‘Our mashed potatoes used to come from a can, now we make them from scratch’

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  • Rosas Head Chef - Jaime Cota Sandez (Photo by Mark Tatem)

    Rosas Head Chef - Jaime Cota Sandez (Photo by Mark Tatem)

Churros are similar to a donut in texture - light and fluffy on the inside, with crispy outer coating, which is dipped in cinnamon and sugar. To make your own at home, try this recipe found online at www.allrecipes.com
Ingredients: 1 cup water; 2 ½ tablespoons white sugar; ½ teaspoon salt; 2 tablespoons vegetable oil; 1 cup all-purpose flour; 2 quarts oil for frying; ½ cup white sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
Directions: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water, two cups of sugar, salt and vegetable oil. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in flour until mixture forms a ball. Heat oil for frying in deep-fryer or deep skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Pipe strips of dough into hot oil using a pastry bag. Fry until golden brown; drain on paper towels to soak up extra oil.
Combine the remaining half cup of sugar and cinnamon. Roll churros in cinnamon and sugar mixture.

When it comes to traditional Mexican cuisine, few can whip up staples like enchiladas and tamales better than a Mexican.

Rosa’s newest chef Jaime Cota-Sandez hails straight from a small village in the Baja Peninsula. Since his arrival to the restaurant earlier this year he’s been infusing some unique flavours into the menu and taking a fresh food approach to some old favourites.

Instead of canned potatoes and frozen desserts, Mr Cota-Sandez has been making all of his dishes from scratch.

“Many dishes from the old menu are still there because Bermudians want to see things like chimichangas [a deep fried burrito], but we needed to change the way they were made.

“Before, for example, the churro [similar to a Spanish doughnut] they bought it frozen so they would just deep fry it, but I have the churro pastry made fresh daily.

“The mashed potatoes before they were made from a can and now we make that fresh, which is the best way to create something.”

Mr Cota-Sandez started off his career as a dishwasher in a hotel kitchen 18-years-ago. After four months he was inspired to leave the sink and get behind the stove instead.

While in culinary school at the age of 23, he won a cooking competition and was sent to Germany and Italy for three weeks as a prize.

“It was very nice and very exciting [considering] it was my first time outside of Mexico,” he said. “That was my first step to becoming a chef and a good opportunity for me. It opened many doors.”

Food had always been an important part of family life growing up in Latin America, Mr Cota-Sandez said. He would watch his two uncles cook; one who owns a catering company and another who works on a large cruise ship, and was inspired to get involved with the culinary arts.

Even after years in the business, the chef said he was constantly learning new tricks of the trade and looking to rise to new challenges.

Since arriving to the Island Mr Cota-Sandez has had to tone down some of the spices in his dishes, while keeping the food as authentic as possible. He sends many of his dishes to Rosa’s management team to taste and said they were a “big help” while he was trying to improve the menu.

The new menu includes his take on popular dishes like chicken in mole sauce and deep fried taquitos, but also utilises lots of fresh fish and seafood creations.

One of his specialities is the smoked tuna escabeche, which is marinated with onions, carrot, garlic and jalepeno peppers and served on a bed on corn chips. The secret is in the combination of dressings, the chef said. “We have the vinegar and olive oil and jalepeno so it’s a little sour, but has a good smoked flavour.”

Rosa’s has also given him free reign when it comes to the bimonthly dinner specials and he tries to incorporate different kinds of chilli peppers, including jalepenos, habaneros, serranos and poblanos into the menu items.

The specials, set to change this weekend, include traditional Mexican dishes like Camarones Al Tequila — shrimp bathed in finely chopped onions, shallots, butter, chopped parsley, capers, salt and pepper and flambeed with tequila.

Another seafood dish called Festival de Camarones features shrimp cooked three ways; wrapped in bacon, grilled and breaded. The meal is served with baked Chambray potatoes, vegetables and white rice pilaf.

The current menu of specials also includes ‘Langosta for Two’, which is grilled lobster in lemon butter sauce, paired with two bacon wrapped beef medallions and served with baked potatoes and corn on the cob.

Mexican desserts like fresh churro are not to be missed, according to Mr Cota-Sandez. “It’s very similar to a doughnut and has cinnamon and sugar on top. It’s a very simple dessert, but very nice,” he explained.

Fresh ice cream and sopaipilla, a delicately fried puff pastry covered in sugar and dipped in honey or chocolate “which melts in your mouth” are also on offer.

Mr Cota-Sandez learned about the job opening in Bermuda from a diver who heard that Chopstick’s manager was looking for a Mexican chef for its sister restaurant. He decided to make the move and has immediately noticed some similarities between the Island and his home.

He said: “I am from Baja, Mexico so my area is separated from Mexico city, which has more concentrated Mexican flavour.

“Where I am from we have many hotels and restaurants so it’s a different fusion [of cuisines]. I learned to cook in the One and Only Palmilla Hotel. I was working there for 12 years and it is a very fancy hotel so we had a lot of types of food, like Mediterranean, Mexican and Asian.

“In Baja we are cornered with two different oceans so there are a lot of dishes using seafood, like here. We are also small like Bermuda, it’s not a big city. The big difference is the desert is very dry there,” he explained.

He said he was enjoying his time on the Island, but one thing he did miss about back home was the surfing.

To taste Mr Cota-Sandez’s new creations, visit Rosa’s located at 121 Front Street, Hamilton.

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Published Sep 14, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated Sep 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm)

‘Our mashed potatoes used to come from a can, now we make them from scratch’

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