News Column

A Cinco de Mayo Menu That's From-scratch, Fun and Foolproof

May 2, 2013
avocado

I love Mexican cuisine, and I love a party that revolves around food.

Cinco de Mayo, which is on a weekend this year, is the perfect excuse to combine the two.

For years, I've been hosting what I call a "taco bar" at my house during the summer months.

I invite friends to snack on my homemade salsa and guacamole, drink perfect margaritas and make their own tacos with my chile-braised pork and a variety of toppings.

It's a relaxed party that everyone enjoys, and with a little planning, it's easy to carry out.

Rub the pork and make the salsa the day before, and all you have to do is braise the pork and let it make your house smell amazing until your guests arrive.

Set out chips and homemade guacamole and salsa for noshing while you finish up the taco meat and warm the tortillas.

You can even make margaritas by the pitcher and keep them in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve them.

CINCO DE MAYO RECIPES

CHILE-BRAISED PORK TACOS

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

5 large mild dried chiles, such as ancho or guajillo, stemmed and seeded

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

4- to 5-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large white onion, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 bay leaves (preferably fresh)

2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably

Mexican

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 bottle (12 ounces) Pacifico or other Mexican beer

24 (or more) 6-inch corn tortillas

To soak chiles: Place chiles in medium bowl. Barely cover with boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid.

To prepare oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To season pork: In bowl of food processor, combine soaked chiles, 1/3 cup reserved soaking liquid, lime juice and sugar. Process until thick puree is formed. Generously salt and pepper pork shoulder. Rub pork with chile puree. (Note: Pork can be seasoned 1 to 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

To saute onions: In large Dutch oven (such as enameled cast-iron Le Creuset version), heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, coriander, cumin and allspice. Saute for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.

To sear pork: Push onion mixture to outside edge of pan. Add remaining oil to center of pan. Add pork. Sear rubbed pork shoulder quickly on all sides, turning to assure as much meat as possible hits pan.

To cook pork: Add beer to pan. Bring to a boil. Cover immediately. Transfer to oven. Cook, basting occasionally, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until meat is falling-apart tender. (Note: If there's not enough liquid to baste meat, add small amount of reserved chile-soaking liquid.)

To serve: Using 2 forks, shred meat. Transfer to bowl. Serve with warmed corn tortillas. Allow guests to add toppings, such as pickled onions (recipe follows), radishes, cotija cheese, cilantro leaves, lime wedges and salsa or hot sauce.

PICKLED ONIONS

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com.

Makes 1 cup.

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Sea salt

In medium bowl, combine onions, vinegar, sugar, sea salt and enough boiling water to just cover. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain.

ROASTED TOMATO SALSA

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

1 1/2 pounds roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

2 or 3 jalapenos, stemmed and cut in half lengthwise

1 small white onion, cut into thick slices

5 cloves garlic, peeled

Juice from 1 lime or more to taste

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

To roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on jellyroll pan. Place on bottom rack of oven. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until skins begin to brown and tomatoes start to release juices.

To roast onions, garlic, jalapenos: Meanwhile, place onions, garlic and jalapenos on another baking sheet. Place on top oven rack. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until onions just begin to char and garlic cloves are soft.

To process vegetables: In food processor, pulse onions, garlic and jalapenos until coarsely chopped. Remove from food processor. Without cleaning food processor bowl, add tomatoes. Pulse until tomatoes are chopped but still have some texture. Add half to three-quarters of onion/garlic/jalapeno mixture, salt and lime juice. Pulse until well mixed. Taste. Add more onion/garlic/jalapeno mixture if necessary. Add cilantro. Pulse until combined.

GUACAMOLE

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

6 ripe Haas avocados

Juice from 1 lime or more to taste

Hot sauce to taste

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

On cutting board, mash garlic and sea salt to form past. Scoop flesh from avocados into medium bowl. Add garlic paste, lime juice and hot sauce. Using potato masher or pastry cutter, mash ingredients together. Stir in cilantro.

THE PERFECT MARGARITA

Invest in a jigger -- a double-sided shot glass that measures about 1.5 ounces on one end and .75 ounces on the other -- to measure drinks like a pro.

Makes 1 drink.

1.5 ounces 100 percent agave reposado tequila (such as Sauza Hornitos Reposado)

1.5 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice

.75 ounces Cointreau

.75 ounces simple syrup (1-to-1 water-to-sugar ratio; see cook's note)

In cocktail shaker, combine tequila, lime juice, Cointreau and simple syrup. Shake vigorously. Serve on the rocks in margarita glass with salted rim.

Cook's note: To make syrup, measure equal parts cold water and sugar in jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake until sugar dissolves. (Note: This way, you don't have to wait for heated mixture to cool.)



Source: (c)2013 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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