Queen of the kitchen2

Carolina is the chef de cuisine and a partner in Comodo, a Latin inspired restaurant on MacDougal Street, which burst onto the downtown NYC eating scene late last summer.  Whether day or night, the jewel box of a dining room attracts a vibrant, international clientele that packs the 45 seat restaurant to eat favorites like warm brussels sprouts caesar salad –  I could personally eat this as an entire meal, it’s that good – swordfish ceviche, poblano pepper Bolognese pasta and churros with spiced chocolate milk.

Dining Room

Caro hand detail

I caught up with the Brazilian-American chef on a recent Tuesday afternoon after lunch service to get the skinny on some of her favorite ingredients, places to eat and inspirations.  (While I was there she was prepping a pistachio pesto to accompany the trout special for the night… needless to say I changed my evening plans and came back!)

What are your favorite ingredients right now?
I’m loving shallots– they add so much flavor — shallots are the new salt.  Fiddlehead ferns sautéed with garlic.  Fava beans.  I saw fava beans a lot when I was in Mexico City (she was putting on a very cool series of dinner parties for Cómodo called Roots, check it out on the restaurant website Comodo Roots) and Bogotá.  In Bogotá, I made a purée of fresh fava beans and shallots, to go with whatever fish I made that night, it was super simple and light.

What are your favorite food cities?
Mexico City and Nashville.

I was blown away by the San Juan market in Mexico City.  You see everything there, they are butchering goats… but you also find the best fish.  I found fresh huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn husks.  It looks like a mushroom and is kind of smoky and tastes really nice when mixed with a light Oaxaca cheese.  I love the fruits like guanabana; it’s green on the outside with white meat that surrounds black seeds.  And mamey– it’s an orangey color inside– very sweet and makes amazing sorbet.  There was also fresh hominy, and of course mango and papaya.

In Nashville, everyone is super into food.  I went there in the fall of 2012 and back again in February 2013 and so many new restaurants had opened.  Everything is so cute, so many places to check out.  Rolf and Daughters, Mas Tacos and so many I didn’t even get to try City House, Lockeland Table, The Catbird Seat.

Caro in the kitchen2

Best kitchen toy?
A handheld smoker with four kinds of wood chips that I’ve used for ice cream, ceviche and beef.

What are you drinking now?
Coffee, always coffee.  Avocado frozen banana smoothies.  A wine I tried a while ago at Blue Ribbon Wine Bar, Hilberg Pasquero– a chilled red wine that smells like a white wine– it’s very floral.  It’s what I like to bring when I go to dinner parties.  You can get it at Bottlerocket for around $25.

What inspired you to become a chef?
I walked by a café in Paris, can’t even remember the name of it or where it was exactly, but it was super charming.  I liked the idea of making food that day, whatever inspired me and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  It was a dream, I didn’t know where it would happen or how.  If Cómodo hadn’t happened, if I hadn’t reconnected with Felipe (Executive Chef and Owner of Cómodo along with his wife, Tamy Rofe) who I knew from my days in Mexico,  I can’t say I would have been a chef.  While I was in culinary school (at the time Carolina was an editor at Epicurious and testing recipes for Cómodo with Felipe) I had the realization that I wanted to be here full-time in the kitchen.  It’s still funny to be called a chef.  I’m learning from the guys in the kitchen all the time and I like to think they are learning from me.

How do you feel in the kitchen?
In the kitchen, I’m fearless.


CÓMODO’S MOLLETES (A guest recipe from Carolina, care of Cómodo)
Pre-1993, I had never heard of a mollete. Fortunately, my move to Mexico City at a young age introduced me to real Mexican food including molletes, and to Felipe, who is the Executive Chef at Cómodo, a dear friend and the reason I am being included in this beautiful blog. So there you have it. My version is certainly different from the traditional mollete, but I love it because it’s sweet, and salty, and creamy, and cheesy. I’ll stop there. Enjoy!

Makes 2 slices

2     slices cinnamon raisin bread (at Cómodo, we get ours from the farmer’s market in Union Square, but just pick your favorite)
½   cup refried beans (I would recommend using pinto, or black beans. We use heirloom beans)
½   ripe avocado, sliced or mashed
¼   cup shredded Oaxaca cheese (or another shredded cheese of your choice)
2      poached eggs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Set slices of bread side by side on a baking sheet, or ovenproof dish. Gently spread copious amounts of refried beans on the bread, top it with avocado, and top the avocado with shredded cheese. Bake in the oven until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.

If you like, you can top the toasts with poached eggs for a hearty brunch.