Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
Lots of activity in our rooftop garden these days! We’re harvesting tomatoes and gearing up to harvest much more in the coming days, including various chiles, chard, hoja santa, epazote and more. Thanks again to Josh Arnold for his tireless efforts…
Above: The rooftop in full swing.
Above: Amelie lends a hand with tomato picking.
Below: Poblano chiles nearly ready to pick.
Friday, August 1st, 2014
Many of us who live in the East Bay have stepped outside in the morning to find wild turkeys hanging out in our front yard. Turkeys are native to North America, not only were they an important food source for the Native American tribes, but also for the indigenous peoples of Mexico. While many consider chicken mole to be a quintessential Mexican dish, the truth is, chickens did not exist in Mexico until introduced by the Spanish after the conquest. In Oaxaca, for thousands of years, “guajolote” or wild turkey, was the traditional protein to be served with mole negro, and it continues to be served today as special dish on festive occasions such as Christmas.
I have always felt that turkey is an under-appreciated meat in American restaurant culture. Other than our yearly Thanksgiving dinner, it rarely is served other than as a sandwich filling. Perhaps it is because it is a larger bird, many chefs find it difficult to create a dish that is appropriately proportional for an individual diner, but with a menu that emphasizes sharing with our “platos fuertes” section, I saw a perfect opportunity to get turkey on the menu. My thought process was to both keep things traditionally Mexican by serving our roasted turkey with a trio of our moles, while accompanying the main dish with a Mexican spin on a traditionally American vegetable: collard greens, braised with bacon, habanero chiles and lime. Of course, as do all of our “platos fuertes”, it also comes with rice, black beans and tortillas.
It has been really fun to see this dish that germinated from a simple idea develop a cult following among our guests, earning a regular spot in our daily rotating menu. I just hope that the plump Tom that was giving me the evil eye this morning from my front lawn isn’t plotting his revenge.
Monday, July 21st, 2014
A question popped in my head as I watched Rene make the al pastor marinade in the prep kitchen one day. Could one make a cocktail using virtually every ingredient used to my make favorite taco? Though it never occurred to me previously, it did made sense: red chiles, orange, pineapple, smoke, agave. It took a few weeks to divide the components in a way that made sense for a drink. Guajillo is infused into a syrup with cinnamon, bay leaf, allspice and clove. I wanted a caramelized flavor component so Rene & I took a gamble: we infused Matusalem rum with carmelized onion and it worked – sweet/nutty/burnt.
The last 2 pieces of the puzzle came from familiar sources. The last time that Scott Baird was in for dinner, I pitched my idea but needed a liquor component. Scott suggested a spicy liqueur like Ancho Reyes, which made sense as the drink needed more back end heat and some roundness through the mid. So we made an ancho liqueur with agave-steeped orange peels and the same spices in the syrup to act like a spicy curaçao for balance/depth.
And I was on the Perfect Purée website looking for papaya to use in something else when I saw they had just released caramelized pineapple & tangerine/mandarin purées, which provided our fruit components.
Still contemplating salted piña chunks and escabeche garnishes, but for now it’s lime wheel, radish and guajillo dust.
Monday, June 30th, 2014
Due to its subtropical climate, much of the produce of Oaxaca is available year round. However, here in Northern California many of the vegetables that are associated with Oaxacan cooking are available during our summer season. It is now that the local markets are exploding with a wide variety of summer squash, and to celebrate, we at Comal are debuting a new seasonal tlayuda with black bean puree, queso Oaxaca, and grilled Summer squash with their blossoms.
Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
Spicy Watermelon Salad
Green Beans with Pepita-Chile Arbol Salsa