Picadillo comes from the word "picar," which translates to "to mince."
At its best, picadillo is an aromatic mixture of well-cooked shredded meat riddled with capers, raisins, olives, spices, etc. It's often used as a stuffing, as well as a taco filling.
At it's worst, it's pebbly ground beef with some onions and a spice packet added.
Like all food as fashion, the concepts of deconstruction came and went, but what is old inevitably becomes new again.
Here we bring the idea of deconstruction back, but not for novelty. We do it to improve presentation and more importantly, to preserve a bit of textural integrity.
Short ribs have been boned out, rubbed with a mixture of spices, and gently cooked in rendered beef fat for a long time.
It has all been smothered in a mixture of things that might find there way into a picadillo and served with tortillas for making tacos.
I prefer it because you can still get differentiated bites with pops of acid, sweetness, crunch, brine, etc. in each bite.
This dish is served at Empellón in Midtown.
In this age of carbo-phobia, more and more people are opting to not end their meal with dessert. As someone who toiled as a pastry chef for nearly a decade, this makes me very sad.
In an attempt to change this behavioral trend, we ended up creating a concept that feels like a new and highly appropriate end to a meal at Empellón.
Offering several small, invigorating bites of citrus cleanses the palate and refreshes the spirit. It's also less committal than an individual plated dessert. We offer this in the same way many other restaurants offer shellfish plateaus, meaning the collection is sold per person and can be scaled up or down.
Sipping tequila or mezcal is an elegant way to close out any meal. Adding this platter of citrus somehow makes it even more so.
Fried fish stuffed into a tortilla with fluffy shredded cabbage and mayonnaise is my second favorite taco of all time (al pastor holds the #1 spot in my heart).
In Baja where this idea manifests, the batter typically has mustard powder in it and tends not to be as crunchy as outsiders may expect.
Here we have created our own version of the taco that utilizes an unusual tempura that uses only corn masa and soda water. I love the way a soft tortilla texture is felt first and then it gives way to all the crisp textures.
Served at Empellón in Midtown, and Empellón Taqueria in the West Village.
I generally dislike riffs on salsa that incorporate fresh fruit in them, only because they remind me of a facet of American cooking that needs to die.
One exception is a salsa made of gooseberries and I have good reason why. Gooseberries are in the tomatillo family (or tomatillos are in the gooseberry family?) and once you realize this and bite into one you are reminded of the most perfect sweet/tart tomatillo you've ever had.
When you have a great salsa, that becomes the point of the dish and all there is left to do is decide what's best to deploy it on.
Nantucket bay scallops are a seasonal treat. I love to echo their sweetness and simultaneously introduce acid to balance it all. This salsa does just that.
Served at Empellón in Midtown.