Chef Julieta Ballesteros has always dreamed of being a chef. She came to New York from Northern Mexico, to go to The French Culinary Institute, and describes her first place as a small taqueria. But Crema 111 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011 is a full restaurant, her baby, where each plate is her canvas. Her artwork stems from her richly flavorful Mexican background mixed with French influences, my kind of Frida Kahlo.

Julieta Ballesteros 2

I’ve been to Crema for brunch twice, and loved it both times. I consider it one of the most under-appreciated restaurants in NY. Take this dish for example (she demos it in the video below), with so much going on. A beautifully prepared duck breast is the centerpiece for a poblano mole sauce, a potato chipotle flauta, some amazingly spiced plantains, and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. No skimping here.

After this demo, I got to eat this dish and I have to say, it’s delicious and I have to eat it again. I’m planning on bringing Lon back for it. The flavors draw from French, Asian, and Mexican influences, put together in a way I could not have imagined.

There are several parts to this dish so I don’t expect many of you to make it at home, but here’s what you should take away from this lesson with Julieta. You can break up this dish and just make parts of it:

  • Mole is so easy to make! I had no idea. You can make it and use this sauce on just about anything for a week.
  • Remember to score the skin side of the duck breast so it doesn’t shrink when you sear it.
  • Marinate duck breast in soy sauce, serrano, and garlic overnight. It’s juicy and stands alone quite nicely.
  • The fried ripe plantains are seasoned with spices, cinnamon, salt, and sugar. OMG. It’s so good. You can buy her Crema Spice Blend at the restaurant, or call (212-691-4477) and they can mail it out to you.
  • Did you notice how she served the duck breast, sliced, but not all the way through? I’ve never seen that before and it’s beautiful, so definitely copying that one.

Magret de Pato en Mole Poblano 4

So after all this, Julieta was so sweet and made me some of her Quesos Flameados to try. It’s a Chihuahua cheese casserole with your choice of chorizo, gruyere, mushrooms, chicken, or a mix. The dish is served piping hot with soft corn tortillas and guacamole to eat it with. You know how much I love melted cheese so this was heaven for me. When you order it, just know that you’ll get a bigger portion because I begged her not to give me too much because I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist.

Quesos Flameados

For a generous portion of beautiful food, packed with flavor, you now know where to go!

posted by jessica at 07:24 PM Filed under Un-Recipes, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.