Destination: Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexican food—who doesn’t like it? It’s a cuisine that’s embraced worldwide. Interestingly, Mexican cuisine was the first to be awarded an UNESCO Culinary Heritage Status. As we embark on a new Food Explorer destination this month, we’re especially drawn to the cooking coming out of Oaxaca, Mexico (pronounced Wa-ha-ka).

We’re not the only ones who are slightly obsessed with Oaxacan cuisine. American chefs, restaurateurs, and cookbook authors are heavily influenced by Oaxaca, including Rick Bayless, Alice Waters, and Diana Kennedy, to name a few. It’s become quite the trendy food-lover destination bringing in tourists to the region and flooding their food markets. Although we can’t hold a candle to that experience, we’re excited to bring our interpretation of some of these food experiences to DLM.

Oaxacan cuisine has a large variety of ingredients coming from mountain areas, central valleys, southern coastline, and in and around the capital city that shares its name. Think staples like not only corn and beans, but a variety of chiles and stunning produce, seafood, chocolate, avocados, cheeses, and even the smoky mezcal that heavily influences this cuisine. Other more exotic ingredients are the delicious, but not super attractive, corn fungus called  huitlacoche (or corn smut) and a small type of grasshopper called chapulín that is full of protein and plentiful to the area.

We especially love favorites from Oaxaca, such as tlayudas, tamales, quesadillas, black beans, and Oaxacan cheese, also known as quessillo. Chocolate also is plentiful, mostly drunk hot. But the primary focus and foundation of Oaxaca cooking is mole, see page 6 for more! We’re excited to explore Oaxaca and we hope you join us for the journey.

Click here for some recipes to try at home or ways you can bite into Oaxaca, Mexico, via DLM.

Oaxacan Cuisine at Home & DLM

Oaxaca has become a trendy food-lover destination and it’s easy to see why. This cuisine contains a large variety of ingredients coming from many regions. Along with corn and beans, they’re known for their use of chiles, fresh produce and seafood, chocolate, cheeses, avocado, and some exotic ingredients. Come along with us as we explore some recipes for you to make at home as well as Oaxacan foods you can enjoy right here at DLM! Be sure to join us 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 20, for our Oaxaca Food Explorer Day!

Tlayuda

Join us for our Tlayuda Cookout, July 19 & 20, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., at all DLM locations!

MAKE IT AT HOME

Start with 3 basic ingredients:

  1. A large tortilla (preferably corn).
  2. Refried black beans.
  3. Oaxacan String Cheese or shredded Chihuahua.

Then add any of the following: Roasted or grilled veggies, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, salsa, and either shrimp, chorizo, braised pork, etc.

To cook: On a griddle or large sauté pan, heat a tortilla with a little oil. Flip and smear with refried beans. Top with cheese and other ingredients if desired. It’s ready when the cheese is melted. Serve open-faced or folded over.

Jicama with Chile Lime

MAKE IT AT HOME

Forget the veggie tray! Branch out and try some crisp and crunchy jicama drenched in fresh lime juice and sprinkled with dried chile powder. It’s refreshing and delicious on a hot summer night!

Chile Beef Torta

GET IT AT THE SANDWICH STATION

A torta is basically a Mexican sandwich filled with a variety of ingredients and served in a white sandwich roll. We’re excited to feature a Oaxaca-inspired Chile Beef Torta as our Sandwich of the Month, with deeply flavored beef topped with pickled carrots, onions, and jalapeños, sliced ripe avocado, queso fresco, and fresh cilantro.

Elotes-Style Corn Salad

GET IT AT THE DLM DELI

We’ve taken all the flavors of traditional elotes and made an easy-to-eat Deli salad that’s full of charred corn, plenty of lime juice, a little sour cream, cheese, and dried red chile.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

GET IT AT THE DLM COFFEE BAR

The refreshingly sweet Agua Fresca literally translateds to “fresh water.” We’re featuring our version of Watermelon Agua Fresca all month at our Coffee Bars. Made with ripe watermelon, cold water, lime juice, and a touch of agave for sweetness.

Quesadilla with Oaxacan Cheese

MAKE IT AT HOME

If you like quesadillas (and really, who doesn’t?) you’ve got to try this simple creation! To start, get the best corn or flour tortilla you can get your hands on and Oaxacan cheese. This cheese is like string cheese in texture, but it’s perfect for a stretchy quesadilla and is just delicious when melted.

Street Corn

GET IT AT DLM (SELECT TIMES BELOW)

As if local Brentlinger’s Sweet Corn could get any better! We have a corn roaster that travels between all three stores, and the results are scrumptious! Whether you choose The Classic or the every-popular Mexican Street Corn style, you’ll have no regrets! 

July’s Corn Roasting Schedule 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at each location:

July 19-20 (DLM WSQ)

July 26-27 (DLM SPR)

Subject to change according to availability.

Beef Barbacoa

GET IT AT DLM (limited time while supplies last this Saturday)

Even our Meat department is getting into the Oaxaca celebration! This Saturday, July 20, they’ll be featuring a slow-smoked Beef Barbacoa for a limited time and while supplies last. DLM Natural Beef Boneless Chuck Roast is smoked for 12 hours for a mouth-watering Beef Barbacoa! Sure to be a hit, you can create any number of Oaxacan dishes, such as street tacos. 

 

Let Summer Be-Gin!

I am not a Scotch drinker nor am I really a Bourbon drinker, but I can appreciate a well-made Old Fashioned or Manhattan every once in a while. So when planning our last vacation to Scotland, I knew my husband would be extremely happy enjoying the local spirits. The Scots aren’t known for wine and not being a beer drinker I thought I was going to be “Debbie Downer” at the pub. But, I had no idea how much the UK was into gin and other non-Scotch-based cocktails.

I found something to drink there and it was so crisp and just plain refreshing! I had no idea that it would take a trip to Scotland to make me realize just how good a well-crafted tonic could be! Almost every pub and restaurant we went to had not only amazing Scotches to choose from, but a HUGE selection of gin. The variety of mixers was incredible but the one that was most recommended to me to was Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water. I was pretty familiar with that brand name although this particular flavor was one I never had in the States before. It’s a little hard to describe in flavor. Reminiscent of a salty ocean breeze, it has a slightly herbal component to it that kind of reminds me of rosemary or herbes de Provence. Plus, I didn’t even need to add the gin! (But I did—more than a couple of times.)

What I can describe is how easy it is to make a simply stunning and refreshing drink. Cut a thin slice of grapefruit, lime, or orange and place it in the bottom of a glass. If you happen to have some fresh herbs handy, throw in a small sprig of rosemary or a basil leaf (thyme will work too).  Add ice and pour a bottle of Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water to the rim. Muddle or stir, and voila! Or, do like the Highlanders do and add a little gin. Perfect summer drink!

Your Guide to Classic Steak Cuts

One of my favorite classes George Punter and I taught was a food and wine pairing class called The Great American Steakhouse. We pulled out all the stops with a classic throwback menu of Clams Casino, Wedge Salad, Steak au Poivre, Hand-Cut French Fries, and Chocolate Mousse, plus wine pairings that were simply stunning. Needless to say we all had a blast, but we did spend quite a lot of time just talking steak.

Rib-Eye
Rib-Eye

I pulled out all of our tender steak cuts and we discussed each of their attributes. If you are always buying and ordering the same cut, I would like to challenge you to break out and try a couple different ones. Different steak cuts vary in textures, looks, moisture & fat content, and obviously price.

Rib-Eyes tend to be the choice of most serious steak lovers. Plenty of tender meat and lots of flavor, it is sometimes called a Tomahawk Steak with the rib bone attached, or Beef Rib Steak, Saratoga Steak, or Cowboy Steak. In my kitchen, I don’t mess around too much with this cut because you are paying for all of its natural, big flavor. Enjoy it simply well-seasoned with some good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. And a glass of California Cabernet.

NY Strip Steak
NY Strip Steak

Although Strip Steaks have less visible fat, I enjoy the firmer, slightly chewier texture better when I am in the mood for serious steak. This particular cut was made famous by Delmonico’s, an NYC restaurant founded in 1827. This restaurant offered a short loin as one of their signature dishes, and so the cut became known in the East Coast area as the Delmonico Steak. New York Strip, another name, is cut from the short loin part of the sirloin and has a fine-grained texture that has enough fat to produce lots of flavor but tends to not be as tender as a ribeye.

Call it what you want, Filet, Filet Mignon, Tenderloin, or Châteaubriand, it’s unbelievably tender and buttery on both texture and flavor. It also happens to be one of the leanest types of steak cuts. Since fat = flavor here, this is the steak I like to serve with some kind of full-flavored sauce (béarnaise or green peppercorn) or mount with some herb butter to ramp up its flavor.

 

Porterhouse

The Porterhouse is a thick, bone-in steak where you get the best of the strip steak on one side and filet on the other all in one cut. (The T-Bone is the smaller, thinner cut version.) A fun steak to share or carve at the table as one of these can easily feed 2-3 people! I like to grill this one for special occasions, seasoned well and drizzled with some Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.

 

Top Sirloin

 

Love all sorts of rubs and marinades? Then Top Sirloin is for you. I tend to think of this steak cut as the unsung hero. Although it is naturally a bit tougher than the other tender cuts of steak, its grainy texture and leanness will more than make up for it in its overall flavor and price point. This cut benefits from the added fat a marinade can provide or the flavor boost from your favorite rub. I love it for steak salads and sandwiches, plus it can serve a crowd (or my family) who all want steak but are on a budget.

Vary your steak choices based on what you want on your dinner plate. Each steak cut offers different attributes and might not work for every finished dish. Remember two important things: fat = flavor and you get what you pay for!

Get Your Kicks with These 8 Recipes from Route 66

The ultimate road trip in America has got to be driving Route 66, spanning eight states with iconic comfort foods along the way. Although it was officially decommissioned in the 80s, it continues to attract tourists, road warriors, and food lovers looking to taste pure Americana. Today the historic route boasts vintage motels, nostalgic roadside attractions, and some really good road food.

After the Great Depression, folks finally had a little extra cash so they piled into the family car and embarked on a road trip of a lifetime with destination spots like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland Park in mind. Even great movies, songs, and books were inspired by the open road and aura of Route 66. For many, this road trip is also about the iconic flavors, like home-style baked goods, spicy chiles, BBQ, and all-around good country eating!

Buckle up and take a bite out of these eight recipes representing the eight states along Route 66!

1. Chicago Dog

2. Kansas BBQ Rub

3. Country Fried Steak

4. Buttered Pecan Blueberry Cobbler

5. Cowboy Steak

6. Easy Sticky Buns

7. Chicken Posole

8. Fish Tacos with Lime Crema & Cabbage Slaw

5 Easy Breezy Fresh Fruit Recipes

Sometimes life is like a bowl of cherries, and we hope this summer will be sweet and simple for everyone. But with a little thought, why not go beyond the bowl and branch out a bit? With all of these big, ripe sweet cherries we have right now from California, it’s hard not to think of all the fun ways to eat them! Here’s one of my favorites:

Fresh Cherries and Yogurt

Smear a little of your favorite vanilla yogurt across a plate or platter, scatter some washed and pitted cherries on top, and garnish with a little chocolate crumb. For the “crumb” I like to use crumbled Tate’s Double Chocolate Chip Cookies or the classic thin chocolate wafers that aren’t too sweet.

Dessert isn’t the only way I like to eat my cherries. Here are some suggestions for utilizing these beautiful berries!

  • Added to a green salad for a pop of sweetness.
  • Fresh component of a cheese or charcuterie plate. Cherries pair wonderfully with a nice and mild creamy blue or fresh goat cheese.
  • In a sauce or reduction accompanying poultry.
  • Plopped on top of oatmeal with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of crunchy granola.
  • On top of a toasted piece of DLM Classic 10 Grain Bread smeared with creamy ricotta and finished with a drizzle of local honey.

Looking for other ways to enjoy the bounty of fresh fruit this season brings? Check out some of my go-to recipes below!

French Blueberry Loaf with Mascarpone and Lemon Curd Sauce

Strawberry Oatmeal Cookie Tart

Grilled DLM Pound Cake with Blackberries and Caramel

Strawberries Romanoff

Chef Carrie Cooks: Lobster Cooking Tips

First off, it’s Lobstermania this weekend at DLM (sale starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday and once they’re gone, they’re gone)! But we actually kick it off with our sold out Lobster 101 cooking class event Friday night at the DLM Culinary Center (hint: buy your tickets early next year). On Saturday, you can procure fresh, live Maine lobster for $15, which is quite a deal for such quality of lobster weighing in at 1.25 lbs or larger. You can buy them already steamed fresh or you can do it at home with no Annie Hall freak-outs, I promise! Follow my tips below for steaming or boiling live lobster, and before you know it, you’ll be serving up a couple for dinner alongside corn-on-the-cob and some of our Bakery’s Herb Cheddar Biscuits!

To start, if you have never handled a live lobster, keep the bands on. Also, the lobster doesn’t “scream” when you start cooking it. If you do hear a noise it’s just the steam escaping from the shell.

Lobster Boiling Tips

Boiling a lobster is easy and probably the best way for cooking 4 or more at one time. Get a big pot and fill with fresh water about 2/3 full. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp of salt per gallon of water. Bring to a boil and add lobsters. Start the timer when the water comes back to a boil. You can figure 6-7 minutes for a 1.25-lb lobster, 7-9 minutes for 1.5-lb lobster, and 10-12 minutes for a 2-lb lobster.

Lobster Steaming Tips

Steaming lobster works great and tends to yield a more tender, less messy cooked lobster than boiling. Fill a large, deep pot with 2-3 inches of water. Bring to a boil, add the lobsters, cover, and steam, about 8 minutes per lb.

How do you tell when it’s cooked? Remember, sometimes the lobster may be undercooked even if the shell is entirely red. Double check that the meat is a creamy white color with no translucent areas. Give a good tug on one of the antennas and if it pops off, the lobster is done You can also insert an instant read thermometer into the underside of the tail. It should read 135-140°F.

Hot Stuff!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotta have it. You might even say I am addicted to hot sauce. In fact, I won’t even make or order eggs for breakfast if there isn’t any to be found. (I mean really—why bother?) I actually have something in common with the amazing Beyoncé—she feels the same way I do about hot sauce! She always carries hot sauce in her bag wherever she goes.

Doing a little bit of research on the huge and fiercely loyal following that hot sauces have leads me to believe that this isn’t a fad that is going away any time soon. I think it’s more of a cultural influence on how all of our tastes are becoming more global. Think about it, have you ever heard of a chipotle pepper in mainstream America 20 years ago? Now it is reported that over 50% of all American households currently have a bottle of some brand of hot sauce.

I read somewhere that Tabasco is the “Kleenex brand” of hot sauces and although Louisiana-style hot sauces are most common, what has really taken off in the hot sauce market are ones with ethnic influences and wider ranges of flavors. Sriracha is a good example. It’s not only a new condiment that the restaurant industry had to make room for on their tables, it’s the trending flavor for the snack aisle in grocery and convenience stores. You can find it on popcorn, crackers, and all sorts of other items.

Right now if you opened my fridge at home, I think I have 5 kinds. I like to use different ones depending on what I am cooking or eating. Tabasco for eggs, Crystal for seafood, Sriracha to kick anything up a notch, Schultz’s for anything Buffalo-style, and Gochujang to help add a warm, slightly smoky depth to sauces and soups.

What’s your favorite hot sauce?

Lamb: A Delicious Sign of Spring

Growing up, my husband’s family had ham every single Easter, whereas at my house, our holiday meal centerpiece rotated between lamb, fish, or the occasional ham. We still debate over which one of our meals was the best. Of course, I think mine was always better as I loved the changing variety of that spring celebration meal. What did your family have on the spring celebration table growing up?

Although ham is an easy choice for a delicious centerpiece, especially when you have our signature Heavenly Ham® as an option, a roasted leg of lamb can be a bit more showy. Even though it looks and tastes ultra-elegant, it really is pretty simple to make at home. After experimenting with several recipes, one of my favorites is Rosemary & Garlic Lamb.

I also love how lamb pairs so nicely with other “springy” things like asparagus, goat cheese, tender lettuces, and the newly released rosés that combine to make a delightful meal. So if you haven’t mixed up your menu lately, spring is always a good time to start. It may be time to save the ham and eggs for the brunch table this year and look to lamb. (Even better, you’ll notice that we’re having a Leg of Lamb Sale in this week’s Club Deals.)

Speaking of lamb, my husband and his six siblings took turns sculpting the lamb out of butter for the table centerpiece (yes, it had cloves for eyes). It was a very big deal and as grown adults they still talk fondly about making that lamb-shaped butter.

But in my family it was all about the lamb cake. My mom had a lamb cake mold that she would get out every year to make a rich, plain pound cake in the shape of this adorable animal. Then my siblings and I would get to decorate it with white buttercream frosting, coconut flakes, and whatever color jelly beans we didn’t want to eat. Although I can’t quite remember what the finished cakes looked like, I do remember how much I love that frosting/coconut combo. Who cares about jelly beans?

I’d love to hear about your springtime traditions!

So Simple, So French

It’s referred to in my vagabond family of travelers as “that salad”. A lot of the times you don’t even order it. It just always shows up. It comes as a side dish, a first course, and a lot of the times it’s served like a heavy handed garnish to round out a plate. Over many wine-fueled meals my family has complained, “Why we can’t get this kind salad at home?” My son loves it and stated a long time ago he would eat salad everyday if I only made it for him back at home. So I did, and I am happy to say that he now makes it for himself!

Click here to view my recipe for salade verte.

“That salad” is the classic French salad called salade verte and it’s served everywhere in France. I am serious here—the corner bistro, the cafeterias, the Michelin starred places, fancy burger joints, and even at the breakfast buffet at your hotel.  It is, at its most simple, a lightly dressed lettuce. No croutons, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, etc. This salad doesn’t need any of it. It is perfect in its simplicity. Light, fresh, and delicious.

Since the salad is so simple, you’ve got to get it right when trying to recreate it at home. The lettuce that is most commonly used in France is what we here in America call Boston lettuce. Boston lettuce is part of the Butterhead family of lettuce. It is slighty bigger than Bibb lettuce, which tends to be easier to find around here. The leaves of both types of these lettuces are soft and tender, so you can usually find them packed in clear plastic containers that help prevent bruising.

For the dressing (a side note—the server will not give you a choice), it’s served with vinaigrette a la moutarde.  A classic vinaigrette made with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, oil (usually sunflower or olive oil), salt, pepper, and finely minced shallot. Not a lot of variation here, although sometimes in southern France they will sub the vinegar with lemon juice and they always use olive oil.

The more I travel back to France and other parts of Europe the more I am starting to see a trend on using a bottled dressing that tends to be whitish in color and a little sweet. I can’t tell you all how disappointing that is! What has made this salad so distinctive is the freshness of the just-made vinaigrette. Sometimes the fast shortcuts are NOT the answer!

I challenge you to get out your whisk the next time you want to make a salad! Master this and you will be enjoying this simple balanced salad for years to come.