This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com.
With Cinco de Mayo (May 5) right around the corner, it’s time to think about celebrating spring’s arrival with a fiesta party. I know, I know, how can I be thinking about a party when most of the country is still sheltering in place? The way I see it, there are few meals more fun than a Mexican fiesta and the family can definitely use some fun right now while we are all tucked safely at home. Plus, it’s a good idea to practice this menu so that when we can finally have friends over, this meal will be even faster and simpler to execute. By then you will be able to make it blindfolded… well, almost.
For the record, Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday that’s popular here in the states as well. In Mexico, it’s a day that marks the 1862 victory against a French incursion in the town of Puebla. Here in the states, it’s a great excuse to celebrate spring with the bright flavors, colors and buoyancy that a Mexican fiesta provides.
Seeing as the kids are in the house more than normal, I’ve made this menu kid-friendly. There are a few jobs kids love to do like smashing the avocado for the guacamole, stirring, crumbling cheese and of course, helping assemble the sundaes. This is the perfect time to get them busy, involved and cooking. Ask Alexa to play some Mexican music to set the mood while you cook. Shout “Olé” (olay) when you finish a job. Preface requests with “por favor” (pour-fah-vore or please). Make it fun and educational.
Let’s start off with the Viva Mexico Dip Trio, which deliciously symbolizes the red, white and green colors of the Mexican flag. Easy and lightly spicy, Tomato and Chipotle Salsa will represent the red. It’s flavorful, fast, and because we are using canned fire-roasted tomatoes, this recipe can be a year-round favorite. There’s no hunting down ripe tomatoes, so this salsa whips up in minutes. The chipotle chili adds an irresistible smoky heat that you won’t find in most jarred salsas and the fresh cilantro is addictive. It’s the only salsa we make at our house and it’s destined to be a favorite in yours as well.
White Queso Fresco Sour Cream Dip will stand in between the red and the green with the wonderful flavor of cheese and just a touch of lime and cilantro. Sour cream, mayo, queso fresco and a hint of cumin make this cool and refreshing dip a nice counterpoint to the spicy heat of the tomato salsa. Guacamole is the obvious choice for green. Not only is it everyone’s favorite, it’s a great way to get the kids in the kitchen. Just hand them a potato masher and set them to work mashing up the avocado. This version is basic, but brilliant with the addition of only cilantro, onion, chile and lime. When it comes to guacamole, simple is always best.
A fajita bar is a natural choice for a fiesta, especially one that has to please grown-ups and kids alike. My Lime-Marinated Chicken Fajita recipe is delicious because it’s all cooked outside on the grill, but it also has the added benefit of freeing up the kitchen for other fiesta activities (like making margaritas). Marinate the chicken while you cut up the onions and peppers and grill it all together in a grill basket. The short marinade time flavors the chicken with lime, cumin and garlic, and since it’s cut into strips, the chicken cooks quickly so there’s less chance of overcooking. Everything can be served family-style with salsa, creamy lime dip and guacamole for a do-it-yourself feast. Just add chips and flour tortillas.
Southwest Corn Spoon Bread is the perfect side dish to this meal. Savory and sweet with green chilies, shoe peg corn and pepper jack cheese, it’s a cross between cornbread and grits with just enough firmness to be able to eat it out of hand. If the kids are sensitive to the heat in the pepper jack, just sub it out for cheddar. The adults won’t mind a bit.
Last on the list is Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Sundaes with Grilled Pineapple. If you aren’t familiar with it, dulce de leche is a Mexican delicacy of caramelized goat’s milk. It’s richer than plain caramel sauce with just a hint of tang. Delicious over vanilla ice cream, it’s even more so with a slice of warm grilled pineapple on the bottom. Topped with whipped cream and a cherry, this could be the dessert of the summer.
So, don’t let spring pass you by without a little fiesta for the family. I guarantee that this fun meal is simple and delicious, plus it’s a great excuse to celebrate with those who are most important to you. The word “olé” is an exclamation of approval or encouragement and this party is a good excuse to use it a lot. Olé everyone!