Bars can be expensive. Not that hotel bar you eye occasionally, the one with the $15 drinks. No, I’m talking about your home bar.
If you love cocktails and cocktails books — which I do — then it is possible to have stack of “gotta make” recipes. Taken together, all those recipes can demand that your home bar be extensively stocked. And there’s the rub.
I collect the Food and Wine Cocktails books, one published each year. The 2013 edition is easily the best, flush with wonderful beverage ideas. I recommend the ideas and the book.
One idea called for both tequila and mescal. Tequila I have in abundance. Of Mescal, not a drop. I know enough to know that all tequilas are a subset of mescal so, I assumed, the larger collection of mescals had to include some bottles with modest price tags. My first nearby liquor store want $54. I passed, heading for my corner store which always has a good selection at modest prices. $120 and $80. I now began my mantra of “Curse you, Red Baron.”
Back home I examined the recipe. It wanted agave, which I believe, based on the prices in Whole Foods, is as outrageously priced as certain liquors that are based on plants related to asparagus. [Oh, you thought agave used to be considered a cactus but is really a lily. There’s been a little update and it has been reclassified again as a cousin to asparagus. That should give tequila drinkers both pause and smug satisfaction: it is, too, healthy.]
I felt confused and cheap. I rethought the whole concept for this cocktail and I revised it. A lot. It’s now my concoction.
What had caught my eye initially was the heat. This drink begins by muddling poblanos, along with jalapenos the most popular of hot peppers. I imagined a meal of stuffed poblanos consumed with a fork accompanied by muddled poblanos consumed sip by sip.
To fight the poblano heat, the muddling includes fresh pineapple chunks. Then tequila, and lemon juice and that backbone ingredient of most cocktails: a simple sugar syrup. All that resonates in my brain like a mariachi band.
Once made, the drink is pretty to look at that I waited, perhaps, a full three seconds before imbibing. Frankly, my dear, I don’t think mescal would have made a damn difference.
As a hint of things to come, I have been experimenting with hot sugar syrups, spicy hot. In place of the simple syrup, you could use a habanero sugar syrup here for a refined blast of fire. More about that as spring evolves.
Muddled Heat and Sweet
Yield: 1 cocktail
- 4 ¼ inch thick rings of poblano + 1 more for garnish
- 4 1-inch cubes of fresh pineapple
- 2 ounces of silver tequila
- 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ounce simple syrup
In a cocktail shaker, muddle 4 of the poblano chile rings with the pineapple. Add the tequila, lemon juice and simple syrup. Fill the shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Pour into a chilled cocktail class filled with crush ice. Garnish, if you wish, with a poblano ring or a citrus round.
Source: Brian O’Rourke with inspiration from Food and Wine Cocktails 2013 [the Pablo Escabar]
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60MM Macro Lens, F/5.6, 1/100th second, ISO-1600
If I say Chicago, what food snaps into your mind. Pizza? Dogs? Cabbage rendered in a thousand different ways? That’s a dangerous topic to ask a person from New York, the home of true pizza and the world’s best hot dogs. And, and, which city has won more World Series?
Back to food. Chicago? I think Mexican. And largely because of one man: Rick Bayless. Frontera Grill is his flagship Chicago restaurant, a site that for over 20 years has served delicious, ethnically authentic, outstanding food. Rick has many books but this one, Frontera, packs in 50 recipes just from that singular restaurant. Over all those years, a lot of avocados have arrived at the back door of Frontera. A lot of happy people have left hours later through the front door, the tang of guacamole on their tongue, the vapors of margarita sublime in their brains.
Wonderful variations for guac and margaritas — plus some snacks — are presented here, reflecting years of trial, experimentation and ultimately perfection.
Take this guacamole. It has cheese. Like goat cheese. Would you have thought of that? I would not, but I do love the taste. Goat cheese adds both its distinctive flavor and mouth feel. Rick says this dish is substantial, and prefers it as side to shrimp, chicken, fish or pork. I put a chip in the picture because I could never make a batch of guac and not at least taste test. In this particular case, Suzen and I taste tested the whole bowl.
What did we do then? Why we dipped into our emergency supply of ripe avocados. You have one of those, right?
Grilled Corn and Poblano Guacamole
Yield: 4 cups
- ½ medium white onion, sliced crosswise into 3 rounds
- A little olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 small ear of fresh corn, husked and cleaned of silk
- 1 fresh poblano chile
- 3 ripe medium-large avocados
- ¼ cup crumbled Mexican fresh cheese or other fresh cheese, like salted pressed farmer’s cheese or goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1-2 tablespoons epazote [or cilantro]
Heat a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until medium-hot and the coals are covered with gray ash. Lightly brush both sides of the onion slices with oil, sprinkle with salt and lay on the grill.
Oil the corn and lay it beside the onion, along with the poblano (no oil needed on it). When the onion slices are browned on one side, 4 to 5 minutes, flip them and grill the other side. Turn the corn regularly until evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Roast the poblano for 5 to 7 minutes, turning it until evenly blackened. Let the roasted vegetables cool.
Chop the onion into ¼-inch pieces. Cut the kernels from the corn (you need about ¾ of a cup). Rub the blackened skin off the poblano, pull out and discard the stem and seed pod, tear the chile open and briefly rinse to remove stray seeds and bits of blackened skin. Cut into ¼-inch pieces.
Cut the avocados in half, running a knife around the pit from top to bottom and back up again. Twist the halves in opposite directions to release the pit from one side of each avocado. Remove the pit, then scoop the flesh from 1 avocado in a large bowl. Scoop the flesh from the other 2 avocados onto a cutting board and cut them into ½-inch pieces. With an old-fashioned potato masher, a large fork on the back of a large spoon, thoroughly mash the avocado this is in the bowl.
Scoop the diced avocado into the bowl, along with the grilled onion, corn, poblano and 2 tablespoons of the fresh cheese. Sprinkle with the lime juice and epazote [or cilantro], then gently stir the mixture to distribute everything evenly. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate.
When you are ready to serve, scoop, the guacamole into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Source: Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless
Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55mm lens at F/5.7, 1/100 second at ISO 3200 [no flash]