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Savor Cinco de Mayo

This year, Cinco de Mayo lands on a Friday, so I have a feeling there will be quite a few celebrations going on.

I’ll be in the kitchen.

When I think of Cinco de Mayo, I think bottles of Corona, quartered limes, sombreros, chips and salsa and, of course, tequila.

So I set out to find me a couple of recipes that would be appropriate for a celebratory dinner.

While I don’t think any of my relatives contributed to the 1862 victory of Mexico over French troops, I can take advantage of cooking a Mexican-themed dinner just the same.

It’s a great opportunity to cook something special, and refresh the mind with a little history lesson.

What I wanted to do was find recipes of a dinner I could cook with tequila.

I hit up the Food Networks’ Web site and found a real simple one by Chef Emeril Lagasse.

For a side, I turned to a no-nonsense recipe for a Mexican Pasta Salad from familyfeatures.com.

I printed the recipes out and drove to the grocery store. A serrano pepper, bunch of cilantro and couple fresh limes later, I was ready to check out and off to try my hand at Emeril’s Cilantro-Tequila Grilled Chicken.

Don’t worry if you’re not used to cooking with alcohol, or worried you can’t cook it for the kids. All the alcohol will cook off.

I like the warm chicken with the cool pasta salad, but feel free to serve with different sides.

Emeril’s recipe also calls for four chicken-leg quarters or six pieces of chicken thighs and legs, but I like the chicken breasts better.

Lastly, I threw in a recipe for a great margarita, just in case, courtesy of the National Bartender’s Association via family features.com.

Have fun with it.

Good luck, and enjoy.


Cilantro-Tequila Grilled Chicken

1 (1-ounce) packages cilantro leaves

5 garlic cloves, peeled

1 shallot, roughly chopped

1/2 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tequila

1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

4 chicken leg quarters (or 6 pieces chicken thighs and legs, bone-in and skin-on)

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

Combine the first 10 ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Place the chicken pieces in a baking dish or zip-top plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken. Marinate for two hours, or up to four hours, turning occasionally to coat.

Preheat the grill to medium.

Remove meat from marinade, discarding the marinade, and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Lightly season the chicken pieces with additional salt and pepper on both sides. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for eight to 10 minutes on the first side. Turn and cook an additional eight to 10 minutes. Turn chicken as needed to keep from burning, and to get grill marks until chicken is cooked through and tender, about 25 to 30 minutes total for thighs and legs and 35 to 40 minutes for chicken leg quarters. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken should register 165 degrees, when fully cooked through.)

Remove chicken from the grill and let stand for five minutes before serving.

Garnish chicken with fresh cilantro sprigs and lime wedges before serving.

Mexican Pasta Salad

3 cups (8 ounces) rotini pasta

1 (1.25-ounce) package Ortega Taco Seasoning Mix

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 cup cherry tomato halves

1 (4-ounce) can Ortega diced green chiles

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

1 (2.25-ounce) can sliced ripe olives, drained

2 green onions, sliced

2 Ortega Taco Shells, coarsely crushed (optional)

1/2 cup Ortega Thick & Chunky Salsa (optional)

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Cook rotini according to package directions (do not overcook). Drain. Rinse with cold water until cooled. Drain.

Stir together taco seasoning mix, sour cream, water and vinegar in large bowl until blended. Stir in rotini, cherry tomatoes, green chiles, bell pepper, olives and green onions.

Microwave crushed taco shells on high 30 seconds to 45 seconds.

Place pasta in serving bowl. Top with salsa, crushed taco shells and cheese just before serving.

Tip: Taste salad before adding toppings. Stir in a little water for creamier texture. Use light or reduced-fat sour cream if preferred.

Cinco de Mayo Margarita

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Diamond Crystal kosher salt

3 ounces Sweet and Sour mix*

11/2 ounces tequila

3/4 ounce Triple Sec

Lime slices, to garnish

Rim margarita glass with fresh lime. Dip glass rim into kosher salt. Shake all liquid ingredients with ice. Strain over ice into salt-rimmed margarita glass. Serve with fresh lime slice and stir stick.

*Basic recipe is 1 to 11/2 tablespoons lemon juice to 1 teaspoon powdered sugar.

• Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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