This week we've been chatting with chef Jorge Guzman, executive chef at Solera. Thus far we've covered his growing years and career. (Get caught up here and here). Today we wrap up our conversation talking about what really matters: food--Spanish food, Mexican food, comfort food, and shrimp heads.
What was the first food you learned how to cook?
Frijol con puerco. Mom would make it. You cook black beans with pork until it turns black and super tender, serve it with white rice, radish, cilantro, red onion, avocado and lime. And then there's xni-pec, which means "nose of the dog." It's this charred tomato sauce that's so hot it makes your nose water. That's where the name comes, 'cause you know how a dog's nose is always wet.
Wow, that's the first thing you learned how to cook? Most people say mac and cheese or scrambled eggs or something.
Or nachos. I used to make nachos for me and my younger brother.
Are there any dishes that you would recommend people first try at the restaurant?
The papas crujientes, baked Yukon gold potatoes, smashed and then fried, then throw in Marscapone cheese. It's a good entry dish.
We have fantastic prawns, prawns al ajillo. It's very traditional. We make this chili oil using a few different varieties of chilies and lots of cloves of garlic and a little few herbs, that's it. Then we fry the whole prawns, with the heads intact, in the oil. It's so simple, but the resulting flavors are complex.
Do you have an ingredient that you obsess about?
I love cilantro, fucking love it. I put it in everything. It adds such a floral herb note, not like parsley, which can add ... almost a bitter edge, it rounds out a dish. Cilantro and lime are my favorite smells.
Have you been able to find any good growers locally?
Not right now. We get a lot of greens from Dragsmith Farms.
You're on Twitter and Facebook. How do you feel about the way social media has affected the relationship between restaurants and diners?
It's a really quick way to get out there. I'm really new to Twitter, though. I've got like 55 followers or something like that. It's pretty cool.
What do you like to cook at home?
Beans, beans are phenomenal. I love beans. But I don't usually cook at home. My wife is a phenomenal cook. My being able to eat is because of her. I actually steal her recipes.
Would you be willing to share a recipe with us?
Prawns al Ajillo
10 head-on prawns
2 cups olive oil
1 garlic bulb cut in half
1 guajillo pepper cut in half
1 chili de arbol cut in half
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 handful thyme
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon crushed chili flakes, dried
For chili oil:
Combine the oil, garlic, peppers, thyme, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool completely before straining.
For prawns: Cut a slit through the shrimp shells on the backside to remove the black veins.
In a medium pan over medium-high heat, add some of the chili oil. Season shrimp with salt and sear on both sides. Add a generous portion of the chili oil, sliced garlic, and chili flakes to pan and bring to a simmer. Finish cooking shrimp in oil (about two minutes.)
Serve on a plate, drizzled with oil and a sliced baguette.