Four Mind-Blowing Recipes for Your Cinco de Mayo Fiesta
Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite holidays, and it's not just due to the fact I really enjoy cold Mexican beer, ice-chilled tequila shots and hand-crafted margaritas. I also get a chance to throw down in the kitchen with some of my favorite foods that get their inspiration from south of the border. Check out some of these recipes that can help rock out your fiesta.
2 fresh poblano chiles
1 cup (lightly packed) roughly chopped spinach leaves
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter—or you can use vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
3 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken (I usually use a rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled chicken)
12 corn tortillas
A little vegetable oil for brushing or spraying
About 1 cup Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
A little chopped cilantro for garnish
1. Make the sauce. Roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly, until the skins have blistered and blackened on all side, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes under the broiler. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and, when handleable, rub off the blackened skin, tear open and pull out the seed pod and stem. Quickly rinse to remove any stray seeds or bits of skin. Roughly chop and put in a blender jar. Add the spinach.
In a medium (3-quart) saucepan, combine the milk and broth, set over medium-low heat to warm.
In a large (4-quart) saucepan, melt the butter (or heat the oil) over medium. Add the garlic and cook for a minute to release its aroma, then add the flour and stir the mixture for a minute. Raise the heat to medium-high. Pour in the warm broth mixture and whisk constantly until the sauce boils. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Pour half the hot sauce into the blender with the chiles and spinach. Cover loosely (I remove the center part of the lid, secure the lid, then drape a cloth over the whole thing) and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining sauce. Taste and season with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons.
2. Finish the enchiladas. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Smear about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the bottom of each of four to six 9-inch individual ovenproof baking/serving dishes or smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish. Stir 1 cup of the sauce into the chicken.
Lay half of the tortillas out on a baking sheet and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil; top each tortilla with another one and brush or spray those with oil. Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes. Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.
Working quickly so that the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken up in each tortilla, then line them all up in the baking dish(es). Douse evenly with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 20 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro and serve without hesitation.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
8 ounces (3 to 4 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (1 or 2 serranos or 1 jalapenos), stemmed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
6 sprigs of fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off), roughly chopped
1/4 small white onion, finely chopped
Roast the tomatillos, chile(s) and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, until blotchy black and softening (they’ll be turning from lime green to olive), about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side. Cool, then transfer everything to a blender, including all the delicious juice the tomatillos have exuded during roasting. Add the cilantro and 1/4 cup water, then blend to a coarse puree. Scoop into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually 1/2 teaspoon.
- 2 dried chipotle chiles, stems and seeds removed, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds, freshly ground
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cubed
- 1 1/2 cups diced onion
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
- 3 cups shredded queso fresco or Monterey Jack
- Nonstick cooking spray
Combine the chiles, garlic, chili powder, cumin, chicken broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the chiles are soft. Set aside until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken until cooked through, approximately 7 to 9 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and place in a medium bowl. Add the onions to the same pan along with a generous pinch of salt, decrease the heat to medium-low and sweat for 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook until the onions are tender, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the chicken back to the pan and remove from the heat.
Spray a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick spray. Place 1/2 cup of the sauce into the bottom of the dish. Dip 4 tortillas into the remaining sauce and lay them into the bottom of the dish. Cut 1 of the tortillas in half to evenly cover the bottom of the dish. Top this with half of the chicken mixture and 1 cup of the cheese. Starting with 4 more tortillas, repeat the layers, ending with the last 4 tortillas on top. Pour remaining sauce over the dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese on top is bubbly.
- 80 corn tortilla chips, approximately 8 ounces
- 3 to 4 jalapenos, thinly sliced*
- 4 1/2 ounces diced red onion, approximately 1 cup
- 6 ounces finely grated Cheddar, approximately 2 1/4 cups
- 6 ounces finely grated Oaxaca cheese, approximately 2 1/4 cups
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
- 2 cups fresh salsa
- 2 cups sour cream
- 2 cups guacamole
*Cook's Note: Depending on your heat preference, you may remove the seeds from the jalapenos or leave them intact.
Set 1 of the oven racks on the lowest shelf and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Make 8 (2-inch) balls out of aluminum foil. Spray 3 wire cooling racks with non-stick cooking spray and place 1 of the aluminum balls in each of the corners of 2 of the racks.
Lay 1/3 of the chips on one of the racks. Top each chip with a jalapeno slice and sprinkle the chips with 1/3 of the red onions, and 1/3 of both the Cheddar and Oaxaca cheeses. Repeat with the remaining chips and the other 2 racks. Stack the racks on top of one another and set into the parchment lined baking pan. Bake in the oven on the bottom rack for 7 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble. Sprinkle with fresh oregano. Serve immediately with the salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.