Chris Delgross’s culinary faith lies in two trinities: the mirepoix with which so many Italian dishes begin: celery, onion, and carrots. – and the start of great Mexican recipes: onion, tomato and chilies. DelGross cooks “Mexitalian Cuisine,” a unique style he documents on The DelGrosso Food Blog. (No, that final “o” isn’t a typo; the DelGrosso family lost the “o” when they immigrated, but DelGross added it back to his blog. Watch his risotto video here: http://food.gloucestertimes.com/videos/Risotto-Mexicano.html)
A former U.S. marine, Chris DelGross lives in coastal Maine, and works for Rochester Electronics in Newburyport, MA as a test engineer. Married with a seven-year-old daughter and a new baby almost here, DelGross is nothing if not ardent about cooking. Whether it’s every day dinner, auditioning for MasterChef (He was called back, but didn’t make the final cut), or preparing the meal for his wife’s baby shower (caprese salad, homemade pizzas, baked shells with homemade bolognese), DelGross’s heart is one hundred percent present at the stove.
As a child DelGross woke up every Sunday to the smells of his father’s Italian sauce – a combination of meats – pigs feet, sausage, meatballs, chicken - seared with garlic and onion, and then cooked with tomato paste. Chris turned the handle on the pasta machine for the holiday raviolis. Christmas Eve meant the feast of the seven fishes; Easter was Shadone, an Easter Pie made with ricotta cheese, meats, and 14 eggs.
But, DelGross is zealous about his wife’s family cuisine. The DelGross family travels every year to Mexico City, where DelGross says he almost never leaves his mother-in-law – Maria del Carmen’s – side in the kitchen. Carmen has taught DelGross how to make bacalao vizcaina - shredded salt cod sauteed in garlic, onions and chilis, and served with fresh bollilos. He’s learned about cooking tripe: cleaned, boiled and stewed in gaujillos sauce. And he’s learned the complex art of cooking with chilies. The fundamental lesson, he says, is to always roast fresh chilies or toast dried chilies to evoke the flavors that make Mexican cuisine great. The sugars emerge and the flavors transform when chilies are treated with heat; ancho chilies, for instance, smell like raisins when they’re toasted; guajillos smell like peanuts.
Along with impressing the people at MasterChef, Delgross recently won first place with his morel, wild ramp, poblano, and goat cheese soufflee in a contest sponsored by Marx Foods. His culinary dreams include owning a Mexitalian food truck, serving dishes like gnocchi in a tomato poblano sauce, tacos with braciole, tortas with Italian meats, shells stuffed with chorizo. (DelGross makes his own chorizo, along with his own ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, and of course pastas.)
DelGross designed this Mexitalian dish for another MarxFoods contest; a classic risotto Milanese made with saffron and butter, the dish crosses continents when DelGross adds with tequila, homemade chorizo, and manchego cheese.
He uses Integrale rice, a whole grain arborio rice with the bran still intact, but this dish can be prepared with traditional arborio rice, although it may need slightly less broth; just taste for doneness.
Integrale Milanese Mexicana
1 1/2 cups Integrale rice
1 clove garlic
1/2 medium yellow onion
1/3 cup Tequila Añejo
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon salt
½ lb. Mexican Chorizo
¼ cup Manchego Cheese
5 cups Chicken Broth
Place the 5 cups of broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Add the saffron to the broth and keep very warm.
Meanwhile, take the chorizo and heat over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
Once it is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, but not browning.
Add the rice and stir to combine.
Add the Tequila and cook until it is completely absorbed.
Start adding the stock about 1 cup at a time and stirring constantly until each cup of stock is completely absorbed before adding the next. After 4 cups of stock have been added, start tasting the rice (or about 20 minutes)
When the rice is al dente, remove from heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the cheese and stir vigorously.
Plate the risotto and sprinkle with the chorizo. Garnish with fresh parsley or fresh oregano.