Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Yes, I do realize that this blog is supposed to be in English, but with this week's special, I couldn't help it. The blog title, horale, is Spanish slang that usually translates to "right on!", like when I assemble a really good special for the first time and it comes out even better than I had hoped, and I turn to my cook Alejandro and say "Horale!" while nodding my head; he knows. He knows that i've made it chingon - the best.

I'm always asked where I learned Spanish, and I always respond with the same lousy joke "in school", but while I was taught the words by a teacher, I didn't speak the language until I worked in kitchens in New York City, and even more so when I became chef there. The funny thing is, the more you learn the more you become apart of the culture, and before long I started to notice the Latino influences seeping into my cooking style. Nowadays my tastes are ever-changing, and I usually add those influences in subtle moderation, but with a new taco truck popping up everywhere in Seattle, I know that I can find a good audience for my take on comida authentica.

For those of you who wish to disparage how much Mexican cuisine has become apart of our culture, all you need for proof is to visit your local grocery store, like the banana leaves or corn husks at the QFC on Broadway or the masa harina (corn flour) at the Safeway on 15th Ave, the essential ingredients for tamales, but for me that's not enough.

To fill my tamales, I first slow-cooked chicken thighs over applewood logs, allowing for a good, smoky flavor without being overbearing. Once cooled I mixed the shredded meat with onions, garlic, oregano, chicken stock and other spices that made up the core for the tamale. For the filling of the tamale I went traditional, but with extra flavor by slowly mixing the masa harina with pork fat until it was crumbly like making pastry dough and then I added just enough rich chicken stock to bring it all together. I used banana leaves to wrap the meat and dough into one very large ubertamale. While they steamed for two hours I prepared the remaining components.
For the first component I needed a sauce, so I went with a French-Spanish hybrid, faulty gas pedal excluded (yuk, yuk!). I started my ragout by first searing off diced chorizo sausage in butter, and then I added chopped onions and garlic, chicken stock, Spanish paprika, smoked paprika, chipotle powder (which technically is another type of paprika...) tomatoes and parsley. Once thickened and seasoned I set the ragout aside to cool.

To balance out the spicy ragout I decided to use another winter vegetable favorite before it's gone - the rutabaga. This misunderstood yellow turnip is absolutely outstanding when peeled and simmered in a little half and half and water, and it is silky smooth after you strain it and puree it with just a touch of its own cooking liquid. Here, it acts as a buffer between the smoky tamale and the spicy chorizo ragout.

To continue on with the Latino theme I decided to concoct a punch of sorts to pay tribute to some of this lovely afternoon sun that we have been receiving lately.

Tamarind is a tropical sour fruit that comes from a pod, and when the pulp of that fruit is mixed with a little sugar it has a delightfully balanced of flavor. For this cocktail I mixed a little tamarind concentrate with some leftover kumquat puree and a little fresh lime juice, and, once mixed with a hefty portion of rum it makes for really refreshing sipping drink - almost like you were on the beach in Oaxaca, Mexico!!

Con Mi Amor,