Thursday, October 16, 2014

Inside Empellón Cocina: Raw Blue Foot Mushrooms

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Raw Blue Foot Mushrooms, Puffed Amaranth, Pickled Shiitakes, Savory Arroz Con Leche
Oftentimes we like to take pastry preparations and use them to make savory dishes. In this case, we had a desire to adapt arroz con leche into a chilled salad. Taking unlikely inspiration from a childhood favorite of casserole made with cream of mushroom soup, our technique is mindful of risotto while paralleling a pastry chef’s proclivity for building new forms and structures. We begin by taking short grain rice and cooking it with sweated shallots. Instead of the white wine often used in risotto recipes, we add mezcal and then cook the contents in a mushroom broth before finishing with a healthy dose of whipped cream and a few drops of fish sauce. The latter ingredient’s umami flavor is particularly synergistic with the raw seasonal fungus like blue foots, matsutakes, porcinis, and shittakes.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Push Project V: The Art Of Masa with Rick Bayless

“I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I read Rick Bayless’ books daily before opening Empellón. Whenever I got down about sthe perception challenges associated with Mexican cuisine in a city as cosmopolitan as New York, I drew inspiration from his work and the adversity he must’ve faced opening Frontera Grill nearly thirty years ago. Instead of opening forty more of them all over the world, which he undeniably could have done, he grew within the same building, refusing to compromise the integrity and soul of Mexican cooking. I hold Rick Bayless as a personal role model.” 
-Alex Stupak
 
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Started in 2013, the Push Project series of collaborative dinner events have brought some of North America’s best chefs—Grant Achatz, Chris Cosentino, Jordan Kahn, and Enrique Olvera—to cook memorable and inventive multiple course meals alongside Alex Stupak at Empellón Cocina.
 
For the fifth installment, themed “The Art Of Masa,” we’re honored to have Rick Bayless, the chef and restaurateur behind Chicago’s Frontera Grill and Toplobampo. A six-time James Beard Award winner, Emmy-nominated television host, and New York Timesbestselling cookbook author, he’s been a tireless pioneer in sharing Mexican cooking with America through multiple mediums. Type the name of any Mexican dish into Google and rest assured Bayless already has a recipe and a video about it. 
 
For Push Project V: The Art Of Masa, Chefs Bayless and Stupak will unite for an eight-course dinner on Thursday, November 13th at Empellón Cocina (105 1st Avenue between 6th & 7th St). Reservations for this one-night-only event are $175 per person, inclusive of food and beverage (taxes and gratuity not included). Seatings before and after 8:00PM are now available and limited to parties of 2, 4 and 6.
 
To request your table, please fill out the form here. Please note that space is limited and no inquiry is secured until the reservations department contacts you to confirm your time and a credit card form is submitted for pre-payment. 
Reservation inquiries for this event are now closed.
Monday, October 13, 2014

Empellón Al Pastor sets out to redefine Mexican food in NYC

“We treat the taco with a high level of respect,” Stupak says. “Tacos are like sushi—best when eaten the moment you get them.”

Stupak also applies that elevated thinking to micheladas: Ten riffs on the tomato-tinged standard were created by fellow toques Andy Ricker (naam jim kai, nori salt), Wylie Dufresne (freeze-dried corn, ponzu) and Andrew Zimmern (tequila, beef bouillon).

Read more at Time Out New York.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Currently Drinking: Nuestra Soledad

Made from 100% espadín agave, this mezcal is produced in Oaxaca by the same people behind the El Jolgorio line. Bottled at 46.4% alcohol (92.8 proof), Nuestra Soledad is relatively new to the New York market and serves as a relatively affordable choice for those who crave their agave with some backbone.  

The smell of young pineapple complements the dry tropical fruit of its strong flavor profile. While not overpowering, it packs enough punch to cut through sweeter ingredients and really shows well in cocktails that incorporate citrus, lighter amaros, and apéritifs. Served neat, it stands up well to braised meats like lamb barbacoa. We currently stock this at Empellón Al Pastor and Empellón Cocina.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Inside Empellón Cocina: Sliced Mango

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Sliced Mango, Arbol Chile, Chile Powder, Lime

Anywhere you walk in Mexico, you’ll find vendors selling fresh cut fruit. Some present their wares with a particular flair or sense of style, peeling and styling them to resemble flowers or affixing them attractively atop sticks. Without fail, it’s seasoned with salt, lime juice, chile powder, and salsa, as if unfinished without those other elements. We’ve even seen Mexican children put hot sauce on gummy worms, as if weaned on the simultaneous mix of sweet, spicy, and acidic. Creatively, we liked the idea of serving a plate of fruit as an appetizer, a light starter to begin a meal. Ripe mangos are sliced thinly, folded, then unraveled to resemble a floral design. These “petals” are then seasoned with a little bit of chile powder salsa de arbol, salt, lime juice, and puffs of lime foam. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Inside Empellón Cocina: Squid

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Squid, Chilmole, Nugget Potatoes, Sour Orange Mayonnaise

Like many of the dishes at Empellón Cocina, this one comes as a result of mind mapping. Consider Spain’s tremendous influence on Mexican cooking. In addition to language, Spaniards bear responsibility for bringing over indigenous pigs, without which the country wouldn’t have had lard, let alone pork. Capers, olive oil, and other ingredients associated with Mexican cooking also originated in Europe. Untraditional, but still highly logical, our squid dish draws from this transcontinental transfer. The deep blackness of our chilmole preparation is a nod to the tapas bar mainstay of squid served in its own ink. Similarly, you’d be hard pressed not to find mayonnaise in many Spanish dishes, so we flavor ours with sour orange, the “lime of the Yucatán.” The squid is sauteed and served in a fish broth made with the chilmole.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Currently Drinking: Mezcal Unión Uno

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An ensemble made from two types of agave—espadín and cirial—this Oaxacan mezcal is bottled at 80 proof, quite approachable compared to overproof options on the shelf. On the nose, it offers very bright vegetation, while on the palate there’s a little bit of honey, pineapple, and canela. Not particularly smoky not boasting much heat, it is a nice option for the previously unindoctrinated who want to drink it neat.

In cocktails, Mezcal Unión proves rather versatile. There are a lot of different layers to it, playing well with fruity and more vegetal style ingredients. Try it with citrus, celery or anything herbal. At Empellón Cocina, we presently feature this in the Pink Is The New Green cocktail, which also employs green chartreuse, Campari, and verjus.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Inside Empellón Cocina: Lamb Tartare

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Lamb Tartare, Avocado Leaf Oil, Pasilla Oaxqueña, Guaje Seeds

One of the basic 101-level creative principles, reversal is a useful way to interpret a familiar dish into a new one. Take something savory, for example, and make it sweet. In this particular case, we translate something typically served hot—lamb barbacoa—into something cold. In Oaxaca, the meat rubbed in red chiles, steamed and smoked underground for hours. The lamb is bathed in a consomme before it goes on a tortilla topped with cilantro, onion, guaje seeds, sliced cucumber, and smoky salsa borracha made with mescal and pasilla chiles. For our dish, we mince the lamb, flavor it with red chiles. Then, we dress the tartare in oil flavored with avocado leaf and smoky pasilla chiles before plating with cilantro sprouts, minced onion, and guaje seeds, keeping the flavors and soul of the barbacoa intact.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Currently Drinking: Fidencio Clásico

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The most commonly cultivated agave for use in mezcal production, espadín gets its name from the Spanish word espada, or sword, akin to the appearance of the plant’s leaves. Made from estate-grown organic agave as opposed to wild varieties, this mezcal has a flavor profile all its own. By not being exceedingly high in proof (44% ABV), the natural sugars are brought out and contribute to a good mouthfeel. It is also not overly smoky—though one might notice subtle differences from numbered batch to numbered batch—and makes for a good introduction for someone who has yet to try mezcal.

We find Fidencio Clásico well suited for cocktail usage, as it brings out the flavor of the agave plant in a nice way that doesn’t overpower the other elements of a mixed drink. We use it in our Mezcal Margarita at all of our restaurants, as well as in Empellón Cocina’s Mezcal Mai Tai.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Road to Al Pastor: An Exercise Against Futility

Consuming some 40 tacos al pastor daily, we embarked on a three-day death march involving dozens of taquerias across Mexico City. In spite of our decidedly singular mission, variety abounded. At some places, the rotating trompo spit was between 20 and 30 pounds, but other locations boasted ones as big as 250 or 500 pounds. We found tacos al pastor served with pineapple and without. Some taqueros rubbed the pork in a bright orange adobo, while others forwent that gilding. Onions were presented raw at some places, while elsewhere they were salvaged from the lard-laden bottom of the trompo.

Read more at First We Feast.