While visiting friends in Phoenix, we had brunch at Chico Malo. For now, it is just the local Mexican/South American restaurant around the corner but keep an eye on this one. The Group that owns it is about to explode on the scene. Chico Malo literally means “bad boy” in Spanish. The menu is only good things but with a bad boy edge. The food was AMAZING!! Each item on the menu sounded better than the next. I loved that they aren’t trying to re-invent who they are with a whole new menu, for brunch. There are things like burritos and Chimichangas and in some cases, they turn those up.
Everything we ordered was great, but I can’t get my mind off the Nana Marcella’s Drunken French Toast. I’m going to do my best to duplicate. The presentation was so beautiful and the melding of flavors so incredible. The long pieces of baguette and caramelized bananas were stacked as if building a campfire. I learned from the menu that the bread had been soaked in a tres leches bath that not only enhanced the flavor but softened the tough crust to make it easy to cut with a fork. The 5-spice butter was the perfect balance of flavors to cut the fat in the butter while giving a blend of spices that danced all around my tongue, finally landing at the back with just a hint of heat. I had my idea of what the spices were but a quick visit with the General Manager confirmed allspice, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon.
These two hints gave me the start I needed to play mad scientist in the kitchen. I mixed eggs into the tres leches bath and I let the bread soak overnight. I did the same thing with the butter. I played around with amounts of each spice until I felt they all shined but the heat from the cinnamon was what you remembered. And so, I began. A couple of things I would be sure of before I started. When cutting your baguette, make sure your pieces will fit comfortably in the pan. You want them long but not so long that they fall apart when they are in the pan. Have everything you need to “build” the dish ready to go before you start cooking. This dish is better served hot, so don’t waste time getting everything together at the end. I noticed when I looked at the picture of the recipe again that there is a pool of tres leches under the toast then syrup. I ordered the Aged Rum Syrup and piloncillo from Amazon. You can probably get the piloncillo at a Latin market and make your own rum syrup by adding rum to maple syrup and reducing until the right thickness.
This dish was such a decadent start to the day. It was rich and the Mimosa I had helped to ease the richness. This is a great breakfast to share or even multiply for a breakfast buffet.
My family goes crazy for Mexican Street Corn. It is served all over the Southwest, usually as a full cob of corn with a skewer tucked into one end. This makes it easier to eat while walking around. We will order it off the cob to ensure that every bit of flavor is devoured. We want each bite to have that tang of cotija cheese and sweetness of the corn. We love the acidity that the lime juice adds and that final hit of heat from the chile powder.
How do all those flavors come together? Well, the corn is grilled and then basted with a mixture of mayo and sour cream, while it is still hot and quickly rolled in copious amounts of cotija cheese. A quick squeeze of lime and sprinkle of chile powder and it is ready!
Is your mouth watering yet? In California, you can get this wonderful treat all year long, but it really is best in summer when corn is at its sweetest. I wanted to find a way to have that flavor on my dinner table all the time, without relying on fresh corn. Popcorn! Let’s put all those flavors together and encrust a piece of halibut. Yeah! I love the crunch that comes with the popcorn and the subtle flavors of fresh halibut and its light taste with a bit of brininess.
See the notes below on how to get the flavor into popcorn if you aren’t interested in fish.
I am always looking for ways to change up a standard recipe, that I seem to make over and over. Especially this time of year, I am hearing lots of people that are switching over to a gluten-free lifestyle or trying to cut down on the “bad” carbs.
Chicken Piccata is one recipe I can always count on that my whole family will eat. Even my most picky eater just scrapes the capers off and is happy. So how can I make this a healthier dish to put on my dinner table? I came up with nuts, instead of breadcrumbs. When I use breadcrumbs, in anything, they are homemade and toasted with copious amounts of butter. I also try to infuse as much flavor into the breadcrumbs as possible and that means salt, too. By using the nuts, you get SO much more flavor and less salt with no butter.
In this recipe, I chose to use walnuts, but you can really use any nut. I also, always, toast the nuts before I use them. It really enhances the flavor. Finally, remember that nuts do have a shelf life. You should be able to smell when they have turned or are a little too old to use. Or you can just trust the date on the bag.
Sorry for no picture. I thought I had one from testing but didn’t. I promise to post one soon.