You can’t walk down the street with Rick Bayless without seeing the guy get mobbed. He’s one of those rare TV-famous chefs who actually has the cooking chops to back up his celebrity. His Chicago restaurants—Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco, Lena Brava among them—consistently push the boundary of Mexican gastronomy.
What many people don’t know is Bayless grew up in Oklahoma City, where his family ran a barbecue restaurant. Southern food, quite literally, is in his blood. So when we told Bayless about The Takeout’s new video series devoted entirely to gravy—we call it Good Gravy!—Bayless jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate the very gravy he makes at home.
This particular gravy, made with roasted diced poblano peppers and bacon fat, is a creamy gravy more in the biscuits-and-gravy tradition. But it’s gravy! It’s great with everything. It’ll probably be killer drenched over turkey. As a bonus, we’ve included his recipe for corn flake-crusted fish, those crunchy fillets you see in the video above.
2 poblano chiles
2 Tbsp. bacon fat
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups whole milk
½ Tbsp. Mexican oregano
1 generous tsp. salt
½ Tbsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. Mexican crema
Roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or charcoal fire, or close under a preheated broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about five minutes over an open flame, 10 minutes under a broiler. Collect the chiles in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and cool until handleable. Rub off the charred skin, pull out the stems and seed pods and briefly rinse under cool water to remove bits of skin and seeds. Cut into small dice.
Heat the bacon fat in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, salt and pepper. Cook and stir over medium heat until browned, about five minutes. Whisk in the milk in a steady stream, being careful that no lumps form. Continue cooking and whisking until the gravy comes to a full boil and thickens. If the gravy becomes too thick, you may thin it with a little more milk. Once you have the correct consistency toss in the poblanos, Mexican oregano, and crema, stir to combine. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
One 7-ounce box corn flakes
Vegetable oil to a depth of 1/4 inch for pan-frying
Six 5- to 6-ounce skinless fish fillets (choose snapper, grouper, halibut, striped bass, mahimahi or other medium-flake light-flavored fish), about 3/4 inch thick
To bread the fish, spread the flour on a deep plate (or pie plate), then stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Break the eggs onto another deep plate and add 3 tablespoons water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Beat with a fork until completely liquid. Spread the corn flakes on a third plate, then use the back of a measuring cup to gently break them into 1/4-inch pieces.
Dredge all sides of one fish fillet in the flour, then lay it in the egg mixture. Use a large fork to flip it over, then carefully transfer the drippy piece of fish to the plate of corn flakes. Sprinkle flakes from the dish over the top of the fish and press them in firmly; the fish should be thoroughly coated with flakes. Transfer to another plate of baking sheet, then “bread” the remaining fillets. Refrigerate uncovered for at least an hour, or up to six hours.
Turn on the oven to the lowest setting. Heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a large heavy skillet over medium to medium-high. When the oil is hot enough to make an edge of “breaded” fillet really sizzle, fry the fillets into two batches. (They shouldn’t be crowded in the pan, or they won’t crust and brown nicely.) They’ll need to cook about two minutes per side to brown and be done enough to flake under firm pressure-it takes a little practice to check this without breaking the crust very much. Carefully transfer the first batch of cooked fillets to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you’re frying the second batch.
Spoon the warm gravy onto a deep warm platter and arrange the crusty fish fillets slightly overlapping down the center. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs and you’re ready to make your triumphant entrance to the dining room.