Monday, October 26, 2009


Some things are just better smoked and pork meat has to be the meat that most benefits form this long dry cooking process. A few weeks ago while youtubing the night away we stumbled on to a clip from food network TV´s "Good eats", the host "Alton Brown" brines and then smokes a boston butt and the makes himself a pulled pork sandwich. He smokes the pork in a terracotta pot with nothing more than a grate, an electric burner and some wood chips. We found this method irresistible and wanted to try it out...our plan was to give it the whole 10 hour cooking time but we just couldn´t wait and ended finishing it up in the oven. What´s important is we proved that indeed you can make a ceramic cooker/smoker out of a couple of inexpensive flower pots and a 15 dollar electric hotplate. The results were phenomenal and has got us all excited about smoking everything from bacon, to fresh tuna. This recipe is our take on a classic American technique while using Mexican spices and ingredients.
We start off with a whole bone-in boston butt and a dry rub.

dry rub

1 tablespoon cumin
1/ 3 cup coarse sea salt
1/3 cup ground piloncillo or brown sugar
3 toasted guajillo peppers
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/3 cup ground coffee

Grind up all the ingredients together and rub the meat generously all over and place in a plastic bag . Let the meat marinade for 24 to 48 hours. once you are ready to smoke just place the chunks of hicory on the metal dish right on top of the electric hotplate, place pork on the grate and cover. make sure to keep the temperature no higher than 220 degrees Fahrenheit and smoke for 10 to 12 hours.
I have tried this in tacos and quesadillas and is truly delicious, also a very inexpensive cut of meat that really benefits from a little extra cooking time and care. I´ll be sure to post a few more smoked items as I try to conquer this intense and complex cooking style.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mary had a little lamb.......stew

Mary might have had a little lamb, but so did we and it was freakin delicious. We got this lamb from a Mexicali Valley based farmer; totally local for us, very organic and very tender. They brought it in on a Wednesday and turns out this is a very nice South African breed of lamb called Dorper. We cooked it on Saturday but should have hung in the walkin for at least 3 more days before we cooked it yet we wouldn´t have noticed a difference was rich, tender and mouthwateringly exquisite. We decided to do a roast braise with we started of in the woodfire oven and finished it of in a very simple tomatoes and guajillo sauce.

I started of with a wet rub
5 spings rose marry
15 loose leaves mint
5 garlic cloves
3 lemons
salt tt
pepper tt
2 cups olive oil

Juice the lemons and puree all the ingredients in a blender. With a brush rub the mixture all over the lamb inside and out and let marinate for about an hour. Place in a roasting pan and roast at 400 F for a couple of hours or until it starts browning on the out side...take out of the oven, set aside and let cool.

For the sauce
10 tomatoes halved
5 guajillo chilies, lightly toasted and placed in warm water for about an hour
1 large onion
1 cup red wine
Water as needed ( lamb is rich and gamey so a rich flavorfull stock might just get lost in the stew)

In a pot sautee the onions until lightly browned, add tomatoes chilies and water, stew for a few minutes until tomatoes are falling apart. Soon after, you want to put it all in a blender top open and cover with a dry rag, please, we dont want any accidents (this might delay or cancel your enjoyment of the dish, let alone cooking all together). Blend while still hot to get a smoother texture, and then pass through a colander or chinois. Place the sauce back in the pot and add the lamb cut into small pieces. Stew the lamb at low heat for 2 to 3 hours until PFT (Plastic Fork Tender). Correct seasonings and serve with raw red onions and cilantro leaves. Simply heartwarming and comforting. Enjoy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

La Guerrerense...........simple things done right

Many people often turn to short cuts to get ahead, but once in a while you find someone that inspires you, leaving behind all thoughts of bling, bang and the rock and roll lifestyle for a more humble and spiritual peace. When cooking, many chefs often find their place in the universe behind a blazing stove while others won't step foot in a kitchen without thinking about getting paid, laid, rubbing shoulders with a celebrity or getting his ass kissed by the occasional foodie that might come through the door that day.

Most young cooks will never get a chance to shine yet some will always be remembered for going into an almost zen-like devotion and making just a few items yet doing them the way they should have always been done.

La Guerrerense is just that, a woman that having never gone through formal training, is revered by many as the best ceviche and seafood street vendor/cook in Mexico. Day in and day out you will always find her behind the cart handing out the freshest seafood tostadas in Ensenada, everything from abalone to sea urchin, fresh tuna and fish pate. Nothing fancy or pretentious, just delicious. She always gives it that extra touch by setting up a variety of sauces, toasted chilies with peanuts, pickled cucumbers with habanero, and chili olive oil, all made by her.

Fresh is always best, and having the dock just a couple of blocks down, you know its the real thing. No frozen, processed or canned grub here. Is ceviche easy to make? well yeah, but its no easy shore to set up shop every day giving it only your best.

You can find Dona Sabina hard at work, seven days a week. And whenever you find yourself at the corner of 1st Street and Alvarado, dare to try the sea urchin tostada, and definitely the conch and fish pate one ; ask for a side of avocado and top it with any of her hand made salsas and infused oils.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Marinated Bean Salad with Fried Beef Intestines

This is a starter conjured up by Mexicali based chef Guillermo Jose Barreto at "La Piazza". While trying to sway from the traditional authentic Italian cuisine the place is known for, chef Guillermo aims for a more " Baja style " dish using local ingredients for a kind of Mex-Italian groove.

" I want to appeal to the native palate, and use more locally grown products, the whole classic Italian thing was very fun for me but we've been open for close to 8 years now and its time for a change. I think I've grown in both my personal and professional life. We definitely have a better understanding of food and where it comes from. We've learned a lot from Benito Molina´s take on the whole Baja scene and all of it´s virtues. I personally feel truly inspired by Jair Tellez and everything he´s done with Laja. Baja is a great place to live and it's a very exciting time to live here. The dishes we come up with during this period may very well be the dishes that define classic Baja Californian cuisine for generations to come and I feel really lucky to be a part of that.

This is my marinated bean salad with celery and crispy beef intestines. Beef intestines might gross out a lot of people but its something Baja natives love. Before you knock it, try it. The beans are sweet and sour, spicy and tangy, creamy and crispy...we have a lot going on in this plate, and its as delicious to eat as it is fun for me to make."
For the beef intestine

5 pounds of beef intestine, veal if you can get it. Cook in a large pot with well seasoned simmering water and a bay leaf for 20 minutes or until slightly firm, cool and refrigerate for at least four hours. Cut into 2 inch pieces and fry in vegetable oil until nicely browned and crispy. Season immediately and set aside for plating.

For the marinade

2 cups of Wine Vinegar, red or white

1 cone of Mexican Piloncillo or one cup of brown sugar (Piloncillo works so much better)
1 Pasilla chili toasted

1 Chile de Arbol (any dried chili will do so mix it up and find your own take on it) toasted

Just mash up all the ingredients together and season to taste.

For the salad

1 cup Mayocaba or Peru beans cooked

1 cup of Red Kidney beans cooked

1 cup of Pinto beans cooked

1 cup of Fava beans cooked
1 cup Black beans cooked

1 cup Chick peas cooked

1 cup Lemon confit

1 cup Tomato confit

Marinade the beans overnight turning occasionally. Add the confits and store submerged in extra virgin olive oil and store over night.

To plate

Place a nice portion of the marinated beans on a plate with some diced or sliced celery. Place the crispy beef intestines on top and squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon or lime juice. I usually garnish with chiffonade of cilantro cause I love the freshness it brings to the party. Enjoy with some good crusty bread.

Buen provecho!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tomato Confit

One of the great things with summer is the arrival of the most delicious, sweet and intense tomatoes you've had all year. Nothing screams summer like caprese and Greek salads full of sun ripened tomatoes, crispy BLT with a fried egg and even grabbing a slice of crusty day old rustic bread with garlic and smothering it with a piece of juicy summer tomato for a Catalunian style tapa.
One of my favorite things to do with tomatoes is slowly roasting them to intensify its flavor and enhance its sweetness. Again this works great on salads, pannini, baked into bread, but best of all on pasta. The great thing about this is you´ll end up with different products you can use...the tomatoes of course, plus a great savory scented oil that works great for making chimichurri sauce, drizzled over grilled trout or with vinegar for a great vinaigrette that goes absolutely amazing with arugula and prosciutto.

Tomato Confit


12 Roma or Perita tomatoes quartered

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 sprig of thyme, minced

dried oregano or marjoram

olive oil


Any monkey can do this, so put that banana away and lets get started...

Just place the quartered tomatoes on a non reactive baking sheet brushed with oil and season with the rest of the ingredients, drizzle with olive oil and bake at your oven's lowest setting for 2-4 hours; depending on your oven. Tomatoes should look dry and slightly browned, but not burnt, so check occasionally. There is really no point at where I can tell you its done...if you want it really dry, give it more time, if you prefer them a little more juicy take them out sooner (which makes for a killer roasted tomato soup). Once you are done, place them in a sterilized jar or container, drop a fresh thyme sprig, a couple of halved garlic cloves, and cover with a good extra virgin olive oil, we use Rancho Cortes olive oil which is probably the best in Baja, but you can use whatever brand you prefer, store in your fridge and use indiscriminately. And there ya' go.... tomato confit, isn´t it beautiful thing?

Lemon Zest Confit

Lemon zest confit is one of my favorite ingredients to put on salads. Its really very fragrant and has an indescribable intensity. I use these skins in lemon and chicken confit ravioli with artisanal fresh cheese sauced with a spicy chicken veloute... I find that dish sublime, but the sky is the limit when using this versitile ingredient. Its easy, keeps very well and can be used for a whole lot of things, so go ahead and make enough whenever you try this recipe.


5 lemons
1 quart vegetable oil
1 clove garlic
1 thyme sprig(optional)

Peel the zest off the lemons with a vegetable peeler, we only want the yellow skin so be sure to trim the bitter, nasty, white parts off. Blanch and shock it a couple of times, just boil , ice bath, boil, ice bath and set aside; really easy. Proceed to place it in a small pot and cover it with vegetable oil (try corn oil , its safer for people who might be allergic to peanuts), add a garlic clove and thyme sprig. At this stage you could also add the juice of half a lemon, it will brighten up the color and flavor. Simmer at low heat (and I do mean low..please dont fry the damn thing) for 20 to 30 minutes. The idea here is to render it from most of its moisture.

Tadaaaaaa your done, just let it cool and store completely submerged in the oil and you should be fine even at room temp for at least 3 weeks.
.idea. use this oil for dressings, or on steaks, fish, or even roasted chicken . Its really great on any savory dish you would use lemon on, but want to avoid the acidity...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuetano......Roasted Bone Marrow

Requested by mister Masa Assasin and glad to oblige.
Our recipe for roasted bone marrow with salsa negra:
The deal with this one.. its all in the sauce, its all in the bread, its all in the quality of the bone marrow.
Get your butcher to get you the best parts of the femural bone, cut in 2 inch pieces (the butcher knows its the center cut of the bone) rub with oil and coarse sea salt, pepper optional and pop in the oven at max heat until well browned ( time will depend on the size of the bone and your oven).
Sauce is basically your classic pasilla sauce,

Get a couple of tomatillos
a ripe roma or perita tomato
half an onion dice
1 garlic clove
3 pasilla chilis toasted
2 guajillo chilis toasted
1 Chile de Arbol toasted
Sweat the onion with the garlic and fry the tomato and tomatillo,
put all the ingredients in the blender and blitz, just add salt and pepper to taste
you can also add some cilantro if you want.
Toast a few slices of good old rustic country bread...."Hogaza" makes some great bread but we make our own..and just smear the bread with the buttery soft and wonderfully sensual bone marrow, drop a dollop of our black sauce, some sea salt and enjoy my friend, cause you are in for a treat.
Try some great hand made flour tortillas instead of bread if thats your thing...its perfectly acceptable but I love the crunch we get from our baguettes.
Buen provecho amigo.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just another laid back beer drinking Sunday

As if it wasnt enough with the near indigestive state we found ourselves after our pork overdose, we headed back to "La Piazza" which was closed of course, opened only to us and by no means serving italian cuisine, but the remainder of the exquisitly poached beef tongue, thinly sliced and served as a taco....taken to another level with an eclectically mouthwatering red radish, serrano and red onion salsa.

Try this beautiful and stupidly delicious pink salsa at home:

4 Radishes.. brunoise
1/2 a red onion.. brunoise
a couple of hot serrano chilis.. diced
a small bunch of cilantro ..chiffonade
the juice of 4 to 5 limes
salt and pepper to taste

Just mix all the ingredients in a bowl and let marinate over night in the fridge.

Beef tounge was poached in seasoned water with a couple of bay leaves, 10 pepper corns, half an onion, a clove of garlic and a guajillo chili (opcional) for two to three hours.

Cool beef tounge, thinly slice and reheat in a skillet at low heat and serve with fresh corn tortillas.

P. S. La Piazza serves Baja cuisine with an Italian flare so you won´t find this dish on the menu, you will, however find delicious local, product based dishes and freshly made pasta, monday through saturday from 1.00pm to 12.00 am, mexicali ,baja tel 686 569 37 54.

Porchetta at the Mercuri´s

The perfect table setting...............

The antipasti .... sliced pork rump roast with vegetable aioli, baked yellow peppers and tomatoes stuffed with rice, scalloped beef tounge with lime vinagrette, red onions and raddish. Mango, lettuce and cucumber salad. The pasta... farfalle con funghi.

Prosciutto and cheese stuffed focaccia, topped with olives and cherry tomatoes.

The star, roasted crispy porchetta with baked new potatoes. not a very summery dish, but hell if we care...

...porchetta goooooooooood.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Makin-bakon´.......Porchetta at the Mercuri´s

About two hours east from San Diego and just south of the border is Mexicali, Baja´s state capital and probably the one of its least popular destinations due to its blistering heat. There is another side to Mexicali, it is home to some of the warmest funloving people in Mexico. Mexicali is also a close second to Tijuana for industrial and international investment and is responsable for lots of the states profit.

Summers might be unbearable yet almost any desert-trotting "Cachanilla"(Mexicali native) might just toss you an ice cold beer as soon as they meet you. Not exactly a big touristy town, locals tend to work hard and party harder yet food is really not a big part of their lifestyle, limited mostly to Chinese food (which is huge ) tacos and Sinaloa style seafood due to it´s large Chinese and Sinaloan migration.

There are however, a few culinary treasures hidden under all that sun and sand, Mexicali, after all is a land of opportunity for many families and you might even find a few here and there coming form Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Cuba, Colombia, Japan, or Korea that have brought their ever thriving love for food and culinary culture. One of those families is the Mercuri familiy, husband Alessandro Mercuri and wife Elda Giuliano, lived practically all over Italy before moving to Mexico with their two sons; first Mexico city, Guadalajara and finally Mexicali where they found their home in 1984.

Elda, however, is not just a diehard foodie, but a longtime passionate home cook coming from a long line of Italian chefs and restaurantuers. Her holiday spreads usually include 3 antipasti, a couple of pasta courses, a meat and fish dish, 2 or three sides, a few cakes, cookies, and candied fruit. There she entertains friends, family and a few saliving crashers that understand just how good Elda´s food really is. Food and wine is never scarse at the Mercuri household and should you be fortunate enough to be invited to one of their traditional mouthwatering Italian grubfest be sure to bring loose pants ´cause I garantee you, you will need them by the time you are through.

One of Elda´s most sought after and celebrated dishes pays tribute to an Italian classic...the Porchetta; pork meat seasoned with rosemary , sage, fennel sead and garlic rolled in its own skin, cured and roasted to an almost pornographically suculent, caramelized crisp perfection.