Family Recipes at the Michelin-Starred Casa Enrique

One of the first Mexican eateries in New York City opened in midtown in 1938. Its proprietor, Juvencio Maldonado, who had sailed over from the Yucatán Peninsula, known as his place Xochitl, after an Aztec goddess. He patented a mechanical taco-shell fryer and printed a glossary of imported culinary phrases for his befuddled diners. (Tortilla: “a flat, round corn cake, about 6 inches in diameter and 1/16 inch thick . . . can be bent or rolled, as we shall explain.”) For many years, Xochitl was nearly the solely sport on the town. The scene ramified in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, when the metropolis’s Mexican inhabitants grew eightfold. New arrivals would launch taco vehicles, tamale pushcarts, panaderías, tortilla factories, and greater than a thousand skilled kitchens in the 5 boroughs. If a sure French tire producer is to be believed, amongst the better of them at this time is Casa Enrique, which opened a decade in the past, in Queens, and is the first Mexican restaurant in the metropolis to have been awarded a Michelin star—yearly since 2015.

The mole de Piaxtla, poured over stewed rooster, calls for 2 dozen components, together with chilies (5 varieties), almonds, raisins, figs, sesame seeds, plantains, and cocoa powder.

Many years earlier than the chef Cosme Aguilar opened Casa Enrique—earlier than he toiled in French eating places as a porter after which a line prepare dinner after which a chef, earlier than his first profession, as a teen-age automobile mechanic, earlier than even his start—his mom ran a small restaurant in Chiapas. She handed away in 1983, when he was a boy. Twenty-nine years later, when Aguilar determined to open his personal place, he turned to a pocket book of recipes she left behind. One of the first dishes he tried to re-create was her albondigas—meatballs, every with a hard-boiled egg in its middle, sunk in a smoky tomato sauce ready with onion, garlic, and chipotle chilies. “The first time I made albondigas here, it really got me,” Aguilar mentioned. “I hadn’t tasted that meal in a very long time, and I was, like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s just like my mom used to make.’ I almost cried.”

Whatever you order comes with a sizzling pot of steaming tortillas, and lots of dishes lend themselves to imaginative reassembly in the type of tacos.

Aguilar has a dozen tales like that. “Everybody who wants to open a Mexican restaurant in New York,” he mentioned, “they want to go fancy—they use truffles.” He was sporting a masks, however you possibly can inform he made a face when he mentioned “truffles.” Aguilar shouldn’t be above aesthetic embellishment, however he additionally believes that overbold improvisation on conventional fare too typically spins out, crashing over the guardrails of tribute and into the pit of cultural snobbery. He, as a substitute, elects to go deeper. His menu is his memoir.

Many of the chef Cosme Aguilar’s dishes are variations of household recipes. Years earlier than he was born, his mom ran a small restaurant in Chiapas.

Aguilar’s mole de Piaxtla, poured over stewed rooster, is an homage each to his father’s dwelling city and to the reminiscence of his paternal grandmother, who would press into service anybody inside shouting distance each time she made mole. “Someone would be peeling the chilies, someone else would be toasting the nuts,” he mentioned. “It’s a lot of ingredients!” Aguilar’s model has twenty-four, together with chilies (5 varieties), almonds, raisins, figs, sesame seeds, plantains, and cocoa powder. Atop the accompanying yellow rice, he throws down a dare: a single mature chile de árbol (Scoville warmth items: as much as 65,000). A frozen blueberry margarita, or a number of, is a few consolation right here.

The heartiest winter dish, Pozole de Mi Tía, is a shredded-pork-and-hominy soup topped with julienned radish, with fixings (avocado, onion, cilantro) on the aspect.

Whatever you order comes with a sizzling pot of steaming tortillas, and lots of dishes lend themselves to imaginative reassembly in the type of tacos. Take the cochinito Chiapaneco, a love letter to Aguilar’s native Chiapas, for which he marinates pork ribs in apple-cider vinegar, guajillo chilies, garlic, and recent thyme earlier than slow-roasting them for 4 hours. Once you’ve dispatched the ribs, what’s to be finished with the leftover marinade? Spoon it over a rice-and-beans medley and fold it right into a tortilla, clearly.

The heartiest winter dish, a shredded-pork-and-hominy soup topped with julienned radish, seems on the menu as Pozole de Mi Tía. Aguilar received’t specify which aunt. “I have to be careful,” he mentioned. “I have six aunts on my father’s side, and another six on my mother’s side.” A pause. “It’s a lot of aunts!” (Entrées $21-$36.) ♦

Sourse: newyorker.com

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