(early august. number 62.)
The Secret Restaurant Portland team love Juanita's. It's a rare joy to find a food product you can stand behind 100%– that is the case with us and Juanita's.
For those of you outside the Pacific Northwest, Juanita's are a freakishly good brand of tortilla chip made in Hood River, Oregon. As Jason French of Ned Ludd says in this grrreat video, "These are just the best chips."
Our silly experimentation with Juanita's began last fall, when we entered Edible Portland's "Experimental Ice Cream Contest." The contest was a one year celebration for Underground Airwaves, the excellent food podcast our friend Chris Seigel puts together, which has done a couple features on us. Our entry: cardamom/black pepper ice cream, with Juanita's.
It was an excellent ice cream, aided by the skill of Holly Meyers, now-official sometimes-SR team member, who is behind the buckets making all the ice cream for 50 Licks (in our top two Portland ice creams, along with Lovely's 50/50). Cardamom and black pepper were steeped with the cream base, then more was freshly pounded in the mortar and pestle and folded in. The Juanita's were crumbled, soaked in melted butter, then baked into crispy Juanita's butter balls. We LOVED it. We didn't win, but the winner, our friend Jordan Behr (whose "tobacco marshmallow" tasted delicious but made your throat tickle) said he voted for ours, and that was good enough for us.
When brainstorming ideas for this edition of SR, Sofie, Lucas, and I were eating a plate of mediocre nachos at a cozy nearby bar/venue. I observed that the nachos were now made with Juanita's, which they hadn't been before. They were still mediocre, but it was more fun now, getting to eat Juanita's.
Lucas has always watched cooking shows like Iron Chef, Sofie has recently gotten really into cooking shows like Iron Chef, and I'd recently gotten into watching cooking shows like Iron Chef with Sofie. We knew we wanted this one to be fun, sort of playful. Ideas like "everything is a taco" and "everything is a sphere" had been tossed around for weeks. Then Sofie said it. "Everything has Juanita's in it."
Crudites with dips
Tiny baby summer squashes, delicately blanched.
Beautiful french beans from Groundworks, delicately blanched.
Fancy little spanish pickled peppers.
Jimmy Nordello peppers from Gathering Together.
Carrots from S.G. and Groundworks, delicately blanched.
Beautiful celery from Groundworks, delicately blanched.
A giant Italian purple artichoke, simmered slow.
Corn crips, corn biscuits
We made "reconstructed" Juanitas/corn flour thin crisps and salted savory biscuits.
We also served bowls of Juanita's.
Beet hummus. A new version of Andrew's "famous" hummus, made special with Blue Hill Beet Yogurt and home grown (S.G.) beets.
Carrot hummus. Another new version of Andrew's "famous" hummus, made special with Blue Hill Carrot Yogurt and home grown (S.G.) carrots.
Bagna Couda. Alice Water's flawless recipe for the sauce of butter (made with a fancy, grassy New Zealand butter), anchovies, chili, and garlic.
Have you had the Blue Hill yogurt? Do you know what I'm talking about?
Dan Barber, food visionary man, spending his time working with seed scientists to resurrect lost ancient grains and shit like that, recently dropped this line of "savory" vegetable yogurt. So far Portland has gotten beet, carrot, sweet potato, and butternut squash. Still waiting on parsnip, parsley, tomato, and others. Sofie and I are absurdly into it.
Lucas collaborating with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on a beautiful ceviche, with lemon juice, cippolini onions (S.G.), garlic (S.G.), Jimmy Nordello peppers, and celery.
Juanitas/Emmer Tartine bread, with oregano pesto and fresh tomatoes.
A "chips and salsa" bruschette.
Maybe the only time someone has taken two breads from Tartine Book n.3 and improvised with them by substituting corn porridge for crumbled Juanita's. But that's what I did!
I also substituted 30% emmer, using his percentages for the emmer bread in another chapter. The flour is from Lonesome Whistle farm, my favorite producer of grain in the Northwest.
The regular whole wheat bread flour is from a producer in Washington, and using my starter that's been going since the first batch of S.R. bread in May 2011.
Pesto using onions (S.G.), garlic (S.G.), oregano (S.G.), a much smaller quantity of basil (S.G.),trader giotto's parmesan, Juanitas, and blood orange vinegar.
Tomatoes from "S.G.etc." From here on out let it be known that all the tomatoes featured in the meal were home grown and came from my garden (S.G.), or the house where Sofie was house sitting, or The Hungry Gardener (Vern Nelson, Sofie's mom Mary's partner)'s garden.
Topped with smoked Maldon and pink peppercorns.
Sweet corn/wild arugula salad, with fried calamari & a smashed potato
Exquisite sweet corn from a farm we don't remember the name of, wild arugula (S.G.), calamari steak strips breaded in Juanita's, Alice Waters's perfect aioli, a Mountain Rose potato or two (S.G.), topped with borage flowers (S.G.).
This dish was really fun to introduce, because we could gesture to the place where so much of it came from. The recently dug up S.G. garlic patch was to the right of the dining tables: all the garlic for the aioli came from there. The scraggly patch of amazing wild arugula was to the left of the dining tables. It has taken over two beds of the garden and managed to survive our heatwave which had long polished off the lettuces. The borage came from the garden across the street. We served the entire harvest of S.G. potatoes for this year.
I wasn't planning on growing them, and our sweet friend Lacy, who farms down in my hometown of Eugene, was visiting briefly. Lacy and her partner Logan had just spent the day planting an entire field of Mountain Rose potatoes. They had packaged 4 seed potatoes for me in a delicately drawn on brown paper sack. I planted two small rows, and got about 30 potatoes. I thought it would be sort of beautiful and poignant to just serve them all at once for this SR. So we did! Sofie made them into a bomb-ass salt & vinegar treatment, that also very closely resembled our favorite "smashed potatoes" at Broder.
The calamari was exquisitely prepared by Lucas, making the Juanita's into a panko style breading.
He also made Alice's amazing, simple aioli recipe with the home grown garlic. The salad was tossed together with a little muscatel vinegar, then topped with a dollop of aioli, a few calamari strips, and one or two smashed potatoes, then decorated with borage flowers.
This was one of my favorite SR dishes in ages (maybe because Lucas and Sofie did most of the work?).
Pasta dough: 50% all purpose flour / 50% Juanita's.
Alice Waters's semolina pasta dough recipe, but with pulverized Juanita's paste substituted for the semolina and water. It took a lot of work but we got it to a beautiful pasta dough consistency. The texture was delightful, and the corn flavor really shined through.
The lasagne was filled with squash blossoms (S.G.). Ricotta. Orange tomatoes (S.G., etc) Fresh mozzarella, candied sungold tomatoes.
We used the residual heat from the bread bake to candy the tomatoes, which came from the garden where Sofie was house sitting.
Oh, and we made a groovy gluten free version for a couple folks, using layers of thinly sliced vegetables, ratatouille style (pictured at the bottom of the page).
Sweet corn, basil, and lemon verbena semifreddo
Sofie made this awesome ice cream/semifreddo. Intensely flavorful. No fucking around. The cream base was cooked with fresh sweet corn, Juanita's, lemon verbena (S.G.) and basil (S.G.– lots of it).
We froze it a loaf pan, then cut it into convenient slices.
No one knows how no photos survive. Alas, as it was quite pretty.
Juanitas baklava ("honey nachos")
I melted a stick of butter into a half pint of honey, poured some over a layer of Juanita's, sprinkled over toasted pumpkin seeds, shaved almonds, and pistachios. More honey sauce, more Juantia's, another layer of nuts. Then the whole thing was compressed, cover in foil, and weighted down. It was baked for 45 minutes, with the rest of the honey sauce poured on as it cooled.
Thai basil/lemon verbena margarita
Breakside Passionfruit sour
(So ridiculously well fitted for this meal).
Logan's home brews
Lucas and my friend from middle and high school, Logan Smith (who we'd reconnected with at our 10 year high school reunion), is a skilled home brewer and brought a great assortment of his stuff. We'll be collaborating with him directly on some beer in the future. Maybe…a Juanita's beer?