“Thankfully, we’re starting to pull away from the idea that all Mexican food means burritos as big as your head.” Chef Rick Bayless 1
American Chef Rick Bayless has built his celebrity status on both introducing Mexican regional cuisine to the United States as well as creatively reinterpreting its concepts to a 21st century palate. Naturally the word fusion comes to many people’s mind. Yet fused from where and with what – other ingredients from the Americas?
If you accept that concept – other ingredients from the Americas – than it’s not a fusion (a joining of unknowns) it’s creativity with native sources that form a cuisine of the Americas. It’s estimated that over 50% of commonly eaten foods by North American descendants of European immigrants were unknown to their ancestors prior to 1492 including vanilla, tomatoes, bell peppers, catfish and ducks.
So if we can get beyond the self-imposed value judgment of authentic cuisine – aka a real Italian pizza is only made with (American) tomatoes…? – than perhaps we can revel in our human culinary diversity and sit down to an enjoyable meal full of terrific flavors.
When covering the recent 22nd Festival Gourmet International in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, more than one first time visitor to both Puerto Vallarta and the festival commented how they had “no idea” cuisine in Mexico was so varied? The names of several popular American corporate chains of Tex-Mex food were often cited. The festival’s hallmark was highlighting Mexico’s ever-evolving New World cuisine.
Chef Luis Noriega’s illustrious international career has taken him from Acapulco to European capitals and Chef/Professor at leading Mexican culinary collages. He is chef/owner of Restaurant La Gula in the south central Mexican Pacific coast city of Zihuatanejo. At the November festival Chef Noriega conducted an in-depth daytime cooking workshop and lunch at Puerto Vallarta’s Coco Tropical on the beautiful beachfront Malecon.
Grilled sesame crusted tuna steak on a bed of mint scented vermicelli may not sound Mexican, but more than half the ingredients are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere and the remainder were introduced through European domination more than 500 years ago. So the recipe is as “American as apple pie” – apples are indigenous of central Asia.
Chef Luis Noriega’s Grilled Tuna topping Mint Scented Vermicelli
Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 500 gr. (16 oz) fresh tuna steaks
- to taste fresh ground sea salt & black pepper
- 100 gr. (3 oz) sesame seeds
- 50 ml. (3½ tablespoons) olive oil
- 100 gr. (3 oz) rice vermicelli
- 50 gr. (1½ tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 10 each finely chopped leaves of fresh mint
- 2 each small ripe avocados
- 2 each green chili piquin – very small HOT chilis – finely minced – or substitute ½ to 1 teaspoon (hot) hot sauce
- 50 ml. (3½ tablespoons) sour cream
- Cook the rice vermicelli according to package directions
- Mash the avocados and blend in the chili and sour cream to make either a chunky or a creamy guacamole.
- Place the sesame seeds in a bowl, season tuna with salt & pepper and coat the tuna steaks.
- Heat (preferably) a cast iron pan, add the olive oil and sear the tuna steaks for a minute or 2 per side until browned but pink in the middle. Transfer to a cutting board.
- Drain the rice vermicelli and toss with butter and the mint.
- Divide the vermicelli among 4 plates, top with slices of tuna steak and decoratively add a generous garnish of guacamole.
Serve with a fine Rivero Gonzalez Scielo Blanco (Chardonnay) from Mexico’s Valle de Parras, Coahuila and enjoy New World cuisine.
When you go:
Puerto Vallarta is served by many international airlines.
The 23rd Festival Gourmet International will be held November 10 – 19, 2017.
1 “Let’s Talk to Rick Bayless About Mexican Food.” The National Culinary Review, Vol. 41, Num. 2, American Culinary Federation, February 2017, St. Augustine, FL
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