Archive | March 14th, 2013

Ace’s High: Pork Belly with Mole Pipian Makes Chef Almost Famous

Ace’s High: Pork Belly with Mole Pipian Makes Chef Almost Famous

Acenette “Ace” Gonzalez is Almost Famous.

Ace Gonzalez is the winner of the national S. Pellegino Almost Famous Chef Competition sponsored by San Pellegrino.

Ace Gonzalez is the winner of the national S. Pellegino Almost Famous Chef Competition sponsored by San Pellegrino.

That’s because the chef in training at the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America recently won the national S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition in Napa, Calif.

Winning the event was “so life changing,” said Gonzalez, who received $3,000 for her efforts. Most of the money is going toward the cost of her education, but she’s also got her eye on a new set of knives from either Shun Cutlery or Global Knives.

Gonzalez advanced to the finals after winning the South Central Regional Competition, which was held in Houston this year. In California, she faced the winners of the nine other regional competitions that make up the annual contest. In the end, she was crowned victorious because of two dishes she made. One was her signature dish, Pork Belly with Mole Pipian (recipe follows), and the other was for a caldo de mariscos that came out of a mystery basket competition.

Both of Gonzalez’s winning dishes were inspired by the food she grew up eating. Though she is from Dallas, her parents are from Mexico City, and the caldo was a taste of home with its chipotle, tomatoes, onions and garlic as well as the four mystery box ingredients, mussels, clams, cod and shrimp.

Ace Gonzalez cooks during the Almost Famous competition in Houston.

Ace Gonzalez cooks during the Almost Famous competition in Houston.

Even though the caldo from her childhood provided inspiration, it didn’t make the competition any less intense.

“They were all great cooks,” she said of the other nine cooks. “It was just awesome having the chance to compete with them.”

Now that the contest is over, Gonzalez is focusing on finishing her associate’s degree at the CIA. “I graduate in April,” she said. “Then I think I’ll work for a year or so.”

Becoming the latest Almost Famous Chef should help Gonzalez find a good position after she graduates. Winning “means a lot,” she said. “It gets my name out there.”

Her mentor in the Houston competition, chef Philip Speer of Uchi Houston, said that taking the top spot is “something that can take you to another level in your career.”

Ace Gonzalez's Pork Belly with Mole Pipian

Ace Gonzalez’ Pork Belly with Mole Pipian

Pork Belly with Mole Pipian

This recipe involves several parts, each of which appears separately below. At the end are the instructions of how to plate the dish.

Huitlacoche Polenta Fries

10 cups pork stock
3 cups polenta
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 pound cojita cheese
20 ounces huitlacoche
Oil for frying

Bring pork stock to a simmer; add in polenta.

Season with salt and pepper. In a Robo Coupe food processor, process cheese until it’s fine.

Cook polenta until it’s done. Add in huitlacoche and cheese until melted in.

Cool in a small sheet pan that has been covered in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.

Cut polenta in 1 inch by 2 1/2 inch sticks. Deep fry until crispy. Drain. Reserve until assembling.

Pickled Onions, Watermelon Radishes and Raw Chayote

5 cups white vinegar
2 cups honey
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
4 red onions
15 watermelon radishes
8 chayote
2 cups micro cilantro

Place vinegar in pot, add honey and spices. Bring to a boil.

Julienne onions and thinly slice radishes on mandolin.

Place onions and radishes in vacuum-seal bag and pour hot vinegar solution into bag ¼ full and vacuum seal the bag. Let compressed radishes and onions sit in solution for 30 to 45 minutes.

On mandolin, slice chayote in thin strips.

At service, add chayote strips to the solution with the onion and radishes.

Pork Belly

7 pounds pork belly
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
8 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
7 cloves garlic, peeled
3 ounces sesame seeds
4 ounces peanuts, skinned
9 ounces pumpkin seeds
13 ounces tomatillos
2 medium white onions
7 jalapeños
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
14 green romaine lettuce leaves
4 hoja santa leaves
1 cup brown lard
3 quarts pork stock
Cumin powder, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut pork belly into 2 1/2-ounce cubes.

In a Vitamix or powerful blender, mix salt, pepper and cumin and peeled garlic cloves. Rub over pork belly and bake for 1 hour with foil on top and a little water on the bottom.

Take out of oven and when ready to serve, deep fry until crispy.

Toast sesame seeds until golden; transfer into a bowl. Repeat that process with peanuts and pumpkin seeds.

On a comal, roast onion, jalapeño, and unpeeled garlic cloves. Set aside.

Boil tomatillos in water until they change color.

In Vitamix, mix onion, jalapeño, garlic, tomatillos, lettuce, and hoja santa until smooth. Fry in brown lard, set aside.

In Vitamix, mix all the nuts and seeds until smooth. Add pork stock as needed.

Combine the two purées together and thin out with pork stock. Simmer for 30 minutes.

To serve: On a wooden plate, make a straight line with mole. Place 3 polenta fries along the mole. Place 3 pork belly pieces next to the polenta. Add pickled onions on top of pork belly and spread 5 radish slices along the plate. Stand the chayote pieces along the pork belly and garnish with micro cilantro.

From Acenette Gonzalez


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Get Your Fill of Crawfish This Spring

Get Your Fill of Crawfish This Spring

Crawdads at Dry Dock.

Crawdads at Dry Dock.

They’ve got a number of names — crawfish, crayfish, crawdads, lobsters, mudbugs and yabbies, to list a few of the more common. But delicious is the word that most comes to mind.

That and the fact that they’re in season right now.

San Antonio seems to have developed crawfish fever this spring, and you can find them at a number of places around town, especially at eateries that specialize in Cajun food.

Luke, 125 E. Houston St., is featuring a crawfish boil every Friday this month with the crustaceans going for $5 a pound.

Dry Dock Oyster Bar, 8522 Fredericksburg Road, has the little beauties boiled in Cajun spice for $5.75 a pound. The plate comes with drawn butter and a new potato.

Acadiana Cafe, 1289 S.W. Loop 410, not only has them boiled and served by the pound, but you can also get fried crawfish tails

Where Y’At at the Alamo Street Eat Bar, 609 S. Alamo St., has a crawfish boil on Tuesdays through the beginning of June or as long as they’re good, owner Pieter Sypesteyn says.

Fat Bellies Cajun Food Truck from Boerne, which often stops at the Point Parks and Eats on Boerne Stage Road, has been having boils with corn and potatoes since the season began. Call (210) 410-7886 for details.

If you want to have your own boil at home, you can find live crawfish — and they must be live — at Groomer”s Seafood, 9801 McCullough Ave., on Fridays and at select H-E-B’s.

To plan your own crawfish boil, click here for a recipe and advice.

If you know of any other place that offers crawfish, email with the details.

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Earl Abel’s Celebrates: 80 Cent Fried Chicken Friday

Earl Abel’s Celebrates: 80 Cent Fried Chicken Friday

Earl Abel’s celebrates this year’s 80th anniversary with an offer to customers that will be hard to resist: their popular fried chicken will be 80 cents per piece Friday (March 15). There’s a limit of 10 pieces per order for those who order from the “to go” department.

This might be a tasty Southern staple, but it is especially a San Antonio favorite, say the owners of the family restaurant.

Photo courtesy Earl Abel's

Photo courtesy Earl Abel’s

There’s also a little history to the fried chicken at Earl’s — early on, the chicken was pan-fried, then pressure-cooked, but the ultimate instrument became the deep-fryer.  The chicken is breaded by hand, and fried in non-trans-fat oil.

Eat in, and Earl’s also gives you an anniversary deal of up to three pieces of chicken, plus mashed potatoes and choice of green beans or carrots for 80 cents apiece. That means $1.60 for a two-piece meal, and $2.40 for a three-piece meal.

“Earl Abel’s is proud to be celebrating its 80th year of serving this great community we call home. We wouldn’t be here without the support of our many long-time and loyal customers — thank you for making us a San Antonio tradition,” said Roger Arias, president of Earl Abel’s.

Located at 1201 Austin Highway in the Terrell Plaza Shopping Center, Earl Abel’s has been a San Antonio dining tradition since 1933. The restaurant is open Sun.-Thurs. from 6:30 am until 10pm, Fri. and Sat. 6:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. Breakfast is served all day, 7 days a week. Kids eat free all day Tuesday. and from 5-8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. “To Go” is open daily from 10:30 a.m. until  8 p.m. Call 210-822-7333 to place to-go orders, or order online at  

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