Dining

In My Kitchen: Sean Yontz, Mezcal, Tambien Cantina, and Rockbar

Chef and restaurateur Sean Yontz spices up his home cooking with plenty of south-of-the-border inspirations.

September 2008

Kitchen Cred
Sean Yontz, 40, took his first kitchen job as a teenager, before quickly moving into fine dinaiang at the late Rattlesnake Club in the Tivoli. Later, Yontz followed his executive chef stints at Zenith and Tamayo with the 2002 opening of the late Vega, his own white-tablecloth restaurant. Yontz is currently a partner in Mezcal, Tambien Cantina, and Rockbar.

Tequila Sunrise
Yontz makes regular trips to Mexico and California to scout out new and unusual tequilas to bring home. "Right now I'm really liking this Los Abuelos tequila," he says. "It's really smooth with a hint of cinnamon, but it's not too sweet." Yontz's family room sports a built-in bar to display his collection.

Cooking Inspiration
"One of my all-time favorite cookbooks is White Heat by Marco Pierre White," explains Yontz. "He was this bad-boy cook, and he was the youngest chef at the time to receive three Michelin stars. This book is more about his philosophy in the kitchen and not compromising as a chef."

Family Heirloom
"My great-grandmother was from Nogales, Mexico, and this is her molcajete," says Yontz, displaying a traditional stone mortar and pestle carved out of volcanic rock. "I use it all the time to grind chiles, nuts, and spices."

The Great Outdoors
When entertaining friends, Yontz gravitates toward his back patio and barbecue. "I'll do carne asada, my wife makes pasta salad, and we serve Palomas, a cocktail made with fresh grapefruit juice, Squirt, fresh lime, salt, and tequila."

Perfect Pot
"This Chemex coffeemaker won a design award back when it was introduced, and it makes the perfect cup of coffee." Eight-cup Chemex classic series glass coffeemaker, $35.90 at www.chemexcoffeemaker.com

RECIPE: Sinaloa Roadside Chicken (Serves 4-6)

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon dried guajillo chile, ground
  • 1 tablespoon dried ancho chile, ground
  • ½ teaspoon dried chipotle chile, ground
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground clove
  • ¼ teaspoon ground canela ( Mexican cinnamon)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For the Chicken

  • 2 large frying chickens (about 3 pounds each)
  • 6 Mexican green onions, cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix all marinade ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Rub the whole chickens with the marinade and let sit for 6 hours in the refrigerator. Cut chickens in half down the backs, and grill for 45 minutes on a grill over indirect heat or very low heat. Yontz recommends turning on only half of the grill to the lowest setting and cooking the chickens on the half that is not on. Rub the onions with canola oil, and grill on the heated side of the grill for 5 minutes until tender and slightly blackened.

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