Posts Tagged ‘Rick Bayless’

Hi Food Friends.  It’s been a while since I last posted, I know, but it’s been B-U-S-Y!  So I thought I would catch you up on a mish-mosh of my summer culinary adventures.  And for some reason, I’m going backwards, from today back to July 11.  Ready? Come on!

Watermelon Pickles!

So my cooking club, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans, met on July 8 and the theme was “summer time.” While all the food was fantastic, my friend Tina made THE MOST AMAZING WATERMELON PICKLES!

First you think, “wait, WHAT?  Tough, flavorless, watery watermelon rind – pickled?”  And I’m here to tell you,YES!   They are delicious.  Crisp, a little crunchy and sooo flavorful, kind of sweet-savory all at one time, steeped for three days in rice wine vinegar, honey, yuzu juice (more on yuzu juice later), juniper berries and salt.  So good as a snack or a little side to any meal.  And I was just dying to make them, so I did!  You do, too, trust me.


1/4 C. plus 2 Tbl rice wine vinegar (not the seasoned kind, the plain kind)

1/2 C. plus 1 Tbl yuzu juice.  NOTE:  I could not find yuzu juice anywhere in Chicago and princess here needed immediate gratification so ordering online was out of the question.  So I Googled substitutes and lime juice came up.  So I used the juice of four limes, which equaled 1/2 C. and 1 Tbl.  (Tina used yuzu juice, so I’ll be eager to see how mine taste with the lime juice.)  Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit many describe as a sour mandarin orange, so I can see why lime juice might be a good sub.

1/4 C. plus 1 Tbl honey

1 Tbl juniper berries (found them at Whole Foods)

1 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

18 ounces diced watermelon rind

What You Do

1) First you buy what I call a “big-ass watermelon.”  I wanted a regular one that I knew would have thick rind, unlike some of those weird “personal watermelons.”

And you slice it up, like below, in half-moon slices and then trim off the rind, leaving a little pink on it, so it looks like you have a pretty, pretty pink watermelon rind headband. 🙂

2) Now, with a sharp knife and a lot of caution (I have to play violin on-stage next week and a Hello Kitty Bandaid is not that cool with a group of cool musicians), trim off the green skin so you have little squares of just white and a little pink.  Pile them into a scale until you have 18 ounces (it took about half of my big-ass watermelon).

3) Now, mix up the brine ingredients in a 16-ounce jar and put your diced rind in.  Put the lid on tightly and give it a few turns to coat everything.

I’ve never used juniper berries before, but oooh, the aroma.  Juniper is used to make gin, and it has a green, herbaceous, slightly citrus-y scent.  Love.  Now, Your  brine won’t completely cover the rinds, but I’m guessing the rind will release some juices over its three-day vacation in the fridge.  But you’ll want to give it a few turns each day, I think, to be sure the flavors get soaked in evenly.

4) After three days, stick a fork in and try them!  Note: This is not “professional canning” where you boil jars and all that, so eat these within about a week.

Yacht Party with Rick Bayless

Back in April, I ponied up some bucks with a group of friends from Lookingglass Theatre (I’ve been associated with the board for many, many years) so we could bid on a summer yacht party with Rick Bayless – and we won!  So on a beautiful Chicago summer evening, we set out on Lake Michigan and Rick was on-board cooking up some amazing bites and shaking up some mighty fine margaritas. And here are a few shots of that fun night with amazing food and friends.  And Rick Bayless is about as nice as can be.  And yes, the guy (who won Top Chef Masters, after all) – can cook.

Rick and his fabulous sous chef Zach and server Juan served up his famous guacamole with bacon, two kinds of ceviche, oysters with chicharrones (I think – that’s fried pork skin), grilled shrimp with chipotle sauce – and the bite you see above – grilled foie gras with Rick’s famous mole — ooooh, shut up, it was so good.  So yeah, that was a really fun night – with an amazing boatload of fabulous friends.


Well, I finally did it.  Ate at Alinea.  I’m not sure what took me so long.  But when my friend Kate came to town, and I just happened to be on Facebook the very minute Alinea released its first tickets for August (yes, Alinea is now just like its sister, Next, selling tickets instead of reservations), I clicked “purchase” on a Sunday night table!  Yes, it is expensive (nearly $500 a person).  But for a person who is endlessly curious about food and wine, it is SO worth it.

Here’s a little photo montage below.    The “Black Truffle Explosion” – a ravioli-like pasta pocket filled with truffle broth – was just that – the happiest, most memorable explosion of flavor in your mouth.  The summer tomato salad was beautiful and delicious and I wanted to drink the liquid at the bottom.  (But I didn’t.) And there was a helium apple balloon!  I stuck a pin in it and a whoosh of helium went into my mouth, which made Kate die laughing when I said, “It’s delicious” in a munchkin-like voice!   I might do a separate post on it, because this one’s getting long and I can’t do it all justice.  Suffice it to say: WE LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT!  The staff was a delight – professional and formal – but also friendly and funny.  And the wine pairings?  Perfect.

So there you have it: a month in my food life.  Yes, there was a baked-Dijon-mustard dressing that I found in Food & Wine magazine that was divine on warm new potatoes and there have been untold BLTs and other summer veg delights, but these are the high spots.  I’ll be back soon… with a new blog name and hopefully look, too.  In the meantime, keep cooking and eating!

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So I was devouring the February issue of Food & Wine magazine and I came across a recipe from Rick Bayless, one of my favorite Chicago chefs.  Having spent more than a dozen years living in Texas, I regularly have huge cravings for Mexican food – the spicier, the better!  So I said to myself, “Self, let’s make that!”  Off I marched to pick up a pork shoulder and assorted other ingredients and I got to work.  I have to share this with you because it’s just so damn good!  And it makes a lot, so if you have a small household, like me, you can share it with your neighbors and you can also eat it for a week, because it’s so versatile, and you can also freeze some of it for later enjoyment.  It’s basically a spicy, Mexican-style pork stew that you can eat in or on tortillas.   Look how yummy!

Ready?  Ondole!


1 1/4 pound of pork shoulder, cut into stew-sized cubes (about an inch or two in size)

1/4 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 tsp dried thyme

3 bay leaves

3/4 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used russets; it’s what I had, and they worked fine)

2 Tbl vegetable oil

1 fresh chorizo sausage (the Mexican kind; not the Spanish kind. Mexican chorizo is like a bratwurst or Italian-style sausage; Spanish is the hard, cured kind you can eat sliced up)

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced up

One 28-ounce can of peeled Italian tomatoes, smushed up and drained

2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, minced, and 2-4 tsp of the adobo sauce, depending how spicy you want it

Salt and sugar, to season (yes, a pinch of sugar!)


1) First you ask yourself why you didn’t buy pork shoulder already cut up (sheesh!) and you get your sharpest knife out, along with a big box of caution, and butcher that pork shoulder!

Yes, I plowed through this 3 1/2 pound bad boy and wound up with a little more than 1 1/4 pound of chunks.  Hurray!

2) In a large saucepan, simmer (uh huh) the pork, marjoram, thyme and bay leaves in 4 cups of salted water (I put in 2 Tbl of salt), partially covered, about 45 minutes (the meat should be tender).  I tossed the bone in, too, because Ifigured it would add flavor (I chucked it after I fished the meat out).  Now, the meat is going to look all gray and not that pretty (hence no photo),and that is ok.  After 45 minutes, use a slotted spoon to put the meat onto a dinner plate. RESERVE 2 CUPS OF THE PORK BROTH!!  Do not chuck it!  Let the meat cool for about 10 minutes, and then cut it or tear with your hands if you’re feeling primal, into smaller bits (the size that would work in a taco or burrito type of situation). 

3) Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling, salted water, for about 8 or minutes (drop the spuds in once the water comes to a boil).  Drain the potatoes and just let ’em sit for a bit in the colander.  (Chuck the potato water.)

4) Now: get a large, high-sided skillet out.  Heat the veg oil over medium heat.  Take the casing off the chorizo (yes, it’s a yucky job, but you just gotta do it), and crumble it into the pan.  Cook the chorizo until it’s really well-browned — about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Put that on a plate (you can put it on same plate the pork is living on).

5) Keep the yummy chorizo fat that is in the skillet and add the pork and onions to it.  Cook about 10 minutes and stir it about, browning it as much as you can (given the size of the skillet and amount of meat and onions).  Now add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes (I just smush ’em up with my hands, from the can, and leave the sauce; you can freeze that tomato sauce, tho, and use it for something else down the road.)  Add the chorizo.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Add the spuds, the chopped-up chipotle and the adobo sauce.  I used 2-3 tsps and that was plenty hot for me.  TASTE AS YOU GO, so you get the right amount of heat.  Add 1 1/2 cups or a little more pork broth.

6) Let the whole lot simmer uncovered (or sans sombrero, as I like to say!) for at least 10 minutes.  Taste it.  Add some salt.  And a pinch of sugar!  Maybe a 1/4 tsp , max.  This is Rick Bayless brilliance, as it lets everything really sing, flavor-wise. 

EAT!  You can pile this into a flour tortilla (I found low-carb ones, just to experiment, because my ass does not need any more carbs, and you know what?  They’re good.)  But you can also use corn tortillas.  Or you could eat this with rice.  Or beans.   It’s so versatile!  Rick suggests some very thinly sliced red onion, sliced avocado and crumbled queso fresco (a Mexican-style farmer’s cheese – a cow’s milk cheese that’s kind of the texture of feta; salty and delicious). 

And for your beverage enjoyment, may I suggest a nice, fruity rich shiraz — or a nice, cold beer would do as well!  Enjoy!  And many thanks to Chef Rick Bayless for the delicious inspiration!

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