The good people of Mexico are quick to crisp up tortilla chips and simmer them in an even coating of salsa. This idea is called chilaquiles.
But whether it was created in Mexico or not, the concept of taking chips and applying topping after topping one of which being a gooey orange cheese sauce, well those are nachos, and that is an American phenomenon.
But fuck it, we are American, we love nachos, and we believe that any dish taken seriously can be amazing.
Here we are taking something that usually manifests at bars or Super Bowl parties, and taking it completely out of context.
If we were to describe a dish of toasted corn with crab and sea urchin to you, it sounds as if it has a home on a haute tasting menu. When you describe it as nachos, I think you begin to tug on heart strings a bit and hit this low brow/high brow mash up of emotions that I love.
My favorite part of this dish is the “queso.” As we all know, queso simply means cheese but in Texas, queso refers to this orange processed cheese dip. Our “queso” is not queso at all, but it has a similar appearance. It's actually a sauce made from sea urchin, butter, and chipotle chile. We could refer to it as a sauce and try to market the dish as something more elegant, but we don’t want to. We want to serve awesome food made from the highest quality ingredients in a refined environment, but I still want people to dig in and eat with their hands. We want this to be fun.
I remember eating ice cream sandwiches often as a child. I’ve eaten several fancy versions of them as an adult, and they never do well with me. I find that the cookie phase of the construct is always too crunchy. It hurts your teeth to bite and the ice cream squeezes out the sides.
We did some homework and tried to get as close as we could to that soft processed wafer that gives way to every bite and forces you to lick your fingers afterwards.
Rather than chocolate and vanilla, we opted for canela and more canela.
Canela is true cinnamon from Mexico. Most of what is traded as cinnamon is actually cassia bark. Canela sticks are soft and crumbly like old parchment. Its flavor is also a lot less spicy and a lot more floral.
Our hope is that these little sandwiches will feel sophisticated but also just a little nostalgic.
We always try to include an offal based taco in the repertoire at each of the restaurants for two reasons.
One, because they serve as a reminder to us of the fact that so many delicious and unusual things get stuffed into tortillas (sometimes I feel that Americans sadly apply a beef/chicken/pork mentality to it all).
The other purpose is as a profiling tool for us to get a sense of our guests. To me anytime someone orders this taco we should flag them as a VIP. They may be in our industry, a media person or just a true gourmand. Whatever they are, they are important to us because they are adventurous and hence our friend.
This taco uses lamb sweetbreads. Sweetbreads are the thymus gland of a ruminant animal. Veal are the most common. Lamb sweetbreads are a bit more rare.
Here we paired these golden brown glands with lamb barbacoa. Barbacoa is the equivalent of barbecue in central and southern Mexico. Our barbacoa is inspired by the Oaxacan way of preparing it.
This means we take our lamb and rub it in a thick puree of red chiles. We then nestle it in a vessel lined with banana leaf. A copious amount of avocado leaves are then added along with a bit of water to help create steam.
The lamb is cooked slowly and the avocado leaves perfume the meat with an incomparable anise like aroma.
A little salsa borracha, onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime is all you need to make this taco complete.
Flavorful complex stews and braises are an important part of our kitchen. Once finished, the flavors are sturdy and fixed. We can count on them to be there as we focus on making sure our tortillas are being served the moment they are ready.
Here we begin with whole amish chickens. We stew them with with their bones, feet and all edible organs intact. The result is chicken that actually tastes like chicken.
Once the chicken is fall apart tender, we flavor it with a special chile called Aji Dulce.
Aji Dulce is a chile thats been bred to have all of the aroma of a habanero with none of the crazy heat that always comes along with it. Eckerton Farm has been growing them and we have been buying and preserving as much as we can. We love the flavor and will surely run out before they start growing again in the summer. Something to look forward to.