Rick Bayless has spent three decades teasing out the secrets of Mexican cooking, from street-stall grub to high-end restaurant fare. Now the Chicago restaurateur captures the essence of a grand Mexican party in “Fiesta at Rick’s.”
This sixth cookbook by Bayless turns classics upside down while actually enhancing their authenticity, with more than 150 recipes that will guide you from a pre-dinner drinks party to a paella extravaganza for the whole neighborhood.
Thought you knew guacamole? Think again. Bayless serves up a half-dozen recipes for the iconic dip that incorporate items like smoky bacon, toasted pumpkin seeds, or subtly sweet mango puree.
Margaritas are freshened with blood orange or cucumber, and gussied up with Champagne for the perfect brunch cocktail. Little tips – for instance, skip the salted rim and shake your sodium directly into the drink – make you look like a fiesta master. And soft drinks made from puckery tamarind, fresh watermelon, or rice and almonds bring Mexico to your backyard.
In chapters arranged by type of dish – for instance, “nibbles” or tapas, or street food – Bayless takes home cooks from basic lime-and-onion ceviche to red chili tuna tartare, from butterflied whole fish marinated in chilies, garlic and soy sauce to a tequila-spiked paella for 30.
And who knew that potato salad – that staple of the American summer picnic – could be reinvented with beef, avocado and smoky chipotles?
Bayless espouses fresh ingredients and painstaking techniques, but aspiring chefs with more dreams than time will appreciate his concession to daily realities with substitutions like frozen tamarind for fresh, and recipes such as “easy” mole, made in the slow-cooker.
Full-blown fiesta menus end each chapter, offering step-by-step plans for a party, including the luxury guacamole bar that helped Bayless win the first season of “Top Chef Masters.” There’s even a playlist, that unfortunate development in cookbook publishing that requires chefs to divulge what music they (or their public relations people) think goes best with their food.
From Rick Bayless’ “Fiesta at Rick’s,” (Norton, 2010). This meaty potato salad from central Mexico is traditionally served as an appetizer, main course or taco filling, Bayless says. The salad can be prepared a day or two ahead, then refrigerated. Let stand at room temperature for an hour before serving. Also, if making ahead, add the avocado just before serving.
12 ounces stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
3 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 to 3 canned chipotle chilies in adobo, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch dice
In a medium saucepan over high, bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add the beef, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Skim off any foam that rises during the first few minutes of simmering. Partially cover and simmer until the meat is tender enough to fall apart. With a slotted spoon, remove the meat to a plate to cool, reserving the liquid in the pan.
Add the potatoes to the pan, if necessary adding additional water to ensure the potatoes are covered. Simmer over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, scoop the potatoes into a medium bowl and sprinkle with the vinegar.
Break up the meat and stir it into the potatoes, along with the chipotles, onion and olive oil. Allow it to cool completely.
Season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until about 1 hour before serving.
Just before serving, stir in the avocado.
Yield: 8 servings
Nutrition information per serving: 209 calories, 13 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 11 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 27 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams dietary fiber, 130 milligrams sodium.