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Dec 4, 2013
December 04, 2013 by CARL BLACKBIRD
At the Latin Flavors Symposium in San Antonio I listened to a young chef from Peru, which is the land of ceviche. His heritage is also Japanese and yes, he uses a Vitamix to make his ceviche, not to mention ingredients that go beyond the usual lime, seafood & chile mix . So, is the food he’s preparing authentic?
The question of authenticity came up over and over during the annual Latin Flavors, American Kitchens symposium at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus. The annual get-together, which draws celebrity and international chefs, top minds in the food industry across America and food writers, heavily discussed whether it was authentic to make tacos using truffles, a mole with hazelnuts, a flan that mixed the corn fungus huitlacoche and leeks or mango mojito shrimp with a kale topping?
The question went beyond the usual fusion topic - to the issue of whether these creations were authentic representations of the countries they’re associated with.
It seemed that the answers varied from presenter to presenter. A southwestern food pioneer, Mark Miller (a wealth of knowledge) explained in a wrap-up on the first day that for some, authenticity means using the simplest methods in preparation. For others it seemed that it meant the lack of mechanism or mass production of the food - little is processed and everything is fresh.
Celebrity chef Rick Bayless of Chicago felt his best idea of authenticity has really evolved over time. Early in his career, it meant a look back at the traditions that formed the base of his cooking. Later in life he learned that his food “shouldn’t look backwards only, but take the wisdom of the past” and allowed it to evolve into cuisine that his customers want. Now he believes that authenticity is simply food that rings true to him.
Getting back to the Peruvian chef, Diego Oka (with a Japanese background), he said “In Peru, we eat more salty, more spicy,” so, both had to be cut down for sweet-loving American diners. To do that, he boils his aji amarillos, (a small spicy chile) -the heart of Peruvian cuisine, three times! - to cut down on the heat.
But his Cebiche Cremoso would work perfectly for American tastes, especially those in a hotter climate such as San Antonio’s. “When you think of ceviche, you think of the beach and the sun,” he said.
When you look at this very different looking cebiche, he seems to have captured that in the sun-colored sauce that’s spread over the dish that also features scallops. Yes, lime juice is used, including in a traditional leche de tigre, which Oka said was the “base of all ceviches.”
People don’t know much about Peru, Oka said, so staying true to the heart of the ceviche is important. “We show our culture through our food,” he said.
Leche de tigre:
Creamy scallops leche:
12 Alaskan scallops
For the leche de tigre: In a restaurant-style blender, such as a Vitamix, put the lime juice, fish stock, celery, habanero, garlic, fish and ice; blend it for 10 seconds. At the end, add the red onion and cilantro (if it's added at the beginning, it will turn the leche de tigre muddy, which is not desired), and the salt, to taste. Then strain and keep it cool.
For the creamy scallops leche: Put the scallops and ice in a blender on medium speed, the add the canola oil slowly; once it has a thick texture, add the aji amarillo and the rocoto paste. Season with salt and lime juice. Then slowly add the leche de tigre to the mix.
For the chalaca sauce: In a bowl, mix the red onion, tomato, habanero, cancha, choclo, green onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt.
To serve: In a serving bowl, place the scallops and top with the creamy scallops leche. Mix them and serve 2 or 3 pieces in a cold plate. Top with the chalaca sauce and finish with microgreens.
Note: Aji amarillo paste and other South American ingredients can be found at specialty supermarkets such as Whole Foods or Central Market
Makes 4-6 servings.
From Diego Oka/Latin Flavors, American Kitchens 2013
Nov 21, 2013
November 21, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
A big CONGRATULATIONS to Matthew Jarrett and Brett Ralston on their winning entry, "Fiery Cornbread Bites"! Matthew, Brett, their alternate Harold Jackson and teacher, Cheryl Munroe represent Encampment High School. Not only did Matthew and Brett win a $500 scholarship each, they will be invited back to Cheyenne to continue to develop their snack menu item with our Operations & Training, Marketing and R & D teams. The Fiery Cornbread bites may be tested in our Cheyenne restaurants in the future.
Runners up were Nate Dausman and Kenndrea Bazal from Cheyenne East High School for their "South West Roll Up" creation. Their alternate was Brittani Williams and teacher Maureen Eldridge. Nate and Kenndrea, as the runner up team, won a $250 scholarship each.
A big THANK YOU to all the teams and teachers on your creativity and hard work on all the menu items. A SUPER FANTASTIC time was had by all!
Filed under: Culinary Competition
Nov 19, 2013
November 19, 2013 by CURTIS LUND
2012 Culinary Competition Line up:
East High School Culinary Team
Worland High School Culinary Team
Riverton High School Culinary Team 1
Riverton High School Culinary Team 2
Encampment High School Culinary Team
Filed under: West-Mex Culinary Competition 2012
Nov 19, 2013
November 19, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
Tomorrow is a big day as it is our annual West-Mex® Culinary Competition! Fifty recipes from nine different Wyoming high schools were submitted and six finalists were picked to come to Cheyenne to compete in the competition. This year's theme is "snack foods," so the students had to create a menu item that would be considered a snack.
The six finalists are:
1. Matthew Jarrett/Brett Ralston - "Fiery Cornbread Bites" Encampment High School
2. Alexis Gray/Silas Cleveland - "Jalapeño Popper Stuffed Grilled Taco" Lander High School
3. Emily Miller/Jacob Bylow - "Pretzel Poppables" Cheyenne Triumph High School
4. Devin Fulton/Orrin Quinlan - "Quesadilicioso Bites" Glenrock High School
5. Mikayla Pinson/Jana Schumacher- "Rice Popper" Riverton High School
6. Nate Dausman/Kenndrea Bazal - "South West Roll Up" Cheyenne East High School
This is one of the most exciting events that we participate in - observing the students’ thoughts, preparation, teamwork and passion for their menu item is truly inspiring. At the end of the day, a winning team and runner-up will be announced, with scholarship money as the prize!
The competition will be streamed live from 9:00 am all day. The winner and runner up teams will be annouced at 4:30 pm. (Mountain Standard Time). Pick your favorite team and watch to see who will win!
To join the meeting:http://tacojohns.adobeconnect.com/westmex/
Nov 11, 2013
November 11, 2013 by BOB KARISNY
On my Mexico culinary trip, I was instructed by Chef Martha Ortiz Chapa, chef/owner of Dulce Patria in Mexico City. Chef Ortiz Chapa approaches her food in a very vibrant way. Her passion for Mexico and the culture of her country is expressed not only in the flavors of her food, but also in the way her dishes look and are named.
As she made her dishes, she would talk to us about how the Mexican culture is exciting and alive in all aspects of life, from music and fashion to the flavors of food and bright colors. Her menu offerings are designed to excite all of your senses in the vibrancy only Mexico can deliver. She taught us several recipes, but instead of telling us ingredients and methods of preparation for each dish, she painted a mental picture that continued to grow until it rewarded your senses and your mind. A simple dish like guacamole became "Nationalistic Guacamole with Requesón and Pomegranate". Designed to honor Mexico, the dish (see picture below) carries the colors of the Mexican flag (red, white and green). The tortilla garnish is designed to mimic the Mayan Ring of Life, the chile pepper symbolizes the spicy nature of the Mexican soul, and the dark stone dish and blue corn tortillas are the earth and foundation from which they came.
While at Taco John’s we may not take our menu items to this level of expression, this lesson is an important reminder that Mexican food comes from a very bold, vibrant, exciting culture. And even if the food is not served so beautifully, it should still carry that sensory excitement to the guest. As I considered this, I thought of our new Santa Fe Bowls: the contrast of the white rice and the black beans, the rich red of our Chipotle or Chile de Arbol Salsas and the roasted yellow of our Roasted Corn Salsa, the flecks of fresh cilantro, yellow cheese, white sour cream – that is an inviting and exciting dish that expresses the characteristics of Mexico. I am sure Chef Martha Ortiz Chapa does not have to worry about Taco John’s stealing her business, but I am sure glad I had the chance to learn from her and remember that Mexican food is much more than food; it is a representation of a very alive culture.
I have included some more pictures of dishes from Chef Ortiz Chapa’s class so you can see the thought she puts into every menu item she makes. You can also find a variety of pictures of her food by searching “Dulce Patria” in Google and checking out images.
Oct 23, 2013
October 23, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
I recently had a birthday and now my four-year-old granddaughter says, "Grandma, you are really old!" Even if I AM “old,” I believe it is really important to continue to learn and grow. You may think that once you have a job and have been doing that job for a while, there is nothing left to learn. In the wonderful world of research, things learned last year may have changed by this year. It is important for us to keep up on the latest trends - what you, the guest wants - and to make sure we are conducting research in the easiest possible manner.
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar conducted by a leading marketing training company on designing effective questionnaires. One of the responsibilities I have is to build surveys. As technology continues to evolve, it is important to keep up with guests and their needs. It’s funny- neither my husband nor I have smartphones and are among the "ancient" people who still have flip phones. But in today's society, smartphones are the future; all three of my daughters have them and can't live without them. It is important to use this great resource to get people’s opinions more quickly by utilizing surveys on-line that can be easily accessed on mobile devices.
The seminar was in San Francisco, which is a great city to visit. There were twelve other students in attendance, from all different realms. Most of the students were from California, but there were people there from Arizona, New York, Kentucky and, of course, me from the big state of Wyoming.
I was the only "fast food restaurant" representative there, so needless to say I felt really "cool" because the way a menu item gets researched and developed was interesting to other students.
Not only did I learn a lot about building effective questionnaires but I also met some great people who, if I ever needed advice, I wouldn't hesitate to call for feedback. It is never too late to learn, not only from established teachers, but also from your peers.
Oct 10, 2013
October 10, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
We are often asked by you, our guests, “How do you come up with some of the menu items you have?” One of the avenues we take is an ideation session. We may have vendors come and build some new menu ideas for us; we may take menu ideas from current trends or get our ideas from Taco John’s franchise members. After we have the idea and Chef Carl develops a specific flavor profile (and after taste testing SO many flavors- have I mentioned how much I love my job recently?), it is time for an ideation session.
In the past, we’ve introduced these ideation menu ideas on-line, by providing a picture and a description of the menu item, then asking some key questions. We would have around 10–12 menu ideas, so you can imagine the survey was quite long. Here is just a small example of some of the menu items that were presented in the past:
This year, we decided to approach Ideation differently. Instead of doing on line surveys, we opted to introduce the new menu ideas to you, our guests, through focus groups with no more than five new menu ideas. Each participant tastes and scores each menu item, and then we have a discussion on the new menu ideas. What would participants like to see at Taco John’s? Do the menu items fit into Taco John’s brand? Is there a need for this type of menu item? Would visits increase if we had a specific menu idea available?
By putting the menu item in front of guests to taste, we obtain more realistic information that focuses on guests’ taste buds rather than just their idea of what the menu items are. Based on discussion and scores from the focus group, we determine which ideas we should pursue and take to the next step in the process: further development from Chef Carl to get them ready for in–store testing.
We plan on conducting a Breakfast ideation session in Cheyenne next week. More to follow...
Sep 30, 2013
September 30, 2013 by BOB KARISNY
Merced is a huge market with everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and fish. There are many different ingredients I have never seen before. A great thing about these trips is that the chefs encourage us to buy those things we have never seen and bring them to our classes where they will tell us what they are and how they are used.
Since Merced is so large and such a focal point of the city, it is much more than just a food market. You can find prepared food stands to buy all sorts of food to eat. There are multiple stages with live music and, yes, Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling). So you can make a full day of shopping, eating and entertainment.
The market is a full sensory experience of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. It's hard to put in words. I wanted to first share some pictures; in posts to come, I will tell you more about the market and what I like to shop for.
Sep 27, 2013
September 27, 2013 by BOB KARISNY
Our host and chef instructor Ricardo Munoz lives in and has multiple restaurants in Mexico City. While Chef Munoz has studied food all over Mexico, our focus on this trip is food from the Mexico City area.
One of the first things he told us is that green is the color of Mexico City food. When I first heard this, I was a bit concerned because green is not a color many people in the U.S. associate with Mexican food. Then, Chef Munoz started cooking with green ingredients like tomatillos (the green tomatoes in the paper-looking wrapper) and nopales (cactus paddles), plus limes, cilantro, avocado and green chilies (jalapenos, Serranos, Poblanos). I saw how great green Mexican food can taste.
Green ingredients can be tart and rich and blend very well with corn in tortillas or masa for tamales, gorditas and sopes. These foods also complement beef, pork and chicken well. In the pictures you can see the green salsa with a gordita and chilaquiles (a dish made using crisp tortilla chips served often at breakfast). We used it in enchiladas suizas (named for the Swiss who brought dairy to Mexico) and on tamales. After trying it in so many areas, I feel that with time the American palate will continue to better appreciate green Mexican food. It really is fresh and delicious.
Next week I'll share some of the things I saw at Mercado de la Merced. From pigs' heads to lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), it was an amazing place.
Sep 26, 2013
September 26, 2013 by BOB KARISNY
Previously I've said that, in Mexico, most things are eaten as a taco on a tortilla. While there's some truth to that, I may have exaggerated.
Gorditas are another delicious, handheld street food that are filled with many things. But this gordita is probably unlike anything you've seen in the U.S. First, masa (a dough made from corn and used in tortillas and tamales) is combined with a few more ingredients to make a rich but stiff dough. Next, a filling is made from a different type of chicharrone (more like chopped bacon instead of crispy skin), formed into a ball and enrobed in the masa dough. The ball is formed into a puck shape about a half-inch thick and three to four inches in circumference. This puck is slowly browned on a hot pan called a comal (see picture) and browned. After it cooks and is cooled, it's fried crisp and hot, then split to make a pocket. The pocket is filled with lots of delicious ingredients: salsas, cheese, etc.
Although the pocket shape makes it similar to a pita, it has no other similarity. The flavor is that of a crispy corn cake, and it's a great item to hold in your hand and just eat up. I'd love to see if we could make this for Taco John's because I think our guests would really love it!
Well, off to La Merced (we didn’t make it the other day), the largest market in Mexico and possibly all of Latin America according to some of the folks I am with. This is one of my favorite parts of the trip because there are so many great ingredients to see and buy. Plus, you can taste great food in little stalls all over the market. I should have lots to share with you from there.
Results 1-10 of 52