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Archive | October 7th, 2010

Latin Flavors, American Kitchens Symposium Opens at CIA

Latin Flavors, American Kitchens Symposium Opens at CIA

In the new facility at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, students are already using the kitchens for their class work.

As the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, opened its third annual symposium, Latin Flavors, American Kitchens Wednesday the big news was the nearly completed facility.

Celebrity chefs and authors, food historians, purveyors, producers and restaurateurs toured the three-story building while tantalizing scents of dishes being prepared for the afternoon’s demonstrations wafted through the air, both inside and outside.

The CIA’s grand opening will be a public event this Saturday.

Several chefs prepare desserts to be served at the Culinary Institute's San Antonio campus.

Shortly after the first announcers took the podium in the afternoon, more news emerged as the plans to open a fourth CIA campus — in Singapore — were announced.

Closer to home, CIA officials said that by the spring of next year CIA San Antonio will begin offering a two-year associate’s degree.  That could be in April or May, said David Kellaway, managing director of the CIA, San Antonio.

The pilot program at the institute here has been a 30-week certificate course, or half of the associate’s degree.

Iliana de la Vega, Mexican/Latin cuisines specialist at the San Antonio campus, moderated the afternoon’s presentations.

Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, author and lecturer is an authority on the globalization of Mexican food. He discussed the influence of French cuisine, Creole and the indigenous foods of the country, as well as historical factors, as well as aspects of class and ethnicity on its evolution.

Rick Bayless presented the first culinary demonstration, talking about mole in general and putting together a relatively simple green version of the sauce.

An award-winning American chef, author and restaurateur, Bayless has explored Mexican food, its history and culinary intricacies for decades.  He owns the acclaimed restaurants Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and XOCO in Chicago.

Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, one of Mexico City’s top chefs and owner of Cafe Azul y Oro, is also an author and authority on Mexican food. One of his books, which will soon be published in English, is “The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Mexican Gastronomy.” He discussed the famous dish that is traditionally served on Mexican Independence Day, Chiles en Nogada. The dish is so special, he says, that one doesn’t make it for just a few people. It takes a long time to make — in fact, just peeling two pounds of walnuts for the sauce, to make a large recipe of this  beautiful dish, takes more than eight hours.

Francisco Javier Cárdenas prepares Enchiladas del Portal.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico chef/restaurateur Francisco Javier Cárdenas. His Guanajuato-style Enchiladas and Red Pozole were two popular dishes at the tasting that followed the demonstrations.

Benedicta Alejo from Michoacan, Mexico, Lucero Soto and Federico López prepared their dishes in the downstairs demonstration kitchen, televised upstairs to the conference room.

Alejo ground roasted guajillo chile seeds in a molcajete to a smooth paste along with onion, tomatillo, cilantro and sea salt. She also employed the molcajete to make Mole de Queso, fried slices of queso fresco topped with a simple sauce of dry-roasted chiles, garlic and onion.

Soto demonstrated making sopes, little corn tortilla cakes with a center depression. The sopes are filled with beans, but then the fillings can vary. For the red, white and green colors of Mexican Independence Day (Diez y Seis de Septiembre), she used fried jamaica flowers, lightly sugared, fried queso cotija, avocado sauce and red Chile Capon.

Federico Lopez demonstrated Tatemado Short Ribs, Queretaro Style. These succulent ribs were braised with chiles and the Mexican drink pulque, wrapped in maguey leaves and covered with nopalitos (cactus paddles). The hours required to make the dish are well worth it, in the tenderness of the caramelized beef and the dark, chile-laden sauce.

This was just the beginning: More in-depth exploration of authentic Latin flavors are ahead as the symposium continues through Friday.

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Guanajuato-style Enchiladas (Enchiladas del Portal)

Guanajuato-style Enchiladas (Enchiladas del Portal)

Francisco Javier Cárdenas

These enchiladas are served immediately after you stuff them, says chef Francisco Javier Cárdenas, who demonstrated how to make them during the Latin Flavors, American Kitchens symposium at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio.

When you devein the chiles, don’t throw away the seeds or membrane. “There are many dishes we can use them in,” he says.

Cárdenas is chef and owner of El Petit Four, a pastry shop and cafe in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Guanajuato-style Enchiladas feature a dark sauce made from guajillo chiles and a filling of Mexican ranchero cheese and finely chopped onion.

Guanajuato-style Enchiladas (Enchiladas del Portal)

Guajillo salsa:
20 guajillo chiles
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sea salt
Pinch of cumin seeds
Pinch of dried oregano

Enchiladas:
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups crumbled ranchero cheese or queso fresco
1 cup finely chopped onion
18 day-old corn tortillas

Garnish:
3 cups romaine lettuce, finely shredded
6 whole romaine lettuce leaves
3 cups potatoes, cooked and cut into small cubes
3 cups carrots, cooked and cut into small cubes
2 cups crumbled ranchero cheese or queso fresco

For the guajillo salsa: Clean each chile with a damp kitchen towel. Open each and remove the seeds and ribs. Dry roast the chiles in a skillet over medium heat, taking care not to burn them. Transfer the chiles to a saucepan of hot water and soak for 20 minutes. transfer the chiles to a blender and reserve soaking water. Add the garlic, sea salt and cumin with some of the reserve water and blend to obtain a thick salsa. Set aside.

For the enchiladas: Mix the crumbled cheese with the chopped onion and set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Take a tortilla, soak it in the guajillo salsa and place in the skillet, fry each side for 10 seconds. Transfer the tortilla enchilada to a plate. place 2 tablespoons of the onion and cheese mixture on the center of the tortilla, roll it and set aside in a warm tray. continue this process with the remaining tortillas.

To serve, place a large leaf of lettuce in the center of a plate. On the top of the lettuce, place diced potatoes and carrots alongside three enchiladas. Cover the enchiladas with shredded lettuce and crumbled ranchero cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

From Maria del Socorro Guerrero as presented by Francisco Javier Cárdenas, El Petit Four, San Miguel de Allende

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Delicious (But Spooky!) Kids Event at The Cake Shop

Delicious (But Spooky!) Kids Event at The Cake Shop

Take the kids to a Trick-or-Treat Cupcake Tasting at The Cake Shop. From 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 16, pastry chefs Mike and Amanda Joyner will hand out samples of new fall flavors. Costumes are encouraged.

Some of the new flavors include Apple Pie with apple filling and caramel buttercream frosting; Hot Chocolate, with marshmallows and hot chocolate flavored buttercream frosting (see photo, right); Brown Butter Pecan Cake with caramel filling and salted brown butter buttercream frosting; and Gingerbread Pear cupcakes with citrus buttercream frosting.

Kids also will get to help put scary decorations on a Halloween cake, which will be given away at the end of the day.

This event will be at 18720 Stone Oak Parkway, Suite 113. For more information about The Cake Shop and its two other locations, click here.

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So Much to Learn About Mexican Cuisine, Rick Bayless Says

So Much to Learn About Mexican Cuisine, Rick Bayless Says

Rick Bayless makes a green mole.

Chef Rick Bayless’ name is known to many for his Mexican cookbooks and restaurants, including Chicago’s Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. His face is recognizable to many more, thanks to his PBS series, “Mexico — One Plate at a Time.”

But his contribution to the culinary scene is far greater, according to Iliana de la Vega, Mexican/Latin cuisines specialist at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.

“He opened the door of Mexican cuisine in the United States,” she said Wednesday as she introduced the celebrity chef during a series of cooking presentations that celebrated the culinary heritage of Central Mexico. The forum was part of the opening day of the annual Latin Flavors, American Kitchens symposium that the CIA sponsors at the Pearl Brewery.

Rick Bayless

Yet Bayless, standing in the new lecture hall and demonstration kitchen at the CIA, said he’s the first to admit that he has “a whole lot more of the cuisine” left to learn. So he continues to study, because the more he knows, “the better I can do the work that I do every day.”

During his years of study, he has loved “watching Mexican food evolve,” he said. And the more he understands, the more he’s able to nudge some of that evolution.

One dish that interests Bayless is mole. “Mole in Mexico is a pretty big deal,” he said.

That’s because it can take so many forms, beyond the peanut butter variety that is commonly served. No matter the form, the end result is a dish filled with “depth, complexity, intrigue,” he said.

The goal is to create a sauce in which all of the ingredients blend together. You shouldn’t be able to pick apart a good mole and dissect the cumin from the clove.

To demonstrate this, Bayless tossed together a green mole, which uses fresh ingredients as opposed to dried chiles. The end result didn’t have a recipe so much as a collection of items blended to taste.

He started by filling his Vitamix with roasted tomatillos (about one-third of the container), then added a healthy amount of pumpkin seeds, which works as a thickening agent. He tore off a generous handful of cilantro and added a surprise ingredient to some: leaves of romaine lettuce. The lettuce is a part of many people’s recipes, but you could use radish leaves instead for a little extra bite, he said.

He poured chicken broth over all of it and said some would end the recipe there. But he decided to give the mole extra flavor by adding some spice. In a molcajete, he ground together canela, or Mexican cinnamon, as well as a couple of cloves, a few peppercorns and a pinch of cumin. Only a pinch, he said. Though too many Americans think cumin is what makes food taste Mexican, the truth is that “cumin is used very sparingly in Mexico,” he said.

Once the spices were ground, Bayless added them to the tomatillo mixture and pulverized everything in the Vitamix. The point was to get the mixture as smooth as possible, before finishing it off in melted lard.

That’s right. Lard. “Lard is iconic in Mexican cuisine,” he said. And in mole, it is the ingredient “that brought it all together.”

But not just any lard. It has to be freshly rendered pork fat, not the white blocks that sometimes sit for months on grocers’ shelves.

“It has to be good lard,” Bayless said. “It has to fill the kitchen with the incredibly beautiful aroma of roast pork.”

Bayless poured the tomatillo mixture into the warm lard and stirred it together, heating it until it was ready to serve. It would work on tacos, on chicken, on pork …  In other words, make the mole to suit your tastes and use it however you like.

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