The refrigerator is the heart of a kitchen -- the magic can't happen without the fresh ingredients that are stored below 40° F behind closed doors.
So for food lovers, getting a look inside a chef's fridge is like a fashionista taking a peak at Anna Wintour's closet. That's why for the next couple of weeks, Short Order will be taking you inside the refrigerators of some of Miami's top chefs. Do they maintain their refrigerators like a holy temple or keep them emptier than your stomach after a dainty meal at an expensive tapas joint? They'll tell you what items are essential, and what they've been whipping up at home recently.
This week we talked to chef Miguel Aguilar of Wynwood Kitchen & Bar.
The one ingredient that Chef Aguilar can't go without is hot sauce. His favorites include Valentina and Frank's Red Hot, but he prefers homemade hot sauces with either green or red chilies. "I use it every day to add flavor and spice to soups, BBQ, meats, salads, pretty much everything."
New Times: So I see Valentina and Frank's Red Hot in there. How'd you get introduced to those hot sauce varieties and why do you like them?
Miguel Aguilar: Red Hot is something that's commonly used up in Boston for chicken wings, and it's also one of the most easily acquired bulk hot sauces for restaurant use. With the Valentina, my wife and I discovered it on one of our trips to Mexico. My wife, through being with me, developed a liking for it -- she doesn't have a high tolerance for hot sauce, but this still has some heat with a bit of spice behind it.
Where do you get most of the produce you have in your fridge?
Usually Publix. But also there's a great little produce place in Wynwood on Northwest Second and 34th, right on the corner. It's a very Latino produce place and it's incredible. The prices are great, and they have a large variety. They have boñato, yucca, tomatillo. They really have a large assortment of produce. And it's a dual source for us: we use it for the house and we use it for the restaurant.
Is that almond milk? There are so many alternatives to cow's milk out there right now. Why do you like it?
There are a lot of reasons to use almond milk. It has a long shelf life. It's not an animal-derived dairy so it's not high in fat. Essentially it's a vegetarian milk.
I see you have a wide selection of beverages...
You mean a lot of alcohol? Being in such a tough business, we tend to be alcoholics. (Laughs) No, I'm just kidding. My wife and I like to entertain so you have to have drinks. We have beer, we have wine, Baileys, Dom Pérignon for special occasions, and my favorite rosé from South Africa. We have Japanese beer, Dos Equis, German beer, and Imperial, which is a Costa Rican beer. We also have a nice jar of prickly pears for pear-infused tequila. It's one of my favorite drinks for margaritas.
So what else is in there?
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Aside from that, we have your standard condiments. Heinz Ketchup, French's Mustard. When we do entertain, we like to have a barbecue. It's easy, it's outside, and we have good weather. We also have our citruses, like lemon and lime, which we always use for drinks. The lemon and limes are for vodka and cranberry or margaritas, or just to top off a glass of water.
And what about that half-eaten avocado? What did you make with the other half?
We made turkey taco salads. We love avocados. We'll make turkey burgers with avocado on top. These taco salads are easy to make. Lettuce, tomato and some kind of meat with taco seasoning, sour cream, hot sauce, a little bit of onion and cilantro, and you top it off with the fresh avocado. Sometimes we make avocado mayo. Just take an avocado and whip it in with some mayo.