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ERIC WERNER & MYA HENRY SHARE DELICIOUS RECIPES
FROM THEIR FAMED JUNGLE KITCHEN

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In recent years, the ancient Mexican city of Tulum has become one of the hottest global destinations for in-the-know travelers. A new crop of chic, yet rustic boutique hotels and restaurants has set the stage for an elevated scene of artists, entrepreneurs, foodies and jet-setters in this wild and beautiful corner of the world.

Leading the buzz is a dreamy eatery between the jungle and the sea, where hand-picked local ingredients are lovingly prepared in an open kitchen over a wood fire, and dinner is served by candlelight under the stars.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Hartwood, the brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Eric Werner and Mya Henry, who left New York City in 2009 to design a simpler life of their own making in Mexico. Their incredible story has been told everywhere form the New York Times to Bon Appetit, and is now brought to life in their stunning debut cookbook.

I had the pleasure of dining at Hartwood earlier this year, and was naturally inspired by the level of elegance and quality achieved in such an off-the-grid setting. It’s amazing what Eric, who cooks, and Mya, who manages, have been able to create with their own hands despite so many limitations—very little electricity and refrigeration, no gas lines, and no running water. Adding to the challenge, they’ve opted against sourcing from the same trucks that supply the big hotel restaurants, instead driving hours inland to scour regional markets and small local farms.

When passion surmounts all obstacles, that’s when the magic happens, so it’s unsurprising that Hartwood has quickly found a global fanbase eager to venture down a dirt road and line up at the gate every night, hopeful to snag a table (not everyone does). Renowned chefs and top critics agree that there is something special about the food here, which you wouldn’t call Mexican, and yet channels the spirit of the Yucatán through a reverence for its ancient produce, fresh seafood, and authentically-raised meats.

The story of Hartwood is outstandingly romantic, and so is the food, so we couldn’t think of a more appropriate cookbook from which to source our Valentine’s Day menu. Eric and Mya have been so generous to share three fabulous recipes with us (including a drool-worthy rib-eye and a richly spiced chocolate cake), so that you and your love might be transported to Tulum this weekend. Enjoy—and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the gorgeous cookbook for more of the couple’s unique culinary secrets!

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Ceviche de Aguja
with Ginger and Mezcal

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Excerpted from Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry
with Christine Mulke and Oliver Strand (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015.
Photographs by Gentl & Hyers.

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The earthy, smoky flavor of the mezcal sets up both the sharpness of the citrus in the marinade and the fattiness of the avocado. When shopping for marlin, look for a lean fillet with no fatty layers between the muscle—that fat is too chewy for a ceviche. If you can’t find lean marlin, ask for lean swordfish. If the only marlin (or swordfish) at the fish market is fatty, then don’t make ceviche: those cuts are best roasted in the oven.

 

Ingredients:
Serves 4 to 6
Ginger Mezcal Agua
½ cup thinly sliced ginger
½ cup fresh lime juice (from 5 to 6 limes)
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons mezcal
½ teaspoon honey
1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea
Kosher salt
  Ceviche
1 pound marlin fillets, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (see Note)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup Pickled White Onions (recipe follows)
4 radishes, julienned
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
⅓ cup ½-inch cubes seeded cucumber
¼ cup hoja santa leaves, cut into ½-inch squares (optional)
1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
½ teaspoon dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea for garnish
Radish sprouts for garnish (optional)
Sea salt for garnish
Ginger Mezcal Agua
½ cup thinly sliced ginger
½ cup fresh lime juice (from 5 to 6 limes)
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons mezcal
½ teaspoon honey
1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea
Kosher salt

Ceviche
1 pound marlin fillets, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (see Note)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup Pickled White Onions (recipe follows)
4 radishes, julienned
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
⅓ cup ½-inch cubes seeded cucumber
¼ cup hoja santa leaves, cut into ½-inch squares (optional)
1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
½ teaspoon dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea for garnish
Radish sprouts for garnish (optional)
Sea salt for garnish

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Make the ginger mezcal agua: Combine the ginger, lime juice, cucumber, mezcal, honey, serrano, and chamomile in a blender and blend on high for about 30 seconds, until well blended. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and add salt to taste.

2. Put the marlin in a bowl, add the ginger mezcal agua and salt, and gently mix to combine. Add the pickled white onions, radishes, serrano, cucumber, and hoja santa, if using, and mix gently. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Using a slotted spoon, divide the ceviche among individual serving bowls. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the ginger mezcal agua over each serving. Garnish with the avocado, chamomile, radish sprouts, if using, and sea salt.

 

Pickled White Onions

Ingredients:
1 white onion, thinly sliced on a
mandoline or with a sharp knife
1 cup white vinegar
  1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 white onion, thinly sliced on a
mandoline or with a sharp knife
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt

 

DIRECTIONS:

We make most of our pickles with a simple cold brine solution because we’re not preserving these ingredients so much as focusing their flavors. Most of the following pickles are best refrigerated for at least 4 hours before using, or overnight, in order to allow the flavors to develop, but you can use them sooner if you must. They will keep in the refrigerator for a week.

Almost all the pickles below work the same way: slice up what you’re going to pickle and put it into a jar, mix the brine solution, and pour it in. These recipes are designed to work for a 1-pint Mason jar, but the yield from the produce you use might be different from what we get in the Yucatán. If you have too much solution, don’t use it all; if you have too little, give the jar a shake every so often to distribute the liquid. Don’t limit yourself to the following recipes—once you get the hang of it, start pickling all your favorite produce.

 

NOTES:

When you cut fish for ceviche, angle your knife at 45 degrees and make thin cuts against the grain so that each piece is about ¼-inch thick. Make sure that you are slicing in one fluid movement—it’s like slicing through an apple, not sawing though a loaf of bread. Be mindful that the grain might change as you move along the fish, so be sure to adjust the angle of your cut accordingly. Take your time. You’re making ceviche for you and your friends, not trying to beat the clock.

At Hartwood, we slice tuna loin into lengths and sprinkle with salt and chamomile for a quick cure before cutting into thin slices for ceviche.

 
Next: Rib Eye

Rib Eye
with Pepita-Lime Butter

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Excerpted from Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry
with Christine Mulke and Oliver Strand (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015.
Photographs by Gentl & Hyers.

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This recipe is for an enormous rib eye, a special occasion cut. The total cooking time is 20 minutes, so you want to rest it for 10 minutes—5 minutes on either side. Follow this formula for all the meat you grill (skirt steak, lamb, pork), and you’ll notice the difference.

 

Ingredients:
Rib Eye
One 28-ounce bone-in rib eye
1 tablespoon allspice berries, toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant and ground Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 fresh árbol chiles (or substitute 4 serranos or jalapeños)
2 habaneros
  Pepita-Lime Butter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant, then ground
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 lime, halved
Ginger Mezcal Agua
½ cup thinly sliced ginger
½ cup fresh lime juice (from 5 to 6 limes)
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons mezcal
½ teaspoon honey
1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea
Kosher salt

Ceviche
1 pound marlin fillets, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (see Note)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup Pickled White Onions (recipe follows)
4 radishes, julienned
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
⅓ cup ½-inch cubes seeded cucumber
¼ cup hoja santa leaves, cut into ½-inch squares (optional)
1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
½ teaspoon dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea for garnish
Radish sprouts for garnish (optional)
Sea salt for garnish

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Prepare a grill for high heat. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Oil the grill grate. Season the rib eye with the allspice and salt and pepper. Cook the meat until grill marks form, about 2½ minutes, then turn it 45 degrees, to form a crosshatch pattern, and cook for another 2½ minutes or so. Repeat on the other side.

3. Transfer the meat to a large cast-iron skillet, put it in the oven, and cook for 10 minutes, basting the meat with its juices every 2 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes, turning once.

4. Meanwhile, clean and oil the grill grate. Cook the fresh arból chiles and habaneros until lightly charred, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and season with a pinch of salt.

5. Make the pepita-lime butter: Combine the butter, pepitas, and lime zest in a small bowl and mix until smooth.

6. Slice the meat. Serve each portion topped with 1 tablespoon of the butter and garnish with the lime and the grilled chiles.

 

Chocolate Habanero Cake
with Chocolate Avocado Buttercream

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Excerpted from Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry
with Christine Mulke and Oliver Strand (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015.
Photographs by Gentl & Hyers.

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In Mexico, the pairing of chocolate and chile goes back hundreds of years. No news there. But the avocado buttercream is a new innovation. The avocado gives the frosting a really interesting vegetal note, and probably some nutritional value, yet it’s so rich it’s like throwing in an extra stick of butter. Chill the frosted cake before serving to allow the buttercream to set. At Hartwood, we bake the cake in a cast-iron skillet, but this recipe is for cake pans.

This cake is quite spicy—you may want to use less chile powder the first time you make it.

 

Ingredients:
Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely ground coffee
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ancho chile powder, or to taste
½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder, or to taste
¼ teaspoon habanero powder, or to taste
1¼ cups whole milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  Buttercream
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed, softened
1 ripe Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely ground coffee
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ancho chile powder, or to taste
½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder, or to taste
¼ teaspoon habanero powder, or to taste
1¼ cups whole milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Buttercream
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed, softened
1 ripe Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms and sides with parchment paper and grease the parchment. Set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, coffee, cinnamon, allspice, and chile powders together in a medium bowl.

3. Whisk together the milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Fold in the flour mixture, mixing until smooth.

4. Pour the batter into the cake pans and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or tester inserted in the center of a layer comes out clean. Set on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pans onto racks, remove the parchment paper, and cool completely.

5. Make the buttercream: Melt the chocolate slowly in the top of a double boiler set over medium-low heat. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

6. With a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter in a medium bowl until fluffy. Beat in the avocado and vanilla. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until fully combined. Add the cooled chocolate, mixing until fully incorporated.

7. Put one cake layer on a serving plate and frost the top. Top with second layer and frost the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

 
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For more about Hartwood or to make a reservation, visit hartwoodtulum

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