Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Postcards from Bunny: Rick Bayless at Macy's

It's no secret that one of Bunny and Brandy's favorite things to do in Chicago is checking out the Culinary Council demos that happen every few months at Macy's on State Street.  Bunny tries to attend them when ever she can make a quick jot into Chicago, but failing that, she will often send Brandy to watch the stars of the culinary world as they cook live and offer the crowd samples of their dishes so that she can take copious notes and report back to Bunny with the results.

Recently, when Bunny heard that Chicago icon Rick Bayless was going to be doing a demo, she nearly burst into tears as she realized there would be no way for her to attend.  "I've been waiting for them to do a Rick Bayless demo for years!" she cried into the phone.  "Well, I'll go for you and take notes like we've done before," Brandy sighed.  "It won't be the same!" Bunny whined.  Then suddenly, Brandy remembered something.  "He's the one you go all squishy for, isn't he?" she asked Bunny with a smirk.  "I do not go all squishy!" Bunny shrieked.  "I can practically hear you blushing over the phone," Brandy said, "Look, why don't I try that new fangled video chatting thingy while I'm at the demo?  Then you can watch the whole thing from your seat in... where are you now?"  "I'm not entirely sure, but everything smells of curry, so I'm guessing either India or Thailand."

So Brandy trotted down to Macy's on State Street early enough to grab a seat with a good view, and then enlisted the help of a nice young woman beside her to get Bunny on to the screen so she could watch as Rick Bayless entered the kitchen space.  "Oh, it's just like watching his PBS show!" Bunny exclaimed, and Brandy hushed her, wondering briefly how she was going to keep her arm from getting tired holding up the phone the entire time.

Chef Bayless began by making a simple guacamole in the same sort of rustic Mexican cooking with a twist that he is famous for.  "People often add too much lemon or lime juice to their guacamole because they think it will keep the avocado from going brown, and it will, but it also overwhelms the taste," Chef Bayless told the crowd.  He also suggested serving the guacamole as cold as possible, even utilizing a thermionic container like a terracotta flower pot with an ice pack under it when leaving the dip out at a party.  This particular guacamole he spiced up, so to speak, with serrano peppers, as he felt that jalapenos were inconstant in their heat levels, due to genetic manipulation.  He also added a bit of sweetness and crunch with some fennel and green apple, which sounded odd, but as Brandy assured Bunny, actually tasted quite good.

Then Chef Bayless took his guacamole mix and used it to coat some pre-cooked shrimp, plating the dish in a martini glass as he told the crowd how much he liked this kind of thing as an appetizer at parties.  "In America, we're more chippers and dippers," he said, "But in Mexico, this is how you would serve a guacamole, as a sort of dressing."  He also gave the crowd tips on how to cook authentically Mexican by keeping dried chilies in their pantries, buying avocados at Mexican markets (because they cost less and are more ripe), never buying tomatoes out of season (he prefers to use sun dried tomatoes when he can't get fresh), and making sure to rinse your sliced onions to rid them of their natural sulpherous compounds, which not only cause eyes to water, but make digestion difficult and cause food to rot faster.

Lastly, Chef Bayless presented a simple, yet delicious shortbread cookie, which was a combination of a pecan sandy and what people often call Mexican Wedding Cookies (Chef Bayless said the cookies are actually more traditional for things like Christmas than weddings).  Indeed, the crumbly little cookies were so delicious that the chef himself couldn't keep his hands off them, munching away as he took questions from the crowd.  "I'm quite pleasantly surprised," he told everyone, "When I saw we were doing a demo at noon on a Monday, I thought four people would show up and I'd just cook us all a nice lunch!"  "I wouldn't mind that," came Bunny's dreamy voice from the phone screen.  He also spoke about his devotion to yoga, which he practices every day.  "I always make all my difficult decisions while I'm doing yoga," he said, "I find that it puts me in touch with my body, so I'm more aware of when I'm hungry, when I'm tired, I smell things more clearly, and even taste things more clearly."  "No wonder the man is so zen all the time," Brandy whispered to Bunny.

After the demo, Chef Bayless stayed and signed copies of his newest cookbook, Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks (or "The three major food groups," as he put it), so Brandy dutifully joined the line after much begging from the tiny woman in her phone, but by the time she reached the front, Bunny seemed frozen with nerves and couldn't even manage to squeak a "hello" to her hero.  "Don't mind her," Brandy said to a befuddled Chef Bayless, "I think all that talk of yoga gave her a mental picture her senses weren't quite ready for.  She'll be fine in a bit."

The writers of this blog have been compensated by Everywhere Agency for the information contained in this post, but the opinions stated were not influenced.

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