LOS:DOS
Bienvenidos a Los Dos: Yucatecan Cooking School, Merida, Mexico

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Chef Rick Bayless and staff spend a filling day at Los Dos!
Chefs David and Rick, still glowing from eating all those chiles
CELEBRITY CHEF RICK BAYLESS – owner of Chicago’s award winning Frontera Grill and star of his own PBS series “Mexico: One Plate at a Time” – chose Yucatán as the setting for all 13 episodes of the series’ fifth season. And of course, no culinary adventure in Yucatán is complete without a visit to Los Dos, where Rick and 15 crew members arrived in October of 2006 to film one of Chef David’s classes. Watch the video.

So popular was the experience that Bayless decided to return to Los Dos with more than 25 staff members from his culinary empire for the group’s annual July retreat and inspirational tour.

Seeking to stretch the knowledge and imagination of his staff, Chef Rick and Chef David settled on one of Yucatán’s most unusual creations: recado negro – a seasoning blend comprised primarily of dried chiles that are set aflame and burnt to a crisp. Also known as chilmole (or, mole of chiles), recado negro’s most popular use is to make the exquisite and rather labor intensive pavo en relleno negro – a whole turkey stuffed with chilmole-flavored meatloaf and bathed in a thick sauce of the burned chiles. Dramatically black turkeys are one of the most unusual sights in Mérida’s central market.

The process begins by using any one of several dried chiles (or a combination), which are placed close to or on top of glowing embers. Because of the oils contained in the chiles, they often burst into flame immediately. But whether they ignite or toast more slowly, the end result should be a chile with only a small amount of the colored flesh remaining. The rest should be pitch black, reduced virtually to ash.
 
Burning of chiles for recado negro produces a smoke so acrid that nowadays the process is banned within Mérida city limits. In fact, for a full week after initial preparations for the Bayless visit, Chef David suffered from a persistent and nagging cough. The worst smoke comes from the small chile seco yucateco, which resembles the chile de arbol. The problem can be avoided almost completely by using chile ancho, which produces much less of the toxic smoke and also contributes a sweeter taste to the finished recado.
 
Once the chiles are burned, the ashes are soaked and drained three or four times, a process that removes bitterness produced by the charring. Finally, the ashy residue is ground together with other ingredients such as garlic, oregano and cumin. The resulting paste is employed in a variety of ways, including as a rub or diluted in stock to form a rich, black broth.
 
Recado negro is used most famously on turkey, but it is also incorporated into the savory
picadillo al chilmole – ground pork cooked with tomatoes, onions and the black paste, which also acts as a thickener. Spoonsful of the rich black meat are scooped onto fresh tortillas, topped with tomate tamulado, then folded into a taco eaten with hands and lots of napkins!

Other dishes featuring recado negro that Chef David prepared during the Bayless visit were an updated version of panuchos de relleno negro and tamales de espelón con k'ol negro.
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