If you are ever in Chicago, I strongly recommend checking out Cruz Blanca by Rick Bayless. It’s his taco shop, and cerveceria. The tacos are good. The beer is good. It’s wonderful: http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/cerveceria-cruz-blanca/ I can also speak well of Fontera Grill and Xoco. Although I’ve never been to Leña Brava or Topolobampo, if you’re in town, try to get to any one of his restaurants. His food is amazing. There’s also Tortas Fontera in Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which is like Xoco. It is great in comparison to all other airport food, but it doesn’t have the same quality control as the real restaurants.
Ok, moving on: I attempted to make something like his Mushroom Tacos at Cruz Blanca at home. They’re not quite as good, don’t get me wrong, but they were still incredibly delicious. I like to serve them with a side of Mexican Rice to round out the meal.
MEXICAN BROWN RICE
First, get the rice cooking, as it will take the longest. Mexican rice is usually made with white rice, and John and I usually stick with white rice because it cooks so much faster, but I do love the texture of brown rice. It makes it so much more hearty, and even more comforting than it already is. (To be honest, we were out of white rice.)
- 1 Cup Brown (Or white) Rice (I used Long Grain Brown Rice, but anything will work)
- 2 Tablespoon Butter
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
- 1/2 of an Onion, diced
- 3 Cloves Garlic, diced
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1 Cup salsa, desired hotness (I either use quite spicy salsa, or just replace this with veggie broth and throw in Sriracha to taste)
- 2 Cups Veggie Broth (Note: if using white rice, use one cup of veggie broth here.)
Melt butter in a pot, and add rice. Toast until lightly brown(er). Add the onion and garlic, give a quick stir. Add the salt and cumin, and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Mix in the tomato paste and cook down for about a minute. Add the salsa and veggie broth. Simmer until the liquid is gone and rice is tender (about 20 minutes for white rice, closer to an hour for brown). Keep an eye on it. If the rice gets too dry but isn’t done cooking yet, add water or broth 1/4 cup at a time. Taste to make sure salt, spice and flavor are to your liking. Adjust if necessary. Sometimes I like to throw a can of green chiles in, but I didn’t think to pick it up at the grocery store this time. Another addition I sometimes like to make is a fresh poblano pepper, instead of a can of green chiles. I would chop it, and throw it in when I add the liquids.
In this picture, you can see the rice isn’t done cooking yet. The rice should be homogeneous in color, and soft when you taste it.
Rick Bayless’s mushrooms are on the menu as “Garlic Agave Portobellos.” I’m not exactly sure how one would work agave in, so I used white wine instead.
- 4 Large Portobello Mushrooms, sliced about 1/4″ thick
- 1 Stick of butter, divided in two (I had to cook these in two batches)
- As much Garlic as you like, I used 12-14 cloves, crushed with the side of a large knife (but still holding together)
- 1 1/2 Cups of Wine, divided
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan with a lid. Toss in half of the garlic and cook until fragrant. Pour in 3/4 cup of wine and cook down a little. Let the alcohol cook off, and the garlic flavor infuse. Toss in half of the mushrooms.
Sauté to coat and then cover for three to four minutes. This steaming process helps the mushrooms release their liquids and cook faster. Then sauté without the lid for an additional five minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season lightly with salt and pepper. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of this stage; I thought I had one. Taking pictures during cooking is new for me.
I poured these mushrooms into a little pot with a lid, and kept them on the back burner on Low heat. Then I did the process again to cook the rest of the mushrooms. If I had used a wok, I may have been able to do them all in one go. Again, pour the mushrooms and garlic into the pot with the other mushrooms to keep warm.
When I served these mushrooms, I did not initially set out garlic the cloves. However, the garlic cloves are quite delicious and could also be served. We ended up adding them to our later tacos.
- 2 Bunches of Young or Bulb Onions
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- Salt and Pepper to taste
I gave a quick wipe-down to the pan I cooked the mushrooms in to use to cook the onions. Cut the white and light green parts of the onion into 1″ to 1 1/2″ lengths, and cut down the middle. Heat the butter in the pan, and toss in the onion. Cook until wilted, and season with salt and pepper. Put on the back burner at low heat.
- 4 Banana Peppers (also known as Geuro and Hungarian Wax: they are a bit spicy. If you prefer a more mild pepper, try Anaheim)
- Open Flame of your Stove (If you have an electric, you can also accomplish this under the broiler of your oven)
I don’t know much about Hungarian Wax peppers. But mine was hotter than I expected. Not bad, but I had to use it more sparingly than I thought. My husbands was not as hot, and he really enjoyed the pepper.
I sprayed the peppers lightly with oil, and then cooked them, rotating often, over the flame of my stove. The flame is probably on medium heat. Once scorched, I placed them in a zip-lock bag so they could steam and finish cooking, for about 20 minutes. As you see here, I cooked two at a time.
If you have an electric stove, you can use a broiler instead. Coat the peppers lightly with oil and put them on a baking sheet. Place them under the broiler, and check on them often, rotating them. They will char where the pepper makes contact with the baking sheet first, about 5 to 7 minutes a side. Once charred, place in a zip-lock back to steam for 20 minutes.
I bought the corn tortillas. I heated 8 of them for 30 seconds a side in a dry pan, and wrapped them in a clean dish towel. This is the last thing that happens before eating.
Edit: I now like to heat up my tortillas directly over the flame, just a few seconds on each side, and I have purchased a tortilla warmer (because I do sometimes make my own tortillas) which helps keep everything nice and hot.
In this picture, I served up a platter for two, although most of the tortillas stayed in the towel to keep warm. For individual servings: Place one pepper on a plate, put a spoonful of the bulb onion down, and mushrooms (with or without the cloves of garlic–if I had it to do over again, I would serve with) over the top. Add a spoonful of Mexican rice on the side (I often like to crumble a little bit of cotija cheese on my rice), and keep warm tortillas nearby, and serve with salsa. We had both salsa verde and salsa roja that were freshly made at Tony’s. (The salsa roja is what I used to cook the Mexican Rice.)