Courtesy Kaelin Ulrich-Trilling, chef de cuisine, La Calenda, Yountville, CA
A menu of casual Mexican is quite a departure for Thomas Keller, the chef behind fine-dining establishments like The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon. Located in Napa’s Yountville, La Calenda’s kitchen is helmed by Oaxacan native Kaelin Ulrich-Trilling, who was previously in the kitchens of Hugo’s and Caracol in Houston, and Nashville’s Bajo Sexto Taco.
La Calenda focuses on highlighting Mexican culture in various ways. They work with the Mexican American Vintners Association for the restaurant’s wine list and utilize Mexican artisans when sourcing their crockery. For the food, they source heirloom corn and hand-press their own stone-ground tortillas, grow traditional Mexican ingredients at the French Laundry culinary garden, and work with Rancho Gordo and Wineforest Wild Foods.
For this recipe, you’ll want to make the fresh tomatillo and jalapeño salsa first. And while you can hand-press your own tortillas, it’s also completely acceptable to use heirloom corn tortillas from your local grocery store or farmers market.
- 1½ pounds tomatillos
- 6 jalapeños
- 1 medium white onion, cut in half
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 2 cups cilantro, leaves and stems
- 2 poblano peppers
- 8 ounces oyster mushrooms
- 8 ounces enoki mushrooms
- 8 ounces hen-of-the-woods mushrooms
- ½ cup olive oil
- 10 epazote leaves
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Crumbled queso fresco, for garnish
- Heirloom corn tortillas
- Sea salt, to taste
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
Heat oven to 450˚F.
Prepare grill on high heat, or use grill pan over medium-high heat. Roast tomatillos until soft, char jalapeños and poblanos until skin is black, and grill onion until tender, about 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat and rest for 10 minutes. When cool, remove skin and seed from jalapeños and poblanos. Cut poblanos into long strips and set aside.
In dry skillet over medium heat, toast garlic cloves, about 7–9 minutes, until soft.
Place tomatillos, jalapeños, onion and garlic in blender with 2 cups water, salt, vinegar and cilantro and blend until smooth. Adjust consistency with more water if needed. Add salt, to taste. Set aside.
Remove ends of mushrooms and discard. Using your hands, tear mushrooms into strips of similar size. In medium bowl, combine mushrooms, olive oil, epazote leaves and kosher salt. Place on baking sheet, making sure mushrooms are not crowded and have space to roast evenly.
Roast in oven until mushrooms have caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and fold the poblano pepper strips into the mushrooms.
Warm tortillas and assemble tacos by placing mushrooms in middle of tortilla. Top with salsa and queso fresco, and season with sea salt, to taste. Serve with lime wedges. Makes 8–12 tacos.