By Michele Kayal
The Associated Press
Rick Bayless has spent three decades teasing out the secrets of Mexican cooking, from street stall grub to high-end restaurant fare. Now the Chicago restaurateur captures the essence of a grand Mexican party in Fiesta at Ricks.
This sixth cookbook by Bayless turns classics upside down while actually enhancing their authenticity, with more than 150 recipes that will guide you from a pre-dinner drinks party to a paella extravaganza for the whole neighborhood.
Thought you knew guacamole? Think again. Bayless serves up a half-dozen recipes for the iconic dip that incorporate items like smoky bacon, toasted pumpkin seeds or subtly sweet mango purée.
Margaritas are freshened with blood orange or cucumber, and gussied up with champagne for the perfect brunch cocktail. Little tips for instance, skip the salted rim and shake your sodium directly into the drink make you look like a fiesta master. And soft drinks made from puckery tamarind, fresh watermelon or rice and almonds bring Mexico to your backyard.
In chapters arranged by type of dish for instance, nibbles or tapas, or street food Bayless takes home cooks from basic lime-and-onion ceviche to red chile tuna tartare, from butterflied whole fish marinated in chiles, garlic and soy sauce to a tequila-spiked paella for 30.
And who knew that potato salad that staple of the American summer picnic could be reinvented with beef, avocado and smoky chipotles?
Bayless espouses fresh ingredients and painstaking techniques, but aspiring chefs with more dreams than time will appreciate his concession to daily realities with substitutions like frozen tamarind for fresh, and recipes such as easy mole, made in the slow-cooker.
Full-blown fiesta menus end each chapter, offering step-by-step plans for a party, including the luxury guacamole bar that helped Bayless win the first season of Top Chef Masters. Theres even a playlist, that unfortunate development in cookbook publishing that requires chefs to divulge what music they (or their public relations people) think goes best with their food.