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Chris Hennes

Cooking from "Fiesta at Rick's" by Rick Bayless

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Thanks, rancho_gordo—since I picked up the book on your recommendation, any suggestions you have for what else I should try out of it would be most appreciated. What have been your experiences with the recipes in the book?

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Pollo a la Crema con Quelites, Chile Poblano Asado y Cebolla Caramelizado (Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion) (pp. 134–135)

Bayless should have just called this "Damned Tasty Creamy Chicken" and been done with it. Longwinded title notwithstanding, this was fantastic. Next time I'd double up on the poblanos, I think, but this was great as a sort of taco-ish filling. What was even better was after running out of tortillas, using tortilla chips to mop up the extras. Next time I'll go easier on the salt to facilitate this, I think. This would make a perfect replacement for a Spinach Artichoke dip if you chopped the chicken a little finer. Nothing about this says "Mexican" to me, but that is probably just my lack of expertise in the area. If Bayless says it's Mexican, who am I to argue? It tastes great: make it now.

Pollo a la Crema.jpg

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Darienne   

I think this thread ought to be renamed: Chris Hennes does "Fiesta at Rick's". Wonderful. :smile:

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kalypso   

My god, Chris, I wish I had your energy for recipe testing!!

The chicken looks fabuloso, and it's a recipe I've had my eye on since I got the book. I like your idea of modifying it to use as a dip.

It looks to be a riff on rajas con crema (one of my all-time favorite Mexican dishes), which is a pretty standard (and authentic) dish. It pairs really well with chicken as you found out. :smile:

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Darienne, I'm still hoping that others will hop on the bandwagon here and post about their experiences with the book. It's pretty new, still, so maybe there aren't that many copies out yet. But I definitely think it's worth a purchase, if you like Mexican food and already have some books of Bayless and Kennedy's.

Guacamole de Pepita Tostada (Toasted Pumpkin Seed Guacamole) (p. 27)

This guacamole was not quite what I was expecting from the ingredient list. In particular, the pepitas are ground very finely so don't provide any noticeable crunch, and there are a lot of them, making the flavor very assertive. In my opinion this guacamole would have been better with the pepitas left much larger, and I'd cut the quantity in half. There was 3/4 cup of pepitas to three avacados, which I think is just too much pumpkin seed.

Guacamole de Pepita (1).jpg

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Tamales Colados (Yucatecan "Pudding" Tamales with Achiote and Chicken) (pp. 216–217)

These tamales have an exterior texture unlike any I have ever encountered: Bayless's description of them as "pudding" tamales is apt. I found the texture unusual, my wife found it objectionable: it's an extremely smooth just-barely-holding-together pudding like texture that is nothing like what I expect of a tamale. The taste is good, though. I'd also be inclined to include more chicken in the filling to act as a foil for the ultra-smooth exterior, which may also just be an acquired taste. I served them with the Roasted Tomato-Habanero Salsa from p. 218, though I replaced the habanero with jalaeño since that's what I have on hand. A nice simple roasted salsa that went well with the tamales.

(Yeah, the filling in this first picture is wrong, it's supposed to be at the top of the masa layer, not the bottom. Oops! I learned after the first one...)

Tamales Colados 1.jpg

Tamales Colados 2.jpg

Tamales Colados 3.jpg

Tamales Colados 4.jpg

Tamales Colados 5.jpg

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Thanks, rancho_gordo—since I picked up the book on your recommendation, any suggestions you have for what else I should try out of it would be most appreciated. What have been your experiences with the recipes in the book?

I've only looked at it and thumbed through it!

So far it's been more of an inspiration book than an actual cookbook. The thing that really hits me is the pozole for 30 party. I've been meaning to a big one like that but I fear I'm a little rusty for 30 guests (I like 4 to 6!) and I'm contemplating a date.

In the meantime, i'm enjoying your hard work, as I sit on the couch and sip tequila under the fan!

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These tamales have an exterior texture unlike any I have ever encountered: Bayless's description of them as "pudding" tamales is apt. I found the texture unusual, my wife found it objectionable: it's an extremely smooth just-barely-holding-together pudding like texture that is nothing like what I expect of a tamale. The taste is good, though. I'd also be inclined to include more chicken in the filling to act as a foil for the ultra-smooth exterior, which may also just be an acquired taste.

the first time I had these in the Yucatan I thought they were like baby food and did not care for them, but at some point I grew to love them and now I crave them. I bet by the time you finish the batch you'll be a fan. And it seems like the soft masa really picks up the flavor of the leaf wrapper in a way that dried corn doesn't.

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nakji   

They remind me of banh chung or other banana-leaf wrapped sticky rice dumplings. I also found the texture off-putting at first, but you eat enough of them (especially if there's nothing else around) and they grow on you. I imagine masa is less glutinous than the rice is, though. Once, over Tet, when they were all we had to eat, we were served them unwrapped and pan-fried for breakfast - it really helped the texture for me.

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And it seems like the soft masa really picks up the flavor of the leaf wrapper in a way that dried corn doesn't.

Yeah, I agree, that definitely seems to be the case. Most of the time with tamales the wrapper seems to only be there to hold stuff together, you could probably use paper for all the difference it would make. But the flavor of the banana leaves came through quite clearly in these.

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Mochomos con Cebolla Dorada y Salsa Roja (Crispy Flank Steak Shreds with Golden Onions and Red Chile Salsa) (pp. 140–141)

From the instructions for this dish:

Shred the meat into long, thin strands (this takes a while, but within reason, go for the thinnest possible—nothing larger than a strand of angel hair pasta).

You know what the main difference between a professional chef and a home cook is? A professional chef has a sous chef to do this crap!! It takes a LONG TIME to shred a pound of flank steak. Next instruction:

Let the oil return to 375 degrees, then quickly drop the meat shreds into the oil one by one, making sure the don't clump together.

So let me get this straight: I have one pound of flank steak, shredded into bits NO LARGER than a strand of angel hair pasta. That's hundreds, probably thousands of individual threads. For reference, here's 1/4 pound:

Shredded flank steak.jpg

You see all those tiny little strands? That's a lot of strands to drop in one by one. Also, you see that bit of moisture on them? That's water. There's water in them, too, and when they heat up the fibers squeeze together, forcing the water out into the 375 degree oil... where the water vaporizes and rises to the surface to the oil in the form of a big splatter. A LOT of big splatters. So, finally, you fry some up. If you get too aggressive adding too many at once, you wind up with this:

Fried shreds.jpg

Lovely, OK, we can still work with that, clumped though it may be. And then I tasted it. Tasted like... deep fried crispy stuff. Wait, how much time did I just spend shredding that perfectly good flank steak? To wind up with "deep fried crispy stuff"? I should have just bought some damned Chow Mein noodles. The texture was quite nice. The taste was fine on its own, and totally lost with the other components of the dish, with the fried stuff serving in a purely textural role. My advice? If you want this dish just go to Bayless's restaurant, where he has dozens of minions shredding beef for him, always-ready fryolators manned by line cooks with no fear of oil splatters, and a ventilation system to get rid of the smell. This has no business existing in a cookbook at this level, if you ask me. This is not "The French Laundry", it's "Fiesta at Rick's."

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Darienne   

Hi Chris,

If you should decide to make something from this book at the Heartland Gathering in August, I would be honored to be your sous-chef. We could just skip the Mochomos con Cebolla Dorada y Salsa Roja however. :raz:

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Florida   

Enchiladas Suizas de Verduras Asadas (Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas with Creamy Tomatillo Sauce) (pp. 199–200)

This is a great dish, in my opinion. I made the filling with carrots, white onions, turnips, and butternut squash; this wound up being a slightly-sweet medium-firm filling that contrasted very well with the bright flavors of the tomatillo sauce. I love enchiladas made with slightly-thicker-than normal homemade tortillas since they hold up to being immersed in the sauce better, and the queso quesadilla added a nice textural component, though is perhaps not flavorful enough to stand up to the vegetables and tomatillo sauce.

I don’t have this book yet. However, I was ecstatic to see you post this since my CSA has been pumping out more turnips and kohlrabi than I know what to do with. Since most of Bayless’s recipes seem to find their way to the internet, I was able to locate it. Even better, I was able to find the actual pages from the book:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/32914510/Rick-s-Fiesta-Photo-Challenge-Roasted-Vegetable-Enchilada-Recipe

My filling consisted of turnips, kohlrabi, and carrots. To avoid turning on the oven, I roasted them on the grill. After they were roasted I added in few tablespoons of mojo de ajo.

I used smoked turkey stock and heavy cream in the sauce, because those are what I had available. As with the veggies above, I roasted the tomatillos, jalapeno, garlic, and onion on the grill.

Personally, I thought this turned out to be a great dish. While the vegetable filling had that typical autumnal earthy-roasted flavor, the heat and the acidity of the tomatillo sauce offered a very nice brightly flavored contrast. Only problem was I used store-bought tortillas and they were just on the verge of falling apart, but this could be remedied in the future.

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Awesome, I'm glad the publisher has put some of these recipes online, thanks for finding that. You addition of the mojo de ajo sounds great, too. Did you use homemade?

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Florida   

Awesome, I'm glad the publisher has put some of these recipes online, thanks for finding that. You addition of the mojo de ajo sounds great, too. Did you use homemade?

Yes, homemade, though I must admit I was unaware it could even be purchased pre-made.

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I've never actually tried the jarred stuff, but I think I've seen it on the shelves at the store I get all my Mexican ingredients at. I could be thinking of something else, though.

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Huaraches (Sandal-Shaped Corn Masa Cakes with Black Beans, Salsa, and Aged Cheese) (pp. 206–207)

There were pretty tasty, and also pretty easy to make. I'm trying something new tonight, since the final photo doesn't really describe what's going on here, and I think the photo in the book is completely worthless, so here goes...

You start out with a pound of fresh masa and 3/4 cups of black beans, both seasoned to taste with salt and adjusted with water so they are the same consistency:

1 of 13 - Huaraches - Masa and beans.jpg

Portion the masa into eight equal balls (2 oz each), and the beans into 2 teaspoon balls (for me that was 11 grams... sorry for the mixed units!):

2 of 13 - Huaraches - portioned balls.jpg

Bayless says to take the ball of masa and form it into an "egg" shape, so here's my egg, with a quarter in the background for size reference:

3 of 13 - Huaraches - egg.jpg

Then, you press your thumb into the egg to create a pocket for the beans:

4 of 13 - Huaraches - Thumbprint.jpg

Add the beans:

5 of 13 - Huaraches - Filled.jpg

Then seal it up and roll it into the shape of a "cigar" (again, according to Bayless). I wasn't sure what kind of cigars Rick smokes, though, so this first one I made basically completely cylindrical. Later I made them tapered at the ends, which I liked better visually.

6 of 13 - Huaraches - cigar.jpg

He then says to flatten it into a "six-inch oval." When I think of flattening masa, I think of a tortilla press, but that didn't work very well. I think he just means to press them out with your hands. I used a frying pan to squish them, which worked fine (I've made tortillas that way too):

7 of 13 - Huaraches - flattened.jpg

Next up you cook them like tortillas, but on lower heat since they are so much thicker

9 of 13 - Huaraches - first cooking.jpg

Here's how thick mine came out (again compared to a US quarter):

8 of 13 - Huaraches - thickness.jpg

After their first cooking, you fry them on each side:

10 of 13 - Huaraches - frying first side.jpg

While frying on the first side mine puffed up: Bayless didn't mention that they would do that, but it seemed reasonable.

11 of 13 - Huaraches - puffed.jpg

Then you flip them over and top them with salsa (I used Roasted Tomatillo) and cheese (I used Cotija):

12 of 13 - Huaraches - flipped.jpg

Let them cook a bit, then serve them with chopped onions, radishes, and cilantro:

13 of 13 - Huaraches - Served.jpg

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Chris, you've created one of the classic eG topics here and I'm hanging on your every word and photo. Rick owes you: I think you've sold a few books for him.

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Thanks, Maggie. Not sure Rick really needs my help... after all, on the back of the book he's got an endorsement from Rachel Ray! Strange, there aren't too many 30 minute meals in here...

Tonight is an exception, however: this was indeed a 30-minute meal, and probably even less if you don't count the time to get the grill going.

Tlayudas "Casi Oaxaqueñas" con Chorizo, Guacamole y Queso Fresco ("Almost Oaxacan" Grilled Tostadas with Chorizo, Tangy Guacamole and Fresh Cheese) (pp. 202–203)

This is a pretty simple dish: grill some tortillas until crispy, top with chorizo and a thin tomatillo-avacado sauce, and sprinkle on fresh cheese. Best enjoyed by a group of friends standing around the grill with a beer in hand. Or perhaps margaritas... at any rate, simple and excellent. In particular, the guacamole is fantastic, sort of a hybrid between guacamole and a tomatillo salsa.

The first step is to take somewhat dried out tortillas and grill them. As you can see from the one that is puffed up, mine were still too fresh: I don't think they are supposed to do that.

1 of 4 - Tlayudas - Grilling.jpg

Once they are crispy on both sides (which takes some judgement and some prodding with the tongs) you brush them with lard:

2 of 4 - Tlayudas - Larding.jpg

Hopefully after that step you haven't lit anything on fire, and can pile on some cooked chorizo:

3 of 4 - Tlayudas - Chorizo.jpg

Finally, once the chorizo is warm you pour over a bit of the "guacamole" and sprinkle on some queso fresco:

4 of 4 - Tlayudas - Finished.jpg

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't like these. And as long as you are OK just sort of hanging out around the grill, I bet you could arrange an entire fiesta around this dish and some beer. Sign me up.

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No doubt at all, that would be excellent.

Tonight I'm starting to dig into Bayless's beverage section while I prepare some chicken stock for tomorrow's mole. To whit:

Agua de Jamaica (Crimson Jamaica Flower Cooler) (p. 60)

I messed this up a bit and added too much sugar: I read the 1 1/4 and put in 1 1/2 cups instead, so mine is not as tart as I would like. Still, the flavor is nice (quite a bit fruitier than I would have expected), and the real application is going to be in cocktails, so the additional sugar shouldn't pose too much of a problem.

1 of 1 - Agua de Jamaica.jpg

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Mexican Cosmo (p. 61)

Hopefully Bayless chose this name based on appearance and not flavor, because this is really a Jamaica Margarita, in my mind. The first taste is clearly of the tequila (I used 1800 blanco), then you get the fruity-floral taste from the Jamaica briefly, and then back to that funkiness of the tequila. Not a bad drink, if a touch sweet for my tastes (I omitted the extra sugar Bayless calls for in the recipe since my Jamaica was over-sweet already). I personally prefer my Margaritas with a bit less Cointreau, but plenty of my guests disagree and prefer the sweeter version.

1 of 1 - Mexican Cosmo.jpg

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Anna N   

Like maggiethecat I have been reading every word in this topic and over on this topic I admit to my dislike of so many Mexican ingredients but that I did make a batch of mojo de ajo. I think this will become a fridge staple.

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Anna, your distaste for avocado might actually be avoided in this next guacamole, depending on how strong your aversion is. My wife and I commented about how "party-friendly" this one is:

Mango Guacamole (p. 28)

This is basically a straight guacamole with a LOT of mango added to it, which is actually a very nice taste combination. As usual I found it a little sweet, but I think this could easily be a favorite at parties, where it's a bit less "aggressive" than some other guacamoles. In particular, the mango softens both the heat from the pepper and the bite from the red onions to the point where I think even kids would like this recipe.

1 of 1 - Mango Guacamole.jpg

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