Highlights from this season include:
Super-Hero Sandwich – Join Rick on a hunt for the perfect snacks as he visits Mexico City street stalls selling everything from tacos and snacks to colorful wrestling masks and capes. Along the way, we discover the history of this uniquely Mexican blend of acrobatics, myth and morality play.
It’s A Shore Thing – Wading through the surf at Guyabitos, a charming fishing village on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Rick sets off in search of the ultimate catch-the Mexican seafood dish that captures everything that’s perfect and irresistible about a day at the beach.
Quest For Fire – Deep in the Mexican countryside, Rick pulls over for a sizzling roadside snack: chicken grilled on an improvised oil-drum barbecue. Then he brings the idea home with a recipe for Roadside Whole Chicken with Knob Onions on his own backyard barbecue.
Welcome to Tequila – Tequila has come around from “lick the salt and suck the lime” firewater to a chic drink of connoisseurs and hipsters alike. What exactly is the quintessential Mexican spirit, and what makes one tequila so-so and another sublime? Rick takes us straight to the source-where the first families of tequila still brew the stuff from the slow-roasted heart of the blue agave plant.
Fusion Revolution – Mexican cooking might be called the original fusion cuisine. Of all the dishes in the Mexican repertoire, mole is doubtless the ultimate example of fusion food, born of a baroque melding of influences from nuns and native women who mixed old and new world ingredients to create a sauce of dazzling complexity.
Mexico Unplugged – When Rick wants to get away from the frantic pace of life in the restaurant world, he heads South. It’s a search that takes him from a mountaintop in the jungle to a mellow natural products store in a quiet corner of Mexico City and a traditional spa and sweat-lodge where curanderos practice ancient healing arts.
Wading through the surf at Guayabitos, a charming fishing village on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Rick sets off in search of the ultimate catch—the Mexican seafood dish that captures everything that’s perfect and irresistible about a day at the beach. For starters, he checks out what’s shaking at a thatch-roofed laguna-side restaurant not far from Puerto Vallarta, where the “specialty of the hut” is Pescado Zarandeado, “Shaken Fish,” seasoned with a sweet-spicy red chile marinade, flame-seared and flipped over hot coals in a special grilling basket. At home in Chicago, Rick shows us how to recreate this dramatic dish on a backyard barbecue. Then it’s back to Mexico City, to check out the cooler side of seafood at the sleek, modern Manzanilla restaurant, where a lively young couple from Baja California serves up a series of refreshing raw seafood specialties with the Zen-like simplicity of a cutting-edge sashimi bar. In the kitchen of his own Frontera Grill, Rick gives pointers on the seafood “laws of raw,” from judging freshness to serving ideas. It’s all about getting as close to the source as you can. And with that in mind, Rick buys some fish right off a boat at Guayabitos, and then shows us how to make a bright, fresh Ceviche Salad—a weeknight main dish that’s ready in minutes. The quest ends right where it began, back on the shore, where Rick discovers what might just be the ultimate beach food: juicy just-caught shrimp, grilled with a little lime juice on—of all things—a bicycle!
Standing amid the excavated layers of ancient civilizations in the Templo Mayor, right in the heart of modern Mexico City, Rick points out that Mexican cooking has always been a product of diverse cultural influences layered one on top of another. It might even be called the original fusion cuisine. And at the cloister of Sor Juana, now a university with a cooking school in Mexico City, Rick points out that of all the dishes in the Mexican repertoire, mole is doubtless the ultimate example of fusion food, born of a baroque melding of influences from nuns and native women who mixed old and new world ingredients to create a sauce of dazzling complexity. In his home kitchen, Rick prepares a less baroque version, Apricot-Pinenut Mole, served with turkey breast. Then it’s back to Mexico for a look at where fusion fever has taken the cuisine today, with Asian influences ranging from sushi in the Guadalajara market to MP restaurant in Mexico City, where the in-crowd feast on Asian-fusion small plates that reinvent classic Mexican antojitos, with ingredients like wonton wrappers and soy sauce. Back at home, he reinvents one of these fanciful dishes, Seared Duck with Asian Flavors for Making Soft Tacos, a cross between a classic taco filling and Peking Duck. And finally, he takes us way off the fusion radar screen to a tiny stand in the village of Pitillal, where two culinary traditions, burritos (which, we discover, are a North American invention) and grilled shrimp, come together to create a fabulous fusion snack, known only to locals. Who says fusion has to be highfalutin’?
Rick can’t resist the kind of well-seasoned, simple food grilled over a live fire—the stuff he’s enjoyed at thousands of markets, kitchens and restaurants all over Mexico, where cooking comes down to the simple combination of fresh ingredients and flickering flames. Deep in the Mexican countryside, he pulls over for a sizzling roadside snack—chicken grilled on an improvised oil-drum barbecue; then he shows us how to bring the idea home with a recipe for Roadside Whole Chicken with Knob Onions grilled on his backyard barbecue. At bustling El Farolito in Mexico City, Rick gives us the lowdown on another Mexican fire-cooked favorite: Tacos al Pastor—succulent pork, grilled “gyros-style” on a vertical spit with pineapple. And that gets his appetite working for easy Chorizo, Potato and Mushroom Tacos made in his outdoor kitchen in Chicago. Then it’s a visit to the mother church of meat and fire, El Canelo, an over-the top outdoor restaurant in Guadalajara built around a giant fire-pit, where pork, lamb, and other succulent meats are slow-roasted on spears around a crackling fire and every meal is a fiesta with dancers and live mariachi music. Inspired by all this heat and meat, Rick shares his technique for making Carne Asada, marinated beef, on his backyard grill.
With more than 20 million people, and a dazzlingly rich cultural and culinary history, Mexico City is like its own planet—and these days, it’s a younger, hipper planet than ever. Rick takes us on a dawn-to-dusk insider’s tour that separates the hip from the hype, sharing some of the city’s quirkiest, most happening hotspots, starting with an early morning cappuccino and Enfrijoladas (creamy bean-sauced tortillas) at an organic market and café in ultra-cool Condesa, the “SoHo of Mexico City,” and shows how to replicate this soulful breakfast in his home kitchen. Then it’s back to Condesa with daughter Lanie for a stroll and shopping spree that yields all kinds of uniquely Mexican urban-chic treasures. For lunch, Rick settles in at a table at Pujol, the renowned leader of the city’s cutting-edge culinary scene, discovering a spectacular parade of dishes that recreate traditional Mexican foods in stunningly artful presentations. He then takes us to La Bella Italia, an eighty-year old ice cream shop that’s now a retro-chic neighborhood hangout—and the visit inspires him to make an easy Jamaica Ice at home. Surveying the city at sunset from the rooftop bar of a hot new hotel, Rick muses on the unique combination of old and new that defines everything he loves about the “Capital of Hip.”
Tequila has come around—from “lick the salt and suck the lime” firewater, to chic drink of connoisseurs and hipsters alike. What exactly is this quintessential Mexican spirit, and what makes one tequila so-so and another sublime. Rick’s on a mission to find out, and he takes us straight to the source, to the town of Tequila in Jalisco, where the first families of tequila still brew the stuff the old-fashioned way, from the slow-roasted heart of the blue agaveplant. It’s a crash course in tequila that takes us through every step, from the fields to the historic Herradura family hacienda, where the beautiful copper-clad stills of the original tequila works can still be seen alongside a state-of-the-art production facility. Along the way, we stop for tacos and a lesson in tequila drinking at a local restaurant, and Rick shows us another side of tequila—it’s great for cooking, too. Back in Chicago, he shares his recipe forTequila-Infused Queso Fundido, a classic warm cheese dip that’s Mexico’s answer to fondue, and Crêpes with Tequila-Infused Cajeta (goat milk caramel), a rich “adult” dessert. It all adds up to one tasty conclusion: A good tequila is right up there with brandy—a national treasure that’s literally and figuratively the spirit of Mexico.
When Rick wants to get away from the frantic pace of life in the restaurant world, he heads South. In this episode, he sets out to find the kind of ultimate serenity he’s always sought out in his favorite “secret gardens” of Mexico. It’s a search that takes him from a mountaintop in the jungle to a mellow natural products store in a quite corner of Mexico City and a traditional temescal—a spa and sweat-lodge where curanderos practice ancient healing arts. In his own secret garden in Chicago, Rick shows us how to prepare a soothingChamomile Tea. Then, in Mexico City’s beautiful San Juan market, he checks out some of the fresh vegetables that are the cornerstones of healthy, Mexican comfort food, and back at home, he shows us how to turn them into a creamy Mushroom–Potato Soup with Roasted Poblanos. Finally, he heads for a secluded Mexican beach to pepare fresh fish Tikin Xicseasoned with a Yucatecan achiote rub and grilled on an open fire, right on the beach. What could be closer to nirvana? Only one thing—a final highwire thrill ride that sends Rick flying across a ravine under a dense jungle canopy.
Rick and his daughter, Lanie, check out Mexico’s real-life super-hero subculture. It’s the surreal, splashy world of Lucha Libre—the beloved masked wrestling phenomenon that captures the Mexican imagination and spills over into every part of the culture, from politics to food. We join Rick on a hunt for the perfect snacks to eat while watching Lucha Libre with friends, as he visits street stalls outside a Mexico City arena that sell everything from tacos and snacks to colorful wrestling masks and capes—and along the way, we discover the history of this uniquely Mexican blend of acrobatics, myth, mystery and morality play. At the colorful Sport Torta sandwich shop, Rick takes on El Sumo—a giant, no-holds-barred sandwich. Back at home, he and Lanie make Chilied Peanuts and Pumpkinseeds and Rick’s soon-to-be-famous Torta for a Crowd, his take on the giant sandwich idea—two bold-flavored snacks that are the perfect larger-than-life accompaniments for a Lucha Libre party at home.
Sure, there are great male chefs in Mexico. But women are the true mothers of this cuisine. From market cafes to hip new white-tablecloth restaurants, the cuisine of Mexico comes from a rich tradition of hearth, home and women’s hands. Starting at the Cloister of Sor Juana, the great 17th-Century Mexican poet, feminist and culinarian, Rick sets out on a treasure hunt, in search of Mexico’s great women chefs. There’s his old friend, the revered Carmen Ramirez Degollado, herself a national culinary treasure, who is one of the great “keepers of the flame” of traditional Mexican cooking. She joins Rick and his daughter, Lanie, to make Shrimp Stew with Epazote at her famed El Bajio restaurant. After a stop at Chef Monica Patiño’s MP Restaurant, Rick hits the other end of the spectrum, with a visit to Solange Muris at the muy moderno Manzanilla restaurant across town, to chat about wine, women, and the new world of Mexican cuisine. Back at home, Rick and his favorite female chef, Lanie, whip up a fast family dinner: Seared Salmon with Spinach and Creamy Roasted Peppers and a surprise dessert: Mango Upside Down Skillet Cake.
Chilling out in Puerto Vallarta, the jewel of the Mexican Riviera, Rick gets thinking, not surprisingly, about food. Can he find the kind of authentic, mind-blowing, soulful Mexican food he loves even in a tourist Mecca like this? Rising to the challenge, he embarks on an all-day eating fest that turns into an invaluable insider’s guide to “eating local,” with tips on how to find the real thing amid the glitzy pretenders. The quest takes him from marketfondas to a tiny tamaleria tucked away on a side street, inspiring him, along the way make two Mexican comfort-food classics, Guajillo Chilaquiles and Bistec a la Mexicana. Then he’s off to the sleepy, working-class suburb of Pitillal for a locals-only treat: succulent shrimp burgers. And of course, there has to be a “nightcap”—an after-hours stop at Taqueria El Carboncito, where the “PV” locals head for succulent pork tacos al pastor. It all adds up to a fast-paced slow-food banquet that’s right there for the feasting—if you know where to look.
We find Rick somewhere in the jungles of Mexico, pondering the great questions of the ancient world—like, “what was for breakfast?” Back in Chicago, he whips up a plate ofHuevos Motuleños—Eggs Motul-Style, a heady, layered “short-stack” of Mexican breakfast favorites piled on a tortilla, including fried eggs, chorizo, cheese, peas, beans, plantains, cilantro and salsa. But instead of digging in, he decides to dig down a few layers, like a culinary archaeologist, and investigate just how Mexican—and just how ancient—these beloved ingredients are. That investigation takes him to a dairy stall in Mexico City’s cosmopolitan San Juan Market, a down-and-dirty pulqueria (a bar that serves pulque, a locally brewed “agave beer”), La Tequila restaurant (where we get a lesson in the ancient art of making salsa in a lava mortar called a molcajete), and a market stall that sells, among other delicacies of antiquity, edible bugs. Working his way down to progressively more ancient foods, Rick ends up showing us how to make homemade Corn Tortillas, the pre-Columbian “breakfast of the ages.” It’s all surprisingly inter-connected, and it all comes together in an edible history of the Old and New World cultural influences that make Mexican cuisine so deliciously complex.
Over a beautiful plate of food in the kitchen of his white-tablecloth restaurant, Topolobambo, Rick muses on the idea of culinary muses. His creative inspirations are as diverse as the culture and cuisine of Mexico—ranging from leading-edge chefs to home cooks and market vendors. To show us what he means, he invites us to join him for a wildly inventive meal at Pujol, one of Mexico City’s most exciting restaurants, where Chef Enrique Olvera turns traditional ideas inside out to create whimsical, world-class takes on the flavors of Mexico. From there, we pay a visit to one of Rick’s favorite inspirations, a market vendor in Guadalajara who, for decades, has specialized in one perfect thing: birria—goat braised in a rich chile rub. Back in the Topolobampo kitchens, Rick riffs on that classic dish of west-central Mexico in Birria (Slow-Braised Lamb) Topolobampo-Style. Finally, a visit to a waterfront seafood restaurant outside Puerto Vallarta inspires him to invent Oysters Nuevo Vallarta back at his restaurant—another window into the creative process that has made Rick one of the world’s leading re-interpreters of Mexican cooking.
In Mexico, salsa is neither a dip nor an afterthought. It’s an integral part of eating. “The more you know about salsa,” Rick tells us, while snacking in a countryside restaurant near Guadalajara, “the better you’ll understand Mexican cooking.” And with that, he embarks on a journey into to the soul of salsa, packed with all kinds of helpful tips and techniques that prove a tasty point: salsas can really cook! He shows us how simple it is to make a classic raw-tomato Salsa Mexicana, and a roasted-tomato Molcajete Salsa, taking time out for a gardening lesson on “growing your own” salsa ingredients before turning the roasted salsa into an easy Mexican Red Rice. After a quick “Tomatillo 101” in a Mexican market stall he concocts a smoky Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa, which becomes the base for Shrimp Sautéed in Smoky Tomatillo Salsa. And finally, he shows us a versatile “avocado salsa,”—Guacamole Three Ways—that can go from simple to luxurious depending on the whim of the cook.
Rick heads for Jalisco, the place where mariachi music originated, to investigate the history and mystery of this “national soundtrack” of Mexico—and to answer the question, “what’s the perfect food to go with mariachi music?” At a stall in the Guadalajara market, he checks out all kinds of mouthwatering snack-food specialties, settling on a beautiful tostada as a band of mariachis strolls by playing their anthem “Guadalajara.” Back in his Chicago kitchen, he shows us his take on Tostadas, then it’s back to Mexico where his search for the roots of mariachi takes him to a beautiful 19th-Century hacienda. At a colorful restaurant in Tlaquepaque, he enjoys a soft cheese in green sauce speciality—Panela en Salsa Verde, which he shows us how to make at home. And finally, he brings us to the epicenter of mariachi mania, Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City, where Mariachis gather by the hundreds, all day and all night, to meet, greet, compete, and serenade the world.