5@5 - Mary Sue Milliken
June 2nd, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

It's only June 2 and we're already sweating like Rebecca Black on a Thursday night.

It's going to be one hot tamale of a summer - so let's fight fire with fire by amping up your arsenal of Mexican flavors for all the outdoor fiestas ahead.

Mary Sue Milliken is the chef and owner behind the Border Grill family of restaurants with business partner, Chef Sue Feniger. She's also holding strong as a contestant on Season 3 of Bravo's "Top Chef Masters."

Must-Have Ingredients to Spice Up All Your Summer Fiestas: Mary Sue Milliken

1. Unique citrus
"In the summer, I love silver tequila on the rocks, but I like to brighten it up with a splash of interesting citrus like kumquat, tangerine, key lime, mandarin orange or Oro Blanco grapefruit.

Four great silver tequilas: Casa Noble (organic), Milagro (select barrel reserve), Don Julio, and Antiguo. Or if I’m feeling super flush, I carefully sip Casa Dragones straight, because when it’s that delicious, it could definitely creep up on you."

2. Quinoa, the awesome Aztec grain
"I’ve always loved quinoa for the nutty, wholesome flavor and nutritional profile. I make these awesome quinoa fritters flavored with tangy cheese and fresh herbs. They are crunchy and irresistible and it’s nice to have an addiction that is healthy.

Another quinoa favorite is mixing it raw with black and white sesame seeds and coating wedges of fresh, creamy California avocados with the seeds. Fry them up for a luscious, warm, crispy avocado to add to salads, tacos, or tostadas.

Both these quinoa dishes served me well on Bravo’s 'Top Chef Masters' and now we serve them in our Border Grill restaurants and on the Border Grill Truck. But they are so easy, you should definitely try making them at home."

3. Aji amarillo, South American chile purée
"I love aji amarillo! It has a very fruity, aromatic heat that compliments just about anything but especially fresh fish.

Just toss it with impeccably fresh, sustainable seafood, like Alaska halibut (that has been marinated in fresh lime for a few minutes), add cilantro and fresh ginger for a wonderful Peruvian ceviche. It’s magic.

You’ll want to add aji amarillo to everything you make, especially garlic mayonnaise which is tasty as a dip or spread for a million things, including our quinoa fritters."

4. Tomatillos and cilantro
"I keep big handfuls of cilantro and lots of fresh tomatillos on hand all summer long. Just throw them into the blender with lime juice, onion and plenty of salt for a sparkly, fresh tomatillo salsa. It makes tortilla chips taste like a salad! But don’t let that fool you into thinking that the chips won’t end up on your hips and thighs.

I also love to glaze pork ribs with a spicy tomatillo glaze sweetened with a touch of maple syrup. It’s the perfect complement to the rich, slow-cooked pork. Meats cooked on the bone like that take on a flavor depth you can’t get from any kind of chop or steak."

5. Dulce de leche
"I love dulce de leche (it’s basically milk and sugar cooked until is thick and caramelized) drizzled on ice cream, Greek yogurt, bananas, just about anything. It’s also incredible as a sauce on a new recipe I've been playing with, La Bomba Rice Pudding.

And when I have the luxury of a few extra minutes, I make dulce de leche-infused churro tots. My amigos go wild tasting the crunchy, cinnamon-dusted crust, savoring the warm, gooey center, and dipping them in cool whipped cream. I guarantee you'll go wild too."

Tomatillo-Glazed Baby Back Ribs
Courtesy Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Border Grill

Dry Rub Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons Piment D'Esplette or hot paprika
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds pork baby back ribs

Tomatillo Glaze Ingredients

  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 3 tablespoons pork or duck fat
  • 10 cloves chopped garlic
  • 3 serrano chiles, sliced
  • 10 tomatillos, husked, washed, and roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch roughly chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Combine paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pat spice mixture all over ribs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F or 250 degrees F with fan on in convection oven.
  3. Place ribs in a single layer in a baking pan and pour in water to a depth of about 1/4-inch. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes in the oven or on grill with the lid closed. Cover with foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the Tomatillo Glaze. In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, sauté onion in duck or pork fat until golden. Add garlic, serranos chiles, and tomatillos and cook stirring frequently until mixture thickens, about 30 to 45 minutes. Add cilantro and cook an additional 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender and add maple syrup. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly and being careful not to burn. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Turn the oven heat up to 450 degrees F or preheat the grill.
  6. If finishing the ribs in the oven, brush generously with the glaze and bake another 10 minutes per side, basting with the glaze every 5 minutes. To grill, generously glaze the ribs and grill 5 minutes per side, frequently brushing with additional glaze. Cut the ribs apart and serve hot.

Tomatillo Salsa
Courtesy Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Border Grill
Makes 3 1/2 cups


  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked, washed, and cut into quarters
  • 2 to 4 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded if desired, and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut in half
  • 2 bunches cilantro, stems and leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Cooking Directions

  1. Place the tomatillos, jalapeños, and water in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree just until chunky. Then add the remaining ingredients and puree about 2 minutes more, or until no large chunks remain. This salsa keeps in the refrigerator, in a covered container, about 3 days.

La Bomba Rice Pudding
Courtesy Mary Sue Milliken

Pudding Ingredients

  • 1 cup bomba rice (paella, arborio, carnoroli)
  • 8 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups crème fraiche, whipped to soft peaks

Rum Raisins Ingredients

  • 2 cups dark rum
  • 2 cups golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Candied Almonds Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup

Cooking Directions

  1. For the pudding, bring rice, milk, and vanilla bean to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes with a whisk until thick like porridge. Remove from heat and add sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and stir until dissolved. Chill thoroughly. Fold in whipped crème fraiche and serve immediately in a small soup bowl, drizzled with dulce de leche, accompanied by ramekins of rum raisins and chunks of candied almonds for guests to add themselves.
  2. For the raisins, bring rum, raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks to a boil. Cook until alcohol is burned off and liquid just barely covers raisins. Cool and cover.
  3. For the almonds, toast on a cookie sheet for 5 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, bring brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt to a boil and simmer 3 to 5 minutes. Add hot nuts and stir well to coat each piece. Return to papered cookie sheet and spread thinly (to about 1/2-inch) and return to oven for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Cool completely and then break into chunks.
  4. Note: Keep cold pudding and cold, whipped crème fraiche on hand and fold together to order.

Dulce de Leche Churro Tots
Courtesy Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Border Grill


  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 13 1/4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 4 1/2 ounces (10 tablespoons) brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought dulce de leche (see recipe below) or cajeta
  • Oil, for frying
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Whipped cream, for serving

Cooking Directions

  1. Place water, butter, brown sugar and salt in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Add flour all at once and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball and smells like toasted flour. Transfer to the bowl of a mixer and paddle dough while adding eggs one at a time allowing machine to incorporate each egg before the next addition. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl often and add vanilla. Lastly, add dulce de leche and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Transfer mixture to a container and refrigerate until ready to fry.
  2. Heat vegetable oil for frying in a pot. Place churro batter in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. When oil is 375 degrees F, drop 2-inch long churros from the pastry bag into the oil and fry about 4 minutes or until well browned and floating. Centers will still be a tiny bit gooey because of the dulce de leche in the batter. Remove churros to a paper lined plate. Combine sugar and cinnamon and toss with hot churros. Serve immediately with whipped cream for dipping.

Dulce de Leche
Courtesy Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Border Grill


  • 7 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cooking Directions

  1. Combine ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook stirring often for 45 minutes to an hour or until mixture becomes a caramel color and is thick enough that you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir. By volume it should be reduced to about 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Cool to room temperature and use immediately or store in refrigerator until ready to use.

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Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Television • Think • Top Chef

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Retta

    Yo, that's what's up ttrufhluly.

    July 3, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  2. nickyjane

    MMM going to make the quinoa fritters tonight with whole chicken on the grill!!!

    June 3, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  3. ArtimusDuck

    Warm Churros straight from the fryer make me want to quack off.

    June 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Donald Duck

      Here, let me help you!

      June 3, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  4. Jamie

    Quinoa is Incan, not Aztec. It grows best at high altitude, such as in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile.

    June 2, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  5. chef cal

    good to see latin items being used more often in restaraunts

    June 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  6. Lila

    Yum, I was drooling all over my laptop. Aji amarillo is a great spice, the quinoa fritter sounds delicious.

    June 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  7. fob

    Ooooooooh, I love that she shared recipes!

    June 2, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  8. Kanna ku

    You DO NOT make salsa in a blender. You make mixed drinks or a puree like gazpacho in them. BUT NOT SALSA! Next thing she'll mention is where she buys her chips in big plastic bags.
    I'm in tune with everything else she brings to the table, just not the pureed pretend salsa.

    June 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  9. 진실

    내가 때렸어.

    June 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • The Witty One@진실

      I agree.

      June 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  10. Truth

    Tôi muốn nhấn đó.

    June 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • RichardHead@Truth

      I concur,twice.

      June 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Jerv@Truth

      You had better hope that Miss Saigon does not see that! LOL! Well played!

      June 3, 2011 at 7:23 am |
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