the beginning of March and I have the winter blahs, in no small part
because of the February we just went through. The only things that
perk me up at this time of year are the announcement of this year's
Frontera Farmer Foundation grant recipients (we got 34 grant
applications) and the annual Housewares show. This year's recipients
will be announced later this month and we'll post it on our web site.
the Housewares Show. It's like letting a kid loose in a candy
store. I know it's time to preview all the new gadgets when for
the past few months, every time I go into a kitchen store, I realized
that I've already bought and tried everything new and I'm forced to walk
out empty handed. So, for three days next week, I'll be scouring
McCormick Place to find this year's best gadgets and/or cookware. I
gladly accept this quest in the name of all my fellow INMAGIDHTTs (I
never met a gadget I didn't have to try).
In other news, Rick has just posted
four new travel logs
in the travel section of the web site. His newest journals are
from Baja, Oaxaca, Merida and the Yucatan, and his winter trip to Paris,
London and Copenhagen.
Frontera is up and running in Terminal One at O'Hare, near Gate 10 and
we about 3 months away from opening another one in Terminal Three.
And last, but not least,
is now serving caldos at both lunch and dinner. One of the
recipes I'm posting this month is my adaptation of the short rib caldo.
Photo by Paul Elledge
Meet Our Team: Richard James - Part One
our Executive Sous Chef and Chef de Cuisine in Frontera has be working
here for 17 years. He started as the grill cook, went to Sous Chef
of the Frontera line, then managing Sous Chef in charge of service for
both Frontera and Topolo, then Chef de Cuisine in Frontera, and finally
his current position of Executive Sous Chef.
What's your process for developing a new menu?
very tied to the season, both in terms of ingredients and the pace of
service. In the winter, I put the Frontera classics and staff
favorites on the menu. They work well with the season and are more
challenging to execute and take more time to prepare. The types
of dishes we're not able to run during the summer months because it
would slow down service too much. My favorite time of year,
in terms of the menu, would have to be summer. Then I can take
advantage of all the incredible produce from our local farmers.
What's your inspiration for creating a new dish?
take the following factors into consideration: Seasonal, local,
balancing flavors and textures and then tying that all back into
authentic Mexican cuisine. Once the dish is done, I need to design
how the dish will be plated. I want my food to be delicious, but I
also want our customers get that first impression and be enticed by the
way the dish looks and smells. I like to see the smiles on our
customers' faces when the server sets down their plates.
What's your favorite dish from the menu?
Gorditas. Normally gorditas are filled with red meat and a red
chile base. I wanted to go in a different direction and use duck
with pickley elements. I loved the dish and it was very popular
while it was on the menu.
What's the favorite part of your job?
it's different everyday and that people rely on me both in the kitchen
and the front of the house. It's not without its
challenges. It can be hard to stay focused on what I'm trying to
accomplish. There are days when I set up my station and at the
end of the day, I've never even touched my knife.
What was your most memorable restaurant meal?
Bulli. It was executed flawlessly from beginning to end.
Not only was the food amazing, but to be able to share it with people
who could talk about each course, share their impressions, figure out
the inspiration for each dish, made for an unforgettable evening.
was a gift from Richard. He fell in love with it and knew that
I'd love it too. It's the Progressive silicone mesh splatter
screen. It's got a reinforced metal frame that does double duty,
it keeps the screen from bending and the feet keep it and the mess off
your counter. The splatter screen is rated for temperatures up to
600 degrees. It's easy to clean with soap and water, or if you
prefer, it's dishwasher safe on the top rack. There are two sizes
to choose from a 13-inch and a 9-inch. You'll find the splatter screen
Recipes from Deb's Test Kitchen
Here's the last of my winter comfort food recipes for this year. My version of the XOCO
Short Rib Caldo
using a slow cooker is a great main course soup. A simple green
salad and a good loaf of bread is all you need to finish off a
Coconut Cupcakes with Passion Fruit Buttercream
was created to make use of two of the fruits that are available this
time of year. I wanted something fun, that was packed with
tropical flavors, something that reminded me of warmer places.
This recipe delivers that and so much more.
Finally, here's another one dish meal,
Braised Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Plantains.
The dish is not only cooked in a banana leaf, but also served that
way. I like the wow factor, plus the incredible flavor that
cooking in banana leaves brings to a dish.
is just a preview of some of the things we're planning for this year's
benefit. The date of this year's benefit is Sunday, June 12th,
so mark your calendars. We planning another on-line auction since
the one last year was so successful. We also planning a recipe
contest to find two recipes that Rick can demo at the event. I'll
announce the details in next month's newsletter.
See you next month.
Test Kitchen Director/Web Site Culinary Director
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