Mamiverse’s Daisy Martinez stopped by The Today Show this Friday morning and shared some delicious and festive ideas for Cinco de Mayo.
Whether on the high plains of central Mexico in summer or in your own backyard, nothing beats this spritzy, tart, lightly sweet drink for flat-out, thirst-quenching goodness.
Makes about 2 quarts (eight 8-ounce servings)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 7 limes)
1 cup superfine sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Three 750 ml bottles or two 1-quart bottles sparkling mineral water or seltzer, chilled
Lime slices, optional
- Stir the lime juice, sugar, vanilla and ½ cup water together in a large pitcher until the sugar is dissolved. Chill thoroughly. The syrup may be made up to several hours before serving.
- Just before serving, pour the sparkling water into the syrup and serve, with ice and a lime slice tucked into each glass if you like.
SHRIMP CEVICHE “Xni Pec”
Here’s something you don’t hear every day: This spiced-up version of ceviche that I tried on a trip to Mexico gets its name (xni pec = “shnee pec”) from the Mayan for “dog’s nose.” Odd as that may sound, it begins to make sense when you eat it—the heat from the chiles may cause your nose to run a bit. Making the ceviche and salsa separately, then mixing them together at the last minute keeps the vegetable and seafood flavors fresh and alive.
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour
“Cook” Time: 3 hours for the shrimp to “cook” in the citrus juice
For the Ceviche:
2 pounds small (41 to 50 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined (see Notes)
Juice of 3 lemons
Juice of 3 limes
Juice of 2 oranges
For the Xni Pec:
1 large tomato, seeded, and cut into medium dice (about 1 ¼ cups)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup finely diced Spanish onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped chile
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Good quality corn chips, for serving
- Make the ceviche: Toss the shrimp with the lemon, lime and orange juices in a large non-reactive bowl. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours, stirring occasionally so the shrimp cure evenly, or until the shrimp have turned opaque.
- While the shrimp is “cooking,” make the xni pec: Toss the tomato, cilantro, olive oil, onion, chile, and lime juice in a bowl to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The xni pec may be made up to 2 hours in advance and stored at room temperature.
- When the shrimp are ready, drain them and reserve the marinade (see Note). Toss with the xni pec and olive oil. Divide among martini glasses or other serving dishes and garnish each with a corn tortilla chip. Pass remaining chips separately.
• Choose your chile depending on how much heat you can tolerate. I love heat, so I would go with a habanero chile seeds and all, about the hottest
• there is, for this. For a milder dish, choose serranos or jalapeños and remove the seeds (which add heat) before chopping.
• The liquid drained from a ceviche is known as leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) and is often served chilled in small glasses to accompany the ceviche. It is also wonderful in a Bloody Mary (see page 000) or to enhance a simple glass of tomato juice.
BASIC YELLOW RICE (With Variations.)
If making achiote oil and sofrito ahead of time is like putting money in the bank, this is the time to make a withdrawal. Yellow rice is hands down the most bang-for-the-buck weeknight side dish. It pumps up everything from a pork chop off the grill to pan-fried fish fillets. With some simple additions—like Vienna sausages, lump crab meat or canned beans—it is a meal in itself.
Makes: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes (with ready-made sofrito and achiote oil; 20 minutes without)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1/2 cup Achiote Oil
1 cup Sofrito
¼ cup alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
2 tablespoons Kosher or fine sea salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
3 cups long grain rice
5 cups, or as needed, chicken broth, homemade or store-bought
Heat the achiote oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy 4 to 5-quart pot with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. Stir in the sofrito and alcaparrado and cook until the liquid is evaporated and the sofrito is sizzling. Season with the salt, pepper, and cumin. Toss in the bay leaves.
Raise the heat to high and add the rice. Cook, stirring, until the rice is coated with the achiote oil-sofrito and the grains begin to turn “chalky,” about 3 minutes. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the rice by one inch. Bring to a boil and boil until the level of the broth meets the level of the rice. Lower the heat to very low, stir the rice thoroughly but only once, and cover. Cook until the rice is tender but with a little bite and all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Do not uncover the pot or stir the rice while it cooks. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Yellow Rice with Vienna Sausages: Add two 5-ounce cans of drained Vienna sausages to the rice just before adding the chicken broth
Yellow Rice With Crab: Substitute bottled clam juice for the chicken stock. Add 2 cups (about 10 ounces) lump crabmeat and either a large (about 15-ounce) can of corn niblets, drained, or 2 cups frozen corn niblets to the rice just before adding clam juice
Three Bean Paella: Drain and rinse one 15.5-ounce can of each: chick peas, pink beans, and black-eyed peas. Add the beans along with 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika after the rice is tossed in the oil-sofrito mixture. Proceed as above. If you or someone you love is vegetarian, substitute veg stock for the chicken and make a meal of it.
Mexican rice: Add 1 red pepper, cored, seeded and finely diced, one 8-ounce can (or 1 cup) corn niblets, drained, one 8-ounce can Spanish style tomato sauce, and 1 cup pitted small black olives along with the sofrito.
Rice with Pigeon Peas: Add 1 ½ pounds smoked pork neck bones into the sofrito mixture before adding the rice and stir until coated. Just before adding the broth, stir one 13-ounce bag frozen pigeon peas or one 15-ounce can pigeon peas, drained, into the rice. Proceed as above.
SPICY SHREDDED PORK TACO
You may have noticed, with a quick glance at the ingredients, that this makes quite a bit of pork tinga, as this sort of thing is called in Mexico. To me it makes perfect sense to make a large batch of any recipe that takes a little time to prep or cook, like this pork dish, the tamales on page 000 or the beef noodle soup on page 000. In this case, leftover tinga, which only get better after a couple of days in the fridge, makes a main course (especially when enhanced with frozen peas and diced carrots) paired with Mexican Rice or Cumin-Scented Fried Potatoes. If there’s any leftover pork after that, use it to fill empanadas and freeze them.
Makes enough to fill 18 tortillas (6 ample first courses servings) plus 6 main course servings Prep Time: 10 minutes (plus 2 to 24 hours for marinating) Cook Time: 2 ½ hours
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5 to 6 pieces, each about 2 inches wide 2 tablespoons dry adobo, homemade or store-bought Juice of 1 grapefruit Juice of 2 lemons 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 Mexican chorizos (about 1 pound), removed from the casing 2 medium yellow onions, finely diced (about 3 cups) 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground allspice ¼ teaspoon ground clove 2 bay leaves One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper 18 corn tortillas
- Rub the dry adobo into the slices of pork, seasoning all sides well. Put in a roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold all the pork in a single layer. Pour the citrus juices over the pork and turn to coat all sides. Refrigerate for at 2 hours or up to overnight, turning the pork in the marinade occasionally.
- Remove the pork from the marinade and pat the pieces dry. Heat the vegetable oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Lay as many of the pork slices into the pan as will fit comfortably and cook, turning the pieces as necessary, until browned on all sides, being careful not to burn the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat a little if necessary. Transfer the pork pieces to a plate as they brown and add the remaining pieces to the pan, replenishing the oil if necessary.
- Add the chorizo to the pan, and cook, stirring to break up any big pieces, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, stirring to pick up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the oregano, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Toss in the bay leaves, stir in the canned tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Return the pork to the pan, turning it to coat with the sauce. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering, and cover the pan. Cook until the pork falls apart easily when poked with a fork, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Skim the fat off the top of the sauce occasionally as the pork cooks.
- Remove the pork to a large plate. Shred the pork coarsely with two forks and stir back into the sauce. Check seasonings and add salt and pepper if necessary. The pork can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Cool completely and refrigerate. Rewarm the pork over low heat, adding a small amount of water if necessary to make the sauce smooth.
- To serve, wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and place in a 350° F oven until warmed through and softened, about 15 minutes. Place a heaping tablespoonful of the filling on each tortilla and roll up. Serve hot.
TORTILLAS FILLED WITH ROASTED POBLANO PEPPERS
I enjoyed this simple but delicious roll-your-own taco dish at a restaurant in Oaxaca. I was by myself when I had them, as Jerry had taken the kids on a tour to Monte Alban, and I had not been up to the trek. I decided to take a walk to the town square, and on my way there, decided to duck in out of the sun and where I ducked to was El Meson restaurant. The poblano peppers were deliciously roasted and served with gently caramelized onions and a dollop of queso fresco. The mere memory of it’s deliciousness brings tears of joy to my eyes. These are known as “rajas”, but you can let your imagination run wild, and add softly scrambled eggs, or avocado, or tomatillo salsa, or…
Makes 6 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
10 poblano peppers (about 1 3/4 pounds), roasted and peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
One package (about 16) 6-inch corn tortillas
Any Or All Of The Following Fixin’s:
Coarsely shredded Queso Oaxaca
Requeson or ricotta cheese (see Note)
Caramelized Onions (see Roquefort and Caramelized Onion Filling)
Weeknight Salsa or any other favorite homemade or bottled salsa
Cut the roasted and peeled poblanos into ½-inch strips . Toss them with the olive oil and set them aside.
Warm the tortillas: Wrap them securely in aluminum foil and put them in a preheated 350° F oven until warmed through, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, put whichever of the fixin’s you choose in bowls and fit each with a spoon. Unwrap the tortillas, spoon a healthy amount of poblano strips onto one and top with the fixin’s of your choice. Roll up the tortilla and eat.
Beat 2 eggs with 2 tablespoons finely diced tomato and a tablespoon of milk. Scramble the eggs to a very soft texture. Divide the eggs between two warmed tortillas and dress them with any of the above fixin’s.
Note: Requeson is lightly salty Mexican cheese, midway between ricotta and ricotta salata in texture. It is moist and perfect for crumbling. It is somewhat difficult to find outside Latin markets, but worth picking up if you run across it.