Cinco de Mayo party menus filled with flavor, fun

2013-05-01T00:00:00Z 2013-05-08T10:59:03Z Cinco de Mayo party menus filled with flavor, funEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

Mexican cuisine is often a popular choice for party menus. And when it comes to Cinco de Mayo celebrations, everything from authentic Mexican dishes to contemporary Latin-inspired recipes, are fit to star at a home fiesta.

"This year Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday (and being a weekend), people are always looking for a reason to celebrate," said Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, co-author of the popular "Muy Bueno" blog and co-author of the new cookbook "Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Mexican Flavor" written with her sister Veronica Gonzalez-Smith and their mother Evangelina Soza.

"It's just the flavors and the great ingredients that makes Mexican food wonderful," said Marquez-Sharpnack.

She said home cooks can vary their menus for an at-home party that'll score points with guests.  "People like to have themed parties or a themed menu," she said.

For fun and flavorful selections, Marquez-Sharpnack said a taco or tostada bar would be an easy centerpiece for the party. One of her family's favorite dishes that blog readers enjoy, she said, is a recipe for Chicken Tinga, which is shredded chicken made with chipotle seasonings. "That can be used for a filling for tacos or used on tostadas," she said.

Whether it's a dinner for a few people or a full blown party, people love a taco bar," she added.

For Cathy Beauchamp, manager of El Salto Restaurant in Munster, cooks can easily add a great pico de gallo recipe to their table. Pico de gallo, which is essentially a raw salsa, is made with tomatoes, onions, and chili, and can be used as a dip for chips, as a condiment over meat, seafood or vegetables, or as a filling for tacos, burritos or even enchiladas.

"I plant tomatoes, onions, lots of different types of hot peppers and even cilantro in my garden and I make Pico de Gallo all summer," Beauchamp said.

And although the novelty called a "Walking Taco," is not authentic, Beauchamp said it's a perfect party food especially for serving to young guests. (Walking Tacos are made with Fritos, and then a variety of other ingredients such as ground meat, tomatoes, sour cream, peppers, cheese and other desired ingredients are layered in the chip bag and eaten from the bag).

Beauchamp said fajitas can be another great addition to a party menu because they're varied and easy.

For "Muy Bueno's" Marquez-Sharpnack, guests won't go wrong by adding assorted salsas, guacamoles and interesting drinks to the mix.

The "Muy Bueno" blog was started in 2010, Marquez-Sharpnack said. Through her family's new cookbook, which is focused on "family and traditions," she said the authors wanted to pass along their recipes and offer a nod to their heritage. "We all have stories and different memories of  our grandma," she said, adding their blog readers have said they appreciate the sharing of memories and also respond with their own stories.

To learn more about the blog, cookbook, and for recipe ideas, visit muybuenocookbook.com.

Home cooks looking for some recipes to add zing to their own Cinco de Mayo party tables, can try the following ideas from various sources, including "Muy Bueno," House Foods and Milagro Tequila. Recipes from "Muy Bueno" are reprinted courtesy of  Hippocrene Books Inc. Photos of "Muy Bueno" recipes are by Jeanine Thurston.

 Tofu Tostadas

1/2 package (7-ounce) House Foods’ Premium or Organic Tofu Medium Firm, drained and cut into small cubes

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

1 finely diced Serrano chili

1/3 cup chopped tomato

2 teaspoons chopped cilantro

1 avocado, peeled, seeded, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

4 corn tostadas (deep fried tortilla)

DIRECTIONS: Mix all ingredients with lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on top of tostada.

Source: House Foods

Corn in a Cup

Makes 12 Servings

10 ears corn

3 sticks (24 tablespoons) salted butter

3 cups lime juice

3 cups crema Mexicana or sour cream

Chili powder to taste

Salt to taste

Hot sauce (optional; recommend Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce)

12 ounces crumbly, salty white cheese (ideally cotija but Parmesan is acceptable)

Lime wedges for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Husk the corn, remove the silks, and slice the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife. Place the corn in a saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil; let boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain. Turn off the heat and return corn to saucepan.

For each serving: Put 3/4 cup of corn in a glass. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and stir to melt the butter. Mix in 1/4 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup crema. Sprinkle with a good heavy coating of chili powder and salt if desired, though the cheese adds plenty of salt. If you like spicy then add a few drops of some hot sauce for that extra kick of heat. Mix well. Top with 2 tablespoons crumbled cheese. Serve with a spoon and lime wedges.

Source: "Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor"

Jesusita’s House Salsa

Makes 3 cups

6 to 7 Anaheim chiles, roasted and peeled

1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, roasted (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 (14.5-ounce) can whole tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato sauce

DIRECTIONS: In a food processor or blender, pulse the roasted and peeled chiles, jalapeño peppers, if using, salt, garlic, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce for a few seconds. You do not want to puree it—chunky is best with this flavorful salsa. This salsa is a perfect appetizer with a basket of your favorite tortilla chips or as the base for several of our recipes.

Source: "Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor"

Sopes

Makes  8 large sopes or 16 small sopes

2 cups masa harina (recommend Maseca Corn Flour Masa)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups warm water

4 roasted long green chiles, sliced 1/2” strips

4 cups cooked pinto or black beans (or canned beans), drained

2 cups queso fresco, crumbled

1 cup cilantro sprigs

Avocado slices (optional)

DIRECTIONS:  Combine the two cups of masa harina, salt, and water. Stir until mixture is smooth and slightly sticky. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, if needed. Dough should be soft like Play-doh and not dry. Divide masa mixture into 8-16 portions (depending on desired size). Cover with a damp cloth to keep the dough soft and moist. I like keeping mine in the same bowl I mixed the dough. Line your tortilla press with plastic wrap. Place each ball between the plastic wrap and press down to form a little 1/2” patty. Peel off the plastic wrap. If you don’t have a handy dandy IMUSA tortilla press you can use a heavy skillet or pot to make the dough circles. Or use your hands to form a patty. Preheat an ungreased griddle or IMUSA comal on medium-high heat. Cook each sope on the comal for about 2-4 minutes on each side until dry. Repeat with the remaining sopes. To form the sopes you will need to work quickly while each sope is warm off the comal. Take each sope and working from the center outward, pull the warm dough pinching up the edge of the round to make a ridge. You may need to dig into the dough because it has cooked a bit. You will do this all the way around until you create a little boat. Set each one aside until you are ready to fill.

 For Roasting Chiles:

DIRECTIONS: Fire up a comal on the stovetop. Rinse the chile peppers thoroughly and pierce each chile with a knife. Place the chiles on the comal and let them roast evenly. You will have to keep an eye on them, making sure to turn them over until all sides are roasted. When done, the chile pepper skins should be evenly blistered and mostly black. Place roasted peppers into a plastic bag and close the bag. Cover the plastic bag with a kitchen towel. The steam will help the blackened skin and chile to separate. When cool, rub off the blackened skin and discard the seeds and stems. Slice the chile to desired length for filling your sopes.

Source: "Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor"

Carpe Dia

2 Parts Milagro Anejo Tequila

3/4 Part Milagro Agave Nectar

1 Part fresh lime juice

5 blackberries

2 sage leaves

3 dashes of bitters

DIRECTIONS: Muddle fruit and herbs, add all other ingredients. Shake with ice and strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with taragon mint sprig.

Source: Milagro Tequila

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