Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beloved Bayless

There's a lot of love for Chicago-based celebrity chef Rick Bayless in my apartment. We're still celebrating his win on Top Chef Masters, and a Frontera Grill menu is proudly displayed among a collection of others on a bulletin board in the kitchen. His show, Mexico--One Plate at a Time, is on the regular DVR rotation, and I can't get over how active this man is on Twitter. OK, so I haven't actually eaten at one of his restaurants (the menu is a souvenir from the boy's trip to Chicago awhile back), but I swear I've been able to taste his food through the screen. Plus, the guy just seems so genuinely...nice.

So It felt right to theme a little housewarming party after him. We had a few friends over for Bayless inspired menu last weekend that included chipotle roasted peanuts, chillied peanuts and pumpkin seeds and popcorn with Bayless' mojo de ajo (slow roasted garlic oil), also known as "liquid gold." I was slowly but surely slinging Topolo margaritas as folks walked in the door, and we served both black bean queso fresco and creamy chipotle shrimp tostaditas (bite-sized tostadas) before brava steak and duck carnitas.

The credit for all of it goes to my boyfriend. He did an amazing amount of prep and cooking in 24 hours, and the food was incredible. The duck carnitas were superb, which just might have had something to do with a smidge of the fat it was cooked in. It was amazingly tender and rich, but a chunky tomatillo-avocado salsa made it taste bright.

My minor contribution was a mango lime ice. The suggestion actually came from Mr. Bayless himself on Twitter (highlight of my boyfriend's life, as he put it). I'll be honest that I probably made making the stuff more complicated than it needed to be. It took me forever to juice the limes, I was caffeine deprived and got frustrated fast when pureeing the mangoes made a huge mess (my bad for filling the processor bowl too full). But I'll say the end result was pretty cool. They were like cups of slushy. But not like the Sno-Cone ice. Almost like a sorbet. And definitely a nice little palate cleanser after all of the savory treats.

We even had an appearance from the celeb chef himself. Kind of. Well, OK, as close as we're probably ever going to get to him coming to dinner.


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