Rick Bayless to Prepare Modern Mexican Feast for White House State Dinner

Yes, we have the menu! Renowned Chicago Chef Rick Bayless has been tapped by the First family to prepare the meal for the administration's second official state dinner. The White House will host Mexican President Felipe Calderon and first lady Margarita Zavala, so Chef Bayless, known for his superb Mexican dishes and a favorite of the Obamas, was a logical choice.

This self-described "White guy" gringo from Oklahoma has always had an affinity for all things Latin; he majored in Spanish and Latin American studies as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, and spent six years living in Mexico, during which he fell in love with the amazing cuisine of the country. Bayless wrote what is now considered a seminal cookbook while south of the border, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From The Heart of Mexico. Since then, he has opened two acclaimed restaurants in the Windy City, Frontera Grill and the Obama's favorite, Topolobampo, both featuring a modern, upscale take on Mexican cuisine.

First Lady Michelle Obama wanted the menu for tonight's state dinner to be kept top secret to ensure that the 200+ guests, including Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria Parker, and the world's wealthiest man, Carlos "Slim" Helu, would not feel as though "they'd eaten the meal before they got there." Lucky for us, Bayless's staff got back to us tonight and shared the entire menu!

The meal will start off with a salad of Jicama, Oranges and Pineapple in a citrus vinaigrette. The first course, Herb Green Ceviche, is a staple item at Bayless's restaurant Frontera, though they normally make it with scallops. For tonight's state dinner, they are taking it a bit more upscale by using Hawaiian Opah and serving it over a cucumber sesame-cilantro cracker. The main course is an incredibly complex 28-ingredient Oaxacan mole with Oregon Wagyu beef, served with a Black Bean Tamalon and grilled green beans. For dessert (undoubtedly Sasha and Malia's favorite part of the meal) the guests will be treated to a Chocolate Cajeta Tart served with toasted homemade marshmallows, graham cracker crumble and goat cheese ice cream. 

We managed to get our hands on recipes for the first two courses. Prepare them for your family and dine in style like the Obama's.

Jicama Salad

Serves 8 or so as a snack or informal appetizer


1 medium (about 1 pound)jícama
2 small cucumbers
3 seedless oranges
6 radishes, thinly sliced
The juice of 2 limes (about 1/3 cup)
Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon
About 2 teaspoons powdered dried hot chile, preferably ancho or guajillo
About 2/3 cup Pickled Red Onions (optional)
About 1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish 

1. Peel away the brown skin and fibrous exterior layer of the jícama (a small knife works best for this), then cut in half. Lay each half on its cut side and slice 1/4-inch thick; cut slices in half diagonally.  Slice cucumbers lengthwise in half, scoop out the seeds (if there are a lot), and cut each half diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Cut stem and blossom end off oranges, stand oranges on cutting board and, working close to the flesh, cut away the rind and all white pith. Cut oranges in half, then slice each half crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices.

2. Mix the jícama, cucumbers, oranges, radishes and lime juice in a large bowl. Let marinate about 20 minutes, then season with salt.

3. Pile the vegetables and fruit onto a serving platter and drizzle with any accumulated juices. Sprinkle liberally with the powdered chile, top with the optional pickled onions and strew with the chopped cilantro. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs and your simple crunchy appetizer is ready to set before your guests.

Note: This incredibly fresh, rustic appetizer should really be eaten moments after its put together.


Herb Green Ceviche (Ceviche Verde)

Makes about 4 1/2 cups or enough for 8 as a starter



Herb seasoning:
1/2 head garlic, cloves broken apart
2 to 3 serrano chiles
1 medium bunch cilantro, tough lower stems cut off
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, tough lower stems cut off
1/2 cup olive oil

Scallop ceviche:
1 1/2 pounds bay scallops or sea scallops cut into 1/2-inch pieces to resemble bay scallops
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 (7-ounces total) small “pickle” or Persian (baby) cucumbers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces    
2 large avocados, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin, then cut into cubes
Lettuce leaves (butter lettuce works great here) for garnish


1. Set a dry skillet over medium heat.  Lay in the unpeeled garlic cloves and chiles.  Roast, turning frequently, until soft and blotchy brown in spots, about 10 minutes for the chiles and 15 minutes for the garlic.  Cool until handleable, then slip the skins off the garlic, pull stems off the chiles and roughly chop (no need to remove the seeds).  Place in a food processor along with the cilantro (about 1 cup if packed), parsley (about 1 cup if packed), oil and 2 generous teaspoons salt.  Process until nearly smooth (it will be pasty).  Scrape into a storage container and refrigerate until serving time.

2. Pour the fresh lime juice over the scallops, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every few minutes.  When the scallops are as “done” as you like—break one open to see if it looks as cooked as you like (I like them still pink on the inside), drain off all but about 1/4 cup of the lime juice.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the herb mixture, cucumber and avocado.  Taste and season with more salt if you think necessary.  Serve on lettuce leaf-lined plates or martini glasses. You’re ready to serve.