I was lucky enough to attend an Evening of Culinary Education at Qdoba, Royal Oak, with Chef Ted Stoner. Qdoba’s season mango salsa will be available starting May 7th and they are also unveiling their new wheat tortilla, which will be available on May 14th. They strive to bring healthy options to their menu based on traditional Mexican foods. And, if all of their chefs are as passionate and knowledgable as Chef Ted, who strives to transform the inspirational flavors of Mexico into our American cuisine, then we are all in good hands!
These delicious & healthy snacks were set out for us to sample: Escabeche (pickled peppers), Mango salsa, jicama strips splashed with fresh lime juice and Spicy Peanuts.
We sampled a variety of quesadillas on the new whole wheat tortillas. (which were delicious!) Qdoba’s grilled veggies, queso fresco and the Ancho Chile BBQ Sauce were a big hit. A special recipe for cactus salad was shared with us, too. After Chef Ted showed us how to properly clean and prepare the cactus, we were served a cactus salad quesadilla on a whole wheat tortilla. (pictured below) Chef Ted also whipped up a fresh guacamole with Haas avocados, smoked morita peppers, grilled sweet onion, sun dried tomatoes and fresh lime juice. (The morita pepper gives a delicious smoked bacon flavor to the guacamole while keeping it a vegetarian dish. Great heat, too!)
Chef Ted blended a delicious salsa with toasted tomatillos, Arbol chiles, lime and salt. It took 5 minutes and it was packed with flavor. Listening to him speak and watching him cook, you can see how passionate he is about his work. The wealth of knowledge he has obtained from his travels through Mexico is astounding.
Here are some tidbits that I found very interesting.
- Need a quick way to peel a pepper? Place the pepper directly over a flame, charring the skin. (the hotter the heat, the quicker the skin will blister without the pepper cooking). Once the pepper is fully charred, place it in a bowl and cover with a towel. (this allows the steam to escape without continuing to cook the pepper. When plastic wrap is used to seal the bowl, the pepper continues to cook) Using a paper towel, rub the pepper and the skin will easily flake off.
- How do you control the heat of a dish when working with chiles? Yes, the seeds are hot – but only by association. The veins hold the heat of the pepper and, in turn, the seeds also carry some heat. To bring the heat down, chop off the top and bottom of the pepper (where the veins are very concentrated), remove the inside veins and seeds. You can then toast the seeds and reintroduce them into your dish for a nutty flavor.
- The background of Cinco de Mayo? The day was coined after a battle in Pueblo when French troops tried to overtake the city. The Pueblo militia overtook the French army and drove them out. Celebration = Cinco de Mayo.
- Don’t have any gloves, but need to work with chiles? Coat your hands in olive oil before you begin to work with them. When you have finished, wash your hands and the chile oil will rinse away. (Pepper oil absorbs into the pores on your hands. The olive oil blocks the absorption)
- A great book to check out: ’Taco USA’
- How do you work with banana leaves? Banana leaves are the original ‘foil’. When you purchase them, they are very stiff and brittle. Run the leaves over a flame and they instantly become shiny and pliable.
Grilled Pineapple with Rum Caramel Sauce
Rum Caramel Sauce:
1 stick Butter
1 cone Piloncillio (or 1 cup brown sugar)
1 cup Cream
1 cup Rum
1 tsp Vanilla
Melt butter in a 1qt. stainless saucepan until lightly brown. Add sugar and cream and stir evenly. Heat on stove over medium heat until slightly syrupy. Remove pot from stove and add 1 cup rum. Return to stove and ignite slowly. Stir in vanilla and allow to cook over medium heat until desired consistency.
Grill pineapple slices. Place on plate. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with goat cheese and toasted pepitas. As a side, toss pecans with the caramel sauce and serve.
Thank you, Qdoba, for an amazing & delicious evening!