when i was in chicago last month, i went to frontera grill and had an amazing dinner! the guacamole was the best i've ever tasted....buttery and tangy. tender pork was wrapped inside house made corn tortillas and blanketed with a complex sauce. (complex because i've seen rick bayless make a sauce with 17 different ingredients on his show) the rhubarb ice cream was lovely by itself, but the bittersweet chocolate sauce and the goat milk cajeta took the dessert to the next level. after loosening my belt, i waddled out of the restaurant with a smile plastered on my face and a dazed and confused look in my eyes. fortunately, i was lucid enough to buy rick bayless' cookbook "mexican everyday" on the way out.
with hundreds of recipes and great photos throughout, it's a beautiful book. for sunday dinner, i decided to test a few recipes: jicama salad with watercress, romaine and lime-cilantro dressing, red chile chicken and rice with black beans and pineapple skillet upside down cake.
the salad was delicious! the jicama was refreshing and crunchy, the watercress was peppery and the vinaigrette smoothed everything out. this was my favorite recipe. i didn't add the jalapeno because some of my friends don't eat spicy food.
when i was studying abroad in the dominican republic, i spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my host mom, and arroz con pollo was one of her specialties. she didn't have to measure anything! somehow she knew the perfect amount of water the rice and beans needed to cook perfectly. when i got home and tried to replicate her dishes, my experiments failed horribly, with the rice either burned or undercooked. this was a few years ago, but i hadn't tried again...until now. and it worked! the rice wasn't cooked burned or undercooked, the only problem was it was too mild for me. maybe i'll add a jalapeno next time, when i'm cooking for myself.
the last time i made a pineapple upside down cake, i used canned pineapple slices. this time, i used fresh fruit. the brown sugar topping was caramelized and intense. everyone thought it was delicious. the cake had a great texture and the brown butter added nuttiness. ku even said it was still on her mind the next day! i was happy everyone loved the cake, so i just watched their eyes roll up and to the side and let them go on and on about how good it was.
but my taste buds were pleading for vanilla. next time, i'll add a teaspoon or so to the cake batter and hopefully that will round out the flavors.
here is one recipe i tested. you can find the others - and many more - in his book.
adapted from mexican everyday by rick bayless
3/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 cup cilantro
1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into sticks
1 medium bunch watercress
combine the oil, lime zest, cilantro and salt in a mini food processor. blend until smooth. in a large bowl, combine jicama, watercress and romaine. drizzle a little vinaigrette on top and toss.