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‘So Much of Real Mexican Cuisine Is Fresh, Light and Vibrant’

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Chef Paco Isordia has a mission. He wants people to discover what real Mexican cuisine is.

Chef Paco Isordia

Chef Paco Isordia

To that end, he’ll be preparing his Seafood a la Talla at Culinaria’s Best of Mexico, which is set for Friday evening at the Shops at La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Parkway.

The chef works at Viceroy Zihuatanejo, a resort on the bay waters of Playa la Ropa. In the Pacific Coast enclave, he is known for teaching classes in using organic foods in light, fresh and healthful ways, one of which can be seen in the recipe below.

He recently answered a few questions about people’s perceptions of Mexican food, his favorite ingredients and more.

Q. What surprises Americans visiting your restaurant the most about what they think Mexican food should be like?

A. Many Americans expect Mexican food to be heavy, but so much of real Mexican cuisine is fresh, light and vibrant. It is a seafood-centric culture, and the property takes advantage of local sourcing when available to keep up with this aspect.

Q. You teach classes in cooking with organic food. Why is that important?

A. I believe it is important to understand your food and where it comes from. Using organic ingredients when cooking can give chefs and diners a better idea of how food actually tastes, making the overall experience more authentic.

Q. What are your favorite local ingredients to use in your cooking?

A. I like to use:

  • Different types of local fresh seafood: snapper, dorado, tuna lobster, octopus, etc.
  • Local products such as epazote, hoja santa, Jamaica, corn, mango, etc.

Q. Name one dish from your childhood that has influenced your cooking today and explain why.

A. I really like the tacos, and now that I have the privilege to know different products I like to combine different flavors. For example, taquitos with guacamole and escamoles (ant larvae), truffle oil, etc.

Q. What do you enjoy eating most when you’re not at work?

A. I love Mediterranean food and Mexican, but I also like to eat what is typical of any place you go.

Seafood a la Talla

1 pound peeled shrimp
1 pound baby scallops
2 pounds octopus
1 pound squid, cleaned
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons

Sauce:
4 cloves garlic, divided use
Salt, to taste
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
½ cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
8 guajillo chiles
2 white onions, diced
2 habaneros, chopped
3 jalapeños, chopped
1 pound ripe pineapple, cubed
1 tomato, diced

To assemble:
30 small flour tortillas
1 pound bayo beans or red beans, boiled and mashed
Baby radishes, sliced, for garnish
Micro cilantro or other microgreens, for garnish

Peel and clean the seafood. Season with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice, and set aside.

Combine 2 cloves garlic and salt in mortar until a paste forms. In either a large mortar or food processor, add garlic paste and process together with cloves, coriander seeds, cumin and oregano. Add mayonnaise, mustard and soy sauce. Set mixture aside.

Roast the guajillo chilies, first removing seeds and boiling briefly to soften. Once roasted, blend with remaining 2 cloves garlic and onion, and mix with seasoning sauce. Add habaneros, jalapeños, pineapple and tomato to sauce.

Marinate seafood with this sauce for at least 90 minutes.

Heat your grill. Grill the seafood over direct heat until it acquires a roasted color and is done, about 5 minutes.

To assemble: Take a tortilla and spread bayo beans over it. Add grilled seafood and top with radishes and microgreens.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Adapted from Paco Isordia of Viceroy Zihuatanejo

For more information on Best of Mexico or other Culinaria events, click here.

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