Rick Bayless and Tom Douglas
On Thursday I was invited to attend a luncheon hosted by Negra Modelo featuring Rick Bayless cooking with and pairing their beer with food. You are probably familiar with Rick from his Chicago restaurants; his cooking show, Mexico – One Plate at a Time; his cookbooks; the Frontera line of foods; or even his foundation. I follow and am a fan of Rick’s so I happily accepted the invitation.
He’s generally known as the American expert on creating authentic Mexican fare. In fact, he’s been awarded the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, an award that honors foreigners for their contributions to Mexico and its people. I learned a couple of new things about Rick at this event. He started visiting Mexico when he was 14, loved the place and returned annually throughout his school years. At some point he began cooking with locals to learn traditional Mexican techniques and flavors. He still returns to the country at least once a year, studying different regions each trip. In fact, every summer he takes a group of his staff (this year it was about 35 people) with him so they can also experience the flavors and techniques of Mexico.
Rick was in town to promote Negra Modelo as an ingredient and kickoff a national Chef Challenge encouraging recipes that complement Negra Modelo, or maybe that should read, are complemented by Negra Modelo.
Since this is Seattle, on Thursday Rick shared the stage with Tom Douglas, who has his own line of restaurants; a radio program; cookbooks; products and tools; and actively supports Food Lifeline, as well as other local causes.
Each of the chefs made a signature dish for us and TDoug’s team provided several other menu items for our lunch.
The constant banter between Tom and his friend and sidekick Thierry Rautureau (the Chef in the Hat), who emceed, made this enjoyable event even more fun. Tom and Thierry are the Seattle version of Anthony Bourdain and Eric Rippert. One classically trained to create beautiful palate pleasers, the other using experience and intuition to gain kitchen cred. Successful in their own ways, yet recognizing the value of the other’s. They approach nearly every situation with their own unique perspective and continually give each other a bad time about just about everything. Add Rick Bayless to the mix and you have an entertaining hour of banter and debate.
Rick approached his recipe with his typical use of authentic Mexican techniques to build a dish with flavors both enhanced by the Negra Modelo included in the recipe and targeted to pair with the caramel flavors of the beer in our glasses. He created Pulled Pork Tacos with Roasted Tomatoes and Dark Beer. Tom added a Northwest twist to a Mexican-style Black Bean and Ham-hock Soup presented with Dungeness Crab and Avocado-Tomatilla Salsa. In this case the beer added a richness to the soup and again was a great drink with the dish.
Rick’s dish made me happy it was summer; Tom’s made me look forward to the fall. Both were delicious, as were all the other dishes we munched on during the presentation. The outcome? Those of us in attendance won big time! But really, how can you go wrong with those two guys cooking?
The Negra Modelo people would be happy to know I have a renewed interest in cooking with beer. Much of that is due to the caramel flavor of their beer. It would be delicious as a braise for beef or lamb, as well as the pork Rick served. And I really loved it in Tom’s soup, which has me thinking about the flavor it could bring to things like lentils or even risotto. We’re getting close to Oktoberfest when I often cook sausage in beer before grilling it. More potential!
Following are small versions of both Rick’s and Tom’s recipes. Click on the image and it will take you to a larger page you can actually read and print. More photos of the event are here.