Cookbook Report #1: "Drunken" pintos w/ cilantro and bacon
Hi hounds. You may have noticed that a couple of weeks ago I was contemplating cooking my way through one cookbook and got some great feedback and encouragement. Well, I decided on using Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen cookbook for the following reasons: a) I already own the book; b) I love to eat Mexican food but know very little about cooking it; c) I live near a few supermercados so should have adequate access to ingredients; and d) I need to try the margarita recipes!
Even though Bayless is a gringo, he has travelled all over Mexico and has eaten and cooked w/ many families along the way. He explicitly addresses the gringo issue in his intro, and I like his attitude and philosophy of culinary translation and his obvious respect for Mexican culture and cuisine. It sounds like while he is creating recipes adapted to the American milieu, he has tradition and authenticity in mind.
I don't really have a set game plan, and instead of being all academic and clinical about the thing, I have decided to just go w/ the flow and see what happens. One change that I'm making is to regularly stop in at my local mercado to familiarize myself w/ ingredients and the seasonal tides of produce. The staff seem super friendly, so I hope to get to know them and tap their brains as well. I'm also hoping that my 4 yrs. of high school Spanish can be recalled from long term memory and be sharpened. Another note is that I bought a couple bags of produce, spices, and meat and paid around $14...confirmation that ethnic markets can be so affordable. Sorry for the wordy intro, but cooking is more than just about the food for me, and I'm excited about this new adventure where I will undoubtedly meet many new characters along the way.
I eased into the book by making one of the easiest recipes in the book last night: "drunken" pintos w/ cilantro and bacon (frijoles borrachos). See link for recipe. I already had the beans and bacon, so it fell into place easily. I subbed in salt pork for pork shoulder, but otherwise followed the recipe. Served it w/ my own creations of grilled spice-rubbed pork and safflower-infused rice.
Flavor was wonderful. Earthy and not too smoky. Cilantro and tequila def. added brightness and piquancy. Jalapeno added subtle heat. Beans were creamy and soft but maintained some integrity. I like my beans a little more firm so will reduce cooking time a bit next time. Thanks for letting me share. Haven't decided on my next assignment, but will keep you posted.
Thanks, FWF, that's very kind of you. Glistening bacon always looks appealing. The online photo doesn't do the book photo justice though, since the online version is darker, not warm. The book photos and illustrations are really lovely. I'm hoping that my photography skills will improve as a by-product of this little project.
I really like Rick's "Mexican Kitchen" cookbook, but my real favorite is "Salsas That Cook". This is a little paperback gem in which he gives you the basic recipes for 8 (I think) essential sauce in various quantities and with suitable chile substitutions. The rest of the book is a bunch of recipes using these sauces. Every sauce I've made from the book has been terrific as has been every recipe as well.
A couple years ago I had the opportunity to spend a week in Oaxaca cooking with Rick Bayless. He's a really nice guy, much more low key than he is in his PBS series, and an absolutely fabulous teacher. Weekend before last I took a Master Class from Rick at the IACP conference where he and his sommelier Jill (whose last name I can't remember or spell) paired wine with his Mexican food. Wonderful food with some surprising wine choices and lots of useful information about pairing wine with Mexican food.
The flavor profile in some of Rick's recipes doesn't always meld with mine, but there is no question he is a wealth of knowlege about Mexico and Mexican cooking and he is more than wiling to share what he know. For that I will always be grateful :-)
Lucky you! Thanks for sharing your experiences. Glad to hear that I'm cooking from a nice guy's cookbook. When I read the book, I get the sense that he really humbles himself to Mexican cooks, absorbs their knowledge, integrates that w/ his own knowledge and beliefs, and presents this to the reader.
The sidenotes in this book are very helpful too. I didn't know that cooks in Mexico typically don't presoak their beans! So, against my standard practice, I didn't soak the beans and they were great. While soaking may speed up the cooking process a bit, I can see how slow simmering beans longer only helps brings out the flavor.
I'm very interested in learning more about wine pairings. I wasn't able to find a wine list for his restos, but did find this tip sheet from the sommelier, Jill Gubesch...
re: Carb Lover
The wine tip sheet follows a lot of what they discussed in the master class. I think the only thing they may have mentioned in the class that wasn't on the wine tip sheet was that sparkling wines often pair well with masa based dishes particularly bontanas.
Here is what he prepared for the class and the wines that were served with it. For each dish Jill had selected a red and a white for comparison. In 2 out of the 3 cases, both wines worked well.
Tangy Tomatillo-Sauced Fish Enchiladas with Potatoes
2004 Villa Maria "Private Bin" Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand
2002 Qupe "Bien Nacido" Syrah, from Santa Maria, CA
I liked both wines immensely with the enchiladas, though I think I preferred the Sauvignon Blanc just a smidgen bit more. The acidity in the white matched the acidity in the tomatillo sauce. The richness of the Syrah matched the richness of the sauce (which wasn't that rich in the since of a butter enhanced sauce, but there was an overall velvetiness with the sauce)
Smokey Peanut Mole with Grilled Quail
2001 Josmeyer "Le Kottabe" Riesling from Alsace, France
1995 Gran Reserva, Marques de Caceres, Rioja Alta, Spain
The "mole" was really more like a pipian. I much preferred the Rioja with this dish.
Spicy Pasilla Mushroom & Lamb (wild and exotic 'shrooms)
NY Laurent-Perrier Brut L-P, Tours-Sur-Marne, Champagne, France
2002 Ridge "Geyserville", Zinfandel, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, CA
The pasilla sauce was big, bold, spicy and lusty. The mushrooms were spectacular with this sauce, which had a fair degree of spice, but not a huge hit on heat. Both the wines mathced nicely with the dish for different reasons. The sparkling wine enhanced the spiciness and caused it to linger on the palate rather than dissipate. The zin was a high alcohol wine with forward fruit which more than held it's own against the spiciness of the sauce.
Thanks for posting - I have several of Rick Bayless books - even one he signed for me on my 1st wedding aniversary. I have made the drunken beans and love them - sometimes that is what i make my whole meal. I'll be interested to read about the other recipes you try as other than the drunken beans I have used this cookbook more as a guide.
That's cool that you have a signed book. You're right that this dish can be the main event since it's a rich bean dish. In fact, we weren't really able to eat much of our grilled pork. I would just serve w/ rice and maybe a piquant salad next time.
The pictures in the book make the food look so good. I'm really wanting to try the cheese-stuffed plaintain empanadas and the Yucatecan grilled fish tacos.