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Posts Tagged ‘mole’

This past Friday night Yuki and I had dinner with our friends Nick and Andrea. I was charged with finding a place that none of us had been to before. Yuki had mentioned a taste for tamales so I thought I’d find a Mexican joint. Since Nick and Andrea have travelled extensively through Mexico I knew it wouldn’t be hard to convince them to try Don Diablo with us. I believe Nick’s response was, “you had me at tamales”. So, we headed over the former Fonda Del Mar current Don Diablo, and we’re all damn glad we did.

It’s a little out of any gentrified neighborhood so there aren’t many people who know about it yet, but I think that will all change soon. Especially since it’s BYOB, keeping costs down.

The interior is very quaint. It has an exposed kitchen and the tables aren’t to close together that you’re bumping up against strangers. Music wasn’t too loud so you don’t have to shout in order to converse. The service was also pretty good. There was only one waitress, but with only 4 tables we never got antsy waiting for service.

Of course, we started with the tamales. Chicken filled and topped with a green sauce and some melted cheese. They put a lot of whole kernels in their masa which gave a little bit more sweetness to the dish. It took a couple of bites to get used to it, but after those couple of bites I found that I really enjoyed them. With two tamales per order we got two orders so that we each got our own.

The other appetizer we tried was the Quesadillas De Huitlacoche. You almost have to order huitlacoche whenever you see it because it’s such a delicacy with a great earthy flavor. That said, I don’t think they really showcased the huitlacoche all that much in these. With chihuahua cheese, epazote, and guacamole on the side the huitlacoche almost got lost. Don’t get me wrong, they were very good, but I wanted more huitlacoche flavor.

Nick and Andrea each ordered the Enchaladas De Pollo. They did so for the mole. It had a very deep chocolate flavor, but was smooth and delicious. Not an outstanding plate, but a very very good one.

I ordered Puerco en Mole. Really soft and perfectly cooked pork loin served in a green mole with pumpkin seeds. The mole was very light which was nice because it didn’t overpower the pork flavor. It also came with garlic mashed potatoes with melted cheese. Another very very good dish.

Ah, the piece de resistance! Yuki ordered the Cochinita Pibil. Slow cooked pork shoulder cooked in a banana leaf and served with black beans, pickled onions, and a spicy habanero salsa. This was one of the best pork dishes I have ever eaten in Chicago. If it were socially acceptable I would dress myself in cochinita pibil and prance about town. The pork was fall-apart tender full of flavor. The pickled onion just explodes in your mouth. The beans add substance. The habanero salsa was the perfect level of spice, a slow burn that coats your mouth but isn’t overpowering and makes you want to come back for more. This dish was truly impressive.

We kind of shared three desserts. Coconut Flan was one of them. It was a little thick, but had a great flavor.

Mango sorbet, nice and light with a great natural sweetness.

And a Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream, not really what I think of when I think of Mexican dessert, but a delicious one nonetheless. I’m not sure if the desserts were homemade or brought it, but they were pretty good.

Overall, I find Don Diablo to be one of the best kept secrets in Chicago Mexican dining. Every dish was cooked perfectly with nice balance and quality ingredients. Service was efficient and friendly. The price point was excellent, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value for a Mexican meal like this. Cochinita Pibil is a true masterpiece. I would crawl on my hands and knees in the middle of January to get a taste of that again.

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Alright, I’m Jewish and not Mexican. But hey, both of our cultures were slaughtered by the Spanish so we share the same plight. Not really, but my mom lives in Mexico. To celebrate Mexican Independence I made my first attempt at a mole. Whole Foods had these fantastic lamb shoulder steaks on sale. Using a Oaxacan Red Mole recipe as my base, I altered it to fit the ingredients I could find as well as to make it more of a braise to break down the fat of the shoulder cut instead of a sauce like you typically see with a mole. While it’s usually not the best idea to screw around with a recipe you’re unfamiliar with, especially one with as many steps as mole, I’m confident enough in myself that it was no problem. The results almost couldn’t have been better!

To start, I soaked 3 ancho chiles and 4 New Mexico chiles in boiling water. I was looking for guajillo chiles, but couldn’t find any. So, I used the New Mexico ones instead. I have absolutely no idea if the two chiles are at all similar, and still don’t, but thought it was a risk worth taking.

While the chiles were soaking I heated up a skillet and, one spice at a time, toasted 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, 1/4 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. Once cooled I ground them up with my pestle and mortar.

Then I used the same hot skillet to roast two garlic cloves. Keep the skin on the cloves and just let them sit in the hot pan for about 2-3 minutes per side. When they were cool to touch I put them in the blender with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and made a smooth puree.

I cleaned out the blender. I de-stemmed and de-seeded the chiles and pureed them with about a cup of the soaking water which had taken on a lot of the chile flavors and aromas. The recipe I was using only called for a tablespoon or so of the water, just enough to puree the chiles. Since I wanted a braising liquid instead of just a thick sauce I used a lot more of the water. I also set some aside in case I wanted to add more, but didn’t need to. After the chiles were pureed, I strained them into a bowl and set aside.

Alright, time to put the mole together. I heated up about 3 tablespoons of soy oil and added the spice mix from my mortar. After about 15 seconds I poured in the tomato sauce and then the pureed chiles. Careful though, it splatters! I mixed that all around. Once it started to boil I added 1/2 cup of sugar, 1.5oz of Mexican chocolate, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. I let that come to a gentle boil.

While the mole was coming up to a boil I heated up some oil in a hot skillet, cut the lamb steaks into bite-sized pieces, and seared them off in batches. As they were seared they were tossed into the mole. I let them braise in the mole for about 30 minutes then I added two chopped carrots and let it all braise for another 45 minutes. The sauce became nice and thick.

For starch I made some cilantro mashed potatoes. I took 4 good-sized russets, skinned them, quartered them, and tossed them in a pot with cold water. I added salt and three large peeled garlic cloves. Then I brought it up to a boil. Once the water started to boil I let the potatoes go for about 25 minutes.

While that was going on I took a handful of cilantro and blended it with about 2/3 cup of soy milk. I then took 4 tablespoons of butter and cut that into smaller pieces. Once the potatoes and garlic were cooked I drained them and added them back to the pan. I poured the cilantro milk in and mashed it all up real good one pat of butter at a time. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper. They might have been the best damn mashed potatoes I’ve ever made!

For a side I heated up some olive oil and threw in two cloves of crushed garlic. A few minutes later I added 1/2 of an onion chopped and let that saute down a bit. Then I threw in a jalapeno that was seeded and sliced. A few more minutes and I threw in a bunch of sliced mushrooms. I had a few shiitake left in my fridge as well as a carton of buttons. Once those were almost cooked through I tossed in 1/2 radiccio that I had thinly sliced. I let that all wilt down, seasoned and then served. For garnish I broke up some cotija cheese.

To garnish the mole I diced an avocado. I also diced a red onion and soaked it in water for most of the day to draw out the rawness. Besides those two garnishes, I laid a few cilantro sprigs on top.

I have to say, for a Jew, I make a mean mole! The ony thing I think I’d do different is cut the sugar from 1/2 cup to 1/4 quarter cup. It was slightly sweet, but not so much that it was bothersome. Soy chingon!!!

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I thought we were done with Restaurant Week, well, I thought wrong! A couple friends of ours had invited us to join them for dinner Saturday night at Salpicon. I’ve been there once before with  my sister and brother-in-law, maybe 5 years ago. I remember walking away fully satisfied both in my belly as well as my taste buds. So, the opportunity to dine there again, at the discounted restaurant week price, was too good to pass up as we’re not ones to miss out on top-notch Mexican food at a discount. Hanging out with Tony and Sandra was also a nice proposition which certainly didn’t hurt the matter.

I must warn you that I did use my cell phone camera again. The pics do not do the food the justice they deserve, but what can you do? Also, since there were four of us I have a lot of pics to show. They offered 5 different appetizers as well as 5 different entrees. What we did was order the 4 most interesting of each and shared them all. I’ll try to keep this post short, but no guarantees.

Ceviche of Blue Marlin. Very typical with onions, tomatoes, chiles, and cilantro. Served with tortillas it always makes a great starter.

Gorditas Divorciadas. Thick tortillas stuffed with black beans and shredded beef (I think brisket, which completely satisfies the Jew in me). They each had a different salsa. One was a guajillo and the other was serrano-tomatillo, both had Mexican crema drizzled on top.

This was the Trio de Tamalitos. Three little tamales, one with queso fresco and serrano chiles that had a spicy molcajete salsa and crema, another with black beans, rajas (a saute of chilis and onions), and chihuahua cheese with a black been puree, the last had zucchini and chipotles.

The last appetizer was Sopa de Lentejas, lentil soup. It was garnished with grilled pineapple, smoked bacon (YUM!!!), chile pasilla, and queso anejo.

For the entrees we got the Camarones al Mojo de Ajo. Big, plump, juicy grilled shrimp in a sweet garlic and olive oil sauce with avocado chunks, guajillo chiles, and white rice. Not too garlicky at all.

Chiles Rellenos. Two battered poblanos deep-fried and swimming in a roasted tomato sauce. One was stuffed with minced pork picadillo, the other with chihuahua cheese. There was a side dish of frijoles borrachos, but I forgot to get a pic of that. Deal with it!

Pollo en Mole Poblano. Two chicken breasted smothered in a rich, spicy mole and served with Mexican rice. It really was kind of spicy. My first bite gave me a couple of little hiccups.

Tinga Poblana. Pork tenderloin on top of a roasted tomato-chipotle sauce with chorizo and potatoes, surrounded by an avocado-tomatillo sauce. This was hands down the best in show! Nice soft tenderloin and chorizo….how could that go wrong?

Alright, time for dessert. We got a flan that was covered in a sugar dome.

Tres Leches.

A crepe filled with berries and a caramel sauce.

My personal favorite was the mango and pear cobbler. Not sure what it’s actually called, but it sure was delicious with the cajeta ice cream on top!

All in all it was a delicious dinner. It’s every bit on par with Rick Bayless as far as creativity and quality. While I just found out that they offer a $29 pre fix every Monday and Tuesday this restaurant week deal might not have been the best offer. However, on a weekend night it was. I would recommend to everyone that they check Salpicon out for the pre fix deals. If you don’t want a limited menu, it’s also definitely worth paying full price for.

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Alright, my final Donna from Aqua Safari recommendation, Las Flamitas. Again, it’s off the tourist path so the prices are much lower and food is much much better. A couple from Iowa joined us for this lunch. He went diving with us and they were also looking for some local food options.

So, we started off with some soup. One thing I noticed is that the more authentic joints always serve soup with the meals, gratis of course. This one was a simple chicken consomme with vegetables. Very basic, but very tasty.

For my entrée I got the Parrillada. A plate full of grilled meats. There was grilled chicken, beef, a pork enchilada with mole, rice, fried plantain, a small salad, steamed squash ring, broccoli, papas fritas, avocado, lime, and some smoky salsa. It really was a ton of food! I ate most of it somehow, but it’s something that Yuki and I could have easily shared and still have been satisfied. Our Iowan friends each got the Parrillada as well.

Yuki ordered the Pescado Mojo de Ajo. A huge fillet of grouper covered in garlic. It was one of the freshest pieces of fish I’ve ever eaten. So succulent! Hers came with the same sides as mine. Oh, there were tortillas for all as well.

When we were offered flan there was no way I could resist, even though I was about to undo my shorts button because I ate so much. This flan was a little heavier than the one at Sabores, but it was still delicious.

The best part of this meal wasn’t the food though. The food was great and priced right, but it was everything that made this meal great. Dining with new friends always makes for good conversation. The lady who runs this joint was a very memorable character. For some reason she took it upon herself to tell Yuki and I that we need to have a baby and we’d better start practicing. Little does she know, we don’t really need a coach. But, she kept telling us how I need to eat more habaneros because “they’re good for chacachaca!” She wants to be our sex teacher. Not sure exactly what that means, but I’m pretty sure we don’t need anyone to teach us anything. Or do we?

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