite places, Magnolia Bakery in Chicago, is located just across from Macy’s on State Street. Magnolia is overloaded with choices and every one of the sixteen I’ve tried has been delish. I’m standing in the long line right now picking out number seventeen.

Cumpano Bakery is my sweet shop of choice in Mexico although I heard a rumor that Magnolia will open in Mexico City next year.

Stay tuned.


Pizza:

One of my favorite breakfast pizza can be had at Davanti Enoteca in Chicago. I have yet to find the perfect pizza in San Miguel.

The search continues and for now I’m on an all-you-can eat splurge at all my favorite pizza joints here in Chicago.


BBQ and Rotisserie Chicken:

From Chickens on the spit at a backyard BBQ in Chicago to your local rotisserie in San Miguel, this is one of the most appetizing methods to fix a quick meal.


Consider giving a vertical rotisserie as a Christmas gift. I will thank you for it.


Tomatillos:

At both Green City Market in Chicago and the Saturday Organic Market in San Miguel, these beauties make the magic in a great Salsa Verde.

My personal favorite when it comes to salsa. In fact I rarely eat anything these days but the green stuff.


Wine:

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico…one of my favorite places in the world for good wine. In fact, I know a bar in San Miguel that only sells wine from the region. 

Valle de Guadalupe will evolve as one of the major wine regions in the next 10 years. It’s been called the Sonoma of 60 years past so anyone who has not been there needs to go…rapido.

Discover this place before everyone else does. It’s on my list for 2014.


Hamburgers:

I never got a photo of the burgers at the Restaurant. It was too dark and I had too many Margaritas by the time I remembered. They were really good and offered a wide selection on burger night Thursday. They are expensive by San Miguel standards but worth every bite.


One of my favorite’s here in Chicago is Bop N Grill. They have one variety called the triple Bypass Burger and if that doesn’t get you, settle for another favorite, the Turkey Burger at Edzo’s. Eddie’s there really early in the AM and grinds the turkey fresh every day.

For a delicious home-cooked burger, go to the Carniceria Los Tres Huastecos in San Miguel. They grind the flank steak right there when you ask for the Molida Especial.


Soup:

To me, there is nothing better than Pho. It’s mispronounced every day and it’s to die for. Pho can be found at nearly every restaurant on Argyle Street here in Chicago.

Comparable because there are so many wonderful ingredients is the sopa Azteca at Muro in San Miguel.

With soup, you will survive during what is the one “cold” month of the year in San Miguel…January.

The rest of the year it is near picture perfect - 80 degree days and 50 at night.


Beer:

I actually rarely drank beer until I lived in Mexico. No doubt about it, Mexican cerveza is some of the best. Craft beer is a great choice but it’s always hard to decide because there are so many celebrated choices.


Hot Chocolate:

I LOVE chocolate and the high I get off both of these – one from Mindy Segal’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago and the other from Chocolates Johfrej in San Miguel - makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be drinking this stuff every day.


Speaking of chocolate and drinks, one of my favorite things to do is to rim a glass with chocolate and crushed candy canes to bring in the holiday season.

Feliz Navidad!

Steak:

I learned how to cook the prefect steak last years and it was so easy.

1 2” thick porterhouse steak
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp. Canola oil
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 sprigs thyme
1 lemon

Season steak with salt and pepper and let sit 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 500 degrees.
Heat a cast iron skillet on high. Add canola oil and when the pan almost smokes, add the steak and cook 5 minutes.
Flip the steak and place in the oven for 7-10 minutes longer.
Note: Watch your cooking time carefully. I determined the perfect cooking time for my oven was 5 minutes on the stovetop and 7 minutes in the oven. Get the timing down to a science.
Pour off the pan drippings and return to the stovetop. Melt butter. Add thyme and lemon and brown for about 4 minutes.
Serve butter and lemon over the steak.


I like to fix steaks at home but on a lazy, sunny day in San Miguel, Hansen’s is my choice for beef cooked to perfection. It’s also under 100 pesos. Their Burgers and Prime Rib are also good.


Onion Rings:

Onion rings…perhaps my favorite food on the planet. I make Guinness Beer Battered Onion rings all the time at home.

Guinness Beer Battered Onion Rings

2 large Vidalia onions, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon California-style garlic pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 (12 oz.) bottle Guinness® Extra Stout Beer
4 cups canola oil

Separate sliced onions into rings, transfer to bowl and cover with buttermilk.

Combine 1 cup flour, garlic pepper and salt in bowl and stir to blend.

Combine 1 cup flour and beer in bowl and whisk to blend.

Heat oil in deep heavy pan or deep fryer to 350°F.

Working in small batches; remove onions from buttermilk and drain. Dredge in seasoned flour; shake excess. Dip in beer batter; drain excess.

Carefully lower onion rings, one at a time, into hot oil (do not overcrowd) and deep fry until golden brown, turning several times during frying with tongs. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Repeat process with remaining onion rings.

Season with salt, if desired. Serve hot.

When you have a chance to eat them out, Hank’s in San Miguel rule. You have to order the softshell crab sandwich too. It’s also one of my favorite indulgences.


Sandwiches:

Bon Appetit’s Fried Chicken Sandwich with Slaw and Spicy Mayo and Cemitas Las Polentas complex and to kill for Cemita. What a match.

By the way, I only refer to something to “kill for” when it’s really, really good. Even I wouldn’t pick a winner on this one.

I know this sounds complicated but totally worth the effort. Both have complex flavors that will sell you with the first bite.

Bon Appetit’s Fried Chicken Sandwich with Slaw and Spicy Mayo

Spicy Mayo and Slaw:
1garlic clove, finely grated
1/2cupmayonnaise
1tablespoonLouisiana-style hot pepper sauce
1/2small red onion, thinly sliced
1jalapeño, thinly sliced
4cups thinly sliced cabbage
1/2cup Bread-and-Butter Pickle slices, plus 1/4 cup pickle juice

Fried Chicken and Assembly:
2cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1 cup buttermilk
28-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved crosswise
Peanut or vegetable oil (for frying)
4white sandwich rolls
2tablespoonsunsalted butter, room temperature

Preparing the Spicy Mayo and Slaw:
Mix garlic, mayonnaise, and hot pepper sauce in a small bowl; cover and chill. 

Toss onion, jalapeño, cabbage, pickles, and pickle juice in a large bowl to combine; cover and chill.

Putting together the Fried Chicken and The Rest:
Whisk flour, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoons salt in a shallow bowl. Pour buttermilk into another shallow bowl. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Dip in buttermilk, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge again in flour mixture, shaking off excess. 

Pour oil into a large heavy skillet to a depth of 1/2-inch. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium heat until thermometer registers 350°. 

Fry chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet; season with salt.

Spread cut sides of rolls with butter. Heat another large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook rolls buttered side down until browned and crisp, about 1 minute. 

Spread with spicy mayo. Build sandwiches with rolls, chicken, and cabbage slaw.


Tacos:

If there is a place as good as Ruby’s or Mercadito in Chicago it’s La Azotea in San Miguel. Ruby’s is a tent at the Maxwell Street Market and La Azotea is an upscale rooftop in San Miguel. Talk about a contrast.

What’s not to love about textbook tacos? These are some of my favorite hangouts in Chicago and San Miguel.


Breakfast:

Who said healthy is not good? Two of my favorite meals at my favorite time of the day: breakfast.

One is baked Oatmeal – a standard in my kitchen – and the other is the famous 55 peso breakfast from Hotel Matilda in San Miguel.

Baked Oatmeal

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Beat in milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Stir in dried cranberries. Spread into a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.


…and when light and healthy is not enough, go for the eggs and the bacon.



Bread:

Since I discovered no-knead bread, I haven’t bought any in Chicago.

When I’m in San Miguel, where I haven’t mastered the art of high-altitude baking, I buy all of my bread at Mi Vida.

Man cannot live by bread alone? Think so?

No-Knead Bread
3 cups bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1 3/4 Cups water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. 

Add water unless you dilute the yeast - then you can skip ¼ cup. Stir until blended. Dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 18 hours at warm room temperature.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes. 

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in oven as it heats. 

When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. 

Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Mine was perfect in 15.

Cool on a rack. 

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


Potatoes:

Potatoes are my only overkill since I’ve been back in the states. I can’t get enough of them.

I never had a good potatoe in Mexico with the exception of Moxi’s cheese fries at Hotel Matilda. That’s just a fact that I’ve learn to live with. 

It will however not prevent me from stopping at the first Texas Roadhouse north of the boarder the next time I go back to the states.


Blue Cheese:

Blue Cheese. I eat it on burgers or in wedge salads…in fact, I throw it on just about anything.


I get great Blue Cheese in San Miguel at La Cava. In fact, their cheese is some of the best I’ve had anywhere in the world.


Coffee:

Coffee is not an addiction, it’s an obsession. For a girl who didn’t have her first cup of coffee until late in life, a great cup of Java is something I really enjoy… especially when it involves a double shot of chocolate.


Pork
Bacon
Tasso Ham
Carnitas
Pork Belly
Bacon Jam

You name it and I’ll eat it. Can’t think of an animal protein I love better than pork.

Tasso Ham

1 3/4 cups sugar-based curing mixture such as Morton®
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 gallon water
10 pounds pork butt roast
2 tablespoons ground mace
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons honey

To Make the Brine: In a medium bowl, combine curing mixture, sugar, pepper, 2 tablespoons onion powder, 2 tablespoons garlic powder and water. Mix until the salt and sugar are dissolved in the water.
Pour brine over pork. Allow pork to soak in brine for one week in the refrigerator. 

Remove pork from brine, then discard brine. Rinse and pat dry the pork.
Preheat an outdoor smoker for 200 to 225 degrees F (95 to 110 degrees C).

To Make the Rub: In a medium bowl, mix together the mace, 1/4 cup garlic powder, 1/4 cup onion powder, paprika, sage, thyme and honey.
Evenly coat the pork with the rub and work it in with your fingers. Place a roasting rack in a drip pan and lay the meat on the rack.

Smoke at 200 to 225 degrees F (95 to 110 degrees C) for12 hours, or until internal pork temperature reaches 160 degrees F (70 degrees C)

Bacon Jam

1 pound bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp brown sugar
Tabasco sauce to taste

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, fry the bacon in batches. Remove the bacon from the pan, and pour off all but 1 tbsp. of the bacon fat (bacon fat can be reserved for other purposes, like a pie crust) 

Turn the pan heat to medium high. Add the onion to the pan and fry until translucent. Add the minced garlic, frying until fragrant.

Return the bacon to the pan, along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Stir occasionally, and add 1/4 cup of water every 25 minutes or so.

Once cooked down, puree the jam in a food processor until it reaches your desired consistency.

Doughnuts

I’ve never loved doughnuts until I experienced the texture of the sugar doughnuts at La Buen Vida in San Miguel. Now I get them every Saturday morning because they remind me of home.


Firecakes, Glazed and Infused and the Doughnut Vault all opened up in Chicago in the past few years. 


I never favored one over the other. They were all good. I just found my favorite one at each place.


Sweet Home Chicago!