Cinco de Skinny Girls y Mayo

My friends and family (and probably quite a few of my blog readers) know that when it comes to food, I’m a theme-and-holiday geek. Oftentimes as a holiday approaches, various people will reach out to me. “So,” they’ll say, “What are you guys up to for St. Patrick’s Day?” They know full well what we’re up to, and are angling for an invitation.

The stuff Cinco de Mayo dreams are made of.

The stuff Cinco de Mayo dreams are made of.

One of my favorite “reason-to-cook-and-drink-ethnic” holidays is upon us — Cinco de Mayo. Much like St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a holiday that’s more popular with Yankees than it is back in the home country. It’s the day everyone is Mexican! Also like St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a convenient excuse for those who would drink in excess to head for their favorite watering hole. For us, Cinco de Mayo — again, like St. Patrick’s Day — is an opportunity to celebrate the food and drink of the holiday’s culture. If we drink too much, it’s not on purpose.

What will we be doing this Cinco de Mayo? The pretty weather lady on channel 7 (doesn’t every channel now have a pretty weather lady!??) tells us the weather will be in the upper 70s/low 80s. A perfect day to invite a few friends for margaritas out on the deck overlooking the canyon.

In years past, I’ve fried beer-battered fish filets for tacos in the style of Baja California, wrapped large pig parts in banana leaves and slow cooked for hours ala the Yucatan, or simmered chicken thighs in the deep, dark, mysterious depths of a Oaxacan molé. It will be an ideal day for carne asada on the grill, but that’s not where I’m headed. This year, I will indeed stay with the north of Mexico and beef, but it’s machaca that will be on the menu — the dried, pounded and rehydrated stuff of my dreams, folded into handmade flour tortillas with avocado, grilled scallion and fresh salsa.

Since I’ve got Mexican recipes all over this blog, I thought I would put together a nice menu of dishes — Pacific coast seafood style — for those of you who wanted to celebrate the holiday properly, too. Here you go:

• Margaritas
• Queso fundido
• Baja crab cocktails
• Mazatlan-style grilled whole fish

(That last recipe comes with fun recollections of a long afternoon spent on a Mazatlan beach, by the way…)

Here’s something I’ve never done before. I’m going to give you a recipe before I’ve ever actually made it! I thought this one up as an appetizer for our little Cinco de Mayo fiesta — sort of a simplified chile relleno. I’ll be making it Sunday and I’ll let you know how it turns out. Or, you can make it first and let me know how it turns out. ¡Buen apetito y viva la revolucion!

*    *    *

Chiles de Puebla con queso
serves 4 as an appetizer

4 poblano chiles
8 oz. jack cheese, sliced thinly
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
flaky sea salt

Toast the pumpkin seed: Brush a skillet with a little oil and warm over medium heat until hot. Add the pumpkin seeds and toast, tossing or stirring often, for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and toss in sugar, salt and cayenne to thoroughly coat. Remove to a small bowl.

Place the poblanos in a toaster oven or oven, on a rack close to the upper heat source, and broil for 3-5 minutes, until the skin is blistering and browning. Turn over and do the same on the other side. Remove from oven. Place in a large bowl covered with a plastic grocery bag, and let sit for 10 minutes. (As the peppers cool, their skin will steam loose.)

Carefully peel the skin from each pepper. (If some skin is difficult to get off, it’s okay to leave on.) With a paring knife, carefully open a slit lengthwise along each pepper (some will split open by themselves), use the knife to remove as much of the seed pod near the stem as possible, and rinse under a light shower of tap water to wash away remaining seeds. Place on a plate to drain.

Divide sliced cheese evenly among 4 peppers, inserting into the pepper through the slit.

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high. Add the oil and swirl. Add the chiles, slit side down if possible. Pan-fry for about 1 minute. Turn over and do the same for 2 minutes on the other side. (Some of the cheese will seep out into the pan, which is fine.)

Remove chiles and any melted cheese with a spatula to a large plate for serving. Slice each chile into 4 to 5 pieces. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds over the chile pieces, and skewer with toothpicks if you’d like for serving.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vivica
    May 03, 2013 @ 05:59:14

    I recognize that bottle!


  2. pal-O
    May 03, 2013 @ 19:51:26

    Feliz Cinco de Mayo. Preparing my menu for a small dinner with mi hermano y esposa. Y si claro Lori.


  3. Michelle
    May 05, 2013 @ 14:00:22

    Sorry, I was just checking the flights to LAX… Hope you have a grand party. But I know you will.


  4. pal-O
    May 09, 2013 @ 15:17:17

    The Chiles de Puebla con queso I cooked on Sunday were really terrific. My favorite part of the meal! The Carne Asada Enchiladas Verde were also really tasty with your “lying down on the grass court staring at the passing clouds margarita” recipe while playing ladder golf. I did sub ground jalapeño pepper for the cayenne though on the pepitas. It was a good, good day. Thanks!


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