Who needs an excuse to sip a margarita while digging into homemade guacamole? Not many of us. But if you are the type that needs a reason to treat yourself, then why not Cinco de Mayo? Cinco De Mayo – translated 5th of May in English – is actually a celebration of the Mexican army’s victory over the French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 – not Mexico’s Independence Day as many believe. Interestingly enough, Cinco de Mayo is mostly celebrated as a day of the Mexican heritage and pride in the U.S., not Mexico. Yet ironically, the day holds little significance there. Some of the best Mexican restaurants in the United States are in NYC – from fancy to down and dirty. And some of the top chefs have shared their savory recipes with Cotton Candy so that you can whip up a fiesta sure to impress your friends. Contributor Carla Sullivan has got the scoop on these Mexican treats in the City, where piñatas are optional but margaritas are a must.
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped white onion
2 teaspoons minced jalapeño or Serrano chilies, seeds and membranes removed, if desired
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 large ripe avocados, preferably California Haas, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons cored, seeded, and finely chopped plum tomatoes (1 small tomato)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
In a medium size bowl, use the back of a spoon to mash 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, 1 teaspoon onion, 1 teaspoon of minced chile, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together against the bottom of the bowl.
Add the avocados and gently mash them with a fork until chunky-smooth. Fold the remaining cilantro, onion, and chile into the mixture. Stir in tomatoes and lime juice, taste to adjust the seasonings, and serve with a basket of warm corn tortilla chips.
Add some “add-ons”
1 lb whole lobster or 4 oz lobster meat
(steam, cool and pick meat from lobster and rough chop)
Japanese pickled ginger works well for a garnish.
Chipotle-goat cheese guacamole
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chilies
1 large ripe mango peeled seeded and diced
(Any fruit will work. Fresh berries, seedless grapes, or papaya for example.)
Artichoke guacamole with toasted pinenuts
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Rosa Mexicano’s The Traditional Margarita – La Tradicional
Makes 1 drink
½ ounces (3 tablespoons) silver tequila
¾ ounce (1 ½ tablespoons Cointreau or Triple Sec)
¾ ounce (1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice)
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
A lime wedge
Prepare a salt-rimmed glass if you like (see below). Use a 10-ounce glass if serving on the rocks; a 6-ounce glass if serving up.
Put 6 ice cubes in a tall cocktail shaker. Pour the remaining ingredients (except the lime wedge) into the shaker and shake vigorously. Pour (ice and all) into the larger glass or strain into the smaller glass. Garnish with the lime wedge.
Salting Glasses for Margaritas
Over salting the rim of your glass causes the salt to dissolve into the drink, which can leave your cocktail tasting like Acapulco Bay on the rocks. To avoid this, follow these simple steps.
Roll and press a lime on a hard surface to break down the membranes and yield more juice. Halve the lime crosswise.
Spread an even layer of fine sea salt on a plate. Lightly rub the lime around the outside rim of the glass (Just a gloss).
Lightly press the rim of the glass into the salt. Lift, and tap off any excess.
Allow the salt to air-dry before filling the glass. This is important you do not want too much salt coming off the glass with each sip. In upscale restaurants in Mexico, among the few places in the country where margaritas are served, one sees salt-rimmed glasses hanging upside down from racks behind the bar.
Zarela’s Ensalada de Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi Salad)
Serves 6 – 8.
l cup fresh corn kernels
l medium-small zucchini, finely diced
l small cucumber, finely diced
l pear (preferably Comice), peeled and finely diced
l firm, sweet peach, peeled and finely diced
l cup blueberries Seeds of l pomegranate
2 small avocados (preferably black-skinned Hass variety), peeled and finely diced
l/4 cup olive oil Juice of 3 limes
l teaspoon salt, or to taste
Combine all the diced fruits and vegetables in large salad bowl. In small bowl, whisk together olive oil and lime juice with salt to taste. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss thoroughly. Serve at once.
Centrico’s Birria en Estilo Jalisco (Braised Short Ribs Jalisco Style with Ancho Chile Broth)
4 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 cascabel chile, stemmed and seeded
4 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 lbs. top round or chuck beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 lbs. beef ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, plus one more for garnish, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
2 limes, cut into wedges, for serving
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
corn tortillas, for serving
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. In a dry cast-iron skillet, toast the chiles over medium-low heat for 2 minutes, until fragrant; turn them and shake the pan so they don’t scorch. Put the toasted chiles in a bowl; cover with the boiling water, and let them soak until softened and reconstituted, about 20 minutes. Put the chiles, along with their soaking water, in a blender and purée until completely smooth; you may have to do this in batches.
Put the beef cubes and ribs in a large, deep Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, herbs, spices and vinegar. Then add 3 quarts of water and the chile purée. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 2 hours, until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone.
Remove the meat from the pot and let it cool a bit. Hand-shred the meat, return it to the pot, and discard the bones. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly.
Ladle the birria into large serving bowls and garnish with the chopped onion, cilantro, and lime. Serve with warm tortillas.
Written by: Carla Sullivan
After careers in broadcast journalism and public relations, longtime foodie Carla Sullivan combined her love of dining out in the City with the love for her two kids. Founder of MiniMunchers.com, Sullivan is dedicated to seeking out kid-friendly restaurants in Manhattan.