Ask a Chef: How can I make delicious Mexican food?

Ask a Chef: How can I make delicious Mexican food?

In our Ask a Chef four-part series, each month, a new chef/food professional will answer important questions about incorporating fresh, real food into your everyday life. They will also emphasize how their food choices impact their own lives.

Today we hear from Chef Lee Kuebler from Milwalky Trace and Taco in Libertyville, Ill.

Why did you want to become a chef? 

This is a question I have been asked a lot. At some point in my early twenties, cooking and eating became such an expensive hobby for me that I figured I would need to make a living off of it instead of spending all of my expendable income. Food and cooking is something I just really never get tired of exploring.

To me, a meal is more than a plate of food. It’s an evolution from plant to plate, an experience that begins with the careful selection of the finest ingredients pushed to the height of their flavor.

What has your journey been to bring you to open your restaurant Milwalky Taco?

Shortly after we opened Milwalky Trace in Libertyville, I knew I wanted to open a taqueria. While working as a chef in the city, I would always stop for a few lengua tacos late at night on my way home from work. I missed that, and couldn’t find the tacos I was looking for in the suburbs, so I decided to make them myself.

In professional kitchens, one works with a lot of people from Mexico. So for ten years, I was privileged to learn their culture and food. Even in fine dining restaurants, the cooks are in the back eating tacos.

What do you love about tacos and Mexican food?

In my experience, when gathered with Mexican people and food, it tends to be a very social time. I doubt that is exclusive to Mexican people and their food, but for me, that’s what sticks out. In America, dining can be a lonely experience sometimes. So many people eat in their car or at their desks and even when dining out, everyone orders their own entrée. I like people to share food. I want diners to have to pass things to one another, reach over the person next to them for the last bite. At my restaurants, I try my best to get everyone at the table talking and interacting with each other. Tacos are the perfect medium for that. When you put down a big tray of tacos at a table of six or eight people, it gets really fun.

How and why do you like to incorporate fresh ingredients with your tacos?  

I only use fresh ingredients. Sometimes we get diners that don’t like the prices associated with that but, to me, it’s worth it. Tortillas made from scratch in the restaurant, beautifully aged skirt steak and salsa made with fresh tomatoes and onions grilled over wood, toasted guajillo chiles, roasted garlic and lots of fresh squeezed lime juice make a beautiful taco. And that’s just one of a dozen or so on the menu.

Condell Cooks for Life

Advocate Condell Medical Center and Food Revolution Super Ambassador Lindsey Shifley will host an evening of cooking demonstrations and tips shared by a dynamic group of chefs, including Lee, on May 8 at Condell Cooks for Life, a pop-up cooking school event. A variety of Jamie Oliver’s “Cook for your Life” recipes will be demonstrated in a hands-on setup in the Advocate Condell Conference Center.

At the event Lee will be sharing his version of the Food Revolution recipe:

Mexican-style Omelette Wrap

Ingredients:

Chipotle dressing

  • 2 teaspoons chipotle Tabasco sauce
  • 2 limes

Tomato salad

  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 5 large mixed-colour tomatoes
  • 50 g baby spinach

Omelette

  • 6 large free-range eggs
  • olive oil
  • 20 g Parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Measure the Tabasco into a jam jar, then squeeze in the juice of 1 lime and add a good pinch of black pepper.
  2. Put the lid securely on the jar and shake well. Cut the remaining lime into wedges and put aside.
  3. On a chopping board, trim and finely slice the spring onions, pick and roughly chop the coriander leaves, then scrape into a large bowl, reserving a little coriander for later.
  4. Add the red wine vinegar and a pinch of sea salt, then mix together well.
  5. Roughly chop the tomatoes and spinach, then add to the bowl and mix again.
  6. Crack the eggs into a bowl or jug, add a splash of water, season lightly with salt and pepper, then whisk with a fork until well combined.
  7. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 26cm non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, pour a quarter of the egg into the frying pan, swirling and tilting so that it covers the whole base of the pan.
  8. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the omelette is just set – when the omelette is nearly ready, finely grate and scatter over a quarter of the cheese.
  9. Slide the omelette onto a serving plate, spoon a quarter of the salad down the middle, then roll it up.
  10. Spoon over some of the chipotle dressing and garnish with the reserved coriander leaves, then serve immediately with lime wedges for squeezing over. Repeat with the remaining mixture, serving as and when ready.

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One Comment

  1. Loved the article and the story behind the chef but that picture of “tacos” has to go! Hard shell tacos are non existent in the Mexican culture and are offensive to this amazing chef.

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About the Author

Lee Kuebler
Lee Kuebler

To Chef Lee Kuebler, a meal is more than a plate of food. It's an evolution from plant to plate, an experience that begins with the careful selection of the finest ingredients pushed to the height of their flavor. Trained at the culinary school of Chicago’s Kendall College, Kuebler has refined his cooking skills inside some of the area’s best restaurants. After a school-time stint at the Loop’s Union League Club, Kuebler headed to Michael in Winnetka, where he built a repertoire of classical French techniques working every part of the kitchen. Most recently, he helped open Michael Kornick and David Morton’s quickly popular Ada Street and spent two years as the restaurant’s sous chef, during which time Ada Street became a must-go destination for food and cocktails in Chicago. Kuebler’s style blends classic French cooking with world influences and highlights local, seasonal food -- for an experience that’s about so much more than eating.

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