Channeling Bayless

I am a huge Bayless fan. But let’s put things in perspective here. Emily & Jenn are ginormous fans. If Emily isn’t waxing poetic about Smitten Kitchen, she’s doing it about Bayless. And Jenn, I mean, just look at one of her recent Bayless concoctions! The two of them even started a ‘Bayless Fest’ where they get together and cook Bayless-inspired dishes. I, regretably, am not that hardcore, although I could probably eat at Xoco every single day with no other food in the world and die a happy girl.

You wouldn’t know I wasn’t hardcore by this picture, wouldya? It’s practically like Rick and I are BFF, right? But honestly, this was taken during Xoco’s opening night, as we went following our last class in culinary school. We used that specific reason as an excuse to allow him to get his picture made with us :). I’m sure it was one of many photos he was part of that day, but despite his possible annoyance, he smiled, introduced himself (as if that were needed), congratulated us, and was super genuine. Meanwhile, I was sweating like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and trying my damndest to contain myself.

I will admit though, that I haven’t been to Topolobampo, despite trying. Maybe it isn’t as hard as getting a reservation at Schwa, but you do have to allow plenty of advance planning; one week simply will not do. And if you’re thinking going sans reservation, plan on waiting 2-3 hours. Both reasons are how we ended up at Xoco a few weeks ago and at Epic during Cheryl & Luke’s visit, not that I’m complaining or anything – both were scrumptious, just not my first choice.

And so, in light of my unsatiable Bayless hankering, I took matters into my own hands and pulled Mexican Everyday from my cookbook stash atop my refrigerator.

Mexican Everyday is a great weeknight go-to, and is loaded with quick, fairly easy recipes. This one, however, is better for a weekend, but even easier than the weeknight recipes. It’s just that you gotta break out the slow cooker for the afternoon, which is a bit difficult if you’re a full-time worker, like yours truly. But you dump the stuff in, and you move away. You come back, hours later, to an ultra-tender, perfectly balanced one pot wonder.

Chicken a la Veracruzana
Adapted from Mexican Everyday; serves 6

this is a great dish to make over the weekend because it makes the whole house smell like Bayless. as you can see, i used olives in the pictures (as per the recipe), but i should know better, since i hate them. I’d leave them out b/c it makes the dish too salty. instead, add a little extra parsley and maybe a squeeze of lime juice, if you want.

printable version

4 medium red-skin potatoes cut into slices (~1.5 lbs)
6 whole chicken legs, skinless (I left on)
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, fire-roasted, cut into small chunks
4-6 pickled jalapenos, cut into strips
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t dried thyme
1/8 t g cloves
1/4 t g cinnamon
salt to taste
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley + more for garnish

special equipment: slow cooker

spread potatoes over bottom of slow cooker and top with chicken.

in a medium bowl, toss together the tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, Worcestershire, and spices. Pour oven chicken. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours; keep warm until ready to serve.

transfer chicken to platter (it will literally fall off the bone, so be careful). mix in parsley and adjust seasonings. spoon over chicken and garnish with more parsley.

Short Ribs for My Shorty

curried short ribs
I think it’s time to really admit it. Summer is over. It’s hard, letting go of my favorite season in Chicago. But this year, it’s been even more difficult because in the midwest at least, we were sort of jipped, robbed, of our summer. Unseasonably cool, rainy, and sad intermixed with a few gorgeous, sunny, and sometimes blistering hot days. Now that I think about it in that way, I’m suddenly having an easier time saying goodbye. Goodbye lackluster summer, hello lovely fall.

If I still lived down South, I’d be beyond excited right about now. Fall is definitely the best season down that way – the summers are brutal and fall means that you can finally turn the air conditioning from level 4 to level 2 in the car. You can buy ice cream again without it melting in the grocery bag before you get home. And you can stop expecting to receive a chinese fan or battery-powered wind maker as your gift at the outdoor weddings.

searing short ribs

And although I do love my Chicago summers, I am still a mighty big fan of the fall. Sure, I love watching the leaves change color – who doesn’t? I also like that people start to wear more clothes because, let’s be honest, those gypsy sandals and short skirts really aren’t that cool, right? And what’s with those shirts that hang off of one shoulder? Wasn’t that only cool when Debbie Gibson was making music?

Aside from all that though, you know what else I really love about the fall? Warm, comforting, satisfying food. Soup, roasted butternut squash, chili, and all things slow cooker.

slow cooker

It’s not that you can’t use those slow cookers in the summer. In fact, I think I made this dish back in June when I had a crazy craving for short ribs – I couldn’t help myself when I saw the coconut milk and red curry paste, as we all know I love those Asian flavors. Slow cooker recipes are ultra convenient – turn that puppy on and come home to short ribs that literally fall off the bone when you pick them up (if they haven’t already) and a rich sauce full of all those scrumptious flavors of ginger, fish sauce, and the already-mentioned coconut milk and curry. Or if you’re like me, use it on the weekend when you’re home during the day so you can also smell the goodness all day long!

But please, don’t just dump that sauce on top of your short ribs, unless you are dying for extra cholesterol points. Please people, drain the fat…

drain the fat

Then dump that lovely sauce all over those short ribs and rice. I know you’ll be excited by this point, but don’t forget the final touches of lime zest and juice – they brighten up the flavors like you wouldn’t believe.

Curried Beef Short Ribs
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2009; serves 6

2 t canola oil
2 lbs beef short ribs, trimmed
1 1/2 t kosher salt, divided
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/3 c minced shallots
3 T minced garlic
3 T minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 c water
2 T red curry paste
1/4 c light coconut milk
1 T sugar
1 T fish sauce
1 t grated lime rind
1 T fresh lime juice
4 c hot cooked basmati rice

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle ribs with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add half of ribs to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place ribs in slow cooker. Repeat procedure with remaining ribs.
Add shallots, garlic, and ginger to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup water and curry paste; cook 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk, sugar, and fish sauce. Add coconut milk mixture to cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 6 hours.

Remove ribs from cooker; keep warm. Strain cooking liquid through a colander over a bowl; discard solids. Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour cooking liquid into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into a small bowl, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Stir in remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, rind, and juice. Shred rib meat with 2 forks; discard bones. Serve sauce over ribs and rice.