Wordless Wednesday: Taco de cecina

I ate this incredible taco de cecina last week at La Lagartija Taquería here in Chicago, our favorite changarro. With a homemade tortilla, a light smear of frijoles and a perfectly salted cut of cecina, I was in taco heaven. I topped it with cebolla, cilantro and a drizzle of salsa roja. It’s not on the everyday menu (it was off the daily specials list), but it most definitely should be! If you haven’t had cecina before, it’s a salted and partially dried thin cut of beef (kind of like how some steak houses serve dry-aged steaks).

  • What’s the best taco you’ve eaten recently? We want details!

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Benito Juárez!

Feliz cumpleaños to one of Mexico’s most famous presidents, Benito Juárez, who was born on this day in 1806. This monument pictured above, gifted to the city of Chicago in 1977 by Mexican president José López Portillo, stands along Michigan Avenue in the Plaza of the Americas next door to the Wrigley Building and across the street from the Chicago Tribune.

Often regarded as Mexico’s greatest and most-loved leader, Juárez died of a heart attack in 1872. If you need to brush up on your Mexican history, read about Benito Juárez and what he did for the Mexican people both before and during his presidency. You might also be surprised to know that he spent a short time living in New Orleans from 1853-1854. Juárez came from a Zapotec family in Oaxaca and served in a variety of political positions during his career. Today, there are numerous monuments and locations dedicated or named in his honor. In Mexico City, the international airport is just one of many, many locations named after Juárez.

Check out some additional photos and details about the Chicago monument on the Public Art in Chicago blog.

  • Do you know of a monument or location dedicated to Benito Juárez? Leave a comment with where it’s located!

Nacimientos: The tradition of the nativity scene

La Navidad has come and gone but Día de Los Reyes is only a few days away and I realized that we’ve never talked about nacimientos, or nativity scenes, here before! And every nativity scene has Los Reyes Magos, the three kings who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus on the Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas.

Displaying a nativity scene at home is a storied tradition in Mexico, but nacimientos actually originated in Italy, thanks to Saint Francis of Assisi.

Here are two nacimientos belonging to our family. The figurines on the left are made from hojas de maiz, or corn husks, and belong to my suegra; the one on the right is made of wood with clay figurines and belongs to our Tía Leda.

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Cooking Combat at the Kenmore Live Studio: Chilaquiles

Back in November, I did a cooking show with a live studio audience at the Kenmore Live Studio in Chicago. It was so much fun, I can’t wait to do another! For those who may have missed the show in person or couldn’t watch the live stream online, Kenmore was kind enough to put the show on YouTube so I could share with all of you.

¡Buen provecho!

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Mexique: Celebrating Mexican Cuisine with a French Twist

A few weeks ago I attended a dinner given by the Mexico Tourism Board and Chef Carlos Gaytan at his restaurant, Mexique, in honor of the recent UNESCO designation of Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Tourism Board over the last several weeks has hosted authentic Mexican dinners in a number of major North American cities to celebrate, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Miami, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, so I was thrilled to receive the invitation.

Did you know that French recipes and cooking techniques during the French occupation of Mexico in the 1860s became an important element in the evolution of modern Mexican gastronomy?

Gaytan’s concept behind Mexique is modern Mexican food with French influence. Hailing from Huitzuco, Guerrero, Gaytan’s love of food helped him rise from pantry cook to executive chef. He trained with French chef Dominique Tougne of Bistro 110 (Gold Coast) and has also spent time in the kitchens at Bistrot Margo (Old Town) and the Union League Club (Loop), all in Chicago. If you live in Chicago or are visiting, I highly recommend you visit Mexique for a meal.

One thing that left an impression on me at the dinner was when Carlos explained why he doesn’t serve mixed drinks in his restaurant: they take away from the palate and so instead, he serves wine and tequila. And God bless him for telling everyone in the dining room that tequila should be sipped. Someone at a table near me chimed in that “only heathens drink tequila shooters,” which caused an eruption of laughter at my table.

And I can’t end without showing you what we ate. It was a lovely four-course tasting meal with excellent wines and ended with tequila. I can’t wait to return to Mexique for another meal!

PRIMERO: Ceviche

Ahi tuna, avocado mousse, chipotle aioli, mango habanero galette… 

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¿Verde de envidia?

This weekend I’ll be off galavanting around Cuernavaca to visit friends with my suegra, but so as not to leave you too verde de envidia (especially if I end up eating at El Faisán before returning to Mexico City on Sunday), I thought I’d give you a few events going on in a few of my favorite U.S. cities that will make you feel like you’re in Mexico – at least for a few hours.

If you know anything about Mexican music from the 1980s, then you know the Mexico City guacarrock band, Botellita de Jerez. True story: we played the Botellita de Jerez song “Abuelita de Batman” at our wedding in Mexico and it was a hit with all our guests! For a blast from the past, watch the music video of the song below.

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Now, there’s a film, “basada en hechos más o menos reales” as they say about the true story of Botellita de Jerez, and it’s called “Naco es Chido.” I’ve been dying to see the film but haven’t had the opportunity to view it yet because I was out of town when it screened in Chicago this summer during the Hola México Film Festival. Botellita de Jerez will be in San Diego and Los Angeles this weekend, with a special screening of the film in Los Angeles followed by a performance by the band…. 

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