Carolyn scored big last night and got us tickets to the Taste of Chicago preview held at the Library of Congress in DC. First off, the Library of Congress is a beautiful building. If you are ever in DC you owe it to yourself to take a tour. Ok, now on to the food! The event had a sampling of some of the great food Chicago has to offer. We were dedicated and managed to try a little of almost everything.
Here is what was available:
- Arun’s Thai Resturant – Crab Cakes
- Eli’s Cheesecake – Cheesecake (I had the blood orange)
- Kasia’s Deli – Potato/Cheese and Chicken Pierogies
- Lou Malnati’s PIzzeria – Deep Dish PIzza
- Original Rainbow Cone – Ice cream cone
- Red Light – Spiced braised pork in scallion crepe with hoisin sauce and white truffle oil
- Robinson’s #1 Rib – Ribs!
- Spring – Fresh mozzarella arancini
- Table 52 – Hummingbird Cake
- Tizi Melloul – Spiced feta stuffed dates
- Frontera Grill – Cochinita Pibil
- Vienna Beef – Chicago-style Hotdogs
Everything was great…especially considering they probably had to fly in a lot of it, work in an improvised kitchen space and serve to about 2000+ people buffet style. The place was packed, but lines moved and we managed to get a lot of food. I am sure that no one went away hungry.
While everything was stellar one dish stood out, the Cochinita Pibil from Frontera Grill. Cochinita Pibil is slow cooked pork which they served on a soft tortilla with pickled onions and a Habanero Salsa. The salsa was spicy, but it was balanced by tang from the onions and the richness of the pork. Real Cochinita Pibil calls for roasting a whole suckling pig in a fire pit dug in the ground…quite the task! They were using an adaptation where pork shoulder is braised in banana leaves. The high acid of the marinade used and the long cooking time helped make the meat nice and tender.
Rick Bayless runs the Fontera Grill in Chicago and helped bring a great awareness to authentic Mexican cooking through his shows on PBS. Rick was there last night helping to plate. Had I been less of a wimp, I would have gone to talk with him. But I didn’t…so I don’t have any great quotes from him to add. This is also why I am not a reporter. I have done some investigative journalism though and I dug up some recipes that should let you recreate this dish at home. I will give them a try myself!
- Rick Bayless’s Recipe for Pit Roasting an entire suckling along with the recipes for making enough pickled onions and habanero salsa to feed 35 people. Clearly this needs to be downsized.
- This seems like a more reasonable recipe, calling for “only” 5 lbs of pork.
- Here is an adaptation of Rick Bayless’s recipe which brings it down to a more doable 3 lbs of pork. Looks good!
- Here is yet another version from Chow.
I will definitely give one of these recipes a try and report back!