Sunday, May 5, 2013

Stella's Cinco De Mayo Homage


Cinco De mayo, which is Spanish for "fifth day of May", is a celebration held on May 5th. It is celebrated regionally in Mexico and the United States. To avoid getting into a history lesson, I will just say this-I love Mexican food! In honor of this special Mexican holiday, I decided to veer off the African continent for a moment and take a culinary detour to Mexico. I dedicate this video to my good friend from Mexico-Rosa Maria. I tried to recreate popular Mexican dishes, with an African twist. I like to call it a Ken-Mex (Kenyan/ Mexican) meal. I made crispy chicken tacos using spices that I use in my everyday African cooking, made some mango salsa using red-chili powder that was reminiscent of my childhood (as kids, we ate mangoes dipped in red chili powder as a snack) and some creamy chipotle sauce to top it off. The meal had big flavors, and some kick. The textures ranged from creamy, to crunchy to chewy all in one bite. And what kind of homage would it be without some margaritas? To keep with tradition, I made some margarita-with a twist. I made lime margarita jello shooters...served up pretty in lime peels. Talk about visual interest! I hope you get to enjoy this meal as much as my family, guests and I did. Here's what you'll need:

**If you do not wish to use alcohol in this recipe, you can use 2 1/2 Oz of non-alcoholic margarita mix instead of the tequila and triple sec (2 shot glasses of virgin margarita mix. You will get the flavor, minus the alcohol). **
-One 6 Oz lime-flavored gelatin pack (the large pack).
-8-12 limes, cut into half, and the fleshy part (the juicy part), removed as shown in the video. I used a pairing knife and a melon baller to remove the flesh. Sit these lime "cups" in a mini-muffin pan for support or they will roll around and the contents will spill. I used a cake-pop maker to hold my lime cups.
-2 cups of very hot water.
-2 cups of ice-cold water.
-1 1/2 Oz of tequila of your choice (1 1/2 of  a small shot-glass).
-1/2 Oz of fresh lime juice (1/2 of a small shot glass).
-1/2 Oz triple sec (1/2 of a small shot glass).

-Empty the pack of lime jello powder into the 2 cups of hot water and stir until all the powder is completely dissolved.
-Add in the ice-cold water and stir.
-Add in the lime juice, triple sec and tequila (or virgin margarita mix if you want the non-alcoholic version), and stir.
-Pour the liquid into the lime "cups". Make sure to fill them to the brim.
-Carefully transfer your lime cups to the refrigerator and let it set for 1-2 hours. I let mine set for 3 hours. When ready, the middle should juggle to the touch, but not be wet.
If you have left-over jello mixture, you can put it into a plastic food container (lunchbox), and once its set, sit the container in hot water for about 3 minutes, invert it to release the set jello, cut and serve.
-1 1/2 chipotle peppers, seeded (you can leave the seeds in if you like it really spicy).  I used the canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. You can find this in the ethnic/ international aisle of the grocery store where they have Hispanic foods. Alternatively, you can use jalapeno peppers.
-1 teaspoon tamarind paste. You can purchase this at an Indian or Asian store. Or you can visit my online store:
-6 heaping tablespoons of "Crema Mexicana" (Mexican Sour cream). I found this in the refrigerated section of the ethnic aisle/ international aisle at the grocery store. If you can't find this, regular sour cream would also work.
-1/4 bunch of cilantro, chopped.
-1 teaspoon ground cumin. You can find this at any Latin or Indian grocery store. Also check in the spice aisle at the grocery store. If you still cant find it, visit my store:                                                                   

-Add all the above ingredients and puree in a blender for 5 mins.
-Put in a container with a lid, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

-2 large, ripe mangoes, cut into cubes.
-1/2- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (depending on how spicy you like your salsa. I used 1 teaspoon).
-1/4 red onion, finely diced.
-1/4 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped.
-The juice of 1 lemon.
-1/2 teaspoon of salt (I use Kosher).                                                                      

-In a medium bowl, combine all the above ingredients and toss using a spoon. Be careful not to mash the mango pieces. You want to keep the cubed shape of the mangoes.                                                                         

-You will need a pack of burrito sized flour tortillas (I used the 8 pack).
-1 pack of shredded Mexican style taco cheese
-A 7 Oz bag of lettuce, finely chopped as shown in the video (I used romain lettuce).
-1 1/2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 chicken breasts) OR  boneless skirt steak OR pork loin boneless center cut chops. Use a meat tenderizing hammer to tenderize and flatten out the meat between two sheets of cling foil (as shown in the video).
-1 8.5 Oz pack of jiffy corn muffin mix or 1 cup corn flour.
-1 cup saltine cracker crumbs crushed in a food bag with a rolling pin as shown in the picture below.                                                                                 
-1/4 cup all-purpose flour.
-1/4 cup ground almond (optional).
-1 13.5 Oz can of heavy coconut milk or 2 cups of whole milk (I used coconut milk for extra richness and flavor).
-3 large eggs, lightly beaten.
-1 cup oil for shallow-frying your meat of choice (I used coconut oil. You can use Canola or vegetable oil).
-1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
-1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger powder.
-1/2 teaspoon of Spanish hot smoked paprika (you can alternate with red chili powder).
-1/2 teaspoon dry basil (rub between the palm of your hands first to release the flavors).
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
-1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
-1/4 teaspoon coriander powder.
-1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder.
-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin powder.
-1 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher).

**Preheat the cooking oil in a heavy skillet (I used a cast iron 12" skillet) on medium heat***

-In a shallow bowl, combine the eggs and coconut milk and whisk well to combine.
-In a deep bowl, mix the saltine cracker crumbs, flour, ground almond, garlic powder, salt and spices. Mix well to make sure everything is well combined.
-Take each piece of meat, dip it in the shallow bowl containing egg/coconut mixture, making sure to coat both sides. Hold up the cut of meat and let the excess egg mixture drip off.
-Now place the cut of meat in the deep dish containing the crumbs and spices and coat both sides well.
-Transfer the meat to the hot oil, and let each side cook undisturbed for 3 mins on each side. Try not to move it around too much or the crumb coating will fall off.
-Once the cut of meat is well cooked and golden brown on both sides, transfer to a plate and place in a warm oven until you are ready to serve.
-Right before serving, cut the meat you cooked into strips and serve.

-After your jello shots are set, remove from the fridge and using a sharp knife, cut the lime halves into half, creating wedges. Serve them up in a pretty plate and enjoy. If you like salt in your margaritas, drop one side of these wedges in rock salt and slurp it up elegantly ;) If you do not like salt in your Margarita, these are good as they are.                                                                           

-Right before you are ready to assemble your taco, heat the tortillas according to package instructions (I nuked mine in the microwave for 1 minute for all the tacos).
-Now this stage is totally up to one's preference. I like to have the lettuce sit over the warm taco, followed by some slices of chicken, then the chipotle cream, followed by the mango salsa.

Then once every component of the taco has gotten to know each other, I tightly wrap the taco over them snugly, lift it up ever so gently, insert into open mouth and ENJOY!! How do you like to eat yours?                                                                                

-Whichever your method, these are sure to please. Don't forget those jello shots :) Happy Cinco de Mayo to all!