Hamilton Redux

I know people have been waiting to hear what I thought of Hamilton, but it is difficult to get time to write on the best of days.

I know that people think I am obsessed with Hamilton, but bumping up against that fandom as I do, I can assure that I am on the low end of things. Still, I cannot deny that I know all of the words to every song, gobble up Hamilton-related trivia, and got 10 out of 10 on a quiz where you have to identify the song and character by only hearing a single “yo”.

I fought for tickets the day they went on sale, and ended up with matinee tickets on a random Wednesday. Sara and I planed a nice lunch at Topolobampo before going to the show. Topolobampo was actually AMAZING, but I know that’s not what you’re here to hear about.

My day started like:

Followed by a long chorus of “La-la-la-Topolobampo!” in the shower.

We took the train downtown, ate an amazing 3 course lunch, and then finally it was time:

The cast was overall very good. Miguel Cervantes was fantastic as Hamilton. José Ramos knocked it out of the park as Laurens, and all of the women were great (including Aubin Wise, who was stepping in as Eliza). I thought Chris De’Sean Lee did a good job too, as Lafayette/Jefferson, but I have to admit the two people I really wished I could see were obviously Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr.

Our tickets weren’t the best (if that’s the price I have to pay to see it, then so be it). We were at the back of the dress circle, with the mezzanine over our heads. We could see the stage just fine, but whenever anyone was up on the second level, we could only see them from the ankle down. Still, that wasn’t *too* bad…the giant sitting in front of Sara and the lady with big hair in front of me were more of a problem. We actually had the 30 most amazing seconds of our life when they realized they were in the wrong seats and tried to switch with the two most petite people in the world, but then they all agreed to stay where they were and our hopes were dashed.

Seriously universe? Why?

There is clearly an entire level of nuance that you get seeing everything rather than just listening. For example, Hamilton hiding his letters from Angelica from his wife Eliza gives the whole thing a more illicit tone, or all the people delivering Hamilton’s copious letters during “Your Obedient Servant”, or just seeing Burr and Jefferson’s faces (and/or celebratory dancing) when they realize Hamilton is endorsing Jefferson. So many little nuances, like Madison wiping away a tear after Philip dies. I don’t know if I would have caught everything if I wasn’t so in tune with what was going to happen.

In fact, the show is also a lot funnier when you see it in person! It’s amazing how much humor an actor can pack into a sarcastic raise of an eyebrow (we saw Jin Ha as King George, and he was hilarious!) Thomas Jefferson is MUCH more insufferable when you see him dabbing, or generally enjoying someone’s downfall.

The entire stage is like two levels of turntable, and there were some really awesome visuals, like everything swirling around a stationary Hamilton singing “Hurricane”. I love how the set changes are choreographed into the dancing. One of my favorite visuals was when time stops after Burr fires his gun and one of the white-clad ensemble members used a fist to represent the frozen bullet.

I will admit that I was a little surprised at how old, and how white the audience was. I kind of figured it would mostly be people like me, who loved Hamilton, had fought for a ticket, and would just go whenever they had a chance. Instead it was the usual theater crowd; people who could afford to pay $ and take a day off of work. As a result I was pretty surprised at how much of the audience seemed to not really be familiar with the soundtrack or the story. In some ways it was fun to see them discover it, but I will admit I felt a little condescending towards the lady next to me who audibly gasped when Philip died.

It’s funny, though: if I had only experienced Hamilton by seeing it, I would probably have a whole different set of favorite songs. The soundtrack does not adequately capture the emotion of the actors during “Yorktown / The World Turned Upside Down”, nor does it capture the sheer whimsy and delight of “The Reynolds Pamphlet”.

I know, I know, you want to know if I cried. Oh man did I cry. I have a secret to confess: I pretty much always cry even when I’m just listening, as long as I’m paying sufficient attention. But I would like to say for the record that I DID ALSO HAVE SOMETHING IN MY EYE during that song, no matter what Sara thinks. I mean, it probably got there from all the tears I was wiping away, but still.

I would love to see it again, but it would be hard to justify the money. I do recommend that everybody see it sooner or later (eventually tickets will be cheaper, right?) And if you do, I fully expect you to take me with you!

Until then, we always have the performance from the Tonys:

Black Bean Chilaquiles with Grilled Corn Salsa

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

Well, the reason is that Rick Bayless is a culinary god. If we pick a recipe at random from his cookbook, it is sure to be our new favorite.

In fact, Evie just recently told us this is her favorite meal.

The Journey:

I believe the first thing that piqued Evie’s interest is that this recipe includes lots and lots of chips.


This is actually quite a strange recipe. What you make is sort of a…brown lump. It’s like…brown, soggy nachos.

Hmm, this is not really selling it it.

Okay, well, it’s not much to look at, I will grant you, but it is delicious. And it is made further delicious by the toppings. Pretty much anything you would put on nachos works well here (cheese, sour cream, avocado, pickled radishes, etc.), but our two favorite toppings are smoky chipotle salsa, or grilled corn salsa.


This is a sweeter salsa (though still pretty spicy!), and the slightly blackened, grilled-corn flavor is just fantastic. It’s great for chips too (and anything else that you use salsa for), but it seems to work particularly well for chilaquiles.

The Verdict:

This is absolutely the tastiest brown…lump…loaf…thing I have ever eaten! We make this very frequently at our house, and the kids beg for it in their lunches the next day.


The Recipe:

Chilaquiles recipe from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.

  • 2 cans of black beans (or 1 1/4 cups dried)
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (plus 5 cups broth or water if using dried beans)
  • 1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, plus 2 teaspoons adobo from the can
  • 1 teaspoon salt (not needed if using canned black beans)
  • 8 oz of thick tortilla chips (~8 loosely packed cups)
  1. If using dried beans, rinse them, then boil with onion, garlic, and 2 of the chiles, partially covered on medium to medium-low heat for about 2 hours. Add water if necessary to keep the beans submerged.
  2. Puree the beans (including liquid), onion, garlic, and 2 of the chiles in the blender.
  3. Add bean puree to a pot. Add up to 1 cup of broth until the consistency is that of a thin cream soup. Taste and season with salt (most likely not necessary if using canned beans). Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  4. Slice the remaining chile into strips.
  5. Add the tortilla chips and the chile. Stir to coat the chips well, and cook about 2 – 3 minutes (chips will continue to soften once off the stove, so do not overcook).

Salsa recipe adapted from Local Kitchen Blog.

  • 6 ears corn on the cob
  • 2 ½ lbs tomatoes, diced (if tomatoes are runny, let some of the juice run off)
  • ½ of a large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 jalapeno peppers, minced (we included the seeds)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ¼ cups white vinegar
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ cup, packed, chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Grill the corn (instructions here). Allow to cool, strip off husks and slice off kernels with a sharp knife. (Save the cobs for corn cob stock!)
  2. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
  3. Combine vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt and cumin in a large, wide-bottomed stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add corn, tomatoes, onion, peppers and garlic and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes, to reduce liquid slightly and allow flavors to blend.
  4. Add cilantro and return salsa to a boil. Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars to ½-inch headspace; bubble the jars, adjust headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process for 15 minutes.
  5. Allow the jars sit for at least 1 month, for optimal flavor mingling

Authentic Refried Beans

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

I love Rick Bayless. I am on the record about this. As such, we own a well-worn copy of Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. I’ve previously blogged a recipe from there, Tamal Azteca with Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce.

So I think we originally just looked up this recipe as a generic side dish for mexican food, before realizing it’s so much more than that.

The Journey:

I’m known to eat a little bacon here and there. At some point, I realized there was no reason to throw away all that “liquid gold” bacon grease, and started saving it for cooking. The best use for bacon grease is refried beans, but it also works well for frying pancakes!


This recipe is so simple, that I almost feel bad calling it a recipe. Beans, onions, garlic. What’s the big deal? Well, you eat it and you tell me.

frying onions

I never would have considered refried beans a health food, but making them from scratch like this, they’re not so bad. Beans, onions, garlic. (And a good thing too, since you’ll be wolfing them down by the spoonful!)

pinto beans

The Verdict:

If you have eaten at our house, there’s a good chance we have tried to feed these to you. I swear to you, I didn’t know that refried beans could possibly taste this good. It actually makes me sad that so many people will never experience how awesome these are, and just continue to think of refried beans as that brownish paste from a can that Taco Bell uses to glue the soft taco to the crunchy taco.

refried beans

The Recipe:

Recipe from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.

  • 2 Tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 cups undrained, seasoned cooked beans
  • Salt
  1. Heat the bacon grease in a large pan.
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden, about 10 minutes
  3. Str in the garlic, cook for a minute or so.
  4. Add in about 1/4 of the beans, leaving most of the liquid behind.
  5. With a potato masher, mash the beans into a coarse puree. Add another portion of the beans, and mash. Continue until all the beans have been added.
  6. Add about a cup of bean liquid and stir frequently over the heat until the beans are still a little soupier than you’d like to serve them (they’ll thicken as they sit).
  7. Salt to taste.


When it comes time for a birthday dinner, we turn to our favorite Chicago chef, Rick Bayless. This time we tried out Frontera’s little sister XOCO (pronounced “show-co”).

It was perfect! Exactly what we needed.

The food was amazing, and fresh, and unique, but everything was very low key. With the kids, we’re always looking for a compromise between something amazing and something where we’re not going to disturb people. That’s exactly what this was (at least before 5 p.m. on a weeknight). No waiting in line, no waiting for a table, and not many people around to disturb.

We had a couple of tortas (Baja Chicken Torta and Choriques to be specific). I thought they were both good, but the baja chicken was amazing.

(This is not actually what we ate, but I stole these pictures from the XOCO website and beggars can’t be choosers)

Sara had the Carnitas Caldos, which is a spicy soup with pork and avocado chunks. This was also good, but very, very salty.

Of course, in the midst of all this good food, Evie only wanted to eat tortilla chips.

Until dessert that is. We each had a churro and we shared a couple of mugs of their amazing hot chocolate. I don’t say cocoa, I say hot chocolate, because it was like drinking a delicious cup full of melted chocolate bars. It was so rich and thick that I’m really not sure I could have finished a glass by myself. But sharing it was just perfect, and gave us an excuse to try two different kinds. For my money, the almond milk one was better, but everyone else preferred the classic.

XOCO is great if you’re looking for something a little bit quicker and easier than Frontera, and well worth the trip downtown (even if the meter did cost me $3.50 an hour!) Thank you Mr. Bayless for never failing to exceed expectations! (P.S. We finally broke down and bought a copy of Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen, so we can stop checking it out from the library all the time!)

Tamal Azteca with Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce and Whole Fruit Margaritas

The first Friday of the month is reserved for recipes. You can see additional First Friday Food posts here.

The Reason:

This is probably a lot more work than we would normally put into for a meal, but it was Sara’s birthday, and Sara loves Rick Bayless. We just so happened to have his cookbook on loan from the library, and there you go. The margaritas were just bonus, but they were the perfect compliment.

The Journey:

So it’s kind of a lot of work, but honestly not that much work. The hard part is roasting and peeling the tomatoes for the sauce. Make sure you roast the tomatoes until the skin is falling off. The rest of it is pretty straight forward.

The sauce is spicy! I was pretty surprised, because there’s not that much in the way of spices, just the chipotles. In fact, in general, I can’t believe how flavorful the whole thing is, considering the only real seasoning is salt. It’s like I can’t rectify the ingredients list with the amazing taste in my mouth. It just goes to show you, you really don’t need much to make an amazing meal. Less is more. (It probably also helped that the tomatoes were from our garden, and thus were a lot more flavorful than store-bought tomatoes.)

These were hands down the best margaritas we’ve ever made at home. And so simple with the Vitamix! I’m not sure what you would need to do to adapt this to a regular blender.

The Verdict:

Magnífico! Seriously, you knew Rick Bayless wasn’t going to lead you wrong. Although we make Mexican food a decent amount, we have never made anything as fancy as this. It is well worth putting in the effort. We have already made two more batches and froze them for later!

The Recipe:

Recipes courtesy Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen and Whole Food Recipes by Vitamix

Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce

  • One can (7 0z.) chipotle chiles en adobo
  • 12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • ~5 lbs ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt

Tamal Azteca

  • 6 cups loosely packed spinach
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 9 oz. shredded Chihuahua cheese (the original recipe called for 1 lb., but it was tasty with only 1 package…use your discretion)
  • 12 – 16 corn tortillas, depending on the size of your pan
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • ~1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce:

  1. Roast the unpeeled garlic in a skillet, turning occasionally until soft, about 15 minutes (they will blacken in spots). Cool and peel.
  2. Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blacked on one side, about 6 – 8 minutes, then turn and roast the other side. Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes.
  3. Working in batches in a food processor or blender, process the tomatoes with their juices, chipotle chiles and garlic to a medium-fine puree.
  4. Heat a medium-size, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the tomato puree and stir nearly constantly for 8 to 10 minutes as it sears and thickens. Taste and season with salt.

Tamal Azteca:

  1. In a vegetable steamer, steam the spinach, covered, until tender (~2 minutes). Immediately spread out on a baking sheet to cool, then roughly chop.
  2. Steam the diced zucchini until just tender, ~3 minutes, then spread out to cool.
  3. Sprinkle the veggies with 1/4 tsp. of the salt.
  4. Set out the corn, tomato sauce and shredded cheese.
  5. Pour the 1/2 cup of the oil into a small skillet and set over medium heat. Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. When the oil is hot, quick-fry the tortillas one at a time for a few seconds per side, just to soften them. Drain the tortillas in a single layer on the paper towels, blotting them dry. (Note that we skipped this step and just used the tortillas right out of the package, and it was fine!)
  6. Cut the tortillas in half.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 baking dish. Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the bottom, then lay out 8 tortilla halves in a single layer, arranging them to cover as much sauce as possible. Evenly spread the greens, a scant 1 1/2 cups of the remaining sauce and 1 cup of cheese. Top with another layer of 8 tortilla halves. Spread on the corn and the same amount of sauce and cheese. Top with a third layer of 8 tortilla halves, the zucchini and another round of sauce and cheese. Top with remaining tortilla halves, sauce and cheese.
  8. Cover lightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbling and lightly browned. Let stand a few minutes before cutting into squares. Sprinkle with the cilantro.

Whole Fruit Margaritas

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 oz. tequila (we used 1800 Silver)
  • 2 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 1 orange, peeled, halved
  • 1 lime, peeled, halved
  • 1 lemon, peeled and seeded, halved
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 cups ice cubes
  1. Place all the ingredients into the Vitamix in the order listed.
  2. Blend on high for 45 seconds (not sure how long it would need to be blended in a regular blender)
  3. Serve. (This filled 6 margarita glasses)