Tag Archives: authentic mexican

Restaurant Feature: Red O in La Jolla, CA

“The best Mexican food I’ve had came from a white guy in Chicago.” –My sister, Claire, after eating at Frontera Grill

Red O Restaurant - Mariscos Chile Relleno

If you have seen the recipe posts for Cajeta and Tres Leches with Strawberries, then you know I have been a fan of Rick Bayless for most of my life. Papa Bird and I had a fantastic meal at the Red O Restaurant in Newport Beach two years ago.

Red O Restaurant - Guacamole, plantain chips and shrimp ceviche

Back then, I posted a picture of the light as air corn and goat cheese tamales from Red O on Twitter, and Rick Bayless (or whoever does his Twitter) ACTUALLY responded. I was starstruck. And upon hearing that La Jolla was tapped for the next location, I knew I wanted to do a feature on this blog. I’ve been bugging them since!

Red O Restaurant - Moscow Mule

We may live in San Diego with an abundance of excellent, authentic Mexican food… but it’s not Portland. There is no need to stone anyone for cultural appropriation. Not when they study a cuisine with the attention of a professor, scholar, and master. And not when the food is delicious!

Red O Restaurant - Combination Plates

During our first visit, I was struck with the attention to ingredients… heirloom beans and the freshest of produce. The same holds true in the San Diego/La Jolla location. The shrimp in the ceviche was plump and perfect, the flavor refreshing and addicting, served with plantain chips.

Red O Restaurant - Sun Burn Margarita

The management at both Red O’s corporate office and locally in San Diego where super accommodating and helped me organize a lunch for the San Diego Food Blogger crew. Disclaimer: they treated us to the lunch. Photos, descriptions, and opinions are mine.

Red O Restaurant, La Jolla, CA

Highlights at Red O La Jolla

The Sauces 

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Easy Mole and Shredded Chicken Recipe

A new recipe post! Today’s recipe combines two things I love… an easy shredded chicken recipe that is part of our weekly rotation and a prepared mole sauce from a small, female-owned business in Mexico that elevates leftovers into a semi-homemade meal in a snap.

easy chicken and mole plate (recipe)

I have used the Seasons of my Heart black mole and red mole and both are delicious. Here in San Diego, they are found in the retail section of Specialty Produce. I’ve thrown it on leftover Thanksgiving turkey, rotisserie chicken from the store, and our home cooked chicken (recipe follows.) Being a busy, working mom, I love having premade sauces I can throw on a protein and call a home cooked meal.

Seasons of the Heart Mole

If you want to doctor up the sauce, you can add extra unsweetened chocolate, chicken broth, almond butter, a tablespoon of butter… The instructions on the black mole actually call for a lot of ingredients and steps, including sautéing and chopping veggies, plantains, bread and pureeing in a blender. Ain’t no one got time for that. I usually just add a little of the cooking liquid from the chicken and call it a day. It’s that good as is!

Don’t have a Mexican mama in your kitchen using the 900 gagillion ingredients that go into mole? Don’t worry. You can have Susana Trilling as back up in your cupboard. She makes her moles and jellies in Oaxaca in small batches, certified slow food. And yummy.

easy chicken mole recipe

I also want to share Papa Bird’s new toy. I recently signed up as an affiliate with the Grommet, primarily because I saw the Bear Pawicon and thought it would be a perfect gift for my husband. Part meat shredder, part heat-proof food lifter, it makes him feel like Wolverine while prepping his weekly shredded chicken.

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My serving suggestion for the mole is a plate with brown rice, black beans, cotija cheese, cilantro, avocado, tomatoes, and (go for it) a fried egg. You might not even need the meat…

Easy Shredded Chicken Recipe
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
An affordable, quick way to have chicken ready to go for multiple recipes.
Ingredients
  • 1 package of chicken thighs (we use boneless/skinless)
  • 1 quart of chicken broth or water
  • 1 onion
  • 5 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • herbs/seasonings such as Mexican blend, or at least oregano and a bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rough chop veggies. Throw everything in a pressure cooker. Bring to a boil and up to pressure. Cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on your machine, or until done and fork tender. If starting with frozen chicken (totally works with a pressure cooker) increase cook time at pressure to 10-15 minutes, depending on your machine.
  2. Use the bear paws or two large forks to shred. Reserve the cooking liquid for broth.
Notes
If you don't have a pressure cooker, simply simmer for an hour.

Disclaimers: as mentioned, I am an affiliate of the Grommet, which means that if you purchase something off their site through a link on my site I may receive a small percentage for the referral. This particular product I personally bought and sincerely recommend. I am not an affiliate per se of Specialty Produce. If you go, please mention that “Baby Birds” sent you, but I don’t get paid per person. Full disclosure, they do hook me up. In fact, the first time I tried the mole sauce it was given to me for free. But I have since purchased it multiple times again!

Cajeta Recipe: Step by Step with Pictures

Before living on the Bird Family Farm in a quiet part of San Diego, I lived in the neighborhood of North Park. Well, my side of the street was North Park, but across the street was City Heights. Also across the street was a small, family run Mexican market. They had fresh tortillas and Mexican canned goods, cheeses and candies. I love caramel, and was buying these round candies labeled “cajeta” for a while before I figured out that the picture of a goat on them probably meant that it was made with goat milk. It was too late to be grossed out as I was already a fan. The slight tang from the “goatiness” balances out the sugary sweetness better than cow’s milk can.

Fast forward to this spring and with my first surplus of goat milk from our co-op I knew I wanted to try making some form of goat milk caramel. I found a recipe for Rick Bayless’ cajeta caramel sauce and haven’t turned back. I’ve been a fan of Rick Bayless ever since I saw his show on PBS. If you are not familiar with him, he is a white American guy who makes Mexican food look authentic and delicious. I remember that in the first show I saw he was featuring a recipe called Chiles en Nogada and I was dying to try it. (I’ve since had it here in San Diego and in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.)

Pronounced “ka-HAY-ta,” cajeta is traditionally made from goat milk and sugar, slowly reduced and caramelized. Think of dulce de leche meets sweetened condensed milk. It is often served as a syrup over pancakes and cakes or stirred into coffee. I like to add a vanilla bean to the recipe. Not only are the black flecks beautiful, it adds an almost custardy taste to the cajeta.

This is NOT a “quick and easy” recipe. Plan on the cooking taking an hour and a half. You do not need to stir constantly until the very end, but during most of the cooking you do need to stir periodically, scraping the bottom and the sides with a heat proof spatula. The only tricky part is feeling confident on when to stop cooking it. But no worries there! It’s just a matter of preference. Reduced less time it will be more syrupy, and cooked longer it will be thicker, almost pudding like when chilled.

Cajeta Recipe: Step by Step with Pictures

Recipe adapted minimally from Rick Bayless’ Cajeta  •  Makes about 3-4 cups

  • 2 quarts goat’s milk or a combination of goat’s milk and cow’s milk—or even with all cow’s milk (use whole milk in all cases)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 of a cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1.  Simmer the cajeta.   In a large (6- to 8-quart) pot, combine the milk, sugar and cinnamon stick and set over medium heat.  Stir regularly until the milk comes to a simmer (all the sugar should have dissolved by this point). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda—it’ll foam up if the goat’s milk is acidic. When the bubbles subside, return the pot to the heat.

Adjust the heat to maintain the mixture at a brisk simmer (too high and the mixture will boil over; too low and the cooking time will seem interminable). Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns pale golden, more or less one hour.

Now, begin stirring frequently as the mixture colors to caramel-brown and thickens to the consistency of maple syrup (you’ll notice the bubbles becoming larger and glassier).  Stir regularly so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Test a couple of drops on a cold plate: When cool, the cajeta should be the consistency of a medium-thick caramel sauce.  If the cooled cajeta is thicker (almost like caramel candy), stir in a tablespoon or so of water and remove from the heat; if too runny, keep cooking.

2.  Finish the cajeta.   Pour the cajeta through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or a wide-mouth storage jar.  (Or simply fish out the vanilla pod and cinnamon.) When cool, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.  Warming the cajeta before serving makes it extra delicious.

Notes:

Cajeta keeps for a month or more in the refrigerator.  Keep it tightly covered to keep it from absorbing other flavors. I have also frozen it, although for only a month, and the defrosted cajeta was just as good.