Without raining on the piñata, we’ve got to let you know that Cinco de Mayo is not quite the big deal in Mexico that it is the States. The holiday celebrates the victory of the Mexican army over much larger and better armed French forces in 1862. It’s not an independence day, but a minor holiday that we in the U.S. have taken to in a big way –much as we have embraced St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest or Chinese New Year in our multi-cultural society. And since we love a traditional reason to have a great party, let’s follow our taste buds and toast our friends to the south!
Loco for tacos
Banish that boring taco we all grew up with and its ground beef, doused in an unnamed “taco seasoning” dust and surrounded by some shredded lettuce, salsa and cheese. Instead, let’s get spicy with chorizo sausage; smoked, cured, and fully cooked, so you can grill or broil it for a little char before slicing it into your taco. Layer in a few slivers of fennel and apple for sweet crunch, put a dollop of crème fraîche and a squeeze of fresh lime juice on each taco. Try slicing the chorizo very thinly and sauté with red, yellow and orange bell peppers and onions for a fresh take on fajitas.
For a wild take on pork, try our wild boar shoulder braised and shredded for tacos and carnitas. The braising technique will leave you with succulent morsels that could almost stand alone, though black beans, fresh cilantro, onions, and even a scoop of guacamole would elevate it to perfection.
For those who love their red meat, try sweet mole sauce atop your favorite grilled steak, sliced thinly for a fresh addition to your taco party.
And finally, how could we resist letting duck into the party? Give your guests something to rave about with Chef Jennifer Perillo’s Spice-Infused Duck Taco. Adios, dull tacos!
Tamale to Mole
The tamale has a long history going back to the Mayans, who ate them as early as 1200 BC. A tamale is a little parcel of masa—corn flour mixed into a starchy dough—that is wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. The husk is not eaten, but is an element that makes the tamale a perfect street food: it comes with its own plate! With a bit of shredded meat in the center, like chicken, pork, or duck, and slathered with salsa or mole, tamales make a satisfying meal. We like Chef Philippe Schmit’s Spicy Duck Confit Tamales for the clever use of the tender, pre-cooked meat of our duck leg confit. He serves this popular tamale all year round at his eponymous Houston, Texas restaurant, but you can borrow the recipe for Cinco de Mayo!
When it comes to mole, there are whole books on the subject. There are chocolate moles, pumpkin seed moles, hot, spicy and sweet mole sauces. And like so many sauces, it is unclear when or how they were originally created. We do know that mole can contain up to 30 ingredients, making it one of the more complex and deeply nuanced sauces around. Chef Akhtar Nawab serves our Rohan duck breast with a rich, pumpkin seed mole sauce and arepa dumplings at his popular New York City restaurant, La Esquina, where the Mexican-inspired menu meets haute cuisine.
Rest your Quesadilla
Our fully-cooked duck leg confit, smoked duck or smoked chicken breast will all work wonders on a quesadilla. We like our quesadillas with duck and avocado and mild, nutty gouda cheese, but for a more autentico version, layer shredded meat on a soft corn tortilla with stringy, fresh queso Oaxaca and refried beans before cooking it briefly in a hot, dry pan.
Duck leg confit is a perfect choice for tortillas, too! Chef Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis in Connecticut bakes shredded duck confit on flour tortillas and tops it with a homemade, tomato-vegetable salsa for an inspired Duck Confit Tostada that is quick and easy to make.
If you prefer your meat on the bone, then try Chef Josefina Howard’s take on a Mexican Pork Chop. These luscious and thick pork chops are rubbed with a paste of reconstituted ancho chiles, garlic, cinnamon, oregano and thyme for an out-of-this-world flavor. And we bet that paste would work wonders on Berkshire pork ribs, too!
Don’t forget the MicheladasIt wouldn’t be a fiesta without cervesa! But for those who appreciate a cocktail, try serving up the Mexican Michelada—a beer-based drink that is wildly popular south of the border. A Michelada combines two of man’s best friends: beer and a Bloody Mary. Salt the rim of a cold glass, and then add the juice of one lime with a dash of tomato juice or Clamato and a healthy dose of pepper and hot sauce. You could also add a dash of soy sauce and two dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Pour in the beer over the mixture, stir and top it all off with a sprig of cilantro.
Enjoy the foods. Enjoy the drinks. And of course, enjoy the fiesta! Salud!