Tag Archives: Chicago. Culture

Nuestra Mesa – Receta para Hacer Pan de Muerto

Foto: Manuel Rivera Ciudad de México, México

Con las celebraciones del Día de Muertos a la vuelta de la esquina, pensamos en traerles la receta para hacer un tradicional, delicioso e indispensable pan de muerto.

Esta receta requiere dejar reposar los primeros ingredientes durante un día, así que si piensan hacerla, les recomendamos prepararla con tiempo suficiente.

Rinde para 45 panes de 100 gr. cada uno o un pan familiar de aproximadamente 4.5 kilos.

Paso 1:

Ingredientes

  • 120 gr. levadura fresca (usa 1/3 de la cantidad si es que piensas usar levadura artificial)
  • 340 ml. de agua
  • 400 gr. de harina

Proceso

  1. Entibia el agua en el microondas
  2. Revuelve los ingredientes con el agua hasta formar una masa
  3. Deja reposar la masa por un dia entero en un recipiente engrasado con aceite. Cubre el recipiente con plástico y colócalo en un lugar fresco.

Paso 2:

Ingredientes

  • 32 huevos
  • 320 gr. azúcar
  • 2.250 kg harina
  • 40 gr. de sal
  • 1 kg. mantequilla
  • 4 cucharadas de agua de azahar

Proceso

  1. Incorpora los primeros cuatro ingredientes con el agua de azahar,  hasta formar una masa homogénea y que no se pegue.
  2. Agrega la masa que preparaste un día anterior sigue amasando hasta que este bien incorporada.
  3. Deja que la mantequilla esté a temperatura ambiente y  agrégala en trozos de alrededor de 100 gr.  hasta integrarla toda.
  4. Forma bolas  de 100 gr si quieres hacer porciones individuales y de 400 gr.  para hacer un pan familiar.
  5. Forma los huesitos con pedazos pequeños de masa, Las puedes rodar en la mesa y aplanarla con los dedos.
Foto: Manuel Rivera – Ciudad de México, México

6. Barniza con yema de huevo y deja fermentar durante una hora.

Foto: Manuel Rivera – Ciudad de México, México

7. Mete tu mezcla a hornear a 200 grados hasta que los panes estén de  color café claro

8. Saca tus panes del horno y déjalos enfriar.

9. Derrite mantequilla y barniza con ella los panes. Después espolvoréalos con azúcar refinada hasta que queden cubiertos

¡Acompaña tu pan con un buen chocolate!

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

Receta: Pastel de Elote

Foto: Chef Atzimba Pérez
Foto: Chef Atzimba Pérez

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Hace unas semanas tuve el privilegio de conocer a la chef Atzimba Pérez, orgullosa embajadora de la comida mexicana en Chicago.  Para esta extraordinaria michoacana, (cuyo nombre significa “princesa de agua” en Purépecha), la gastronomía ha sido una constante en su vida.

Parte destino, parte camino, Atzimba nos cuenta que su mamá preparaba la comida para celebrar las fiestas patronales, mientras ella ayudaba y observaba cómo se les daba vida a los platillos típicos de su pueblo. Atzimba nos dice: “Yo tenía mucha inquietud por descubrir nuevos sabores, y probar formas diferentes de hacer las cosas. Desde chica yo tenía mis recetarios y mis libros de cocina.” Más tarde, Atzimba abrió una lonchería para pagarse la carrera en gastronomía: “La comida era mi sustento físico y mi sustento económico. En la escuela vendía pies de queso para poder costear mis prácticas semanales.”

Plato a plato, Atzimba ha conseguido un lugar  como representante de la cocina mexicana en Chicago, donde recientemente estableció su propia compañía de banquetes.

Su comida es tan hermosa y orgullosamente mexicana como su nombre. Hoy, para celebrar lo que queda del mes patrio, les comparto con mucha emoción la receta de la chef Atzimba Pérez para preparar pastel de elote.

Ingredientes



  • 3 tazas de elote tierno
  • 5 huevos
  • 1 lata de leche condensada
  • 1/2 barrita de mantequilla
  • 1/4 de taza de aceite de maíz
  • 1 cucharadita de vainilla
  • 1 taza de harina
  • 1 1/2 cucharadita de polvo para hornear

Procedimiento

  1. Cierne la harina y el polvo para hornear.
  2. Derrite la mantequilla y licúala con el resto de los ingredientes
  3. Mezcla con la harina y el polvo para hornear
  4. Engrasa y enharina 1 molde refractario rectangular mediano ó 2 moldes pequeños.
  5. Vacía la mezcla y pónla a hornear a 320° durante 45 minutos hasta que obtenga un color miel.

Disfrútalo con un vaso de leche fría.

Según la receta de la chef Atzimba Pérez, reproducida con el permiso de la autora.  Para más información sobre Atzimba, visíta  su página de Facebook haciendo click aquí. 

Carnitas Uruapan – The Best of Michoacán in Pilsen

Inocencio and Marcos Carbajal personally host patrons at Carnitas Uruapan.
Pride and Joy: Inocencio and Marcos Carbajal personally host patrons at their famous Pilsen restaurant Carnitas Uruapan.

Inocencio Carbajal becomes emotional as he shares a very personal story. In the late 70s, as a recent transplant from Uruapan, Michoacán, he had to make the decision to let go of his most precious possession- a medal of the Virgin of Guadalupe. “I asked Her to bless my choice,” says Inocencio, his eyes tearing up. “We bought our first piece of equipment with that money.”

Fast-forward four decades later, and Inocencio’s hardship has paid off.  As we arrived at the Pilsen eatery, a long line of patrons had already assembled.  Marcos Carbajal, Inocencio’s son, kindly invited us to tour the kitchen while we found a spot to talk.

The state of Michoacán in southwestern Mexico, is famous for its carnitas, one of Mexico’s favorite folk dishes. Usually cooked in large copper containers brought in from a specific neighboring town,  it is not uncommon to also find this treat being prepared in large stainless steel pots. “In many villages, eating carnitas is a Sunday morning ritual,” said Marcos, who periodically visits family in Uruapan, his father’s birthplace. “People know to arrive early, as usually only one pig is prepared, and they usually gather to eat after church. Many of our customers still follow this custom, but we cook a fresh batch every two hours.”

Although he kept in his heart the desire to go back to Michoacán at some point, Inocencio’s family and his growing business kept him in Pilsen. “All of a sudden, Marcos was ready to go to college, and I was happy that he had the opportunity,” said Inocencio.  For Marcos,  the word “pigskin” is not merely a seasonal one. With a degree in Economics from the University of Michigan, and thinking of helping his dad, Marcos left his corporate job to work in the restaurant full time, while also pursuing a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship from Northwestern University.

Although Inocencio has not returned to Uruapan, he has brought Uruapan to Chicago with him. The path he chose was not easy but, he says smiling, “I would do it all over again”.

His eatery’s menu is perfectly simple, with many well-achieved crowd pleasers. From mouthwatering pork carnitas, to menudo, chicharrón en salsa de tomate ( chicharrón in tomato sauce, of which I took a big container home), cacti salad and even quesadillas de sesos (brain-stuffed quesadillas), this place is the real deal. In fact, the cueritos I tried here are the best I have ever had in both, texture and flavor.

Carnitas Uruapan did not disappoint. My stomach was full and happy, and after talking to Inocencio and Marcos, my heart was too.

¡Viva México!

Carnitas Uruapan

1725 W 18th St  Chicago, IL 60608

(312) 226-2654

Ger a free carnitas taco with your to go order and and free order of chicharrón if you check-in on Facebook.

 

Nuestra Mesa – Empanadas de Plátano Macho*

Empanadas de plátano. Foto: Manuel Rivera
Foto: Manuel Rivera

Las empanadas deben su moderna popularidad a los colonizadores españoles y portugueses, quienes las introdujeron a lo largo y ancho de América Latina y otras colonias.  En México, la selección de empanadas que forman parte del acervo culinario popular, incluye una variante de raíces inglesas: los pastes. Famosos en el estado de Hidalgo, este plato encuentra su origen en los cornish pasties, mismo que fue introducido al país por mineros británicos.

Adaptadas para reflejar los sabores e ingredientes de donde quiera que vayan, las empanadas son una encarnación local de este concepto español. Hoy, el chef Aldo Saavedra, nos trae una receta para hacer unas deliciosas empanadas rellenas de México.

Rinde para 20 piezas  
Ingredientes:
  • 1 kg de plátano macho maduro
  • 30 ml de vinagre blanco
  • 4 cdtas de azúcar.
  • 300 gr de harina de trigo
  • Sal y pimienta al gusto
  • Frijoles negros refritos
  • Epazote
  • Queso panela
Procedimiento:
1- Lava los plátanos, haz unos pequeños cortes a la cáscara  (3 ó 4 por pieza).
2- Pon agua a hervir (la cantidad que sea suficiente para cubrir los plátanos). Agrega el vinagre y el azúcar, y los plátanos. Después de que suelte el hervor, cuenta 5 minutos.
3- Retira. Escúrrelos y pela los plátanos en caliente.
4- Machaca los plátanos haciendo un puré que sea lo más fino posible. Incorpora la harina, sal y pimienta. Mezcla bien.
5- Deja enfriar. Refrigera durante 2 horas.
6- Saca la mezcla del refrigerador y forma pequeñas bolas con la mezcla. Prensa con una prensa para hacer tortillas cuidando que la empanada no quede muy delgada.
7- Rellena con una cucharadita de frijoles, un pedazo de queso y una hoja de epazote.  Cierra la empanada y pónla a freír hasta que tome un color dorado.
8. Escurre, sirve y disfruta.
* En México, el plátano macho es un plátano más grande que el común y no puede comerse crudo. En otros países se les conoce como hartón o maduro. En Estados Unidos es similar al ¨green plantain¨.
El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

Tamales de Mango del Chef Paco – New Rebozo

Tamales con queso de cabra, chipotle y salsa de mango como solo en New Rebozo.
Tamales con queso de cabra, chipotle y salsa de mango como solo en New Rebozo. Foto: Brenda Storch

El Chef Paco del conocido restaurante New Rebozo, en Chicago, generosamente nos compartió esta receta para hacer estos deliciosos tamales de queso de cabra y chipotle con salsa de mango. ¡Que los disfruten!

Masa

  • 1 kilo de masa blanca de maíz para tamal
  • 1   1/2 tazas de caldo pollo o agua
  • 1  taza de aceite de olivo
  • 1 cucharada de sal
  • 150 gr. de queso de cabra
  • 1 cucharadita de salsa de chile chipotle
  • 35 rectángulos de hoja de tamal de unos 18 x 15 cm.

Salsa

  • 2 mangos, pelados y cortados en cubitos
  • 1 chile jalapeño
  • 1/2 cebolla picada
  • 1/3 pimiento rojo finamente picado
  • 1/3 pimiento amarillo finamente picado
  • 1/2 manojo de cilantro cortado en pedazos pequeños
  • Sal y pimienta al gusto

Pon lo ingredientes en un recipiente hondo y mézclalos hasta que estén bien incorporados.

Preparación:

  • Mezcla la masa en el caldo hasta que quede incorporado todo. Prueba la sazón.
  • Con una cuchara sopera, pon en el centro de la hoja la masa, el queso de cabra y el chile chipotle.
  • Envuélvelo como un burrito de 5 x 7 centímetros. Salen como 36 tamalitos.
  • Prepara la vaporera con agua, pon los tamales y tápala.
  • Pón los tamales a cocer con flama alta.  Una vez que empiece a salir el vapor, baja la flama a fuego medio y deja cocinar durante alrededor de 50 minutos.
  • Déja reposar los tamales hasta servirlos con la salsa.

¡Oh My God!

Receta publicada con el permiso del autor. 

Chef Paco´s New Rebozo – Oh My God!

Cochinita pibil tacos await you at New Rebozo in Chicago's Gold Coast.
Cochinita pibil tacos await you at New Rebozo in Chicago’s Gold Coast.

If you visit New Rebozo, chances are that aside from a remarkable meal, you will be delighted by owner Chef Paco’s warm and exuberant personality.  After more than 20 years of success at his Oak Park location, where Chef Paco (A.K.A. Francisco López) is already a fixture, this Mexico City native decided to bring his creativity and passion for authentic Mexican food to Chicago’s Gold Coast.

Holy mole! Chef Paco delights his guests with his complex, yet surprisingly down-to-earth mole Poblano, at New Rebozo.

Chef Paco equates food to the dynamics of everyday life: “Life can be sweet and sour… even salty, add love to it and you will strike a balance.”  His philosophy spills into every corner of his restaurant. There is definitely love in New Rebozo, named after a shawl Mexican women wear. From the cozy fireplace to the thoughtfully picked art, the dining room and patio embrace you like welcoming Mexican embassies. Do not expect to find cultural clichés here.  New Rebozo is the real deal both in form and content. “My work is about making people happy,” said Paco. “That’s my ultimate goal.”

Full of flavor, depth and whimsy, it is so fitting that mole is one of Chef Paco´s specialties. Very few words say fiesta and Mexico as loud and clear as mole does, particularly in the countryside, where this traditional dish is served during important celebrations such as weddings and christenings. Chef Paco´s mole Poblano is so good, I have no doubt that my Pueblan grandma, who was often charged with making the mole for her village’s fiestas patronales*,  would have approved.

Watermelon mojitos: Oh my God!
Watermelon mojitos: Oh my God!

If you visit New Rebozo,  do not miss the cochinita pibil tacos, a delicacy straight from Yucatán. There is a piece of Mexican heaven in every perfectly flavorful bite and they are surprisingly not greasy. The watermelon mojitos are also quite memorable- one sip of those glorious cocktails had my entire table exclaiming in unison: “Oh my God!”

*In Mexico, fiestas patronales are a village’s most important celebration, and are typically dedicated to the patron saint the village is named after.

New Rebozo Chicago

46 E. Superior

Chicago, IL 60611

(312) 202-9141

Open Mon-Sun 12-10 pm

New Rebozo Chicago on Urbanspoon

Let There Be Fire! – The Universal Language of Grilling

Chimney starters help accelerate the process of getting the coal ready for grilling.  
Photo credit: Illya Samko

 

Summer is finally here, and in these latitudes, barbecue season often evokes images of sporting events and patriotic-themed cookouts. Of course, you need weather to cooperate, so as the words “barbecue” roll off your tongue, you have unconsciously summoned the idea of a picture-perfect day. Growing up in a part of the world blessed with rather benign weather year-round, it was not until I moved to Chicago that I understood why the state of the atmosphere often finds its way into the conversation or the news. Here, grilling is definitely a seasonal event and sometimes it is referred to as barbecuing.

In Mexico, barbecue or barbacoa, means something different- it is a dish that typically entails cooking meat on an open fire (usually lamb) in a hole that has been dug in the ground for this purpose. Barbecuing to us, is a parrillada or a carne asada (literally, “grilled meat”). These words immediately make me think of a Sunday spent surrounded by family and friends in Mexico. Putting the meat on the grill is the main event, and the process entails an unspoken ritual that, like any other party in Mexico, takes at least a whole day. To me, the most curious part of the custom is what is often done in hopes that the rain won’t spoil the day- scissors and knives are staked into the ground. In some instances, this is done forming specific shapes, in others, these artifacts are put outside along with ribbons or even eggs…

Last year, we asked a few suburban dads for their grilling tips right on time for Father’s Day. As I asked around, I realized that ideas were incredibly diverse-  from ingredients to techniques. Something I found particularly fascinating was that no matter who I was talking to, this conversation resonated.  The joy of grilling seemed universal.

Is it? I think it might be. I asked my friend Illya for a few grilling tips. He happens to be Ukrainian and someone who, like me, is truly passionate about food. What do we have in common? Our love for Mexico. His wife Myrna, is a Mexican transplant. What do you have in common? You speak the same language-  He is another guy who loves to grill.

Sizzling Hot: Our Primal Love for Food over Fire

 By: Illya Samko

 

Grilling in Monterrey, Mexico. Photo credit: Illya Samko
Grilling in Monterrey, Mexico. Photo credit: Illya Samko

Since man started cooking with fire, food has never been the same. There is something deeply primal about putting a piece of steak on the fire; the sound of  meat sizzling on the grill, its aroma and the divine taste of a fresh steak. I believe these images are seared into our DNA.

In the Ukraine, grilling is mainly associated with cooking pork. Pork shoulder is usually cut into cubes and marinated in mayonnaise, salt and onions. It is then skewered and cooked over charcoal slowly until it is well done.

Ukrainian grill. Photo credit: Ilya Samko
Ukrainian grill. Photo credit: Illya Samko

My greatest learning experience as far as grilling goes, took place during my first trip to Monterrey, Mexico (birthplace of my lovely wife, Myrna). Here, grilling  is a way of life to say the least. I was impressed with how Regios* know their grilling. They use a specific type of charcoal, Mesquite, which gives the meat a very smoky and distinctive flavor. The preparation process is as important as grilling itself- It takes a certain number of cheves** to get the thing going. First the fire, then the botanas*** and few hours later, when you are so hungry that you could eat just about anything, you finally hear that “magic sound” and smell the beef- you are lovestruck.

 At that point, in spite of all the beers you’ve had, your senses are heightened and the level of salivation is downright dangerous. Finally, the teasing is over and it is time to feast- the plate full of grilled goodness makes it to the table. Devour you will. Believe me. Not only is grilling a ritual that takes hours, it is also a way to celebrate anything. Mexicans seem to celebrate life if there is no other particular reason to party.

When grilling there are a few important things that you need to know. I believe these basic steps make a huge difference.

  • Never put any meat on the grill that came straight out from the fridge. Let it warm up a little. Room temperature is ideal.
  • Season your meat with kosher or sea salt and pepper. Good steak needs absolutely nothing else.
  • Be patient. You cannot rush a good burger, steak or whatever you are grilling.
  • After you take your steak off the grill, let it rest for about five minutes. This will allow all the juices to be redistributed back into the steak evenly.
  • I use a chimney starter to speed up the process of getting the coal ready for grilling. Using accelerators on the coal gives your food  a chemical taste.

Enjoy!

Born and raised in Western Ukraine, Illya Samko is a food enthusiast who loves to travel, learn about different cultures and try new cuisines. With a  degree in law, and a knack for anthropology, Illya has worked in London, New York and Chicago, where he currently lives with his Mexican wife, Myrna. 

 
*Regios short for regiomontanos, are a citizens from Monterrey, Mexico.
**Cheves is slang for cerveza or beer.
***Appetizers, snacks

Méx-O-Logy – Margarita, Señorita

We are very excited to launch our new column, Mex-O-Logy, a space dedicated to sharing recipes and tips so that you can mix your own Mexican-inspired libations.

¡Salud!

Margarita, Señorita

Mexican transplant Myrna Rodríguez, conjures up Mexican-influenced libations.
Mexican transplant Myrna Rodríguez, brings and exciting twist to traditional drinks.

By Myrna Rodríguez

Definitely a drink that makes us think of summer, and actually, one of my favorite cocktails, this Mexican classic is a crowd pleaser. Way before I knew tequila was made of agave, I already thought this cactus was fun: I remember traveling with my family to Guadalajara as a child, and being marveled at the endless fields of agave I could see in the distance.

Margaritas are perfect for your summer cookouts, and very easy to put together. Here is my favorite recipe:

Ingredients:

1 ½ oz tequila

1 oz orange liquor

1 lime juice (freshly squeezed)

¾ oz agave syrup*

* Equal parts agave syrup/boiling water. Let it rest until cold, then use.

I usually shake the margaritas with big ice cubes so that they cool faster. Strain the mix into a rock glass then fill up the glass with fresh ice. Add a wedge of lime to garnish and enjoy!

Photo credit: Myrna Rodríguez
Photo credit: Myrna Rodríguez

A business woman by profession, and a mixologist by passion, Myrna Rodríguez holds a masters degree in business and is a certified mixologist. Inquisitive and creative, she keeps up with new techniques, while drawing inspiration from her two grandmothers (one Mexican and one Honduran). Raised and educated in Monterrey, Mexico, Myrna infuses her recipes with Latin American flavors and ingredients, and brings an exciting twist to traditional drinks.

Find Myrna sampling food around Chicago, or delighting her lucky friends and acquaintances with Mexican-influenced beverages.

My Search for the Holy Grail – The Best Taco al Pastor in Chicago

A few weeks ago, I set out to find the best taco al pastor (‘shepherd-style’ taco) in Chicago. This down-to-earth, charismatic delicacy is a dietary staple of  defeños*, and despite the fact that in Mexico City taco stands abound, any local will tell you that not all tacos al pastor are made equal.  Finding the perfect taquería is almost a rite of passage, one that speaks to the way we connect with our city and beyond- a Mexican’s relationship with their pastor is emotional… personal, mystical.

The Genesis

Finding good tacos (let alone authentic ones) north-of-the-border is not so easy. Our taco al pastor story in April made me aware of the fact that I am not alone in this realization. I asked La Vitamina T readers and friends to submit their favorite al pastor destinations in Chicago. A few Facebook posts and tweets later, I had a list of 18 different establishments  endorsed by locals, among them, several Mexican transplants. Similar to how my friend Dave from New Jersey can recognize a good Philly cheesesteak, I figured recommendations from Mexicans added instant credibility to the suggestions.

This is how my search began.

Below is the final list of nominees. I visited every  establishment on this list without letting the owners or staff know my intention, as I  thought this might  influence the quality of the service:

  1. Atotonilco (I tried the tacos in both locations, Joliet and Chicago)
  2. Big Star
  3. De Cero
  4. El Pastor
  5. El Tío Luis
  6. El Solazo
  7. Indio
  8. La Ciudad
  9. Lagartija
  10. Los Comales
  11. Los Gallos
  12. L´Patrón
  13. Mercadito (tacos al pastor are only a seasonal item, so we did not get to try them)
  14. Rubi’s Market on Maxwell
  15. Taco joint
  16. Taquería Juanito
  17. Tierra Caliente
  18. Zacatacos  (Berwyn location)

Several Pepto Bismol doses and 3 extra pounds later, my wandering through the streets of Chicago and its suburbs came to an end. Dozens of tacos have been sampled and scorecards have been tallied!

 Each taco has been carefully evaluated based on criteria that we believe brings to life un taco al pastor “hecho como Dios manda.” (according to God’s orders)**

 I am now ready to “go tell it on the mountain”!

* Defeño is a Citizen of Mexico City (D.F.)

** Mexicans say something is made como Dios manda (according to God’s orders) when something is accurately accomplished.

The Exodus

If you, like me, have lived in Mexico for the great majority of your life, you will be perplexed to hear what has been smuggled into menus, and sold and passed up across the country for the real deal: some of the most popular and readily available counterfeit versions are stuffed with ground beef and covered with cheese or something resembling cheese; others are called tacos al pastor, and are served with sliced lettuce and tomatoes. Heresy!  In certain places, you might be given a choice of hardshell or softshell taco. During my search I found that even some of the taquerías in predominantly Mexican neighborhoods have lost their way- in their attempt to  to cater to a non Mexican palate, they have begun serving some of these apocryphal versions.

This leads me to provide the following word of caution: If you are visiting Mexico and you are looking for a hardshell taco, you will give yourself away as a tourist. We simply don’t have them. We have tostadas, which have a crunchy surface similar to a totopo, which is considered a completely different plate.

In the northern part of the country, flour tortillas were made popular by the Jewish settlers in the area. Still, you will find that most tacos in Mexico are made with corn tortillas.

Leviticus 

Treating oneself to tacos al pastor is an experience that entails a known ritual. Taquerías usually go from the very informal ´hole-in-the-wall’ joint, to fancier establishments featuring a more elaborate set up. The dynamics are the same across the board, and patrons know what to expect:  quick service, dinner and a show. Taqueros (half cooks, half ninjas) conjure up juicy tacos with meat and pineapple they shave off from a giant spinning skewer, to then catch the pieces in a tortilla with quick, precise movements. They do this gracefully, while keeping tallies, processing new orders, and sometimes, giving change and even interacting with the crowd.

Tacos al pastor must meet the following criteria:

1. Must be roasted vertically in a spit called trompo (top), which is clearly visible.

2. Should be made with pork meat, seasoned with a variety of chilis and achiote, which gives them their color.

3. These tacos are served in small tortillas (about 4 1/2 inches in diameter).

4. Tacos al pastor must include a chunk of grilled pineapple, chopped cilantro, raw onion and limes.

5. Salsas are very important in taquerías, and often times they become and element of differentiation.

6. Lime should be abundant and readily available.

Methodology

Each taco was evaluated using a scale of 1- 5 points for a total of 30 points in six different categories:

  • Meat quality
  • Meat flavor
  • Tortilla size and quality
  • Portion size
  • Accuracy/freshness of ingredients
  • Quality of salsa

Points were assigned using the following scale to score each taco:

1= Disappointing

2= Meh…

3= Ok

4= Really good, but not extraordinary or the real deal

5= Perfect. ¡Órale! Am I in Mexico?

Revelation

I have eaten the fruits of ¨the promised land” and I cannot honestly say that my search led me to tacos al pastor exactly like the ones I would find in Mexico City, but I uncovered some really good ones that will definitely hit the spot.  Overall, I was surprised to find that the meat in the eateries we visited was generally saucier than it is in Mexico. Also, portions are usually much more generous and, for some reason, when it comes to tacos al pastor, those with pineapple are very hard to find.
Many taquerías only take cash, so make sure you stop at an ATM ahead of your visit!

And the Winner is..!

 

De Cero – 28/30 Points

De Cero (The Loop)

Taco al pastor at De Cero,   814 West randolph St., Chicago
Find juicy, spicy tacos al pastor at De Cero, 814 West Randolph St., Chicago

Meat Quality: 5  Meat was absolutely fantastic.  We did not see the trompo, but we asked and confirmed it is indeed there.

Meat Flavor: 4    Flavor is really nice, but the meat has a bit of a kick to it.

Tortilla Size and Quality: 5  Tortillas were fantastic. Perfect size!

Portion Size: 5   Perfect ratio. This bundle of joy offers the perfect burst of flavors in each bite.

Accuracy/Freshness of the Ingredients 5 Really fresh ingredients, a check for cilantro, onion, pineapple (although cubed) and lime! The ratios were so good in each bite, I did not let the cubes deter me.

Salsas 4:  I got red salsa with my order which was really, really  good. 

Note: We attempted to get tacos al pastor at De Cero in three different instances. We were persistent and were able to understand why these tacos fly away. Every bite is perfect. The tacos are a bit spicy (and pricey), so make sure you order an horchata to wash them down and know that the meal will be well worth your money. Luckily, this taquería accepts credit cards, so the amount of cash you brought with you won’t  limit the amount of tacos you enjoy.  I am really intrigued by their tamales verdes. I can´t wait to go back!

First Runner Up

Big Star – 27/30 Points

Big Star (Wicker Park)

Taco al pastor at Big Star, 1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago
Tacos al pastor at Big Star, 1531 N Damen Ave, Chicago

 

Meat Quality: 4  Really good and not too fatty.  Meat was a bit chunky, which is why we did not rate it a 5.

Meat Flavor: 4    Flavor was really nice, maybe a bit sweet, but really good. Saucy, not dry as it should be.

Tortilla Size and Quality: 5 Perfect size. Tortillas were great.

Portion Size: 5 Perfect portion

Accuracy/Freshness of the Ingredients 5 Really fresh ingredients. I loved to see pineapple on them, which is not easy to find, so I did not allow the cubes to worry me.

Salsas 4 Salsa is good and they have chiles toreados (grilled jalapeños), as well as pickled peppers and carrots. But, you will have to order them separately, as they do not come with your order.

Note:

We waited for about 3 hours to get a table at this famous eatery, which was even more difficult considering the aroma around the restaurant teases you with a preview of what is to come. There is a walk-up window with considerably faster service.  The bar is quite a bit noisy, so if this is where you want to hang out, you will have to be prepared to forego conversation and focus on your food, which is well worth it.  Bring cash with you.  They only take cash! Service from the greeters might be a bit rough, but will improve once you sit down.

Second Runner Up 25/30 Points  (Tie)

Taquería San Juanito (Albany Park)

Taco al pastor at Taquería San Juanito 4714 N Kedzie Ave,  Chicago
Taco al pastor at Taquería San Juanito 4714 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago

San Juanito was the only place where the meat was not saucy. I found their meat flavorful, but the taco had no pineapple, which lowered-down their score. Green salsa was particularly memorable.

Zacatacos (Berwyn)

Taco al pastor at Zacataco in Berwyn.
Taco al pastor at Zacatacos 6224 Cermak Rd., Berwyn

Zacatacos in Berwyn features the most tender meat you can possibly imagine. The tacos are a bit bulky and a come in a bigger tortilla, but are still really good. Salsas are amazing.

Of Note:

Bien Trucha (Geneva)

I really liked the concept of Bien Trucha, a modern-looking Mexican restaurant that reminded me of the vibe of restaurants in Mexico City. Food, not kitsch is the focus here, and the execution of the tacos spoke to quality. Also, Bien Trucha was the only establishment that got the pineapple right, as they had just a chunk of it  vs. the cubes I found in other restaurants.  I don’t remember getting any salsa with my tacos and had to ask for lime, but if you have had enough of taco talk, try their guacamole of the day or their Pulparindo cocktail! The photo below is not the best because I did not have very good lighting inside the restaurant.

Tacos al pastor at Bien Trucha 410 W State St, Geneva
Tacos al pastor at Bien Trucha 410 W State St, Geneva

Del Seoul (Lincoln Park)

This was not a taco al pastor and definitely not on the list, but in all fairness, some of the ones I tried were not really tacos al pastor either. This grilled  pork taco, a gift from the streets of LA (where fusion happens everyday) was so incredibly delicious, I thought it deserved to be added. The name of this Lincoln Park gem is code for those who know how to read it: Spanish speakers, will  phonetically  understand “Del Seoul” as “del sol”, or “of the sun”.  Mexican cuisine allegorically represents the sun in a meal with a tortilla.
Brilliant branding, brilliant food!
FInd this taco with tangy grilled pork, onion, cilantro, slaw and sesame seeds at Del Seoul  2568 North Clark Street Chicago
Find this taco with tangy grilled pork, onion, cilantro, slaw and sesame seeds at Del Seoul 2568 North Clark Street
Chicago
De Cero is our reigning champion, but if you think there is a 30/30 taco out there, let us know. In the mean time,  ¡a taquear!

 

Hybrid Animals, Hybrid Celebrations: Mexico’s Day of the Mule

Photo credit: Lissette Storch – Mexico City, Mexico

If you find yourself in Mexico during the months of May or June, and you see mules made out of dried corn leaves being sold everywhere, you might wonder if this handcraft is part of the local charm. It is, but only seasonally. This hybrid mammal appears just in time for the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi or Día de la Mula (Mule’s Day), and sometimes you may find them stuffed with candy.

Some attribute the association of mules with this festivity to the fact that in the 1500s, the faithful went to church carrying the best of their harvest on their mules to give thanks. This is a nod to pre-Hispanic rituals, in which gratefulness was shown to several deities through offerings.  Even today, more than 500 years later, it is easy to see pre-columbian traditions seeping through modern-day celebrations.

Others explain this whimsical tradition with legends featuring mules kneeling down in reverence. My favorite one is the story of a man who, while wondering if he should dedicate himself to a life of priesthood, asks God for a sign. When he went to church on a Corpus Christi Thursday, he found himself in the midst of a crowd of men and mules. The man said to himself that if God were present, even the mules would kneel down. The story, of course, tells that a mule did.

Curiously, the word “mule” is also used it to refer to someone who is advantageous. If someone wishes you un ‘Feliz Día de las Mulas’ it could be either friendly ribbing, or time to wonder…

Flores para Mamá – Indias Vestidas

Foto: Manuel Rivera
Foto: Manuel Rivera

Desde flores y frutos, hasta cactos e insectos, la comida mexicana es increíblemente variada. La diversidad de los ingredientes, aunado al sincretismo cultural propio de esta cocina, nos ofrece lo mejor de dos (o más) mundos en un plato.

Para celebrar el Día de las Madres, el Chef Aldo y Manuel Rivera decidieron incorporar flores en un platillo para mamá: indias vestidas. Este manjar incorpora ingredientes indígenas, en este caso la flor de calabaza, con técnicas europeas, como el capeado.

¡Demuéstrale a mamá cuánto la quieres con estas deliciosas flores!

INDIAS VESTIDAS

Rinde para 6 personas.

Ingredientes:
  • 12 piezas de flor de calabaza
  • 1 cucharada de mantequilla
  • 4 piezas de champiñones
  • 1/4 de cebolla finamente picada
  • 1 hoja de epazote
  • 1/2 chile Serrano desvenado y finamente picado
  • 1 diente de ajo finamente picado
  • 60 gramos de queso crema
  • 100 gramos de queso fresco rallado
  • 1 taza de pan molido
  • 1/2 taza de harina de trigo
  • 4 huevos
  • Sal y pimienta al guato
  • Aceite para freír
Procedimiento:
1. Lava con mucho cuidado la flor de calabaza y quítale el tallo.
2. Derrite la mantequilla en una sartén, saltea el ajo, la cebolla, el chile, el epazote y los champiñones con cuidado de no sobre cocer. Déjalo enfriar.
3. Mezcla los quesos con el recaudo de los champiñones y sazona con un poco de sal y pimienta blanca.
4. Con ayuda de una manga, rellena las flores con mucho cuidado. Rese
rva.
5. Separa las yemas y las claras de huevo. Bate las claras a punto de nieve y añade las yemas. Integra con un movimiento envolvente.
6. Pasa las flores por harina, huevo y el pan. Fríelas rápidamente para no quemarlas. Escurre el exceso de aceite.
7. Sirve sobre una salsa de chile poblano o de jitomate.
El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

Uno de los Siete Moles de Oaxaca: El Mole Amarillo

Foto: Manuel Rivera
Foto: Manuel Rivera

Sin lugar a dudas, el mole es una de las grandes estrellas de la comida mexicana. Aunque  diferentes historias sobre su origen hacen de Puebla el marco del génesis de este manjar, es en Oaxaca, el quinto estado más grande de la República Mexicana, donde el mole se ejecuta en una gran variedad de formas.  Oaxaca tiene siete moles:  negro, coloradito, amarillo, verde, chichilo, rojo y almendrado. Estos moles representan los ingredientes y la diversidad cultural de  cada una de las regiones oaxaqueñas.

Desde el complejo mole negro que requiere de más de 30 ingredientes para su conjuro, hasta el almendrado, cada uno de estos moles es tan delicioso y diferente como el que le sigue. Hoy, el chef Aldo nos trae a Nuestra Mesa, la receta para hacer mole amarillo. Aunque este mole es tradicionalmente hecho con carne de res, esta versión incorpora carne de pollo.

INGREDIENTES 

(Rinde para 6 personas)

  • 3 chiles guajillos
  • 1 jitomate mediano
  • 1 tomate verde
  • 2 piezas de clavo de olor
  • 2 piezas de pimienta gorda
  • 1 cucharadita de orégano
  • 1 hoja de hierba santa
  • 200 gramos de masa de maíz
  • 1 litro de consomé de pollo
  • 1 1/2 kilo de pollo cortado en piezas y cocido
  • 200 gramos de ejotes limpios, cortados y cocidos
  • 2 chayotes cortados en cubos grandes y cocidos
  • Sal al gusto

PREPARACIÓN

  1. Pon a cocer el chile y el jitomate en poca agua. Esto muele con las especias, con excepción de la hoja santa. Cuela.
  2. Añade el consomé de pollo y pon a hervir en una cacerola, agregando la hoja santa y sal al gusto.
  3. Poco a poco y sin dejar de mover, agrega la masa licuada con un poco de agua hasta formar un atole. Continúa cociendo hasta que esté espeso, cuidando de no subir la flama.
  4. Al servirlo se agregan las verduras y el pollo.

¡Acompaña con tortillas!

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

A Sip of Heaven: Chocolate Champurrado

Champurrado de chocolate. Foto: Brenda Storch
Chocolate champurrado. Photo: Brenda Storch

“Es tan santo el chocolate, que de rodillas se muele, juntas las manos se bate y viendo al cielo se bebe.”

  -Refrán popular mexicano

“Chocolate is so holy that you must kneel down to grind it; put your hands together to churn it, and look to the Heavens to drink it “.

-Mexican folk saying

Chocolate, or Xocoóatl, in Náhuatl, was an important ceremonial drink in pre-Columbian cultures. Its importance was such, that seeds of the cacao tree were not only offered to gods, they were also used as currency. Considered nutritious and even medicinal, chocolate made its way to Europe via Mexico.

Serves 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/2 sprig of cinnamon
  • 5 tbsp of brown sugar or a small piece of piloncillo of around 2.5 oz
  • 5 tbsp of tortilla masa
  • 1.5 oz of handmade chocolate. I got the chocolate for my champurrado as a gift during my last trip to Mexico! You may replace it with a piece of chocolate for atole (in the U.S., you may find it in your ethnic food aisle under brands such as Abuelita or Ybarra). Using the latter might make the champurrado a bit sweeter, so reduce sugar.
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Dilute the masa in 2 cups of cold water until there are no clumps.
  2. Boil the remaining water with the sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Incorporate the corn masa while mixing constantly on low heat.
  4. Add the vanilla and the chocolate.
  5. Continue to mix constantly for about 15 minutes or until the mix reaches the desired thickness.
  6. This time, I added a pod of cascabel pepper for flavor! You can add a piece of dry pepper without its seeds if you want. We chose a sweeter pepper.
  7. Champurrado is a very thick drink. If you like it a bit lighter, you might reduce the amount of masa you add.

Enjoy!

Nuestra Mesa – Pescado a la Veracruzana

Foto: Manuel Rivera
Foto: Manuel Rivera

Para esta temporada de cuaresma, el chef Aldo nos trae a Nuestra Mesa, una receta directa del sureste: pescado a la veracruzana.

Rinde: 5 personas

Ingredientes:

• 1/2 kilo de jitomate
• 5 chiles güeros en escabeche
• 1 cebolla blanca mediana
• 2 dientes de ajo
• 4 cucharadas soperas de aceite de oliva
• 15-20 aceitunas verdes
• 2 cucharadas soperas de alcaparras
• 1 cucharadita de orégano seco
• 1 hoja de laurel
• Sal
• 5 filetes de pescado blanco (tilapia, robalo, cazón, mero, lenguado, etc.)

Preparación:

1. Pela los tomates y córtalos en trozos de 2 ó 3 centímetros.
2. Pica la cebolla y los dientes de ajo.
3. En una sartén calienta 2 cucharadas de aceite, fríe la cebolla y el ajo a fuego mediano hasta que la cebolla se ablande y se vuelva transparente, teniendo cuidado de que que no se dore.
4. Agrega el jitomate, el chile, las aceitunas, las alcaparras, el orégano, la hoja de laurel y la sal. Fríelo, moviéndolo frecuentemente, durante unos 30 minutos, hasta que esté cocido.
5. Rectifica la sazón.
6. En otra sartén, calienta las dos cucharadas restantes de aceite y coloca los filetes en el centro de la sartén en una sola capa. Fríe los filetes durantes unos minutos hasta que estén cocidos y empiecen a dorarse, volteándolos una vez. El tiempo necesario variará de 3 a 6 minutos, según el grosor de los filetes. Al voltearlos, utiliza una espátula o una pala de madera con bastante cuidado para que no se rompan.
7. Cuando está cocido el pescado, viértele encima la salsa. Permita que se cueza durante un par de minutos, luego apaga el fuego.
8. Para servirlo, coloca un filete y una parte de la salsa en cada plato.
9. Acompáñalo con arroz blanco.

El chef Aldo Saavedra ha cocinado para huéspedes de establecimientos como el conocido Hotel Condesa D.F. y ha contribuído con sus recetas en proyectos con marcas de la talla de Larousse y Danone. En Nuestra Mesa, el chef Saavedra comparte con los lectores de La Vitamina T, su pasión por la cocina y por México.

Atole de Guayaba

Atole de guayaba en La Dulce Vida Foto: Brenda Storch
Atole de guayaba en La Dulce Vida Foto: Brenda Storch

Jorge Galván, uno de los dueños de La Dulce Vida Nevería, nos compartió esta receta para hacer atole de guayaba, uno de los favoritos de los clientes de este establecimiento. Jorge dice que además de los ingredientes, esta receta necesita paciencia, ya que hay que mover constantemente para que el atole no se corte.

Rinde aproximadamente 2 litros

Ingredientes:

  • 1 vara de canela
  • 2 cucharadas de piloncillo
  • 200 gramos de guayaba
  • 1/2 taza de azúcar refinada
  • 5 tazas de leche
  • 2  1/2 tazas de agua
  • 2  1/2  cucharadas de masa preparada (Maseca)
  • Paciencia y determinación para mover constantemente el atole hasta que espese

Procedimiento:

  1. Pon el agua a hervir. Una vez que esté hirviendo, incorpora la canela y el piloncillo.
  2. Echa las guayabas en el agua hirviendo. Ya que abran, sácalas del agua junto con la canela.
  3. Incorpora la leche y déjala hervir.
  4. Agrega la masa a la leche hirviendo
  5. Muele las guayabas y agrégalas junto el azúcar moviendo constantemente durante 30 minutos a fuego lento hasta que espese

La Dulce Vida Nevería

2015 W. Rice St.

Melrose Park, IL 60160