It’s Festive Friday and that means it is time for a party! I know it isn’t Cinco de Mayo, but I was in the mood for a Mexican fiesta and thought you might be as well. I went to the Food Network’s site and pulled together one heck of a menu.
When I was a young single woman, I went to Puerto Vallarta with a group of friends for a vacation. It was the first time I had been out of the country without my parents handling everything, so it was a shock when I arrived at the hotel to find that they didn’t have a room for me. Here I was, standing in the lobby of a beautiful hotel with the cool winds blowing off the ocean, staring at a huge expansive beach with thatched umbrellas, but I had no place to stay! A little finagling, some tense moments of waiting and finally I had my room. Whew! Time to party!
We all went into town for one of the most memorable dinners of my life. Drinking margaritas, singing along with the mariachi band and eating incredibly fresh food that was by far the best I had ever had – it was an evening I can still recall with amazing clarity. That is the beauty of spending time with friends, sharing a meal and entirely new experiences together.
I wanted to share a little of the fun of that evening with you so I chose five recipes I hope you will enjoy. There is something for everyone. From a cooling Mexican drink and the best guacamole, to stuffed poblano peppers, black beans and finishing with an amazing flan made with Kahlua, it is a celebration of everything Mexico has to offer!
If you have never cooked with poblano peppers, you are in for a treat. It is a mild pepper that gives you chile flavor without the heat. I use them in omelets, add them to sauces, saute with mixed vegetables and stuff them like today’s recipe. You can broil them until they are blistered all over and peel them if you prefer, but their skins are fairly tender and don’t really need this step unless you like the flavor it adds.
Guy Fieri likes to stuff his poblano peppers with a combination of chorizo, shrimp and rice, but you could leave out the sausage and shrimp for a wonderful vegetarian entree. If you do that I would add some sauteed zucchini, yellow squash or tomatoes to add interest and dimension.
Chorizo is a delightful Mexican or Spanish sausage that is spicy without usually being too hot – but it depends on who is making it and what mood they are in that day, LOL. If it is fresh, it must be cooked before eating, but it is often made in links and smoked or cured. Usually made with rich pork, it has a fair amount of fat which helps transfer the flavors to your palate.
Refried beans are usually made with cooked pinto beans, but I prefer using black beans and they are popping up at Mexican restaurants across the nation. In addition to being tasty, black beans are also really good for us. They are high in antioxidants and fiber, rich in molybdenum (a trace mineral that helps breakdown sulfites found in foods), they may aid in weight loss and they are a great source of Folate (vitamin B6) which is extremely important for pregnant women because it aids in the development of the fetus’s brain and spinal cord. It may also help protect us against heart disease.
Guacamole may seem like an indulgence, but it is actually good for us. In addition to being high in magnesium and monosaturated fats (the good kind), avocados help fight many forms of cancer including breast and prostate, and they improve skin tone. Some people smear avocado on their faces but I would rather eat guacamole with a pile of chip while sipping a margarita or glass of wine!
Horchata is a terrific way to cool off your mouth if you are sensitive to spicy foods. It is also dairy and gluten-free so it is an outstanding option for those suffering from intolerances. It may seem like a strange combination of flavors, but it is a little like a liquid rice pudding – and just as delicious!
And finally, we all deserve a little dessert. Kahlua Flan is a fantastic option to traditional flan with a light added mocha flavor. While it is a sweet dessert, if you cook the caramel a little darker than normal it will take on a slight burnt flavor which offsets the sugar content.
All in all I think this is a meal that you could serve for any party and everyone would go home fat and happy. Have a wonderful Festive Friday – or Fiesta Friday – and a sensational weekend! Ole my friends!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
You can prepare most of this meal completely in advance and reheat when your guests arrive. This gives you a chance to relax and enjoy your party instead of standing over a hot stove while everyone else is having fun!
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/2 lb Mexican-style chorizo, or other spicy cured sausage, chopped finely
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 jalapeno, minced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 cup short-grain rice
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 large, fresh poblano chiles
- 1 lb shrimp, shelled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup Cheddar, shredded
- 3/4 cup Jack cheese, shredded
- In a medium saucepan, heat oil and chorizo, cook for 3 minutes. Add peppers, jalapeno, onions and garlic. Cook until translucent, then add rice and stir until all the grains of the rice are coated with oil. Add all liquids and stir over high heat for 3 minutes, cover and reduce heat to low. Check rice for doneness after 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place poblano chiles on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, cut top 1/4 of chile off and remove ribs and seeds. Slice chiles in half lengthwise.
- When rice is finished cooking, fluff with fork and stir in shrimp. Divide the rice mixture evenly among all the chiles. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, mix cheeses together and sprinkle top of each with cheese. Broil for 3 minutes to melt and brown the cheese.
- Yield: 8 stuffed peppers
- 2 (32 oz) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups water
- 1-1/2 tbsp each unsalted butter and oil
- 3 tbsp lard, bacon fat or vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cumin
- Puree black beans with water in food processor.
- Heat the lard or other fat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions with the salt and cumin until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid evaporates and the beans form a creamy mass that pulls away from the bottom and sides of the pan, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
- Yield: about 6 servings
- 3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Once all of the avocados have been coated, drain and reserve the lime juice.
- Add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash with an old-fashioned potato masher. Then fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro and garlic. Add 1 tbsp of the reserved lime juice.
- Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.
- Yield: about 10 servings
- 1 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed
- 1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican, broken into pieces, plus more for garnish
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican, for garnish
- Combine the rice and cinnamon stick with water in a blender; pulse to coarsely grind. Transfer to a large bowl and add another 4 cups water; soak at room temperature for 3 hours.
- Puree the rice mixture in a blender in batches until smooth. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve into a pitcher. Mix in the sugar; chill.
- Stir the horchata well before serving. Pour into ice-filled glasses; garnish with cinnamon sticks and a dusting of ground cinnamon.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
- 2 tbsp Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur
- Mexican chocolate shavings and cocoa powder, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a small saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt. Lower the heat and cook until caramelized to a golden brown. (Do not stir or touch the sugar, but swirl the pan to melt evenly.)
- Pour into a metal flan mold or 9-inch cake pan. Turn the dish and swirl to evenly coat the bottom. Let caramel cool and harden.
- Place the dish in a larger roasting pan and add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the condensed and evaporated milks and Kahlua and whisk well to blend. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until set and just firm in the center but still jiggles slightly, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.
- To serve, run a thin sharp knife around the rim of the flan. Place a platter or large plate on top of the flan and gently flip over so the plate is on the bottom. Lift away the mold. Garnish with powdered cocoa and top with Mexican chocolate shavings.
- Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings