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Mexico -- One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless

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Everything tastes better cooked over a wood or charcoal fire - at least that's the Oaxacan credo. From soup to barbacoa, burning embers influence the flavor of Oaxaca's food in just the right ways. For starters, Rick guides us through the "taco corridor" at the 20 de Noviembre market just off the main square in Oaxaca. We can almost taste the richly-burnished chiles and onions as they grill alongside super-thinly sliced beef and pork and robust chorizo sausages.

WGBY Create
Tue Jun 11th, 7:30am
Tue Jun 11th, 1:30pm

The salt marshes of Celestun and a seaside octopus farm are unlikely places for a chef to get inspired. But Chef Roberto Solis' approach to food has always been a little different - just see the menu of his revered restaurant Nectar in Merida, which continues to charm and dazzle. In Nectar's kitchen, Roberto shows Rick how to make three of his restaurant's favorite dishes: cebollas negras, poc chuc de pulpo and deeply satisfying crispy, seared pork belly with grilled pineapple and tomatillo.

Fish tacos embody Ensenada's history in one bite: Fresh fish from pristine waters encased in crispy batter influenced by Asian immigrants, topped with Spanish-inspired creamy sauces, wrapped up in a very Mexican corn tortilla and spiked with chile. We seek out some of the best versions at Mariscos El Norteno, a stall opposite the Ensenada Fish market, and a 30-year old corner stand, Los Originales El Chopipo.

Chef Edgar Nunez wants to change the world. Like Rick, Edgar believes everyone should have access to fresh, local food; he believes Mexican chefs should embrace their own cuisine; and he believes in mentoring the younger generation. Rick and Edgar strategize over a meal of duck carnitas with mole negro at Sud 777, Edgar's strikingly beautiful fine dining Mexico City restaurant. Then they take it to the streets where Edgar's mission continues via food trucks that serve fresh, affordable tacos, tostadas and caldos to all manner of customers.

In Mexico, cheese is all about fresh cheese. So fresh, in fact, that Rick planned his cheese making with two local women in the village of Rojas around the milking of the alfalfa-fed cows. We see that uber-fresh milk turned into the sweet, tender curds known as queso fresco and the tangy, salty quesillo (string cheese) so ubiquitous to many Oaxacan specialties. In his Chicago home kitchen, Rick encourages viewers to try their own hand at fresh cheese. As a reward, he creates a simple dinner featuring the just-made cheeses as well as salsas from his grill with salad from the garden.

In Mexico, it is just as common to start your day with a cup of steaming hot chocolate as it is with coffee. Little wonder, when the chocolate is made from freshly roasted cacao beans and seasoned with cinnamon and a touch of sugar. Rick takes us to world-renowned Mayordomo near the main market in Oaxaca and to Seasons of My Heart Cooking School to see the process from two perspectives. For the best cup of coffee ever, Rick takes a day trip to Finca Las Nieves Coffee Plantation where the owners are passionate in their pursuit.

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