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penn appétit Fall 2015

Check out our KITCHEN WISH LIST

Pg. 6

From Bean to Cup with Evan Inatome of Elixr Pg. 18

Recipes that

You’ll Actually want to cook

Pick your poison: Hot sauce your way Pg. 50

BAKING FOR THE BRIDE AND GROOM Pg. 22 Explore the puertas cerradas of Buenos Aires Pg. 26


penn appétit EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MANAGING EDITOR EDITORIAL STAFF

CREATIVE DIRECTOR DESIGN STAFF

PHOTO EDITOR PHOTO STAFF

CULINARY DIRECTOR TREASURER BUSINESS MANAGER

Byrne Fahey Asher Sendyk Parker Brown, Jie Guo, Nina Friend, Carissa Brones, Will Constan, Janie Kim Garett Nelson Irena Xia, Becky Abramowitz, Leah Sprague, Vivian Zhong, Claudia Li, Amber Song, Sherry Huang, Nina Spitofsky, Tiffany Wang Danielle Pi Katie Zhao, Stephanie Loo, Leah Sprague, Aaron Guo, Virginia Seymour, Angi Ji, Gomian Konneh Vera Kirillov Caroline Guenoun Allison Millner

BUSINESS STAFF

Isabelle Bral, Ashley Castillo, David Eskenazi, Katie Harlow, Caroline Li, Edward Park, Jenny Sui, Jaclyn Ying

PUBLICITY & OUTREACH MANAGERS

Maggie Molen, Parker Brown

PUBLICITY & OUTREACH STAFF

Jessica Landon, Ilayda Onur, Cooper Robinson

BLOG EDITORS BLOG STAFF

SOCIAL MEDIA CHAIR WEBMASTER COOKING CLUB CHAIR VIDEO EDITOR

fall 2015

Elena Crouch, Chase Matecun Max Schechter, Will Constan, Tina Kartika, Isabel Miro, Chloe Kaczvinsky, Kajsa Djarv Sally Shin

“You have four proteins from which you pick two, five salsas from which you select three, and three cheeses from which you choose one.” How many potential combinations do you have for dinner?” Q: When is food like SAT math? A: When you’re ordering Mexican stateside. All too often the cuisine often presents as a meat, a veggie, and a swath of guac/sour cream upon a tortilla either wrapped or fried. The numerical breadth of choice, however, overstates the real variety inherent in these dishes. Be it a machaca taco, a carnitas tostada, or a chilorio burrito, I think it’s fair to say that they ain’t so radically different. Popular Mexican food is—don’t get me wrong—über-tasty, but formulaic. And as a result, we see that it is routinely stomached but rarely celebrated. In this edition, Penn Appétit set out to explore Mexican fare beyond these pedestrian preparations. With a little digging we’ve discovered that there’s a wealth of recipes that don’t fit this mold. Penn freshman Antía Vázquez prescribes chiles en nogada, a dish of mincemeat and walnut sauce as visually stunning as we were skeptical (but which I can now assure you, since sampling, is beyond delectable). Our editor Nina Friend tells the tale of South Philly Barbacoa, a humble operation on 11th Street churning out aguas frescas and comsomé the likes of which would even make Mr. Bayless jealous. At Penn Appétit, we eschew the Taylorism of the Chipotle lunch line. We instead opt for fare like a well-spiced mole poblano and vibrant vasos de pepino, dishes intimately tied to the Mexican experience, dishes that give us a reason to adore this cuisine once again. That being said, we still include our own take on the more conventional. We don’t stoop to a quesarito per se, but do throw in recipes for huevos rancheros, enchiladas, and the like. Because, at the end of the day, the pleasure from a quality pescado taco, however trite, is truth. Best,

Camille Jwo Caroline Guenoun

Asher Sendyk

Léa Kichler

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You Are What You Eat 25

From Paris to Penn 13

Demonstrations and practicals in the 15th arrondissement

Cooking Behind Closed Doors 26

A modern Argentine speakeasy, sorta

How ya feel ‘bout that Twinkie now?

The Doctor Is In (The Kitchen) 27

Fire cider, bone broth, and elderberry syrup

Polipetti in Agrodolce 38

Making the most of the mollusk

Hawaiian Style 30 For your next luau

Behind the Scenes on an Italian Farm 33 Not quite the same as “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”

PA’s Picks 40

Our go-to Mexican recipes

Italy Meats Texas 8

Grubbing at Vetri’s latest restaurant

An Italian Take on American Wine 12

Penne’s Marco Avigo tells it like it is

Dine-In is the New Drive-In 14 Is popcorn passé?

Bean to Cup 18

Learning the process from a prominent Philly roaster

Students Center Stage 34

Hear from Vera, Stephanie, and Amanda

Pancita With a Side of Politics 46 Social forces meet food

Pick Your Poison 50

Tell me what you doin’... with your salsa

El Desayuno Mexicano 51

Hearty enough to make ya want to crawl back into bed

Summer at Tres Senderos 56

Not all it was cracked up to be

Sweet Treats 58

Finally use that can of Carnation

Tequila Tipples 62 If you partake

Mexican Street Corn 64 Elote vs. esquites. The debate rages on

Things We Love 6

Cookbooks and kitchen accessories galore

Ukha 16

The Russian alternative to chicken noodle soup

Marital Bliss 22

A three-tiered behemoth that feeds 100? Piece of cake

Mexican Gastronomy 65

Feeling ambitious? The mole takes a day

A Surprise in Each Bite 68 How to celebrate the season

Condiment Concoction 70

Valentina, Chamoy, and cacahuates japoneses


things we love I’ll Have a Short Stack

Nick Fauchald goes offline with single-ingredient cookbooks

BY PARKER BROWN

The colorful hues and charming design of Short Stack Editions’ Eggs cover immediately captured my attention as I walked by the counter of Fishtown’s One Shot Coffee. Fascinated by the idea of an ingredient-driven cookbook series, I contacted Short Stack’s founder, Nick Fauchald, to express my enjoyment of the series and to see whether I could get involved. This past summer, I had the opportunity to work with the team in the midst of their preparation for their first full-format cookbook. Short Stack celebrates the print tradition at a time when the majority of culinary publications are going digital. Along with Kaitlyn Goalen, Fauchald decided to create a series of small-format cookbooks, each featuring a specific ingredient. Every volume contains between 20 and 25 recipes that highlight a selected ingredient, including both sweet and savory dishes ranging from accompanying sauces to main plates. The Eggs edition has recipes from sauce gribiche to a broiled Caesar salad with poached eggs.

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Beginning production in 2013, Short Stack currently has 17 issues available for purchase with plans to release six additional editions each year. The soft-cover booklets, which are two parts cookbook and one part magazine, are meant to be collected, but more importantly, to be cooked from. Each edition is printed on the finest paper that Fauchald could find and bound by hand with baker’s twine. Creative director and Fauchald’s wife, Rotem Raffe, is responsible for Short Stack’s aesthetic. She designs each volume’s cover along with creating the illustrations that line the pages of each edition. According to Fauchald, the idea for Short Stack was largely rooted in how people cook today. He says, “I think most folks get inspired first by ingredients these days.” Short Stack caters to this inspiration with an array of carefully tested recipes written by culinary professionals. Instead of turning to a computer to find a tomato reci-

pe that may or may not have been written and tested appropriately, Short Stack serves as a reliable resource for ingredient-driven cooks. In the words of Fauchald, Short Stack is “the analog answer to Googling ‘tomato recipe.’” Among Short Stack’s published issues are Buttermilk, Lemons, and Chickpeas with Chocolate on the way. Any chef with experience in curating recipes and a passion for a specific ingredient can submit a proposal for a Short Stack volume. The authors span the gamut from private yacht chef to culinary anthropologist, but according to Fauchald, they all have one thing in common, “their recipes are SOLID.” For the record, if Fauchald ever gets around to drafting his own edition, his ingredients would be black pepper or celery. Next fall, Short Stack will be publishing its first hardcover cookbook, each chapter focused on a particular ingredient, along with releasing a line of Short Stack-branded products. What began as a side project has become a full time job for the Short Stack team with no signs of slowing down.

pennappetit.com


What We’ve Got Our Eyes On BY LEAH SPRAGUE

Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board www.williams-sonoma.com $39.95

Wooden Tray Vanilla Ice Cream Starter

www.hm.com $17.99

www.williams-sonoma.com $12.95

Metal Bowl www.hm.com $12.99

Tomato Print https://www.etsy.com/ shop/lucileskitchen $37

Constellation Mug www.mooreaseal.com $48

Pumpkin Spice Syrup www.crateandbarrel.com $6.95

Marble Rolling Pin www.crateandbarrel.com $19.95

fall 2015

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y l a it Texas meAts

BY ALI BERNSTEIN PHOTOS BY STEPHANIE LOO

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pennappetit.com


The latest addtion to the Vetri family takes its menu in a surprising new direction: south (in a good way, we promise) hen you think of famous Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri, the virtuoso behind Amis Trattoria, Osteria, Alla Spina, and Pizzeria Vetri, what comes to mind? Fresh ingredients, a reverence for and reference to Italian culinary tradition, and authentic yet inventive takes on the staples—brick oven pizza, brown butter gnocchi, thin sliced prosciutto, and seared octopus, to name a few. The latest addition to the Vetri restaurant family, Lo Spiedo, stays true to the Vetri name, offering all of the above, but with a unique twist. According to Lo Spiedo Chef de Cuisine Scott Calhoun, the secret ingredient behind the concept of the new restaurant is the following: good old-fashioned Texas barbecue. Yes, you heard that right. Texas is where Vetri and his team of chefs found the inspiration for the direction of Lo Spiedo (Italian for “The Spit”), which opened in the Navy Yard last fall and has been churning out the finest, flavor-packed, fire-roasted dishes since. A now well-seasoned chef who started out as a server at Vetri’s Osteria, Calhoun is staying away from complexity in the Lo Spiedo kitchen. “We’re serving simple food, not reinventing the wheel. We want to stay true to the Southern barbecue theme,” Calhoun explained. Expressing the mission of Lo Spiedo as “getting back to the basics of cooking,” Chef Calhoun cooks over wood fire on a six foot, custom-made rotisserie using white and red oak as well as mesquite charcoal in order to create the perfect mouth-watering smoky flavor. The centerpiece of the menu is the simple, savory, and hearty beef brisket, which sizzles above the flame for 12-18 hours. According to Calhoun, the development of the brisket

was a yearlong process, but he finally settled on the perfect recipe. “The brisket is roasted the whole way on the smoker. We wanted it to taste like something you’d get at a place on the side of the road in Texas,” Calhoun divulged. Ultimately, the outdoor smoker is what helps him achieve elusive authenticity. Many of the other items on the menu, including the escarole salad with Calabrian chilis, barbecue rub popcorn with parmigiano butter, and campanelle with peppers and capon sausage ragu, come packed with a punch of heat that pays an homage to the South. Even the more recognizably Italian dishes have a hint of smoke, like the rigatoni which is complemented with wood-fired tomatoes. Just as fascinating as the food itself, the location of the Vetri’s new restaurant introduces another element of intrigue. Situated past a collection of towering retired warships, Lo Spiedo is capitalizing on the Navy Yard’s reputation as an up-and-coming area of Philadelphia. Full of history, the building that houses Lo Spiedo is a reminder of the Navy Yard’s former function. “This building used to be the brig, but after that it was abandoned for about twenty years. It was a complete shell before we started the renovations,” explained Lo Spiedo manager, Mike Falcey. Now, the brig-turnedrestaurant is complete with an industrial-chic bar, Italian-style wall frescos, and a bustling kitchen. The past year has been a busy one for Lo Spiedo staff members who are adjusting to the fast-paced nature of serving up food in this highly populated area. Both manager

Falcey and Chef Calhoun agree that one of the biggest challenges has been feeding the rushes. “There are 12,000 employees in the surrounding complex. We have a lot of regulars during the lunch rush, which we anticipated during the first year of growth. We also get a huge rush after sports games and concerts,” Falcey noted. Now that Falcey and Calhoun have the formula down, what’s in store for the future of Lo Spiedo? Chef Calhoun’s answer is to stick to what works while still being creative. “I plan on continuing to create fun plays on Southern food and keeping traditional Italian ingredients at the center. We’re currently experimenting and testing out different dishes. Right now I’m working on incorporating a squash dish, boiled peanuts, and Carolina gold rice,” Calhoun revealed. If you’re looking to explore a new Philly restaurant Lo Spiedo is an obvious choice. Prepare to be surprised with unexpected flavor combinations that will have your taste buds demanding more. Insider tip: although it’s tempting to fill up on brisket, make sure you leave room for dessert! You won’t want to miss the refined cast iron apple pie with cinnamon semifreddo, the indulgent Boston cream zuccotto with chocolate ganache and corn flake crumble, or the decadent semifreddo sundae complete with a cherry on top. Buon appetito, y’all!


Author’s Picks @ Lo Spiedo

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Appetizer: BBQ Rub Popcorn

Entrée: Beef Brisket

Dessert: Cast Iron Apple Pie

pennappetit.com


Check out the Nutella Devil Dog


An Italian Take on American Wine BY JULIA BARNARD When Marco Avigo was seven, his father, a Master Sommelier, opened his first restaurant on Lake Garda in the north of Italy. Avigo grew up with this man as his mentor; together, they visited wineries and met winemakers across Europe. Under his guidance he learned to analyze cuisines and how to create the perfect match of what to drink. This natural apprenticeship proved invaluable: by the age of 26, Marco himself had become the youngest Master Sommelier in Italy. But to him this was “just normal.” Today, Avigo continues to live his passion as the Master Sommelier and General Manager of Penne Restaurant and Wine Bar at the Inn at Penn. Avigo enjoys working as a Master Sommelier because he is constantly “discovering new wines and new winemakers and the learning never ends.”

PHILOSOPHY

Avigo enjoys sharing his love of wines with everyone, so much so that he teaches classes and holds tastings. As a Master Sommelier, he believes that, “Everyone has their own idea on the world of wine. It’s something personal that you cannot change.” Some are reluctant to enjoy a glass because it isn’t the typical variety that they enjoy. To get others to come around to his point of view he likes to “force people to taste wine based on each single glass. I like wine. I like a good glass of wine. It doesn’t matter if it’s from Italy, France, or California. If it’s a good glass of wine, I enjoy drinking it.”

AMERICAN VINTAGES

In order to properly judge a glass of wine, you need to understand what you are drinking. You need to know what the producer was trying to achieve when producing the bottle. This becomes difficult, however, when analyzing American vintages. The European system has much stronger regulations on wine production than here in America. Abroad there are laws that ban growing certain grapes in certain climates. This has the effect of making particular locales synonymous with a specific, readily identifiable type of wine of known quality (e.g. Bordeaux). American wines are unable to compete with those from the Old World countries because of this lack of regulation. Here, you can label a bottle that only contains 75% of a par12

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PHOTO BY AARON GUO ticular grape. Avigo explains why this is such a large issue: “Not only can you add 25% of completely different grapes from what is labeled on the bottle, but they can also be grapes from a different area...If you are making a Pinot Noir from the West Coast, and you add 25% of a sauvignon, that’s no longer a true Pinot Noir. Not only does it not reflect the color of a Pinot Noir, but also the person who is drinking the wine won’t be able to understand the type of wine. When they later try a true Pinot Noir, they will be confused because it will be completely different from the first glass they drank. The American producer lost and continues to lose the opportunity to create a large market. People are dying to have information about the wine because there’s not enough information in their country.” One possible explanation for the American practice of mixing grape varieties is that the producer isn’t solely focused on the quality of the wine. The priority, rather, is operating a lucrative business. Avigo states that “companies want to make two things: wine and money. American wine producers are looking to compete with the business cycle. They push wine that isn’t ready into the market.” He continues, “People have started to classify the level of importance of the type of wine based on the taste and strength of oak, which is completely wrong. The oak should be used to complement the flavor of the wine.” When vintages haven’t had enough time to blend with the taste of the wood, the oak presence will be so strong that you aren’t able to appreciate the wine. The profit-seeking mentality of American vintners also causes them to produce many different varieties even if they are in the completely wrong climate. As with almost all produce, climate is a major factor in growing a successful crop of grapes. Grapes from Europe that don’t belong in American soil simply won’t be successful. For example, a Riesling that loves cold weather is best from Germany; one grown in California will never be able to compete. In America, “it doesn’t matter where you are, [the American winemakers] all grow everything. It’s not helpful to the consumer,” he said. In order to be truly competitive, American vintners need to start to realize which grapes grow best in which areas. If this change is made, according to Avigo, “America

could compete [as] there are excellent grapes.” For example, when Avigo thinks of Pinot Noir, Oregon is the best locale to grow in because of its cooler climate. He insists that a Pinot Noir from this state will be much more interesting than one coming from elsewhere. Even so, a large number are still grown in California, where a Zinfandel is more fitting.

SELECTION

Despite the lax American standards, one can make of the most of domestic offerings if informed. When choosing a bottle of wine, according to Avigo, “the best place to start is with the producer’s website. Most wineries’ websites give detailed descriptions about their vintages. The more serious the producer, the more information she will provide. Sure, a bottle may be named after the vineyard owner’s granddaughter, but if it can’t tell you the level of the soil’s acidity or the amount of rain received during the growing season, it’s probably not a very interesting bottle.” Avigo suggests “always trying to buy something in the middle. A bottle of wine in the 15-20 dollar range can be quite good. Between the information from the winery and the price you see on the shelf, you can pick a quality bottle.” Additionally, “When starting off, don’t drink something heavy or strong. If you want to approach wine for the first time, start with something light, maybe on the more aromatic side and not too dry, for example, a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc. For the red, a young Merlot or a young Pinot Noir. Try for something really fruity, something that smells of flowers and fruit. If your bottle has these qualities, then approaching it can be easier.” And always, when trying a glass of wine for the first time, “try to enjoy the wine by yourself. Try to appreciate what you are drinking. A first impression is what you will memorize.” pennappetit.com


From Paris to Penn

Future Penn freshmen give Penn Appétit a peek into student life at Le Cordon Bleu BY OLIVIA WEIS AND RACHEL PROKUPEK “Dear Rachel and Olivia, it seems like you are looking for the same thing. You’re both 18 and starting at Le Cordon Bleu in September. Why don’t you two connect?” After repeatedly asking the school for assistance in finding a roommate, we were excited to learn that another student of the same age would be participating in the program. However, not until we contacted each other did we find out that we both had plans to attend Penn in the year following Le Cordon Bleu. Our mutual love for food and desire to learn more about French cuisine brought us together in the beautiful “City of Light” in the most coincidental of circumstances.

Hands-on Experience

Our classes at Le Cordon Bleu include demonstrations and practicals, each lasting three hours. In the demonstrations, we watch the chef prepare multiple dishes while we take notes on a sheet that only lists the ingredients. In the practicals, we make the same dishes ourselves under the guidance of a chef and are graded based on multiple criteria including organization, seasoning, and plating. Here are a few highlights from our experience thus far.

Attention!

We quickly learned that above all else, these chefs value discipline. Whenever they enter the room, we are expected to shout “Bonjour, chef!” in unison, and when they speak to us, we must respond with “Oui, chef.” Moreover, we cannot have a single speck on our uniform: a crisp white chef ’s top, loose houndstooth printed pants, and rubber safety shoes, all accented by a hair net, cap, apron, and towel (clearly, they are incredibly flattering). If we are not in full uniform, we will be sent out of the room by the chef before he starts the demonstration. One day before preparing a poached chicken, Chef Vaca sent a student out of the fall 2015

demonstration room because she had forgotten her necktie.

Feathers and All

The poached chicken demo was quite surprising, as we realized that we were not going to be receiving our chickens pre-prepared. After shouting “Bonjour, Chef!” in unison, we watched Chef Vaca remove a whole chicken from the fridge. Yes, head, feet, and all; we stood there as he blowtorched the remaining feathers. In the first portion of the demonstration, we learned how to prepare the chicken for poaching, including techniques for removing the head, separating the neck from the skin, and removing the organs (recorded in our notes as, “Now stick hand in butt of chicken.”). After learning how to properly prepare and truss the chicken to make a stock, rice pilaf, and supreme sauce, we tried it for ourselves. However, our preparations did not go quite as seamlessly. We accidentally slit the wrong side of the neck, and our hands were in the chicken’s butt for longer than was comfortable. That day, we learned that you definitely cannot be squeamish at Le Cordon Bleu (or a vegetarian).

Vitamines, Vitamines!

One of our favorite classes has been the Gâteau basque practical with Chef Jean-Jacques Tranchant. Gâteau basque is a cake with alternating layers of spiraled batter, pastry cream, and chopped cherries. While our cakes were baking, Chef Tranchant brought us to the pantry room, which is equipped with everything imaginable, from pearl sugar to almond flour to brioche molds. Opening a cabinet full of different chocolates, he poured fistfuls of morsels into our hands, yelling, “Vitamines, vitamines! Bon appétit!” Upon returning to the kitchen, we removed our cakes from the oven and carefully transferred them to our work areas. Another student dropped two cakes on the ground and jokingly told the chef that she would put them in the “Jardin d’Hiver.” If we ever have a moment between classes, we always scout the Jardin d’Hiver, the student common area, for desserts left behind by the pastry students. On any given day we can find piles of macarons, cakes, and tarts. We rush to try whatever we can with the mandatory tasting fork that resides in the pocket of our left sleeves.

Bon Appétit, et à Bientôt!

We are excited to see what’s in store for us at Le Cordon Bleu in the coming months and look forward to sharing our insights with the Penn community next fall!

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Dine-in Is the New Drive-In multicourse meals at Studio movie grill BY KATHLEEN HARWOOD 14

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ILLUSTRATION BY EMILY BELSHAW pennappetit.com


There is about no better use of a Saturday night than an excursion to the movies. The anticipation of escaping into some thrilling epic or heart-wrenching drama makes for a uniquely satisfying experience. The cliché that we get lost in movies really rings true: for a few hours we can escape into a story of love, terror, adventure. But just as important to the experience as the quality of the film is the quality of the concessions. Nothing can ruin a trip to the movie theater like a bag of popcorn that hasn’t been buttered properly. Luckily enough for those of us who are underwhelmed with movie theater cuisine, the rise of a new class of theaters aims to ensure that your cinematic experience may never again be an underwhelming culinary one. In a twist on the romanticized and now nearly extinct drive-in, “dine-in” movie theaters that combine the luxuries of restaurant service and cinema entertainment are quickly becoming fixtures in the Philly area. The popular dine-in franchise Studio Movie Grill has opened a brand-new, 37,000 square foot location in Upper Darby; as a curious moviegoer bored with banal buttered popcorn, I decide it is worth visiting. The Upper Darby location is a 20-minute Septa ride from my home in the Quad (the 69th Street Terminal is essentially next to the theater). While the trip is short, I am a bit unnerved as the theater’s locale is rough around the edges. The brand-new theater, with its dramatic façade and flashing lights, looks a bit out of place among the drab exteriors of the nearby homes and faded surrounding storefronts. Once we enter the “shiny” new establishment my friend and I are faced with a limited film selection. Faced with a horror film-heavy lineup, we ask for two tickets to Straight Outta Compton and are charged a reasonable $7.00 each. In order to ascend the escalator to the theaters we must walk through the sit-down restaurant area that boasts a glowing open bar. On this Friday night the section is packed with couples on date nights and groups of women seeking fruity cocktails before their chick flick. An exceedingly friendly attendant leads us to our theater where we are ushered to what are quite possibly the world’s most comfortable leather seats. Each seat in the intimate 60-person theater has a small adjustable wooden table with a button to press for service. Without having to ask, a server brings me and my moviegoing companion the impressive ten-page menu as well as glasses of water. The cocktail special for the day features some brightly colored, salt-rimmed $5 margaritas. The drink menu consists of many creative beverages, including an “Orange Dreamsicle” spiked milkshake and mango-berry mojito. My companion and I are tempted by the 3 for $25 combo special, in which customfall 2015

ers can select one starter and three entrees for less than the price of two dining hall meal swipes. The waiter arrives as soon as we are ready to make our order and informs us that any dessert can be added for only $5 more, a tempting offer we readily accept. Our first selection of chicken nachos arrives halfway through the trailers. As far as movie theater nachos go these are more decadently and carefully prepared than most. They are liberally dressed with queso, guacamole, and sour cream and the chicken is freshly

“what the food was lacking in originality, it made up for in sheer quantity and decadence”

grilled and tender. It takes restraint not to finish the basket before the arrival of our main dishes. We also discover the struggle of eating the chips without staining our clothes in the darkness of the theater—this is an issue that continues to plague us throughout our dine-in experience. Twenty minutes into the movie’s opening our server takes our near-empty basket and presents us with three huge plates. Even in the dark of the theater the roasted vegetable flatbread looks promising with a thick layer of spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, red onions, and bell peppers above a layer of cheese

and tomato sauce. A bite reveals that it tastes as good as it looks—it’s no Zavino, but fresh and appropriately seasoned all the same. The crispy breaded chicken tenders come with a side of thick cut French fries and honey mustard sauce for dipping. The tenders are nearly identical to frozen Tyson brand chicken fingers and the fries are limp and soggy. While their presentation on a sleek white plate distinguishes them from regular movie theater concessions, I find that they are ultimately no better than tenders you could get at Wawa. My friend won’t let me steal a bite of the BBQ bacon burger placed before her, yet she describes it as “succulent” and “perfectly dressed” with cheddar cheese and sweet BBQ sauce. Again she has difficulty eating the colossus of a burger without making a mess and ends up staining her sweatshirt with sauce. As if our combined caloric intake was not great enough the empty plates are soon whisked away and replaced with the dessert special: a brownie sundae topped with vanilla and chocolate ice cream, Ghirardelli caramel and chocolate sauces, and cinnamon chips. It is difficult to keep track of the movie’s plot as we are too consumed with eating the dish. That being said, I don’t particularly mind as it is quite simply everything that a brownie sundae strives to be. The brownie is dense and fudgy and the Blue Bell ice cream perfectly complements it. Contented with the threecourse meal, we lean back into our seats and try to catch up with the status of N.W.A.’s rise to fame. Looking back, Studio Movie Grill’s Upper Darby location is a comfortable, meticulously run establishment that will surely be long-standing. The service is superb and the dine-in experience, though potentially underwhelming after a few visits, offers a degree of novelty that makes it worth trying. The dinein experience does have some downfalls. If you don’t appreciate the degree of mystery and discomfort that comes with eating in near-darkness the dine-in theater is not for you. What’s more, though not an issue when watching Straight Outta Compton, I foresee that it would be distracting to be surrounded by fellow diners clinking silverware, chewing obnoxiously, and slurping on their margaritas when trying to follow the plot of a more complex movie. While there are certainly sacrifices one must make for the sake of the dine-in experience, I can say that the cuisine was ultimately pleasing. What the food was lacking in originality, it made up for in sheer quantity and decadence. Sure, it’s no Zagat-rated establishment, but the food was tasty, well-prepared, and not overpriced—truly better than anything you can find at a typical theater. I look forward to returning to explore more of the offerings—and potentially get a bite of that BBQ bacon burger. penn appétit

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U K H A PHOTO AND ARTICLE BY VERA KIRILLOV

Growing up in a frigid Boston suburb, I loved coming home on dark snowy days to a steaming bowl of clear broth with chunks of potatoes, carrots, and salmon. Delicately flavored, yet warming and filling, Уха (ukha) remains to this day my favorite among the dozens of Russian soups I grew up with. Like chicken noodle soup in American households, ukha has humble origins, beginning as a common fisherman’s meal in Russia. Traditionally made by boiling potatoes and whole salmon in a pot set over coals, the soup’s simplicity is its strength, with nothing besides a few herbs adding to the salmon’s subtle aroma. Light and nourishing, ukha is the perfect pick-me-up on a cold winter day when you yearn for a healthy, hot meal. That it’s fast and easy to prepare is just an added benefit from its fisherman founding.

The comforting simplicity of Russian salmon soup


Makes 4 servings ¼ cup vegetable oil 4 small carrots (1 chopped, 3 thinly sliced) 8 black peppercorns 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley 4 sprigs dill 2 bay leaves 1 pound fish bones, such as snapper, rinsed 1 salmon head (about 1 pound), gills removed 3 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼” chunks 1 pound skinless boneless salmon filet, cut into 1” cubes 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste Heat the oil in a 6-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped carrots, peppercorns, parsley, dill, and bay leaves and cook until carrots are soft, about 10 minutes. Add 6 cups water, snapper bones, and salmon head and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, skimming off any froth that rises to the surface, for 35 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard the solids. Wipe out the pot and add the broth along with the remaining carrots and potatoes. Bring to a boil, covered, over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 25 minutes. Add salmon to soup; simmer until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.


Bean to Cup An Exploration with Evan Inatome

BY DANIEL FRADIN PHOTOS BY ALEX FISHER 18

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Most coffee enthusiasts recall their aha moment, that magical time when they realized coffee can be much more than a morning pick-me-up. For Evan Inatome, the founder of Elixr Coffee Roasters in Center City, his revelation happened in 2006. He was in Portland, Oregon cupping a naturally processed coffee, the Ethiopia Korate, for the first time at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. “It tasted like blackberry,” Evan remembers with stunning clarity. This was the moment he decided to pursue coffee excellence. I met Evan at Elixr to learn more about his journey within the industry and to get educated on the process behind a cup of specialty coffee. Upon meeting him, I was surprised at how laid back he seemed, but rest assured that he doesn’t mess around when it comes to his craft. He is the consummate connoisseur. In just the short time I was there he both educated me on common coffee vocabulary—Arabica and caramelized, bourbon and piquant—as well as some advanced facts (e.g. the exact ratio that the SCAA, or Specialty Coffee Association of America, recommends for coffee beans to milliliters of water. It’s 7 grams per 125 ml., if you were curious). After his coffee revelation in Portland, Evan “geeked out on coffee.” He started buying miniature roasters and began experimenting

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with many brew styles and roasting coffees from around the world. Family brought him to Philadelphia in 2010 and he decided that the city would be the perfect place for him to finally realize his dream of opening a café. He signed a lease within a week and flew back to the West Coast, packed all his stuff into a U-Haul and drove back to Philly. During the five years since, Evan has been able to see the “bean to cup” philosophy he dreamed of come to fruition.

Bean

The process starts with the bean. Evan speaks animatedly of his travels around the world to the best coffee farms to source for green beans. These farms, which are in Central America, South America, and Africa, have small nurseries on their plantations where they grow different varieties of coffee berries. He mentions that it takes five years for seedlings to yield specialty grade coffee, making it all the more crucial for him to form long term relationships with the farmers. During harvest season, Evan and his crew will go to different farms and taste micro-lots in a process known as cupping. On the occasion I met with him, he shared a story about one of the farmers, Ernesto Mendez from

El Salvador, with whom he has maintained a close relationship with over the past few years. Evan tells of Ernesto’s inquisitiveness and progressive approach to coffee, how he is always thinking about new ways to improve the next crop. Whenever they visit, Ernesto shows them around his farms, focusing on his experimental plots where he has toyed around with new varietals and different growing conditions. Chuckling, Evan recounted, “Ernesto always takes us for meals of fried chicken or Subway most probably because that’s the impression he has of what Americans like to eat.” During these trips, they cup coffee samples to evaluate the quality. Samples of the beans they shortlist are then shipped back to the States for a more detailed profiling in Elixr’s roastery. When I first arrived at Elixr, Evan was actually taking part in a cupping and invited me to try the range of seasonal coffees they had to offer. Porcelain cups were lined up on a bar shelf. Evan walked me through the cupping process of evaluating fragrance, aroma, break and taste of the coffees exhibited. He explained that all coffees are ground with a specific setting and prepared according to guidelines from the SCAA. The process by which they tasted was nearly as interesting as the way they described the different flavors. I was instructed to fill a cupping spoon with coffee and then

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slurp it as loud as I could—apparently, this is to aerate your nasal cavity so you are able to appreciate the aromas and flavors all at once. As we were describing the flavors of the coffee, words such as, strawberry, nutty, cashew, oily, full, dark cherry, and, my personal favorite, Band-Aid, were tossed around. The group unanimously voted coffee #5 as its favorite one on the table. This coffee was from a farm in Costa Rica called El Roble. On Elixr’s website the flavor is described as “maple syrup with a smooth buttery texture,” but, to be honest, my inexperienced palate had only come up with the words “sweet” and “smooth.” I guess we all need to start somewhere. There was one coffee, however, which did taste distinctly different from the others. It was a naturally processed coffee from Ethiopia and it had distinct overtones of berries. I would soon learn what brought out these flavors.

Processing

Processing can take up to four months and is the determinant factor in the quality of the greens (coffee speak for the unroasted beans). Each day the pickers will fill up a bag of coffee cherries, each containing two coffee beans. The pickers then sort the cherries, throwing out the bad ones. At this point, the coffees can be processed in two key ways. In the natural process, the cherries are left to dry with the fruit intact. This is the key to the fruity flavors that are characteristic of coffees processed in this way. For washed coffees, the fruits are put into a machine that separates the outermost skin layer. Under the skin is a slimy covering so the fruits ferment for 18 hours, during which the slimy covering is shaken off. The fruits are then laid out to dry for several days, usually on raised beds or patios, or mechanically dried. After a month of resting, the fruits are ready to be shipped.

Purchasing

“We do most of our coffees through direct trade,” Evan tells me “and commit to paying much higher prices than that of fair trade because it helps us promote higher quality coffee.” I asked Evan to help me understand the commonly misunderstood terms “direct trade” and “fair trade.” He emphasized that in direct trade, the coffee roasters work directly with the farms and usually have a collaborative relationship with the growers. These relationships usually extend for multi-year periods; some years, Evan will still commit to buying these coffees even if they aren’t as good as usual. This process produces better quality coffee because the roasters are in direct communication with the farms, and are kept up to date about the quality of the harvest fall 2015

throughout the year. Fair trade, on the other hand, is usually run by a cooperative—the coffee process is less transparent and quality is more inconsistent.

Roast

Upon receiving the beans, Evan takes them to his roastery in Northern Liberties where he roasts in his Diedrich. I had the opportunity to visit the roastery on an evening when Evan was manning the machine. He starts off with profiling the beans—an iterative process by which he determines the best roast profile for the specific bean. Beans from different regions have distinct characteristics that are brought out best by varying roast levels. The attention to detail is part of why a cup of specialty coffee tastes so much better. Once a coffee is profiled, Evan does production roasts. He takes the green coffee beans, pours them into the hot roaster, and, while constantly checking their progress, roasts the beans for around 1012 minutes. Once they are at their ideal roast degree, they are released from the roaster and cooled. Evan and his team then package them into their signature bags. The beans are now ready for grinding and brewing.

Brew

Evan grew up in Michigan, and every morning would make Folgers coffee for his grandparents. This is Evan’s first memory of brewing coffee. “They told me they liked it...” Evan said, “...but I knew they were lying.” Nowadays, Evan is one of the best baristas in the city. Evan talks about how brewing coffee is both a science and an art. The science of it comes from the perfection of brew temperatures and water/coffee ratios for each brew method, whereas the art of it comes from the fluidity and skill in adjusting to the volatile nature of coffee. On the day I was there, he graciously demonstrated a pourover on the Chemex. He emphasized that more important than the brew method is the freshness of the ground coffee. Grinding the beans on-demand allows for the beans to be kept fresh and improves flavor retention so that maximal flavors can be extracted during the brew process. The pour started off with a bloom, the 15-30 seconds after the initial pour where the carbon dioxide trapped within the bean during the roasting process is allowed to escape. This is necessary so the trapped air doesn’t affect the flow of water by pushing the water down. Then he topped up the water continuously such that the water line didn’t fall too low while also ensuring minimal agitation to the bed of coffee grinds by pouring carefully in concentric circles down the middle. The process is both hypnotic and therapeutic. Finally, after a pro-

cess that lasted 5 years and started in Costa Rica, I could enjoy the delicious cup of El Roble.

Community

Beyond that, I was intrigued by the culture of conversation surrounding coffee, its ability to bring people together, and what this all meant to Evan. When I posed this to him, he responded with one word: community. He recalled his time in Indonesia, assisting with the tsunami relief, and how that inspired him to own a coffee shop. During that time, he and his friends would spend a lot of their off-time in cafés. Speaking of the coffee shops there, Evan emphasized that “it was a place for people to come together and recuperate as a community. I realize now, the coffee wasn’t good there, but it didn’t matter. It was the community that was important.” It was one afternoon at a coffee shop in Aceh, Indonesia that Evan decided that he wanted to create this sort of environment back in the States: a place where the coffee was good, where people could come together over genuine conversations, and where there was a meaningful community. We see this being reflected in the design of Elixr’s interior where there is a heavy emphasis on communal spaces and seating that encourages interaction between customers. This sense of community is also fostered by the relationships formed in each step of the coffee process. A quality cup is backed by years of collaboration between roaster and farmer, and every bean has been cared for by many people before it reaches us as consumers. The amount of time and effort put into every aspect of the process by coffee lovers like Evan Inatome is something that I respect tremendously. For all of his knowledge and life experiences, Evan is one of the humblest people I have ever come across. He works laboriously with one singular goal: to place a warm cup of delicious coffee in the hands of his customers. Yet, at the same time, he is helping set the standard for what good coffee should mean and how coffee is thought about in our culture today. So the next time you are enjoying your morning cup of joe, take some time to slow down, relax and appreciate all of the labor and skill that has gone into creating it. Starting from a small seedling growing in a faraway place, to being picked and processed by farmers, then roasted, ground and brewed, the bean comes a long way before finally being poured into your cup.

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ILLUSTRATION BY EMILY BELSHAW

Marital Bliss Baking your sister’s wedding cake: the ultimate labor of love BY SARAH ENGELL

1. Begin with Confidence

As soon as my sister announced her engagement, I knew what my wedding gift would be. Though I had no clue what baking a wedding cake entailed, I felt my kitchen experience and adventurous baking habits were good enough prerequisites. My family wasn’t as easily convinced, but my delicious crème brulee and chocolate trifle persuaded them I was up to the challenge.

2. Look for Inspiration

Not wanting to add to any wedding planning stress, I had promised my entire family that I knew what I was doing. Truly though, I had no idea. How do you bake something to feed more than 100 people? What is fondant? Are people still putting those bride and groom things on top? With countless questions swirling around, I turned to the internet. I began regularly perusing the blogosphere to get a sense of the do’s and don’ts of wedding cakes. Some blogs were intimidating, telling readers to bake five practice cakes and precisely weigh each ingredient. Most blogs, though, were helpful and made me feel like I could pull it off. In addition to blogs, I joined a wedding planner website. Scrolling through hundreds of cute wedding pictures showed me different cake designs and helped me clarify a vision for my own creation. Consulting with the bride and groom was the next step. Baking for a relatively easy-going couple who cared much more about the taste than the aesthetics definitely took some of the pressure off. After glancing at and approving my design (a simple three-tier cake with white icing and fresh flowers), they wanted to talk recipes. 22

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3. Choose the Cake Flavors

The most important thing about cakes: the taste! Though I dreamt of making a beautiful three-tier chocolate cake with ganache, the bride wanted carrot cake and the groom wanted funfetti. In the spirit of marital bliss, I appeased them both. I made the bottom tier carrot cake and the top two tiers funfetti, compromising on an almond buttercream icing. As I am not a fan of either of these flavors, I needed to rely on others to pick the best recipes. About six months before the wedding I held a taste testing party for the bridesmaids and happy couple. I whipped up three different recipes of both carrot cake and funfetti. In the end, the cinnamon-infused carrot cake and the sweeter and lighter funfetti cake won.

4. Purchase the Correct Tools

It is ALL about the tools. No matter how experienced you are, if you don’t have the right tools you can say goodbye to your dream cake. I found the most important tools for wedding cake baking are quality cake pans, icing spatulas, a leveler, decorating tips, and a turntable. Don’t be intimidated by this list of tools, though, for all were found in a local craft store or trusty Amazon for relative bargains.

5. Bake a Practice Cake

Baking a practice cake is incredibly helpful. You are able to learn what works and what doesn’t and eat lots of cake along the way.

From my practice cake experience, I learned that I needed to make more batter in each layer, make a ton of extra frosting, and that giving free cake to your neighbors makes them happy.

6. Bake the Real Cake

The big day was finally upon me and, despite fleeting moments of frustration at my past self for volunteering for this, I tried to remain calm and get baking. As with any culinary pursuit, you must leave yourself plenty of time and be unafraid to get messy. I started the first layers at 10: 00 a.m. on Friday morning and finished placing the final dollop of frosting around 2:00 p.m. Saturday. The most time-consuming part was waiting for the different layers to cool. Whipping together the cakes and the frosting is not time-consuming as long as all ingredients are on hand and multiple ovens are available. Also, be sure to have a lot of fridge space available for overnight refrigeration. I needed enough space to house three 12”, three 10”, and three 8” layers. Below are the most important things I learned: -Buy all of the ingredients ahead of time. -Use Crisco AND wax paper to make sure the layers come out easily. -Level out the layers once they’ve cooled. -Place the structural supports in the layers. -Make the crumb layer (a thick layer of icing to catch all the crumbs and act as a base for the final layers of smooth frosting).

-Make sure you have lots of fridge space to re frigerate all the layers overnight.

7. Decorate the Cake

It is critical that you have enough frosting on hand as well as a cool place to frost. Much to my dismay, I needed to frost my cake on quite possibly the hottest day of the summer. My house does not have a walk-in refrigerator so the next best thing was situating myself directly in front of an air conditioning unit. I worked, with many helping hands, as fast as I could to frost the cake and avoid dripping.

8. Take a Well-Deserved Rest

After all the planning, tasting, baking, and frosting, I finally delivered the finished product to the event hall. I took a deep sigh of relief. Baking a wedding cake is truly a labor of love. Through my experience I gained a deep appreciation for professional bakers.

9. Enjoy the Finished Product

With the wedding cake finished, I could finally enjoy all of the wedding festivities. Seeing the happy bride and groom smush cake into each other’s face made it worth all the hours in the kitchen, and with not a crumb left at the end of the reception, it’s safe to say that the guests were pleased as well.

Wedding Cake Preparation, a Basic Guide Special tools needed: Cake leveler: a wire slicer that cuts the domed top off of cake layers to ensure a flat, even surface Icing spatula: a long, thin metal spatula with rounded end used to smoothly ice cakes Cake turntable: a revolving cake stand on which to ice and serve cake Bake three rounds each of your favorite variety cake in the following sizes: 12 inches, 10 inches, and 8 inches. Be sure to scale up the ingredients accordingly. Let all of the cake layers cool to room temperature. Once layers are cool, use a cake leveler to cut the domed top off of each layer to ensure that it is even. Make an extra large batch of your favorite frosting, enough to spread in between all cake layers and for an outside coating of all tiers. Begin assembling the bottom tier, using the 12-inch cake layers. Slather on a layer of frosting on top of one cake round, place a second round on top, and repeat with more frosting and the third and final layer. Finish off the tier by frosting on the “crumb layer”: using an icing spatula, frost the entire outside surface of the tier. Don’t worry about any crumbs or imperfect frosting, as the point of the crumb layer is to act as a base for your final, smooth frosting. Repeat the process with the sets of 10-inch and 8-inch cake layers. Refrigerate all three tiers overnight. The next day, make another extra large batch of frosting. Transfer the bottom 12-inch tier onto a cake turntable. Using an icing spatula, smoothly frost the bottom tier. The turntable and specialized spatula will help you achieve a smooth finish on your frosting. Place the second, 10-inch tier on top of the bottom tier and frost smoothly. Repeat with the final tier. Decorate as desired.

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You Are What You Eat BY ELENA CROUCH PHOTOS BY GARETT NELSON 24

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You know the saying, “You are what you eat”? Well, when I was younger, I thought it meant that if I ate enough pasta, I would eventually become a noodle. While Little Me did not exactly understand the meaning of the phrase, food does give our bodies the building blocks to grow. Beyond that, researchers have been finding more and more that the old saying goes a lot deeper than we thought, even to the level of our DNA. Food can affect the human genome through epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of trait variation that occurs without changing the DNA sequence. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. How else can all of your cells have the same DNA, yet function in such different ways? For example, a liver cell has the same DNA as a muscle cell, but they have widely different form and functions. This can happen because different genes are “turned on and off ” at different times in different cells. So a liver cell will have the genes that make it look and act like a liver cell “turned on” and have the genes that make it act like a muscle cell “turned off ” and vice versa for the muscle cell. In this way, we have cell differentiation. What researchers are interested in is how certain genes are activated and inactivated, and how that process is regulated. So, what does this have to do with food? It turns out that some compounds in food have the capability to activate and inactivate different genes. For example, we’ve all heard by now that broccoli is good for us and that it protects against cancer. Part of this protective quality is due to the sulforaphane present in broccoli (and in all cruciferous vegetables; it’s what gives them that distinct smell). Sulforaphane acts as an HDAC inhibitor, causing more acetylation of tumor-suppressing genes, thus making them active. This allows those previously suppressed genes to get to work reducing your chances of developing cancer. So if you don’t work with epigenetics, you probably don’t know what “HDAC inhibitor” or “acetylation” mean. In order to fit inside the cell, DNA is wrapped around proteins called “histones,” and then groups of histones are themselves wrapped around each other, yielding a tightly packed structure called “chromatin.” The way that genes are “activated” or “inactivated” is actually quite simple: chromatin is either “opened” to allow transcription factors to enter and read the gene, or “closed” to prevent them from entering. The “opening” usually occurs through a loosening of the chromatin packaging, and the “closing” occurs through a tightening of the packaging. In order to loosen or tighten the chromatin, either acetyl or methyl groups are added to the portion of the DNA containing the desired gene, which either increases the physical attraction between DNA and histones or decreases it through repelling. fall 2015

This is where food comes in. Acetylation and methylation are controlled by proteins called “acetylases,” “deacetylases,” and “methylases.” Compounds in foods can influence these proteins by acting as “histone deacetylase inhibitors” (the HDACs from before), and by inhibiting methylases or acetylases. When someone says that a food “prevents cancer,” one of the mechanisms by which that occurs is through epigenetic inhibition of carcinogenic genes, or genes that encourage cell proliferation, block apoptosis (cell death), or increase angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels). Or, conversely, the food could enhance the activity of “anti-cancer” genes that block cell proliferation, encourage apoptosis, and block angiogenesis. The most heavily-studied epigenetically-active compounds in foods that prevent cancer are resveratrol in red wine, cucurmin in turmeric, oleuropein in olive oil, genistein in soy, and sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables. Although these are the ones we know most about, basically everything you eat has some effect, direct or indirect, on the activity of your epigenome. Another branch of nutritional epigenetics studies the effect of a high fat diet on the epigenome and the epigenomes of offspring. This is particularly interesting in the context of obesity, which tends to run in families but is usually not genetically-based. Studies have shown that when mouse mothers are fed a high fat diet, their offspring and even their grandchildren are more likely to be obese because of epigenetic changes to certain genes involved in pancreatic function. And it’s not only mom’s fault; the father’s diet before conception has also been shown to have effects on the next two generations’ chances of obesity. So, let’s amend that old phrase: You are what you eat...and what your parents ate... and what their parents ate…

Broccoli and TurmericMarinated Tofu Grain Salad 3 ounces broccoli 4 ounces extra firm tofu 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 1 garlic clove 1 inch piece of ginger root ¼ cup grain of your choice 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon olive oil Cut the tofu into cubes, and place in container with grated ginger, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 clove grated garlic, and salt and olive oil to coat. Leave to marinate for about 2 hours. Boil the broccoli and the grain together and drain them both. While that’s boiling, pan fry the marinated tofu until crispy on all sides. Mix the grains, tofu, and broccoli, dress with lemon juice and enjoy. penn appétit

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Cooking Behind Closed Doors

A look inside Buenos Aires’ secret restaurants

BY CHASE MATECUN At Casa Felix in Buenos Aires, all ten tables are filled. Sneaker-clad tourists chat with locals wearing towering platform shoes. Casually dressed servers and uniform-less chefs carry mismatched plates through the house’s central garden and open kitchen. The dinner table in the corner is leaning against a cleverly disguised radiator and the couple in back is seated family-style at a six-top with a group of street artists talking about their latest project. Wine glasses clatter as toasts in English and Spanish stream into the night through the restaurant’s entrance, which doubles as the front door of the chef ’s home. Casa Felix is a different breed of restaurant. It’s a puerta cerrada, or “closed door” eatery based out of a private house that’s open only two or three nights a week to guests who reserve seats in advance. Walk down any street in Buenos Aires and you’ll see dozens of mom-and-pop restaurants and corner diners serving simple homestyle meals, but elegant dishes and big flavors are much harder to come by. Closed door restaurants offer a way out, a secret escape route from the endless wave of steak, pasta, and empanadas to a wider world of flavor and creativity hidden within the city streets. Dinner menus and wine lists in puertas cerradas are as fleeting as they are creative. It’s not uncommon to see new dishes pop up at least once a week. One night it’s a succulent slice of pork shoulder braised in rich Colombian coffee and sweet Brazilian sugar cane, the next a fragrant Armenian flatbread topped with spiced lamb, or—if you’re eating at Casa Felix—a steamy pumpkin tamal split open and adorned with edible flowers and chamomile oil. But the puerta cerrada is more than just a canvas for culinary creativity; it’s a culture of quasi-secrecy born out of necessity. Plagued by an unstable economy, high start-up costs, and the risk of not appealing to the bland 26

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PHOTO BY GARETT NELSON Argentine palate, chefs in Buenos Aires often decide to forgo restaurants entirely. Instead, they open the doors to their own homes, using their kitchens as testing grounds for foreign flavors, intriguing ingredients, and dishes that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. More importantly, a table at a puerta cerrada is a centerpiece around which to gather with friends, a place to meet new people, and a comfortable spot to relax after a long day. Eating in someone else’s home is an inherently intimate affair, and the food served in puertas cerradas reflects that. The dishes are probably more elaborate than what your friends serve for dinner—unless they happen to be professional chefs—but that ethereal feeling of hospitality and belonging that so many restaurants strive to achieve is an innate part of the puerta cerrada experience. It’s a part of the meal that can’t be separated

from the food on the plate in front of you— and I think that’s what keeps people coming back for more. Will the closed-door restaurant wave ever make its way to the US? If you ask me, the answer is probably not. Sure, you might be lucky enough to score an invite to a private dinner or the occasional secret supper club, but the maze of rules and regulations surrounding food in the US won’t let puertas cerradas become established institutions stateside. For the time being, if you want a taste of what’s cooking behind closed doors, you’ll just have to buy a plane ticket to Buenos Aires. I recommend you come hungry. Chase is currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires and works part time at Casa Felix, a culinary collective that explores flavors and ingredients native to Latin America.

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BY BETHANY CHRISTY PHOTOS BY KATIE ZHAO

Thanks to the virusfighting power of everyday ingredients like apple cider vinegar, garlic, and honey, it’s easy to make your own cold and flu remedies. All of these can be made ahead of time so you’re ready when cold season hits.


fire cider There’s nothing worse than waking up and suddenly feeling that awful itch in your throat. You’re not sick yet, but you know it’s coming. Luckily, the powerful ingredients in this drink will stop illness in its tracks. Fire Cider is full of ginger, which eases the stomach, promotes healthy circulation, and treats and prevents fever.

The spicy kick from raw garlic, cinnamon, onion, and cayenne makes Fire Cider an effective decongestant and antimicrobial. Raw honey and lemon help soothe the throat while killing viruses and bacteria. Sip your Fire Cider alone or add a tablespoon to hot tea (black, echinacea, and chamomile work best). It also tastes great as a marinade or salad dressing.

Makes about 1 ½ cups 1 small onion, chopped 8 cloves garlic, chopped 3 inches fresh ginger, grated ⅓ teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 cup organic apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoon lemon zest ½ teaspoon cinnamon ⅓ cup raw organic honey Place all ingredients except honey into a jar. Cover and store in a cupboard or on a countertop (not the refrigerator) for 2-3 weeks. Shake occasionally. Strain and add honey. Mix until incorporated and refrigerate.


elderberry syrup This isn’t the purple syrup that had you gagging as a kid. Tangy and sweet, elderberries have high levels of antioxidants and vitamins A, B, and C, and have been shown to boost the immune system and fight inflammation. Take one to four tablespoons daily. You can also drizzle this syrup on ice cream or pancakes for a decadent, rejuvenating treat. Makes approximately 1 quart

bone broth Everyone knows a hot bowl of chicken soup can do wonders when you’re down, and it turns out that the secret lies in chicken bones. Animal bones are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, collagen, amino acids, and gelatin. These nutrients help support bones, skin, hair, digestion, brain function, endocrine health, and the immune system. This broth has a light, savory flavor, and is wonderful alone or as a base for any soup, rice, or pasta dish. Makes 8-10 servings 1 pound grass-fed beef marrow bone (chicken, pork, and lamb bones also work) 8 cups water 1 carrot, roughly chopped 4 garlic cloves, crushed ½ onion, roughly chopped 3 fresh sage leaves 2 sprigs of fresh thyme 2 inches of fresh ginger, roughly chopped 1 small handful fresh parsley 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 3 tablespoons red wine (optional) Salt and pepper, to taste

⅔ cup dried elderberries 3 ½ cups water ½ teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon ground cloves ¼ teaspoon nutmeg ½ cup raw organic honey

Preheat oven to 400°. Salt the bones and roast in a baking dish for 8 minutes, or until the fat around the bone begins to brown and bubble. Add the bones to a large pot with water, vinegar, herbs, and vegetables. Bring to a vigorous boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. If using high quality bones, no need to skim any fat off the surface—it’s full of nutrients and flavor. Strain all solids from the broth. The bones should have a hole running through the center, which means the marrow has released into the broth. Add wine, salt, and pepper to taste.

Bring water, berries, and spices to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat until the liquid has reduced by half (about 30 minutes). Strain and let remaining liquid cool. Add honey and mix until incorporated. Store in the refrigerator.


Hawaiian Style Grubbin in the Aloha State BY KALIKO ZABALA-MOORE

ILLUSTRATIONS BY CAROLYN KOH

Aloha mai kākou! ‘O Kalikolehuaakanealii Zabala-Moore koʻu inoa piha. No Hawaii mai au. Hello to all! My full name is Kalikolehuaakanealii Zabala-Moore and I am from Hawaii. My mother taught me to spell my name through song. Kalikolehuaakanealii Mikela Zabala-Moore: 37 characters, nineteen syllables, and an abundance of kaona (hidden meaning). But you can call me Kaliko (kuh-lee-ko). My first name, Kalikolehuaakanealii, is Hawaiian, meaning the bud of the lehua, a flower gifted to my people by a storied line of chiefs. People have tried to anglicize my name, but it never seems to stick. My identity mo’olelo (story) is one of many in this hodgepodge of different ethnic influences. Being Hawaiian is synonymous to being multicultural; it is a culmination of identities, predominantly East Asian, brought across oceans. The following recipes explore these influences.


The Imu Underground Umami In traditional times cooking generally took place in an underground oven that used piping hot rocks to evenly heat food and trap in flavor. In Sāmoa, New Zealand, the Marquesas, and Tonga this is called an “umu.” In Hawai’i we call it an “imu.” While in traditional times the men did all of the cooking, these days it can be a family affair. Every Thanksgiving my family and I

participate in a charity imu. The idea behind the work is laulima, loosely translated as “many hands working together as many backs and hands bend down into the earth.” It combines the values of diligence and cooperation to increase productivity. As a family, laulima means that each of us contributes to nourishing other families on many levels.

One Hawaiian favorite, kalua pork, gets its name from the imu process, literally meaning “pork baked underground.” Cooking the pork in an imu results in tender and moist meat that falls right off the bone and exhibits a wealth of flavor. Cooking underground can seem suspiciously dirty, but I promise it is both safe and delicious.

When in Hawaii. . . 1

Dig a hole large enough to fit desired amount of meat and produce.

2

Place tinder, kindling, and firewood (in that order) in the hole and set fire.

3

Place basalt lava rocks on top of the fire and wait for them to turn white hot with glowing red edges (3 to 4 hours).

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4 5 6

Pull out any remaining wood embers. Evenly disperse rocks. Place chopped up banana tree stumps and ti leaves on rocks. Wrap seasoned food in aluminum foil and place on top of banana stumps and ti leaves.

7

Cover food with banana leaves and wet burlap coffee bags.​C​over coffee bags with dirt until no steam can be seen coming out.

8 9

Let sit overnight (minimum of 5 hours). Shovel away all dirt. Peel back all layers covering the food. And dig in with family and friends! penn appétit

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Gettin Sticky With It An Intro to Poi According to legend, Wākea (sky father) and Papa (earth mother) gave birth to Ho’ohokukalani (star of the heavens). Wākea and Ho’ohokukalani then gave life to Hāloanakalaukapapili, but the child was stillborn. In the spot Hāloa was buried, a k​alo (taro) plant grew. The second child of Wākea and Ho’ohokukalani, Hāloa, was named in his brother’s memory, and became the first chief of the islands. The kalo provided for Hāloa and thus began the Hawaiian people, the plant subsequently becoming the primary starch in traditional Hawaiian diet. Today, it is pounded into different forms of consistency to form poi, ​the sticky greyish purple substance often eaten at l​ū‘au (Hawaiian feast).

curves that matched the contours of our hand, making it easier to hold and manipulate. At the end of the class we harvested kalo root from the lo‘i (kalo patches) and pounded the kalo into poi.

POI TOOLS Papa ku’i ‘ai (pounding board) Pōhaku ku’i ‘ai (pounding stone) ‘Ōpihi shell Steamer Water

PREPARATION Choose from over the 70 varieties of Hawaii kalo found throughout the islands. Harvest the corm, the plant’s thick stem, and then wash. Put water at the bottom of the steamer and let sit for at least 3 hours. This steaming process is essential to neutralize the insoluble calcium oxalate that, if consumed, causes itching in the mouth and skin. Rinse again. Peel skin. Use the edge of the board to m​oku ke kalo​ (break the corm into pieces). Apply a thin layer of water to the m​ole (​bottom part of board). Lightly pound with the pōhaku, regularly dipping its bottom in water. Continue until the mixture is smooth, adding water as needed.

My family and I learned how to make a p​apa ku ‘i ‘ai ​(poi pounding board) and p​ōhaku ku ‘i ‘ai​(poi pounding stone) in a year-long class. We began by entering the thicketed forest and searching for branches that would become our k​o ‘i​or a​dze,​a tool used to cut and shape different materials. Using the ko ‘i, we chipped away at blocks of wood to form the smooth surface of the papa ku ‘i ‘ai. We hammered at clumped stone to create a pōhaku ku ‘i ‘ai with

Scrape kalo from board using the ‘ōpihi shell and serve.

You Had Me at Halo A Dessert Special Mabuhay sa inyong lahat! Life is great everyone! Halo-halo literally means “mix mix” in Tagalog, which is representative of who I am: the colonizer and the colonized, the indigenous mestiza and the Daughter of the Revolution, of noble blood and peasant-stock. Much of me is tied to the Hawaiian Islands and its native culture, but there are other facets of my identity, like being Filipino from the rice fields of Pangasinang. This treat accurately describes the layered nature of Filipino culture. It combines a variety of flavors and textures to create a colorful and refreshing dessert. Each halo-halo is a diverse creation with ingredients varying according to preferences generally associated with regional culture. The foundation for any decadent halo-halo contains ice cream, crushed/shaved ice, preserved fruit and beans, fresh fruit, jellies, and the essential condensed milk.

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THE BASICS

KALIKO’S CREATION

Ice cream: U​be ​(sweet purple yam), bananas foster, mango, vanilla

Mango Apple (Latundan) bananas Nutella Mochi balls Adzuki beans Starfruit Leche flan Pounded dried rice Corn flakes Extra sweetened condensed milk

Preserved fruit and beans: boiled kidney beans, garbanzos, kaong beans, red mung (sweet red beans), k​aong​(palm fruit) Fresh fruit: l​angka ​(jackfruit), m​acapuno​ (coconut meat), starfruit, cherry, cantaloupe, bananas Jelly: n​ata de coco​(coconut jelly), s​aba​ (plantain)

COMMON ADDITIONS Coconut shavings Sago (palm tree pearls) Corn Cookie wafers

PREPARATION Place crushed ice at the bottom of serving bowl. Layer fruit and fillings. Top with ice cream on top and drizzle syrups. Mix thoroughly and enjoy!

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Behind the Scenes on an Italian Farm BY JESSICA LANDON

I have slaughtered a rabbit. Most people respond to this fact with shock and ask, “How could you kill a cute little bunny?” Ok, I did not technically kill the rabbit. I helped with the skinning, cleaning, and butchering process that immediately followed the slaughter itself. Though I left this experience with my heart in my throat and my stomach in knots, the opportunity to witness the link that almost every carnivore ignores allowed me to fully comprehend the essence of farm-to-table dining. During the summer of 2014, I spent three weeks on a farm-to-table cooking program in Acquapendente, Italy with fifteen other American teenagers. Aside from killing rabbits, we spent our days planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables, feeding animals, composting, and learning traditional Italian cooking techniques. The owners, Marco and Chiara, built an all-organic farm alongside a refurbished castle that doubles as a bed and breakfast. Each night, we ate dinner together on wooden tables with red and white checkered table cloths, looking out past the stone castle at the sunset. Everyone was part of the family, from WWOOFers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), to maids, to visitors. On the first night at the farm, we gorged ourselves on fresh zucchini and onions and homemade bread and pasta. For dessert, we enjoyed a pistachio and strawberry gelato “welcome cake” made by Chiara’s father, Gigi, a retired artisanal gelato maker. On our second day, we packed into the small kitchen that barely fit five cooks for a gelato workshop with Gigi himself. Donning a white shirt emblazoned with little gelato cones, Gigi insisted that we all put on white paper gelato shop hats before beginning the lesson. With my hat, my maroon apron, and my small pink notebook that I toted everywhere to record recipes, I felt like a true gelato maker. We silently huddled around the center table and stared with wide eyes, ready to learn the secrets and traditions from the gelato master. As Gigi worked, he let us measure ingredients and stir the mixture, and he listened patiently as we asked questions. What is the difference between gelato and ice cream? How did he choose the specific thickening agent? Why did he use both dextrose and regular cane sugar? When the gelato was finally done, it looked like a cloud. I took a small spoonful and placed it in my mouth. It was perfect: silky, flavorful, rich. fall 2015

PHOTO BY GARETT NELSON

Gigi’s gelato is superior not only because of the extensive research he has done and the precision with which he makes every batch, but also because of the ingredients he uses. Italian cooking focuses on a few simple, fresh ingredients to make the most flavorful food. With gelato, the milk and fruit matter most. With bean soup, the beans and onions dictate the flavor. Even the humblest tomato sauce falls short when made without farm-fresh Italian tomatoes, which are far more succulent than tomatoes from the supermarket. One of my favorite recipes from the trip was sbriciolata, Italian cheesecake. But don’t be fooled, it is more of a ricotta torte than an American cheesecake. The recipe is simple, with a crust made by pinching small cubes of butter into the dry ingredients and a filling of ricotta cheese, chopped chocolate, and a little bit of sugar. Over the course of the trip, I was able to see first hand the connection between farm and table. Each day, our group split into three: orto, animali, and cucina. In orto, we planted fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and carrots and harvested others for meals, like cabbage and apricots. Knowing that I was eating onions and zucchini we picked earlier that day amplified the fresh taste and instilled in me a sense of pride. In animali, we took on all animal-related responsibilities, from milking goats to collecting chicken eggs. Cooking with the goat’s milk, eggs, and vegetables that I had helped gather strengthened my understanding of the farm-to-table concept and helped me grasp the importance of fresh ingredients. In cucina, we chopped soffrito (finely cut onions, carrots, and celery used as a base for many sauces and soups), rolled pasta, and learned traditional Italian techniques such as making bread. We participated in every step from farm to table, experiencing and understanding the cycle of organic food. For three weeks, I became a part of a true Italian farm family—I learned how to make gelato from a professional gelato maker, I fed the animals, I worked in the fields, I participated in a slaughter, I crammed in the kitchen to prepare dinner for the thirty people in our family. On the farm, food was an experience. Each dish was a celebration of fresh ingredients and traditional recipes. Each meal was a time to step away from the day’s work and enjoy time with family. Each day was an inspiration. penn appétit

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Center Penn in the kitchen at Vetri and High Street BY LORI KIM

PHOTOS BY DANIELLE PI & VIRGINIA SEYMOUR

While most students pore over books and assignments (or, if you’re like me, contemplate how to start them), Wharton sophomore Stephanie Loo and Wharton senior Vera Kirillov tie their aprons and sharpen their knives alongside Pastry Chef Sam Kincaid and Head Baker Alex Bois at High Street on Market. Named Bon Appétit’s No. 2 Best New Restaurant of 2014, High Street is a contemporary American restaurant in Philly’s Old City neighborhood. While there, the two unabashed foodies (Stephanie and Vera are both part of our Photo Staff, and Vera is our Culinary director) intern under the guidance of High Street’s head cooks in what is known as a “stage.” Staging seems little-known outside of the culinary world. But the stage (pronounced like “stahj,” coming from the French word stagiaire, apprentice) is actually a long-held fine dining practice. In stages, budding cooks work under the guidance of distinguished chefs in unpaid apprenticeships. The purpose? To gain the culinary experience and acumen that these apprentices might one day be able to use in their own kitchens. In fact, staging has jumpstarted the careers of Michelin-starred chefs like Joël Robuchon and Thomas Keller. We caught up with Stephanie and Vera to see what it’s like working in a kitchen and how they got to where they are now.

What got you interested in the culinary world? Stephanie Loo: Throughout high school, I developed a lot of recipes on my own. I studied at the Culinary Institute of America during the summer between my junior and senior year, during which I was in their intensive pastry program. I actually wanted to attend culinary school after graduating from high school, but I also really wanted to come to Penn.

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Vera Kirillov: Both of my parents are from Russia, and every summer up until I was 10 or 11, they would send me to live with my Grandma, who still lives in Russia. I got to experience what Americans would consider “unorthodox” for food, like preserved fish and cabbage. It’s also part of Russian culture to host grand dinner parties, so growing up, we would either host or attend a dinner party once a month, which also influenced my love for cooking.

Tell us about how you transitioned from cooking as a hobby to staging at High Street. SL: Freshman year, my culinary dreams were a bit on the back burner—I had no kitchen, and, of course, school was pretty demanding. But since I’m from New York, I did my first stage at the kitchen of a Michelin-starred restaurant, The River Café, in Brooklyn, during winter break of freshman year. I came back and really wanted to work in a restaurant, so I applied to a few restaurants in Philly and got offers from a few of them, but I really loved the kitchen at High Street the most. I started there beginning the spring semester of my freshman year and have been working there since. VK: Last year, I met Ellen Yin at the Penn Appétit food conference in February. At the time, I was really busy with recruiting for summer internships, so I didn’t really think about it. This semester, I have more free time to just do more of what I want—so I got in touch with Stephanie and asked her how it was. She said everyone was really nice and would be open to welcoming a new person. Ellen put me in touch with Sam Kincaid, who is the pastry chef at High Street. So you’ve made it into the High Street kitchen. What does your stage entail? SL: I’m there once a week on Thursdays from around 2:00 p.m. to 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Since I’m there before dinner service this semester, I get to do a lot of baking and dessert prepping, but what I do depends on the day—every day is different. The other day, for example, I was helping in Savory since Pastry was a little slow. pennappetit.com


But in general, I do a lot of prepping: anything from cutting fruit to making a sauce or cream to making a cake. VK: I come in for dinner service time on Tuesday nights from 5:00 p.m. to closing, and I help Sam Kincaid with making pastries— mixing cake batter, making fillings—and I help with the plating of desserts. I also work on Friday mornings in the dough room. There is one person who is in charge of mixing the dough and the rest of us work on rolling and shaping it. It sounds like you spend a lot of time on your feet. what keeps you going? SL: I leave every Thursday feeling so alive— there’s so much great energy in the kitchen. I have definitely been learning a lot too. There’s always something to do—even if it’s not such a busy night, there’s always someone to watch, something to learn from. I feel very free to ask what I can do or how I can help. The kitchen is also very egalitarian. When you walk into the kitchen, you just have to put your head down, be humble, and work. No one cares that you go to Penn, that you’re in all these clubs—they just want you to work hard. It’s really a nice break every week to leave campus to go into Old City and put out really good food. VK: It’s all just so new to me, and right now I’m still learning, and everything about being in a restaurant for the first time is so interesting. It’s exciting to learn new techniques and things—there’s only so much you can do as a home cook, following recipes. Working in a restaurant kitchen is a foreign experience for most students. In your own words, what’s that like?

“you just have to put your head down, be humble, and work”

SL: The experience is really invaluable—the people there are amazing. There’s so much attention to detail, and just a lot of integrity and pride in the work that they are doing. They’re always pushing the envelope of what good food is, and there’s a culture of wanting to do their best while also knowing that there’s room for change and new possibilities. VK: I was a little intimidated at first, because I had never worked in a restaurant kitchen before, and I told Sam that I had no experience. fall 2015

But she said that the restaurant likes to hire people with either very little culinary experience or people who are straight out of culinary school—it’s very much a learning kitchen. I think it’s much calmer and less stressful than other restaurants, and I went in not knowing that. But everyone is super nice and willing to take the time to teach me things. The other day, for example, they were having a hectic morning because there were problems with refrigeration. A lot of the dough that they had prepared was unusable, so they had to start from scratch. Even though they had to stop to teach me how to roll loaves every time we switched a batch, they still told me that it was great having me there for the extra help. High Street on Market is a good example of Philadelphia’s contemporary restaurant scene. How would you recommend that younger people get involved? SL: Philly is definitely a very up-and-coming food city. There’s quality food and the chefs here are really passionate about what they’re doing. I think that there’s also a good variety in terms of the types of cuisine offered

and also in that there’s a good mix of upscale restaurants and less expensive options, including food trucks. More and more Penn students are staging now, and I think it’s super exciting that Penn students are stepping out of the boundary of more conventional pursuits. One of the best parts of being a Penn student in Philly is that the university has such a large presence in the city. Because of that, we, as Penn students, matter to the city: there are so many opportunities and a lot of credibility in being a Penn student, and I encourage more students to take advantage of that. VK: I think Penn students definitely love going out to eat, especially grad students and MBA students. It’s also just evident that the restaurant scene here is growing. Big New York restaurants like Big Gay Ice Cream are coming down here to open up shop, and there’s a lot of stuff happening up in Fishtown, like La Colombe. I would definitely recommend that Penn students stage. If you want to learn more about cooking or just working in a restaurant, it’s super beneficial. It’s very typical for restaurants to take on stages, and it seems that they are happy to do so. It would also be nice to see Penn more involved in the business. Wharton never had a retail program before, and it’s really starting to develop—it would be cool to have some sort of hospitality program as well, even if it’s just a Wharton minor or concentration.

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In Center City, just a mile west of High Street on Market, recent grad Amanda Shulman is filleting Spanish mackerel, charring peppers for a fritto misto, and preparing an eggplant terrine, all while a batch of 40 chocolate soufflés rises in the oven. Amanda is the Garde Manger at Vetri Ristorante, Chef Marc Vetri’s tasting menu-only Italian restaurant. Vetri has received The Philadelpia Inquirer’s highest restaurant rating, and Chef Vetri himself was named one of Food & Wine’s “Ten Best New Chefs.” Having graduated this past May, Amanda received her major in Political Science and her minor in Journalism. But she’s just as well-versed in food: while at Penn, she was the editor-in-chief of Spoon U, had her own food blog (I highly recommend you check it out: stayhungree. com), and worked at local restaurants after class. We got the chance to chat with our veteran stage about her college apprenticeships and how she ultimately ended up working as a fullfledged line cook at one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants. Let’s start from the beginning—how did you get interested in cooking? Amanda Shulman: I’ve always loved food! I cooked growing up, all the time. I forced my fifth grade book club to only read the Dish series (by Diane Muldrow) and would bring in food. I started a catering business in middle school that got shut down by the principal—it was always there, but I never really thought it would be a career. Later on, I started a food blog my senior year of high school. It was on private for eight months until one of my friends told me that I should show it to people—and that’s what kicked it all off. It’s called Stay Hungree. I wrote recipes and restaurant reviews and talked about anything edible. It gained a lot of traction. I actually came into Penn thinking that I wanted to work for the UN—I speak a bunch of languages, so I thought, “This is my thing; I’m going to change the world.” But now I’m gonna change the world through people’s palates! What made you decide that you wanted to pursue cooking as a career? AS: I just cooked all the time—I became friends with older people so that I could use their kitchens and apartments. Sophomore year, I was like, “I really want to do this.” So I moved to Paris for the summer and went to Le Cordon Bleu, and I was there for three months. And I thought, “This is what I’m meant to do—I really love this.” I got back to Philly and did a lot of cater36

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ing at school—I would cater birthday parties, and I started this dinner party series. I would make my Facebook status: “Hey, I’m having a dinner party this Friday. Five courses, $35, bring wine.” It was crazy—it got pretty popular. And I would pick people who didn’t know each other, or I would ask people to bring someone I had never met before. So there would be ten to twelve people, and they would all have to bring wine, and it would be a five-course event—it was four hours long. Everyone would be hammered and so full by the end of it, and it was a chance for me to practice cooking and bringing people together—and that’s what it’s really about. I just really like feeding people! So it sounds like you did a lot of this on your own. How did you finally get your foot in the door with the professionals?

can I stage for you?” So he just gave me the email of his sous chef, who told me to come in. So I went to New York, which was literally the scariest thing ever, because I had a knife kit and everything, but you still have no idea what you are walking into the first time. But they were really nice, thank God. It was a onetime thing, and they offered me an internship after, but I had already committed to Tasting Table (in New York). But that’s when I realized that kitchen life is amazing—it’s so intense, and afterwards you are so tired. The only time I sit down during the day is when I go to the bathroom. That May, I worked for the Tasting Table Test Kitchen in New York. The sous chef had just recently been fired, so it was just the head chef and me. We would do private dinners for eight people and cocktail parties for 60. And after that, I did a stage at Prune in New York. So by the time you were entering senior year , you had already completed three stages. what’s it like going into these different kitchens? AS: Going into kitchens and just seeing how they do things is so cool. They’re all so different. At every single stage, you do something new. You have to bring a notebook, just because you need to write things down, and you eat so much and everyone wants to feed you something. It’s just so cool to see how different restaurants operate. Tell us about the route you took to get to your current job at Vetri. AS: Senior year, when I really knew that this was what I wanted to do, I thought, “What’s my favorite restaurant in Philadelphia? Amis (Marc Vetri’s Center City trattoria).” So I talked to the chef, Brad Spence, and was like, “Hey, I really want to stage.” I literally walked up to him. I saw him, and I just walked up to him. And he told me to come in next week. So I came in for the first day. I did my first stage, and everyone was so nice. And at the end of the day, I asked if I could come back. And they said yes. So starting in September and up to May, I would come in once a week, sometimes twice. And so I kind of got “in,” I guess, with the Vetri system. At the same time, I also loved baking, and

“THAT’S WHEN I REALIZED I WAS MEANT TO BE ITALIAN”

AS: The summer after my sophomore year, I worked at Food52—I did food styling and recipe testing for them and did some writing. After that, the fall of my junior year, I went abroad to Rome. And that’s when I realized I was meant to be Italian—I made a lot of pasta. All the time. My first real stage was at Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York—the food is unbelievable. This was during March of my junior year. I was at one of the restaurants, and the chef came out, and I just asked him, “Hey,

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senior spring, I was a part time student, so I started working at the Bakeshop on 20th. I just walked in one day and thought, “this place is amazing.” So I went up to the register and asked, “Do you ever have apprentices or anything?” And they said, “No.” So I asked for their card and emailed the owner letting her know that I loved baking, gave her my website and my Instagram, and said that I would love to come in and intern for her—we had a meeting, and she said sure. So I staged at the Bakeshop on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Amis on Tuesdays or Thursdays, or both. And did you go straight to Vetri after graduating? AS: My plan when I graduated was to stay in Philly, because I wanted to work for Marc Vetri. That’s literally why I stayed. But I went home for the summer after Senior year—and kitchens aren’t like other jobs in that you can line something up months in advance. It’s all very quick; someone could ask for you to start tomorrow. I moved back to Philly on July 20th, and my plan was to work at Amis. And they told fall 2015

me that they wanted to hire me but that they didn’t have any spots. So I just continued staging there—in my mind, I figured that if I continued staging, they would eventually just hire me. At the same time, I started looking at restaurants and was going to start handing out my résumé at other places. But after service one night after staging at Amis, the chef walked me over to Vetri, and I met the chefs over there. They told me to come in for a stage day. So we set it up, I went in—it was unbelievable. I was enthralled. And at the end of the night, they asked me what I was looking for. And honestly, I just wanted a job. They told me that they didn’t know if they were hiring and asked if I would be interested in an internship. I told them that I would take anything—I just wanted to be there. At the end of another trial day, at the end of service at like 11:30 at night, I’m bringing down a pan, and the chef asked if I still wanted a job. “Yes.” And I thought that they would tell me about another place that was hiring. But he said, “We want to hire you.” And I was like, “Really?! Are you sure?” And they said yes. And now I work there. But I’m still in shock, and it’s been almost two months.

What’s an average day like for you? AS: I’m the Garde Manger, meaning I’m in charge of putting out the desserts and the first few courses. So when you sit down, I’ll be the first four bites you eat and the last two. When I get to work, I’ll do desserts first, because they take me the longest. I’ll make a batch of 40 chocolate soufflés. And then I’ll go downstairs to cook. On an average day, I’ll filet three Spanish mackerel, portion them with a crudo, cook a ton of farro, make a sofrito, grill six eggplants…check all my sauces…make a salsa rosa for a fritto misto…I do all of this from 12:00 p.m. until around 4:30, which is when we start setting up. Service starts at 6:00. The first reservation is then; the last reservation is at 9:30. I’ll work the line from 6:00 to 11:30 or 12:00, and then we’ll clean… a lot. In all, I’m there for over 12 hours. On Sundays, we start an hour earlier and end an hour later.

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How do you push through the crazy scheduling that comes with being a restaurant line cook? AS: My hours are crazy. My schedule changes every single week. But I love it. I’m one of the only people I know out of my friends who are working—granted, I’ve only been working for two months—that loves going to work every single day. I look forward to it every day. I wake up, and I’m like, “I am exhausted; I stood for 14 hours yesterday, but I’m so excited to go in and fillet this fish better than I did yesterday, or to kill these sixty covers tonight. The hours are crazy, and it’s definitely time-consuming, but if you look at anyone’s first job, this is the time where you should be killing yourself to do well—I’m in it. So you’re definitely happy with your decision to pursue cooking as a career. What advice do you have for students who want to make that transition? AS: Stage. Do a good job. Be really nice. Bring a notebook. Make sure that your knives are sharp. Form relationships, and show that you want to be there, that you will be committed. Just get your foot in the door. When 38

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people start seeing you day after day, all the time, week after week, and you’re excited to be there—it really says something. It’s exhausting and tiring, but if you love it then you should 100% do it. My life right now is 100% my work. But I love my work, so it’s great. In all, it’s definitely a lot, so be prepared…. But your life will be delicious. What role did Philly’s restaurant scene play in your culinary journey? AS: We are in the prime spot, and when I was thinking of where I wanted to move after graduation, the best part about food is that it’s everywhere—everyone eats. But Philly’s restaurant scene is just really open and really friendly. It’s a totally different vibe in New York—I would say that Philly is the place to go for it. Everyone is so nice, and there’s so much diversity here too. There’s every type of restaurant. If you’re friendly and want to learn, people will let you in the door—it’s free labor. They would rather you peel potatoes for free than have someone else do it. Is it safe to assume that your experience staging was worthwhile?

AS: Definitely. I’ve learned so much. So many technical skills. I went to culinary school for a little, but I’ve learned ten times more—in a day—in the kitchen. It’s completely different. Working in a kitchen is invaluable—you get retrained in any kitchen you go in, because everyone does things kind of differently. So I don’t think culinary school is necessary, as long as you’re willing to learn and practice and take notes. I’m off today, but I’m cooking dinner for ten tonight so that I can practice. I love doing what I learn at work at home. And when you work at a place for free and you show up on time and you do a good job and try hard and are really putting in a lot of effort—that says a lot. The fact that you are there for free and are putting in the time because you love it and want to learn speaks a thousand words. And I think that’s really what allowed me to get where I am today. What are your plans moving forward? AS: I’m gonna be here, in Philly, for a while, hopefully working for Vetri. I want to move to Italy for a while and eventually open up my own restaurant. We’ll see. I want something kind of like my dinner parties—very familial, comfortable.

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Polipetti in Agrodolce A recipe for sweet and sour octopus

PHOTO AND ARTICLE BY ELENA CROUCH

While octopus is experiencing a moment in the spotlight as the trendy thing to order when dining out, it hasn’t gained the same popularity in home cooking here in the States. Italians, on the other hand, are big fans of octopus, and it has been a staple of my summer eating experiences for as long as I can remember—I can always count on my grandmother preparing it at least once every time we visit her in Sicily. While she prepares it as a fresh salad with chunks of octopus mingling with chopped carrot, celery, olives, capers, and lemon juice, here I present you with a more winter-appropriate way to enjoy the eight-legged mollusk. Bring a taste of the Mediterranean into your kitchen with polipetti in agrodolce, which translates to “sweet and sour baby octopus.” If you are intimidated by the thought of preparing octopus, don’t be. You can buy it already cleaned and ready to cook at the fish section of Reading Terminal Market, and then all you have to do is roughly chop it and toss it into the pan.

Makes 1 Serving 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1⁄4 pound baby octopus 1 small can whole cherry tomatoes 1 carrot, diced 1⁄4 onion, diced 1 clove garlic, diced 2 leaves fresh basil 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 3/4 ounces spaghetti Pinch of sugar Salt and pepper, to taste In a small pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and carrot until the onion is translucent. Add in the can of cherry tomatoes and a little water, rip up the basil into the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat, partially covered, for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, roughly chop your cleaned baby octopus. Heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add the octopus and sauté for about 10 minutes, until it becomes bright purple. Season with salt. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the spaghetti. While it’s cooking, add one third of the sauce, the balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of sugar to the octopus. Simmer together until the spaghetti is done, then drain and dress the spaghetti with the octopus and the rest of the sauce.


achieve the consistency of peanut butter. Fold in the walnuts and raisins. Makes 20 20 dried corn husks 2 cups maseca corn flour 1 cup packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves 1/3 teaspoon ground nutmeg 25 ounces pumpkin puree 2 sticks of butter, melted 1 cup of warm milk 1 cup of walnuts, chopped 4 ounces of raisins 1 cup queso fresco Fill a large bowl with warm water and soak corn husks until softened, about 30 minutes. In a large bowl add the dry ingredients and mix together until all the clumps are broken. Introduce the wet ingredients and use your hands to mix the corn flour. Add more water as needed until you

Assemble the tamales by using a rubber spatula to spread 1â „2 to 1 cup of dough mixture onto the corn husk, depending on its size. The spread should cover about two thirds of the husk, away from the pointed end, with some space on each of the long sides to fold. Gently fold one long side of the corn husk to the other and fold up the pointed end across. Lay each tamale fold-side down. There should be an open end to each tamale. Place steam tray in pot filled with 1 inch of water. Bring water to a simmer. Carefully place each tamale standing up, cover pot, and steam for 90 minutes. Remove each tamale with tongs and let rest for a few minutes. Garnish with queso fresco. recipe adapted from: http://www. imusausa.com/pumpkin-pie-tamales/


Makes 8 Sauce 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise 1⁄3 cup plain Greek yogurt 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin 1⁄4 teaspoon dried dill 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus 1 teaspoon sauce Salt, to taste

To make the sauce: place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. To make the fish: heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, cumin, and oregano; set spices aside.

Pat the fish dry, season with salt and sprinkle with spices, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Grill fish, flipping once until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

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1 medium tomato, cored and finely chopped 2 limes, quartered 8-inch corn or flour tortillas, warmed

Serve grilled fish on warm tortillas with cabbage, onion, tomato and a drizzle of chipotle sauce as desired with a squeeze of lime. recipe adapted from: http://www. saveur.com/article/Recipes/ Fish-Tacos-Chipotle-Sauce

Fish 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon paprika 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano 1 1⁄2 pounds boneless, skinless tilapia fillets, sliced in half lengthwise Canola oil, for grilling Assembly 1⁄4 head small red cabbage, very thinly shredded 1 small white onion, minced

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Makes 4 servings 2 large avocados, peeled and pitted 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered Juice from 1 lime 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 tablespoon honey 1/2 cup red onion 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped Queso fresco, to garnish Mash avocado in medium mixing bowl until smooth. Add lime, salt, and honey, and stir. Mix in tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, top with queso fresco, and serve.


3 tablespoons canola oil, divided 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 20 ounces enchilada or Mexican red sauce 2 cups chicken broth 1 teaspoon salt, divided 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 pound ground beef 1 medium onion, finely chopped 12 ounces canned green chilies 1/2 cup chopped green onions 1/2 cup chopped black olives 3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese 10 corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350°. Brown the ground beef with the onions over medium-high heat. Drain the fat, add the remaining salt, and stir to combine. Turn off heat and set aside.

With remaining oil, lightly fry the tortillas just until soft. Do not crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

with sprinkling the rest of the cheese and any other bits of chiles, green onions, or olives left over from the filling.

Place meat mixture, and a portion of the chilies, green onions, and black olives upon a tortilla. Top with a generous portion of grated cheddar. Roll to contain the filling inside. Place the tortilla seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas and pour sauce over the top. End

Bake for 20 minutes and serve.

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Makes 10

Combine 2 tablespoons canola oil and flour, whisk, and allow to bubble. Pour in the red sauce, chicken broth, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then let simmer.

recipe adapted from: http:// www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ ree-drummond/simple-perfect-enchiladas-recipe0.html

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Panc i t Side a

a h s t c i i t i w Pol f o

The owners of South Philly’s newest Mexican restaurant talk lamb tacos and immigration reform BY NINA FRIEND PHOTOS BY LEAH SPRAGUE


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s

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By 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning, husband and wife Ben Miller and Cristina Martinez have already been awake for six hours. When the doors to their restaurant on 11th and Morris open at 5:00 a.m., they fly around the small space greeting diners and cutting lamb and serving up ladles of fresh tamarind juice. Before Ben and Cristina opened South Philly Barbacoa this past July, they operated a weekends-only food truck on 8th and Watkins. Before the truck, they cooked in their apartment for friends. From location to location, the food has remained the same: simple, authentic barbacoa rooted in Cristina’s Mexican heritage. There are three items on the restaurant’s menu: barbacoa, pancita and consomé. While in the north of Mexico barbacoa is traditionally made with goat, in the south, where Cristina is from, barbacoa is made with lamb. Sticking to her roots, Cristina makes lamb barbacoa tacos as well as pancita—sausages composed of organ meats. The process of steaming the meat forms drippings that Cristina uses as a broth to make soup, called consomé, which is served over rice and garbanzo beans. Drinks are the one menu item that fluctuates. Some days the juice may be cactus pear, others it’s strawberry—it depends on the available fruit. When the weather gets cold, Cristina also whips up a variation of atolé, a traditional Mexican corn-based beverage served warm like hot chocolate. Although Cristina’s recipes have not changed, she constantly works to refine her craft. “We look at weak points and strong

points,” Ben says, “and we try to improve the flavors and ingredients and our technique.” Cristina has always cooked barbacoa. She grew up in a family that earned a living by making the same lamb tacos that are now on the Philly restaurant’s menu. “It’s her soil,” Ben says. “The thing she knows how to do best.” Yet Cristina’s heritage both fuels and inhibits the restaurant. She owns and operates South Philly Barbacoa, but cannot legally work there without a green card. For the restaurant

“Though food is important to him, the quality of life of his wife... is more important.” to become a reality, Ben had to sign the lease. Ben had to sign the business license. Cristina had no say where the law was concerned, even as the spouse of an American citizen. Immigration reform affects Ben and Cristina on a personal level, but the couple also believes the issue has deep ties to the restaurant industry at large. After all, 20 percent of the United States’ 2.6 million chefs and cooks are undocumented, and 28 percent

of the country’s 360,000 dishwashers are here illegally, according to estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center in 2008. “Everyone that eats out in a restaurant is affected by illegal workers, because they’re in every restaurant,” Ben explains. The system is set up to exploit undocumented people. If a boss is abusive, the worker has no one to report to and nowhere to run. “That whole system has to be done away with,” Ben says. “It’s personal for me. I want my family to be able to put down roots and be stable.” But Ben acknowledges that immigration reform is bigger than himself. Which is why he wants to start a citywide conversation about the role of illegal immigrants in the restaurant business. Ben thinks of his position as a restaurant owner to be “unique” in that he has an “avenue to promote [his] political agenda.” He and Cristina hosted a screening of the documentary The Hand That Feeds on September 20th and held a meeting on November 8th to plan a political action for the spring. Ben is also working to organize other restaurant owners in Philadelphia to band together in support of immigration reform. Ben and Cristina never intended to use their restaurant as a platform for political activism. But Ben grew frustrated with the realities: poor conditions in kitchens, mistreatment of workers, pay below minimum wage. “As an American citizen, I want to live in a country that I find to be just and equitable,” Ben says. Though food is important to him, the quality of life of his wife—and people just like her—is more important.

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˜

BY WILL CONSTAN

ILLUSTRATION BY CAROLYN KOH


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Chorizo Breakfast Tostada

El Desayuno Mexicano

We’l take tostadas over toast any day BY CARISSA BRONES

PHOTOS BY ANJI JI 51


Churros: Don’t skimp on the cinnamon sugar


Churros With their tender interior and crunchy bite, churros can be eaten as a decadently sweet breakfast or dessert. The Mexican version is made from typical choux pastry dough, fried and then coated in a layer of cinnamon sugar. Often served with café con leche or champurrado (a sweet, thick breakfast drink), churros are the ultimate dunking snack. You can find champurrado at some Mexican restaurants in Philadelphia, such as Fiesta Acapulco with its traditional hot drink menu.

4-inch strips of dough into the hot oil and cook, turning once, until golden brown (about 2 minutes per side). Transfer the cooked churros to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Roll them in the cinnamon-sugar and serve warm.

Skillet Huevos Rancheros Known as the ultimate hangover food, this baked egg dish will satisfy any food craving. It’s a warm, one-pan meal for easy preparation and sharing, so called “rancher’s eggs” from its roots in rural Mexican farms. Because of its forgiving nature, it’s very versatile—customize your own with different spices, cheeses, and any additions to the dish. We recommend visiting a Mexican market such as Variedades Veracruzana to make your hot sauce selection. Makes 5 servings

1 cup water ½ cup unsalted butter ¼ teaspoon salt 1 cup all-purpose flour 3 large eggs, beaten Vegetable oil, for frying ¼ cup sugar ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

10 ounces hot salsa 5 large eggs 1 15 ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed 1 ½ ounces shredded cheddar cheese 1 bunch coriander, leaves picked 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 red onion, minced Olive oil, for frying Salt and pepper to taste Tortillas, for serving

Heat about 2 inches of oil in pot over medium-high heat to 360°. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon on a plate and reserve. Combine water, butter, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour. Reduce the heat to low and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove the dough from the heat and, while stirring constantly, gradually beat the eggs into the dough. Spoon the churro dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Squeeze

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large oven-safe frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until they begin to brown, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and cook for one minute. Mix in the salsa, beans, salt, and pepper and let simmer for about one minute. Using a wooden spoon, make little spaces in the salsa mixture so the bottom of the pan is visible. Quickly crack the eggs into the spaces. Sprinkle on the cheese and transfer to preheated oven.

Makes 10

Cook until egg whites are set, but the yolk is still runny. Serve immediately in a bowl or on a heated tortilla.

Chorizo Breakfast Tostadas Tostadas are the most versatile dish imaginable and can be served at any meal. Almost like a deconstructed taco, this Jaliscan street food’s crunchy tortilla base acts as an edible plate for a multitude of toppings. In the case of this recipe, expect spicy chorizo, beans, avocado, and a whole lot more. Try our preferred local vendor Tortilleria San Roman for fresh blue and white corn tortillas made daily. Makes 8 3 ounces Mexican chorizo 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed ½ cup water ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon cumin 8 flour or corn tortillas, fried 8 large eggs 2 avocados 1 cup sour cream 1 garlic clove, grated 1 tablespoon lime juice ½ cup salsa or hot sauce Cilantro, chopped for garnish Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Add chorizo and sauté for 2 minutes. Add beans, fry in chorizo, and use the back of a wooden spoon to smash about ¾ of the beans. Add water, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon cumin. Cook until water has evaporated and the beans are creamy. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, garlic, remaining salt, cumin and lime juice. Poach or fry eggs. Spread a little bit of the black bean and chorizo mixture on tortillas, top with sliced avocado and the egg. Dress with sour cream mixture, salsa, and cilantro.

Shrimp And Grilled Corn Chilaquiles

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No longer are lunch and dinner the only times for Mexican grub—spice up your mornings with this south-of-the-border cuisine. Whether you prefer sweet or savory, mild or not, these delicious breakfast recipes will satisfy it all. Hearty, fresh, and local ingredients make up these traditional dishes, some with an added twist. Not only can they be eaten at any meal, but they also inspire creativity in choosing your own mix-ins and toppings.

Chilaquiles are like the nachos of breakfast foods. A Chihuahuense staple usually eaten in the home, chilaquiles use tortilla chips as the base, which are then cooked in a savory salsa of herbs and spices. While chilaquiles are usually topped with cilantro and various cheeses, this recipe of shrimp, grilled corn, and avocado crema reaches a whole new level. Make your own tortilla chips by cutting up some tortillas, frying them, and adding salt to your liking. Makes 4 servings 5 ounces Greek yogurt 1 avocado 2 limes, juiced ½ cup cilantro 2 ears corn, husks and silks removed 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined 2 tablespoons olive oil Salt and pepper, to taste 3-4 cups tortilla chips 1 ½ cups salsa ¼ cup crumbled queso fresco ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion Cilantro, for garnish Blend together yogurt, avocado, lime juice, and cilantro until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. Heat grill to medium heat. Wrap corn in foil and cook for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes until charred. Remove corn from grill and cut kernels from cobs. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet to medium high heat, add olive oil, and cook shrimp until pink, about 6 minutes. Set shrimp aside. Pour salsa into skillet, add chips and toss until all chips are coated in salsa. Simmer for 5 minutes. Top with shrimp, grilled corn, queso fresco, red onion, avocado cream sauce, cilantro, and fried egg (optional).

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Skillet Huevos Rancheros


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Shrimp and Grilled Corn Chilaquiles

Try topping with Chamoy

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Summer at Tres Senderos

A FOOD SNOB SOBS*

*this account is largely fictionalized. deal with it. BY ANONYMOUS RESTAURANT SNOOT

As a summer intern at Three Senderos, I’d finally be in the thick of real Mexican cuisine. A staid member of the culinary circuit (or in New York terms, just over ten years old), the restaurant had cultivated a reputation for quasi-authentic fare. Accordingly, I envisioned pre-shifts where I would prep ancho and guajillo in the Robot Coupe. Lunches would showcase dishes like pulkanes and chochinita pibil. And, of course, after hours would feature the boss and I sharing Del Maguey mezcal and grubbing on tortillas made with masa nixtamal. In a sea of Chipotle and Dos Toros, Tres Senderos was meant to be the place to do Mexican cuisine justice, and Anon the Intern would be there to reap the benefits. It took no longer than a week to realize how wildly misguided I had been. Reality proved to be not unlike the restaurant’s medium-well asada—a hearty, substantive affair a few degrees past perfect. It certainly had the trappings of a solid gig—I was under the guidance of stellar bosses, had a handful of affable colleagues, and delighted in the fact that lunches were free—but the cui-

sine itself left too much to be desired. Tres Senderos was a purveyor of whitewashed Mexican, the sort that wouldn’t leave a suit with a sour stomach after her power lunch. The best selling dish was El gigante, a burger devoid of all spice barring the limp jalapeño that adorned the patty. Brunch was chicken and waffles, forgive me, pollo y waffles—a dish, as everyone knows, with a storied Mexican provenance. The worst affront? The executive chef was a veritable Teuton; those who actually grew up with the cuisine were consigned to shuttling out her fare as the restaurant’s runners. Tres Senderos was “Mexican” in the sense that I am “vegetarian”; it wore this meaningless label as a ploy to attract bougie white women.

*

To supplement the shortcomings of the internship, I made frequent outings to places with “real” cuisine. There was the trip to Ling Kee for Malaysian beef jerky, a lunch at Abyssinia to graze on the injera, and the C-train

pilgrimage to Gloria’s West Indian for the ox tail. Embittered by Tres Senderos’ lackluster offerings, I was determined to make the most of my summer through these excursions. On one occasion, I even trekked out to Golden Dynasty in Flushing. Here I found myself alone in a nondescript food court basement beguiled by a menu of dishes that poor Google Translate could not crack. There was “Fish Head Twice Rubbed” and “Spicy Virginal Chicken,” dubious dishes, I figured, even to those who were weaned on the stuff, let alone a brat from the burbs. But this is precisely what I had wanted, my mission being to sniff out the funkiest, most repugnant sh*t one could procure. Using “What would my father…”—a man who has not ventured outside chicken paillard on the last dozen occasions that we’ve dined out—“…be least likely to order?” as my selection criterion, I was left to decide between the “Spicy and Tingly Lamb Face Salad” and the “Concubine’s Beef.” I ultimately sprang for the former, smugly smiling as I directed the cashier’s gaze to item L3 on the menu board.


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PHOTO BY GARETT NELSON

*

As any good foodie does these days, no sooner had I eaten the lamb did I run home to brag about my exploits. “I just had the most remarkable meal…No, ‘lamb face’ isn’t just an expression…Yes, the restaurant had a ‘C’ rating, but, ya know, who cares?” Here was the Columbus of cuisine, recounting his tale of how he subdued this foreign fare. I had stomached the lamb face in all its gelatinous glory and the world had to know. A few hours removed from the heady fulfillment of bragging about my lunch, however, a certain nausea set in. And, no, it wasn’t a function of the kitchen conditions that will earn a restaurant a “C” grade. Rather, it was my actions that didn’t bode well. Here I had been extolling the virtues of Lamb Face Salad, when the truth of the matter is that I could hardly get through half the bowl. There were the cartilaginous bits that ate like tripe, but whose identity I couldn’t make out. (Was it jowl or was it eye socket? Who knows?) Then

there were the Szechuan peppers, which, for those who have not yet had the pleasure, impart a prickle like that from tonguing a Duracell. Perhaps the saving grace of it all was a level of chili oil that demanded three Cokes, rendering my mouth numb and thus immune to the other sensations assailing my palate. I do not doubt that there are those deviants who wholeheartedly enjoy Szechuan pepper and lamb face and all the other gastronomic goodies I encountered at Golden Dynasty. I even figure that those who grew up eating this sort of cuisine have a trueblue fondness for it. But to convince others that I liked this food was to be disingenuous to them and to myself. In hindsight, on my trip to Flushing, I would have been infinitely more content had I bought a bubble tea and a Big Mac and called it a day.

*

The dose of humility imparted by this whole ordeal colored the rest of my time at Tres

Senderos. I appreciated that my expectations were unfounded and that I ought to compare the food not to actual Mexican cuisine but to what my palate preferred. Sure, it wasn’t the real deal, but it was actually decent nevertheless. I recognized that the carnitas taco was tremendously tender, the lobster tostaditas were pleasant enough, and that the chef made a mean ceviche, dressed in such a way to make me concede that she had some serious culinary chops. The surf and turf taco, a tired tortilla wrapped around a mass of frozen shrimp and minute steak, all shellacked with Cheez Whiz, was an abomination of a dish if there ever was one. And yet, I ate the crap up. Who was I to deny my tastebuds the gratification of gratuitous amounts of fat and salt? Authenticity is desirable, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of taste. This past summer I stopped fetishizing the foreign and started to just go with my tongue...and became (somewhat) less of a prick in the process.

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Sweet T reats T hree desserts starring a must-have ingredient in Mexico: condensed milk

Open up just about any pantry in Mexico and you’ll likely find a few cans of condensed milk sitting among the other household staples. From drizzling it in coffee to using it in various desserts, Mexicans find any excuse to use condensed milk, which is cow’s milk with the water removed. The removal of water creates a very thick consistency to which sugar is usually added, allowing the product to go unspoiled for years without refrigeration. We’ve included three recipes featuring this sweet staple, and who knows? Maybe your pantry will soon be stocked with some cans—we know ours will be.

BY JANIE KIM

PHOTOS BY GARETT NELSON


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T res Leches Cake From its name tres leches, or “three milks” cake, it’s not hard to guess what this popular Mexican dessert is all about. A mixture of, you guessed it, three different kinds of milk—condensed, evaporated, and whole— is poured over an airy sponge cake and set to soak overnight. The fluffy, light texture of the cake takes on a silkiness without becoming soggy, and a layer of whipped cream brings the whole dessert together.

½ teaspoon vanilla extract Makes 12 servings Cake 6 large egg whites ½ cup granulated sugar, divided 6 large egg yolks 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted Cream 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk 1 cup heavy whipping cream 2/3 cup evaporated milk ¼ cup brandy 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Topping 1 cup heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

To make the cake: preheat oven to 375°. Grease and flour 9-inch springform pan. Beat egg whites and ¼ cup sugar in large mixer bowl until stiff peaks form. In separate bowl, combine egg yolks and remaining sugar; beat until light yellow in color. Fold egg white mixture and flour alternately into egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until just golden and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven to wire rack.

To make the cream: combine sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, evaporated milk, brandy and vanilla extract in medium bowl; stir well. Poke holes in top of cake with a skewer. Pour 2 cups cream over cake. Spoon excess cream from side of pan over top of cake. To make the topping: beat cream, sugar and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until stiff peaks form. Spread over top and sides of cake. Serve immediately with remaining cream. Adapted from https://www. elmejornido.com/en/recipes/ three-milk-cake-pastel-tres-leches-116509#

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Flan Though this baked caramel custard dessert has become popular in many corners of the globe, flan is a traditional Mexican dish sure to please with its creamy, rich yet delicate texture. Coating the pan with a caramel syrup ensures that the flan will emerge with the perfect golden glaze, and placing the flan mold in a pan of boiling water to bake is key to correctly cooking the egg mixture. There are also many variations on the classic flan, so don’t be afraid to add your own twists! Makes 10 servings ½ cup sugar 6 eggs 3 cups milk ½ cup sugar 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange zest sliced fruit (strawberries, kiwi or other fruit) Preheat oven to 325°. Heat ½ cup sugar in a heavy skillet or saucepan, stirring constantly until it melts and turns a dark golden color. Remove from heat and immediately pour into a 4 ½ cup metal springform pan and swish it around so it evenly coats the bottom of the pan. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in milk, ½ cup sugar, vanilla and orange zest. Place caramel coated springform pan inside another deep pan and place on an oven rack. Pour egg mixture into the springform pan and pour the hottest tap water possible around the springform pan to a depth of 1 inch.

Bake at 325° for about 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean. Place springform pan on wire rack to cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 3 ½ hours. To unmold the flan, run a spatula around the edges of the custard. Place a serving platter over pan and flip to allow the flan to slip onto the platter. Spoon any caramel that may remain in the pan on top of the flan. Pile sliced fruit in the center and serve. Recipe adapted from: http:// www.food.com/recipe/mexican-flan-baked-caramel-custard-12354


As the temperature starts to drop, this creamy, classic Mexican dish is exactly the comforting dessert you’ll want to make while wearing your favorite sweater. Like the tres leches cake, this rice pudding incorporates three different kinds of milk. The cinnamon adds aromatic, warm notes perfect for the season, with the raisins providing sweet, chewy bites within the rice.

Makes 4 servings 7 cups water 1 cup long-grain white rice 1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick 1 12 ounce can evaporated milk 1 14 ounce can condensed milk 1 cup whole milk ž cup golden raisins Ground cinnamon, for dusting Place the water, rice, and cinnamon stick in a medium-size heavy

saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and cook until the rice is tender, about 18 minutes. Strain out the liquid, discard the cinnamon stick, and reserve the rice. Return the rice to the saucepan. Stir in the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk. Continue cooking over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat

to low and cook, uncovered, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, about 20 minutes. Add the raisins, and stir well.

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Arroz con Leche

Transfer the pudding to a serving bowl. Dust the top of the pudding with ground cinnamon and serve. Recipe adapted from: http://www. foodnetwork.com/recipes/marcela-valladolid/mexican-rice-pudding-arroz-con-leche-recipe.html

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Tequila Tipples

BY PARKER BROWN

Cuervo not considered

If Tequila’s Not Your Thing

Latta Horchata

Makes 1 serving

Horchata 1 cup long-grain white rice 1 cinnamon stick 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 ounce mezcal 1 ounce Aperol 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 ounces club soda Lemon/orange peel, for garnish When you’re missing warm weather, combine ingredients, stir, and pretend that it’s not snowing.

Makes 1 serving

Cocktail 1 cup horchata 1 ounce Kahlua liqueur 1 ounce quality tequila añejo 1 shot espresso

To prepare the horchata, blend rice and cinnamon stick with 4 cups water until fairly smooth. Add 4 more cups water and soak at room temperature for 3 hours. Blend the rice mixture once again until pureed and strain through cheesecloth. Mix in sugar and chill. To a cup of horchata, add Kahlua, tequila, and a shot of espresso. Stir until combined, drink, and repeat.


You Go Hot Cocoa

(because we couldn’t not include a margarita)

Makes 1 serving

Makes 1 serving 1 1/2 ounces quality tequila reposado 1 1/2 ounces Cointreau 1 ounce lime juice 1 teaspoon sugar Combine all ingredients, shake, and pour over ice (or blend if that’s your thing).

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The OG Marg

1 scoop Mexican hot chocolate mix 2 ounces quality tequila reposado 1/2 ounce agave nectar 1 ounce heavy whipping cream A pinch cayenne A pinch salt Prepare hot chocolate according to the package instructions. Combine remaining ingredients and stir.

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We like it best with extra lime and Tajín

BY WILL CONSTAN PHOTO BY KATIE ZHAO At every market in Mexico there will inevitably be someone selling corn. Usually, for the people who just can’t wait to prepare the veggie (technically a cereal) at home, there will be a small stall right next to the vendor selling what we know as Mexican street corn. In the north it is commonly called elote, while in Mexico City it is known as esquites. Either way it is a delectable combination of cooked corn, on or off the cob, with fat, cheese and seasonings. Street corn is not just found in markets. It is a beloved snack enjoyed at fairs, festivals or just as an at-home afternoon treat. There is no one way to make the dish, and perhaps that is why it is

so popular. The chef has a huge amount of creative freedom, especially in terms of additional seasonings. For example, some recipes opt for a milder cilantro whereas others will incorporate a hot chili powder or sauce. Others call for using feta cheese in place of cotija or queso fresco. Because there is no single recipe, the origin of street corn is unknown. However, it has become such a fixture that no one cares where it came from; they just sit back and enjoy its fatty, cheesy and yet surprisingly fresh taste.

Elote

Esquites

4 ears corn on the cob 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 2 tablespoons cream 3 tablespoons melted cheddar cheese 1 tablespoon red chili powder 2 tablespoons lime juice

3 cups corn kernels (about 4 ears) 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 2 tablespoons butter 3 ounces queso fresco or cotija cheese, finely crumbled 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime) ½ cup cilantro, chopped 1 jalapeño, diced

Grill the corn still on the cob. If you don’t have access to a grill, char them in an oven at 450° or using your broiler. Mix all other ingredients together in a small bowl until blended. Serve grilled corn on a plate with sauce drizzled over top.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn and cook until lightly browned. Mix the corn with the cheese, mayonnaise, jalapeño and lime juice. Add salt to taste, top with cilantro and serve.


BY ANTÍA VÁZQUEZ

M

éxico posee una tradición gastronómica milenaria, cuyos orígenes se remontan a la época prehispánica de Mesoamérica y que fue enriqueciéndose durante los siglos consiguientes. Hoy en día la UNESCO reconoce a la gastronomía Mexicana como Patrimonio Cultural Intangible de la Humanidad, de manera que la posiciona como una de las más reconocidas a nivel mundial. Desde mole oaxaqueño a chiles rellenos, y desde los tradicionales tacos a chilaquiles, la variedad de colores y sabores que se combina en la cocina mexicana es inigualable. Actualmente un boom gastronómico, liderado por chefs como Enrique Olvera y Mikel Alonso, está reinventando la cocina tradicional y promoviendo al país como un centro de creación culinaria. Pese a la dificultad de encontrar un único platillo “Tradicional” mexicano, las siguientes recetas abarcan una porción importante de la antigua tradición gastronómica.

Chiles en Nogada

En 1821, el ejército Trigarante entró triunfante a la ciudad de México tras haber firmado el acta de independencia del imperio Español. Al saber que el reconocido militar Agustín de Iturbide estaría en Puebla durante su cumpleaños, Las monjas del Convento de Santa Mónica decidieron preparar un platillo nuevo que combinara el verde, blanco y rojo de la bandera Mexicana para halagar al célebre personaje. Fue así que se originaron los Chiles en Nogada: un laborioso platillo de Chiles verdes rellenos de un picadillo de carne y frutas, cubierto con una salsa de nueces de Castilla y finalmente coronados con granada. Este colorido platillo requiere unas 10 horas

PHOTOS BY GOMIAN KONNEH

de preparación, especialmente por la complejidad de la salsa, y se come exclusivamente durante los meses de Agosto y Septiembre por la estacionalidad de sus insumos.

Tacos

Tacos al pastor, tacos de bistec, tacos dorados, tacos de cochinita pibil… Los tacos son, por excelencia, el platillo más reconocido de la gastronomía mexicana a nivel mundial. Desde las regiones norteñas de las Barrancas del cobre hasta las costas del caribeñas y la región chiapaneca, los tacos son parte de la dieta básica de las familias Mexicanas y consisten principalmente de una tortilla, ya sea de harina o de maíz, con algún relleno de proteína con una preparación tradicional. Cabe mencionar que los burritos, de tortilla crujiente y sólida, son una reinterpretación Americana de los tacos mexicanos. Por ello, la siguiente receta de tacos de Alambre proporciona una muy auténtica versión de tacos Mexicanos.

Mole Poblano

El Mole es uno de los platillos más complejos y laboriosos de la gastronomía mexicana y su creación se le atribuye a los Aztecas en la época precolombina. Se dice que una preparación de mole autentica requiere mas de 100 ingredientes, incluyendo especias como el clavo y la canela, distintos chiles como el chile ancho, chile pasilla y chipotle, una miríada de frutas y verduras, chocolate y alguna proteína, comúnmente pollo o pavo. Suele comerse durante ocasiones especiales o con motivos celebrativos pues su preparación es tremendamente complejo y se suele hacer en porciones muy generosas.

Mexican Gastronomy

STYLED BY BRIAN ROGERS

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exico has an ancient culinary tradition, one whose origins can be traced back to pre-Hispanic times in Mesoamerica and one that has been been steadily enriched in the centuries since. Today UNESCO recognizes Mexican gastronomy as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, which positions it as one of the most recognized cuisines worldwide. From Oaxacan mole to chiles rellenos, and from traditional tacos to chilaquiles, the variety of colors and flavors combined in Mexican cuisine is unmatched. Nowadays a gastronomic boom led by chefs like Enrique Olvera and Mikel Alonso is reinventing traditional fare in Mexico and promoting the country as a center of culinary creation. Despite the difficulty of finding a single “traditional” Mexican dish, the following recipes cover a significant portion of ancient culinary customs.

Chiles in Nogada

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Gastronomía Mexicana

In 1821, the Trigarante Army triumphantly entered Mexico City after signing the declaration of independence that freed the country from Spanish rule. Knowing that the renowned military leader Agustin de Iturbide would be in the city of Puebla for his birthday, the nuns of the Convent of Santa Monica decided to prepare a new dish that combined the green, white and red of the Mexican flag to flatter this famous character. This gave birth to the Chiles in Nogada (Chiles with Walnut sauce), a laborious dish of green chilies stuffed with mincemeat and fruit, covered with a walnut sauce and finally crowned with pomegranate. This colorful dish requires about 10 hours of preparation due to the complexity of the sauce and is

eaten only during the months of August and September because of the seasonality of its ingredients.

Tacos

Tacos al pastor, bistec tacos, tacos dorados, chochinita pibil tacos… Tacos, the Mexican dish par excellence, are perhaps the country’s most widely recognized recipe internationally. From the northern regions of the Copper Canyon to the shores of the Caribbean and the Chiapas region, tacos are a part of the staple diet of Mexican families and consist mainly of a tortilla, either flour or corn, and a traditionally prepared protein. It is noteworthy that burritos, prepared with crisp and solid tortillas are an American reinterpretation of the Mexican taco.

Mole Poblano

With a legacy dating back to the Aztecs in pre-Columbian times, Mexican mole is one of the most complex and laborious dishes of Mexican cuisine. It is said that the preparation of authentic mole requires more than 100 ingredients, including spices like cloves and cinnamon; chiles such as chile ancho, chipotle and chile pasilla; a myriad of fruits and vegetables; as well as chocolate and a protein such as chicken or turkey. Usually eaten for special occasions or celebratory reasons, its preparation is extremely complex and is normally served in incredibly generous portions.

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Chiles in Nogada Makes 8 Nogada 1 ½ cups walnuts, skin removed ½ cup pecans ½ cup blanched almonds 1 cup farmer’s cheese 1 cup sour cream 3 cans evaporated milk Meat 4 apples, grated and chopped 5 peaches, chopped in squares

1 ½ cups raisins 2 candied citrons, chopped 2 tomatoes, diced ½ cup pecans 2 pounds pork tenderloin 1 white onion, chopped 8 Cuaresmeño Peppers Over low heat, fry the onion with olive oil until slightly softened. Add the tomato, cook until soft, and salt to taste. Then add the

apples and peaches and cook until soft. Add the raisins and finally the candied citrons. In another pan, cook the meat until tender and then transfer to fruit and vegetable mixture. If it seems dry, add some of the meat broth. For the nogada, mix together the evaporated milk, the walnuts, the almonds, and finally the pecans.

After blended, add the sour cream and mix in a bowl. Cut tops off roasted peppers and remove all seeds. Stuff peppers with the meat, fruit, and vegetable mixture, cover with nogada and serve with pomegranate seeds.


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Alambre Tacos Makes 12 8 strips of bacon 1 white onion, chopped 2 pounds pork or chicken, cut into squares or strips 2 red bell peppers, chopped 2 yellow bell peppers, chopped 2 green bell peppers, chopped 1 cup cheese, shredded Fry the bacon in a mediumsized skillet, add onion and cook until slightly softened. Add the pork and sauté. Add the peppers and stir until meat is cooked through and peppers have softened. Finally, add the cheese and mix so that everything sticks together. Serve with soft tortillas.

Mole Poblano Makes 15 servings 8 dried guajillo chiles, wiped clean, seeds and veins removed, and seeds reserved 5 dried ancho chiles, wiped clean, seeds and veins removed, and seeds reserved 6 dried pasilla chiles, wiped clean, seeds and veins removed, and seeds reserved 4 Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters 6 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut into quarters 1 medium onion, halved 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled 5 tablespoons shortening 10 whole black peppercorns 3 whole cloves 1 (3-inch) stick Mexican canela or cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds 1/2 teaspoon whole anise seeds 2 teaspoons black raisins 20 whole almonds, blanched 2 ounces pumpkin seeds 1/2 cup sesame seeds 2 stale corn tortillas 2 cups chicken broth 3 stale baguettes, cut into 1-inch slices 1 tablespoon canola oil

8 ounces Mexican chocolate, chopped Kosher salt Up to 1/2 cup of sugar In a cast-iron skillet over high heat, dry-roast the chiles, flipping occasionally, until they start to blister. Transfer the chiles to a bowl of hot water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain the chiles, reserve the water, and then transfer the chiles to a blender. Blend until smooth, adding the reserved water as needed. Push the purée through a mesh sieve and set aside. In a cast-iron skillet over moderate heat, dry-roast the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and garlic. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel the tomatoes and

the garlic. In a small skillet, over moderately low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the shortening. Add the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and anise seeds and toast until fragrant. Remove from the heat. Using the remaining 4 tablespoons of shortening, fry the raisins until they plump and change color. Remove with a slotted spoon. Continue the frying process with the almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, tortillas, bread, and reserved chile seeds, adding more lard if needed. In a blender or food processor, purée the roasted vegetables, spices, and fried ingredients in

small batches, adding water as needed, to form a smooth purée. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside. In a Dutch oven over moderate heat, heat the canola oil until hot but not smoking. Fry the chile purée, stirring constantly, about 8 minutes. Add the reserved vegetable and spice mixture. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mole thickens, about 1 hour. Add about 2 cups of chicken broth and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the chocolate and cook for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and sugar. adapted from http://www.epicurious. com/recipes/food/reviews/mole-poblano-51110440

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Pairs well with a dry sparkling cider


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A Surprise in Each Bite Share Rosca De Reyes this holiday season

BY JIE GUO

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA SEYMOUR

Strongly influenced by Christianity, the Mexican holiday season is extensive, with celebrations stretching out from mid-December to January 6th. While some of us start to wind down the festivities after Christmas Eve, those celebrating in Mexico continue with Día de Reyes, or Day of the Kings, on January 6th to celebrate the arrival of three Wise Men. It’s quite like a continuation of Christmas Eve since this is also the day when children traditionally receive presents attributed to the Three Wise Men after leaving their shoes, filled with hay and dried grass, outside for the Three Men’s animals. Beyond the fun the children have, there is also one dish that comes to symbolize the day—the easily recognizable Rosca de Reyes. Rosca de Reyes, or King’s Ring, is a wreath-shaped pastry that has a soft, fluffy texture with fun decorations using figs, lemons, cherries, mangos, and other dried and candied fruits. To those unfamiliar with the cake, it looks very similar to a Mardi Gras king cake due to its size and wreath shape. Rosca de Reyes is a social dish, made to be larger than a foot across, so that it can be shared among many members of a party. Apart from its physical appearance, the most unique aspect of the cake is the item baked inside. The most common trinket to place inside the batter of the cake is a small figurine of baby Jesus, although another variation in place of the figurine is an unbaked bean. The hiding of the figurine inside the cake and its discovery symbolize the flight of the Holy Family and the blessing of the birth of baby Jesus. The figurine is not edible, so each slice of the cake can often be a surprise. The lucky person to receive the slice with the item inside it has to hold a feast for everyone else, the most common one being a tamale party. While the cake can have a religious undertone, it reinforces multiple concepts of the holidays that are universal across cultures such as sharing and spending time among friends and families. It’s the epitome of social food, one in which the phrase “the more, the merrier” really does apply.

surface and knead until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl large enough to accommodate dough when doubled in size. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size. Meanwhile, prepare the dried fruit filling. In a small bowl, combine the dried fruit with remaining filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.

Rosca De Reyes Makes 1 Dough 1 ¼ ounce packet active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons) ¼ cup warm water (about 110°) ¾ cup warm milk (about 110°) 3 tablespoons sugar ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 1 ½ teaspoons salt 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons lemon zest 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided 1 bean, to hide Filling ½ cup dried cranberries ¼ cup of chopped figs 1/4 cup maraschino cherries 8 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature 1/3 cup all-purpose flour ½ cup blanched almonds, finely chopped 3 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon orange zest 1 teaspoon almond extract ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg Eggnog Glaze 1 cup powdered sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla extract Pinch freshly grated nutmeg 4-6 teaspoons eggnog In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and allow it to foam up for two minutes. Blend in the milk, sugar, butter, salt, eggs and lemon zest. Gradually stir in two cups of the flour. Beat for 2 minutes. Add and mix in remaining flour until you have soft, workable, and sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured

When dough has risen and doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, kneading just enough to release any air bubbles. Roll out the dough into a 9- by 30-inch rectangle. Crumble the filling over the dough, leaving a one inch border near the edges. Starting along a long side, tightly roll up the dough. Transfer the log to a lightly floured baking tray and place in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from freezer, and with a sharp knife, cut roll in half lengthwise. Carefully turn cut sides up, and loosely twist each half around each other. Nestle bean inside the folds. Carefully transfer the twisted bread to a greased and floured baking sheet and shape into a wreath, pinching ends together to seal. Let it rise, uncovered, in a warm place until puffy, about 45 minutes. Decorate top of bread with maraschino cherries. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake proofed wreath until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes, covering the wreath loosely with foil after the first 15 minutes, as it will brown quickly. While wreath is baking, prepare eggnog glaze. Combine sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg. Stir in enough eggnog to reach drizzling consistency. When wreath is done, transfer to a wire rack. Cool for 15 minutes, then drizzle the glaze and grate a little bit of fresh nutmeg over the icing.

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We sat down with Tom McCusker, founder of our beloved Honest Tom’s, to play the famed game Two Truths and a Lie. Spot the lie and see if Tom’s as honest as you think:

1. I just got engaged 2. I live with my three brothers 3. My favorite food is pizza All three are true. Honest Tom McCusker truly doesn’t tell a lie.

From pineapple chunks to sliced jicama, from potato chips to corn, I’ve topped just about any snack you can think of with a combination of four uniquely Mexican ingredients: lime, chile piquín (a spice made from hot chili peppers), Salsa Valentina (a brand of hot sauce) and Chamoy (a tangy, savory sauce made from pickled fruit). These four flavors not only transform food, but also defined my childhood. I moved to Florida from Mexico in 2002, long before Amazon could fulfill all of my dietary desires. The only way to obtain chile piquín, Salsa Valentina, and Chamoy was to have visitors from Mexico bring the ingredients with them to the States. With each arrival of family or friends, my siblings and I would take turns drenching our food in the Mexican seasonings. And then we’d be left thirsty from salt overload. This sweet and spicy dish is an innovative, sophisticated take on the condiment concoctions I used to devour as a kid.

BY VALERIA DUBOVOY PHOTO BY LEAH SPRAGUE

Makes 2 servings 1 cucumber Chamoy to taste Chile piquín to taste 1 bag of cacahuates japoneses Salsa Valentina to taste 1 lime Peel the cucumber. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the inside of each half, leaving the bottom intact, to form cucumber “cups.” Line the rim of the cucumber cups with Chamoy (no definite amount, use as much or as little as desired). Sprinkle as much chile piquín along the Chamoy­-lined rim as desired. Fill the cucumber cups to the top with cacahuates japoneses and pour Salsa Valentina on top. Squeeze lime juice over the cucumber cup.


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