Top Chef Master Rick Bayless sits down with home cooks to answer their questions as well as offering his culinary predictions for 2013. Chef Bayless’ attention to natural ingredients created a pairing with Sargento this year. The company’s natural cheese products adds an authentic flavor to cuisine and complements the Top Chef’s cooking style.
Sargento asked Bayless to determine 2013’s hottest flavors and ethnic trends while bringing easy cooking preparations to the at-home cook. In his culinary forecast he considered what he would like Americans to add to their kitchen staples. The four must-have ingredients/cuisines are bitter greens, Habanero Chilies, mushrooms and Middle Eastern Food.
Americans have embraced kale and in doing so are ready to experiment with other greens. A tip to remember is that ‘color equals flavor so the deeper the color the stronger the taste.’ With Bayless’ concentration in Mexican cuisine he’s excited about the Habanero Chilies that have a fruity flavor and distinct heat.
Foodies’ palates have changed in the last twenty-five years so they are ready for complex flavors and there are ways to incorporate the aroma and flavoring into at-home meals without fearing its intensive heat. A tip to remember is to get the flavor without the spice is to cut a slit into the chili to avoid the veins and seeds and let the chili marinate in a tomato sauce. Sargento offers Pepper Jack cheese slices or snacks that provide the flavor for meals and sandwiches and is the only cheese on the market that contains actual Habanero.
This year it’s time for at-home cooks to move beyond the basic mushroom and try chanterelle (earthy aroma and unique meaty textures), dried mushrooms (inexpensive and flavorful), king trumpet, oyster and shitake. Diners will notice the mushroom is added to Bayless’ vegetarian options.
For a Middle Eastern flavor add sumac’s lemony spice to dairy, poultry, seafood and vegetable servings. ‘I also fell for pomegranate molasses that a delicious fruity flavor. It can be enjoyed simply with lemon juice and olive oil as a light and flavorful dressing or I recently made a tasty snack by dipping a Sargento Cheddar-Mozzarella Cheese Snack into the pomegranate molasses and the sumac, it’s absolutely delicious.’
Braising and slow cooking are two cooking trends that will continue to impact the home chef. Braising meats, especially pork brings out the flavors and creates a hearty dish. The slow cooker’s recipes are no longer considered old-fashioned but a time saver that results in rich and savory braises and meals.
Rick Bayless embraces anthropological linguistics and the study seamlessly crosses over to his work at Frontera. His staff receives educational and onsite training by traveling to the Mexican region and learning firsthand about the ingredients and flavors. ‘We don’t take our education lightly, but we do like to have fun doing it.’
Of course everyone wants to know what his experience was like on Top Chef and the reply is it was ‘hard and physically exhausting. I had to think on my feet and be on my feet for hours. I am not used to that anymore! I have a great team here who helps me with all of the production and restaurant work. It was a reminder of how much I used to do on my own.’
Oaxaca will be Chef Bayless next cooking venture where he’s about to start shooting season 9 of his TV show. He loves Mole, the region and proudly proclaims that his favorite thing to cook is ‘the next thing I make!’
Chef Bayless’ easy and baked Chilaquiles Verdes Horneados.
Baked Tomatillo-Green Chilaquiles (Tortilla “Casserole”) Serves 6 as a casual main dish, 10 as an accompaniment
18 (15 ounces total) corn tortillas, cut into sixths, and fried or baked to make chips or 12 ounces (12 to 18 loosely packed cups, depending on thickness), thick, homemade-style tortilla chips (such as ones you buy at a Mexican grocery), 2 pounds (about 20 to 24 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed , fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 4 serranos or 2 jalapeños), stemmed, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil, 1 medium white onion, sliced ¼-inch thick, 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped, 2/3 cup homemade crema, crème fraiche or heavy (whipping) cream, 3 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water, Salt, 4 ounces cooked ham (cut into 1/2-inch dice) (optional), 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh epazote or ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, 4 ounces Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar, shredded (about 1 cup)
1. The chips: Make the chips or measure out the store-bought chips.
2. The brothy sauce: Roast the tomatillos and green chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side—4 or 5 minutes more will give you splotchy-black and blistered tomatillos and chiles that are soft and cooked through. Cool, then transfer everything to a blender, being careful to scrape up all the delicious juice that has run out onto the baking sheet. Blend to an almost smooth puree. There should be about 2 ½ cups puree.
In a medium (4- to 5-quart) pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook another minute, then raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomatillo puree and stir constantly for 5 minutes or so, until the mixture has reached a full boil. Stir in the crema (or one of its substitutes) and the broth or water. Season with salt, usually about ¾ teaspoon, if you are using salted chips.
3. Cooking and serving the chilaquiles: Heat the oven to 400º. Scoop the chips into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. You may have to press down on them, crushing them just a little to get them to fit. Sprinkle with the optional ham
Bring the sauce to a boil, stir in the epazote or cilantro, and then ladle the sauce over the chips. Gently press the chips into the sauce to ensure they’re evenly coated (though a few may be sticking out). Evenly spread the shredded cheese over the top and set in the oven. Bake until lightly browned on top and bubbling around the edges, about 15 minutes. then carry your chilaquiles to the table or buffet.
Working Ahead: Though the sauce (Step 2) can be prepared as much as 4 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator, the chilaquiles will have a much more delectable texture when served shortly after baking.