CHARLES TOWN – Americans’ Cinco de Mayo celebrations are said to be more enthusiastic than what unfolds on May 5 in Old Mexico, where the holiday has its roots in the 1862 victory of Mexico’s Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla.
Here, Cinco de Mayo is by no means the only time we indulge in quesadillas, tacos, nachos, burritos, margaritas and other Mexican favorites. But the holiday does offer an ideal excuse to give some new Hispanic dishes a try.
This week we share five ideas for adding zest to your Cinco de Mayo, from a main dish of chicken tacos with lime that’s easy thanks to the magic of the crockpot. It’s terrific served alongside a vegetable-packed Mexican salad drizzled with honey-lime dressing. For dessert, try a warm, cinnamon-laced rice pudding.
To wash it all down, we offer two choices: a stimulating Mexican-style coffee and then the tequini, a cocktail made with premium blanco tequila that’s the perfect Cinco de Mayo twist on the martini.
Lime Chicken Tacos
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup black beans (from a can, drained)
1 cup chunky salsa
12 six-inch flour tortillas, warmed
Sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, guacamole (optional)
Place the chicken in a 3-quart slow cooker. Combine lime juice and chili powder; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until chicken is tender.
Remove chicken and allow to cool slightly. Using a pair of forks, shred meat and return to the slow cooker. Stir in corn, beans and salsa.
Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until heated through. Serve in tortillas with sour cream, cheddar, lettuce, guacamole or other favorite toppings.
Mexican Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup peeled and julienned jicama
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (frozen, canned or fresh/uncooked)
3/4 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 avocado, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
In a large bowl, toss together all salad ingredients. In separate bowl, mix ingredients for dressing (1/4 cup fresh lime juice; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 Tablespoons honey; 2 Tablespoons fresh, finely chopped cilantro; 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced; and 1 teaspoon chopped jalapeño pepper) and pour onto salad mixture. Toss again and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Arroz Con Leche (“Mexican Rice Pudding”)
7 cups water
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup raisins
Ground cinnamon (for dusting)
Place water, rice and cinnamon stick in a medium-size heavy saucepan set on medium-high. Bring to a boil and cook until the rice is tender, about 18 minutes. Strain out the liquid and discard the cinnamon stick. Return the rice to the saucepan.
Stir in all three milks. Continue cooking over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, about 20 minutes. Add the raisins and stir well. Transfer the pudding to a serving bowl and dust the top with cinnamon.
2/3 cup ground dark-roasted coffee
1 quart water
1 cinnamon stick
Orange peel (one 3-inch piece)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the coffee grounds to water, sugar, cinnamon and peel. Stir to combine and bring to slow boil. Stir frequently to ensure sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and cover. Let steep for 5 minutes. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain into coffee mugs.
2 1/2 ounces blanco tequila
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters
Olives or a lemon twist for garnish
Pour tequila, dry vermouth and bitters into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with olives or a lemon twist.