Talk Takeaway: Cooking with Rick Bayless

Posted on Jul 29, 2013 10:45am

These are the recipes featured on Monday's show with Rick Bayless.  His cookbook, "Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks" is in stores now!


Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos with Avocado, Red-Skin Potatoes and Romaine

(Tacos de Ensalada de Pollo Enchipotlado con Papas y Lechuga Orejona)

From Mexico's tradition of "you can turn just about any leftover into a taco filling," I've done a simple version of a favorite Bayless-home "salad" taco.  Mix together some coarse shreds of chicken (leftover grilled chicken is pretty hard to beat) with potatoes, avocado, romaine and a smoky, tingly chipotle vinagreta and you've got a cool filling for warm tortillas that you'll think about long after the meal's done. Or forget the tortillas and just eat it as a satisfying salad.

Serves 4


1 large red-skin boiling or Yukon gold potato, sliced ¼-inch thick

3 tablespoons vinegar—cider vinegar is good here (or balsamic, if you like more sweetness)

1 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican

2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and chopped

¼ small white onion, finely chopped


6 ounces (about 1 ½ cups) coarsely shredded, cooked chicken (I either use the meat I've pulled from a rotisserie chicken, leftover roast or grilled chicken, or boneless, skinless chicken breast that I've gently simmered in salted water for a few minutes until tender)

2 cups sliced romaine leaves—slice them about ¼ inch across

1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into ¼-inch cubes

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

12 hot corn tortillas, store bought (reheating instructions on page 000) or homemade (page 000)



Scoop the sliced potato into a large microwaveable bowl, drizzle with ¼ cup water and sprinkle generously with salt.  Cover with plastic wrap, poke a couple of holes in the top and microwave on high for about 4 minutes, until tender, but not mushy.  Scoop the potatoes onto a cutting board, leaving the liquid behind, and let cool.

To the bowl with the potato-cooking water, add the vinegar, oregano, chipotle chiles and onion.  Mix well, then taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.   Use a fork to break the cooled potatoes into ½-inch pieces, then scoop them into a large bowl.  Add the chicken, then drizzle on the dressing and toss everything together. (If there is time, refrigerate the mixture for about half an hour to blend flavors.)  

Just before serving, add the lettuce and avocado to the bowl.  Drizzle with the oil and toss to combine everything.  Serve with warm tortillas for making soft tacos.  


Riff on Salad Tacos:  The idea of substantial salads becoming taco fillings is flexible enough to embrace just about anything you can dream up—though I personally don't think mayonnaise-dressed salads work as well as those with a vinaigrette.  Think beyond chicken salad to tuna (or other seafood), steak and grilled vegetables. Or go all vegetarian:  crumbled goat cheese, blue cheese or Mexican queso fresco are wonderful featured in a salady taco like this.  The potato can be replaced by other vegetables—broccoli, for instance, or chayote, zucchini or asparagus, all cut into small pieces and microwave-steamed the same way as the potatoes. Though I love romaine's sweet crunch, the filling will also welcome the more substantial Napa cabbage, the slightly bitter, toothsome frisée or the more tender (but not too delicate) bibb lettuce.   

Watermelon-Ginger Guacamole

Yield: about 3 cups

Cook's notes:  I've called for "compressing" the watermelon using a vacuum sealer like a FoodSaver in order to compact its texture and flavor; "compressed" watermelon is the most beautiful and delicious watermelon in the world.  Sprinkling it with a little tequila before vacuuming sealing forces the boozy flavor into the watermelon, taking the watermelon from Wow! delicious to No Way! delicious. (I cleaned that up a little bit for publication.)  Bottom line: vacuum sealing the watermelon is delicious and cool, but not a deal-breaker.  You can simply sprinkle the watermelon cubes with tequila, let them stand for a few minutes and continue making the recipe.    

Ideas for serving:  Though this is a chip dip that will get your guests really excited, it's also really delicious scooped onto slices of jicama or seedless cucumber and served as a pass-around appetizer.


1 cup (6 ounces) cubed small seedless watermelon (1/4-inch cubes)—you'll need about a 1-pound chunk of watermelon

2 tablespoons blanco tequila

3 ripe, medium-large avocados

1 lime

A small piece of fresh ginger

1 fresh red jalapeño or Fresno chile, stemmed, seeded (if you wish) and finely chopped

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herb like mint or cilantro



Scoop the watermelon cubes into a vacuum sealing bag, sprinkle in the tequila, then vacuum seal.  Refrigerate while you're making the guacamole.

Mash the avocado flesh: Cut the avocados in half, running a knife around the pit from top to bottom and back up again. Twist the halves in opposite directions to release the pit from one side.  Scoop out the pit, then scoop the flesh from each half into a large bowl. With an old-fashioned potato masher, large fork or back of a large spoon, coarsely mash the avocado.

Grate the zest from ½ of the lime into the avocado.  Squeeze in two tablespoons of lime juice.

Finely grate the ginger, measure about ½ teaspoon and add it to the avocado, along with the chile and the herb. Stir to combine, then taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate until serving time.  

Right before carrying the guacamole to your guests, release the vacuum on the watermelon.  Gently stir half of it into the guacamole, scoop the mixture into a serving dish and top with the remaining watermelon.  

Peach (or Mango)-Basil Margarita


Yield: 1 cocktail

Bartender's Notes: If you can lay your hands on the very Mexican herb hoja santa, use 2 small pieces of the leaf instead of the basil to muddle into the drink.  A couple of leaves can be used to make the salt, and a single leaf to make the syrup.

When I'm pressed for time, I skip making the basil syrup (I use an equivalent amount of agave nectar instead) and I choose the simple coarse salt option.  There are no options, however, when it comes to making the Peach Puree.  

To make a generous cup of Peach (or Mango Puree), you will need 1 pound (3 to 4) ripe peaches (or ¾ pound (2 small) ripe mangos).  Peel, remove the flesh from the pits, then roughly chop into 1-inch pieces (you'll need about 2 cups).  Scoop the fruit into a food processor or blender, add about 2 tablespoons sugar, cover and process until completely smooth.  Pour into a storage container (strain the mixture if you think there may be unblended bits), cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use, up to 3days.



Basil Salt (see recipe below) or coarse (kosher) salt

1 lime wedge

2 fresh basil leaves

1 ½ ounces 100% blue agave blanco tequila

¾ ounce fresh lime juice

½ ounce triple sec

1 ounce Peach (or Mango) Puree (see Bartender's Notes above)

¾ ounce Basil Syrup (see recipe below)

6 to 10 small ice cubes (about ¾ cup)


Spread the Basil salt onto a small plate, moisten the rim of a 6-ounce martini glass with the lime wedge, and upend the glass onto the mixture to crust the rim.

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the basil leaves with a cocktail muddler or a wooden spoon until roughly mashed.  Add the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, Peach (or Mango) Puree, Basil Syrup and ice. Cover and shake vigorously until frothy and cold; tiny ice crystals will appear in the drink after about 15 seconds of shaking. Strain into the salt-crusted martini glass and serve immediately.


Yield:  8 cocktails

16 fresh basil leaves

1 ½ cups 100% blue agave blanco tequila (see page 000)

¾ cup fresh lime juice

½ cup Cointreau

1 cup Peach (or Mango) Puree (see Bartender's Notes above)

¾ cup Basil Syrup (see recipe below)

Basil Salt (see Bartender's notes above) or coarse (kosher) salt

1 lime wedge

6 cups ice

In the bottom of a pitcher, muddle the basil leaves with a cocktail muddler or wooden spoon until coarsely mashed. Add the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, Peach (or Mango) Puree and Basil Syrup.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Crust the rims of 8 6-ounce martini glasses as described above. Fill a cocktail shaker ¾ full with ice, and pour in 1 ½ cups of the margarita mixture (be sure to include some of the muddled basil from the bottom of the pitcher). Shake, strain into 3 of the salt-crusted glasses, and repeat for the remaining margaritas.


Basil Syrup


1 cups sugar

1 sprig of basil, leaves removed (you should have about 7 leaves) and roughly chopped


Measure the sugar and ½ cup water into a small saucepan and set over medium heat.  Add the basil and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, cool and strain. The syrup will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, tightly covered. (Drizzle leftovers over halved, peeled peaches, roast at 450 degrees until tender and browned: these are incredible served with ice cream.)

Yield:  1 cup   

Basil Salt

1 12-ounce bunch of fresh basil (usually about 10 sprigs, about 70 leaves)

¼ cup coarse (kosher) salt


Pull the basil leaves from the stems (you'll have 2 loosely packed cups).  On a rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper, spread the leaves out in a single layer.  Heat your oven to its lowest setting (160 degrees is ideal), then slide in the basil and heat it—really it's dehydrating—until the leaves are dry, about 30 minutes depending on your temperature.  (If you oven has a convection fan, use it here.) Cool. Using a small food processor, electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, coarsely pulverize the dried basil (you'll get about 2 tablespoons), then stir into the coarse salt.

Yield: about 6 tablespoons

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