Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks by Rick Bayless |

Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks by Rick Bayless

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With Cinco de Mayo coming up this weekend, what better time to take a look at the latest cookbook from Rick Bayless: Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks.

That’s right, the better part of 250 pages on mostly just those two dishes. If it seems odd that the man responsible for introducing the most obscure and authentic Mexican cuisine to those north of the border in his books, television shows and at his restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, would devote an entire book to the two most familiar Mexican menu items, well that wasn't his original plan. "I was thinking about the 25th anniversary of Frontera" he explained on a recent visit to New York City where he prepared some dishes and drinks from the book. "And when I would ask people what recipes from the restaurant they were most interested in, invariably they would say guacamole and margaritas." Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks. began as a chapter in his next book, but once his draft reached 200 pages, his publisher pointed out that 200 pages was a very long chapter. The man takes his stuff seriously, so instead of cutting down the info to fit nicely and neatly into the larger book, they published this as a book of its own.

"I'm interested in providing things that home cooks can do, rather than saying here is this masterful thing that we do in the restaurant" Bayless explained as he muddled ginger and kaffir lime leaves before adding blanco tequila to the cocktail shaker "The lime is really aromatic and the ginger syrup balances the blanco" before giving it all a 15 second shake. "The shake is important" he emphasized. "When you shake a margarita the way I describe, not just back and forth a few times and the pour it out, what you are doing is not just chilling it, you chip off little bits of the ice and create a drink that's got this wonderful frothiness." He then poured the margarita mix into a flute and topped it with cava, for a festive and seasonal Sparkling Ginger Margarita.
Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks is set up as basically two master classes — one for margaritas and the other for guacamoles. He talks ingredients, proportions, techniques and textures. He has definite advice on lime juice — squeeze your own and it won't develop the underlying bitterness found in commercially bought juice — and how best to squeeze: "If I use an electric or manual cone-shaped juicer or a handheld reamer, I get beautiful, light-tasting juice" he explains. "If I use a Mexican lime squeezer (my favorite), I crush the skin while squeezing out the juice, allowing some of the aromatic oils to mix in — translating into more complex, flavorful juice."

He starts with the perfect margarita recipe and then goes on to create 34 other variations from the familiar strawberry margarita or more esoteric absinthe-mezcal margarita, all the while explaining the thought process behind the flavor combinations and the explaining the proportions that make them work, so that you will be able to go on and create your own seasonal cocktails. For each recipe he also provides the bartender recipe for a single drink and the pitcher recipe for a party.
For the master class in Guacamole, Bayless explains avocado choices, and characteristics, techniques, and how to keep your guacamole from turning brown. Do not coat the top with lime juice, he implores. It only works very briefly and leaves you with terrible tasting dip. Also leaving the pit in the bowl just manages to annoy everyone without solving the problem. The only thing that can at all keep guacamole from getting dark is cold. He begins with the great basic guacamole — avocados, garlic, chiles, onions and herbs — before moving onto season variations like a sweet and savory apple-fennel guacamole, a sweet and spicy strawberry-habanero guacamole, a lush indulgent brown butter with porcini and crab guacamole and a wintery version studded with toasted walnuts and pomegranate.

Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks, with it's thoughtful prose and explanations, a clear concise recipes is a great kitchen companion, for Cinco de Mayo, or anyday.


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